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Posts tagged: Nutrition

#AgStrong Innovation in Rural America

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a living out of farming, to build a thriving agricultural business and it takes ingenuity. This is especially true in rural America, where dedicated farmers and ranchers rely on each other and the communities around them to fuel innovation and create opportunity. From nutritional research to competitions that promote sustainability and continued environmental care, ag promotion programs—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—help American farmers make long-term investments that ensure a better future for everyone.

For more than 30 years, California almond growers have pooled their resources under the Almond Board, focusing on research and techniques to make the most of precious water resources.  Efficient water use and irrigation management are vital to the success of California’s Central Valley almond growers, ensuring that consumer demand for almonds can be met sustainably.  State-of-the-art farming and production developments over the past two decades have helped farmers reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33 percent. Key strategies have included the wide adoption of micro-irrigation as well as advances in soil assessment and monitoring. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.

An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »

Happy Birthday AmeriCorps!

FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps program, has built more than 400 school gardens in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Photo by Robyn Wardell.

FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps program, has built more than 400 school gardens in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Photo by Robyn Wardell.

As AmeriCorps celebrates its 20th anniversary, USDA salutes the deep relationship we’ve had with these remarkable volunteers and service members. From engaging in critical natural conservation efforts to helping kids learn more about nutrition and gardening to working directly with local organizations in communities enduring chronic poverty, USDA is proud to be an AmeriCorps partner.

AmeriCorps service crews are working side by side with the Forest Service to protect public lands and fight fires.  For instance, a recently announced $3.8 million partnership between AmeriCorps and the USDA’s Forest Service and over 100 other organizations participating in the 21st Century Conservation Corps, creates service opportunities for 300 new AmeriCorps members.  Through this opportunity, military veterans and youth restore our treasured public lands by rebuilding trails, managing forests and rehabilitating campsites for generations to enjoy. These service members are also doing critical wildfire management activities like tree thinning, prescribed burns and hazardous fuel control. Meanwhile, in northwest California, the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project is restoring coastal watersheds from San Francisco to the Oregon border.  This effort, a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Game, Humboldt State University, and other members of the fisheries, watershed and science community, has been going strong for twenty years. Read more »

Reap What You Sow: Choctaw Children Learn about Gardening and Cooking

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

“How many of you like vegetables?”  The question posed to a gathering of Choctaw children in a garden in rural Mississippi elicits skeptical responses.  But upon sampling the fresh produce harvested with their own hands, however, the children’s stereotypes of disgust turn to surprises of delight.  A young boy taking a giant bite out of a juicy tomato could be the poster child for the vibrant red fruit.  A pair of sisters declares cucumbers as their favorite.  The newly adventurous children are even willing to taste raw eggplant…Now that’s impressive.

Through a summer program made possible by a Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant from the Food and Nutrition Service, 150 children from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were able to get up close and personal with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Twice a week, children ages 6-18 from the Boys and Girls Club and the Tribal Youth Court participated in the lifecycle of planting, picking, and preparing produce.  The week my colleagues and I visited the Choctaw Indian Reservation, the children scattered seed for iron clay peas, witnessed the hustle and bustle of a farmers market, and learned how to dice vegetables for a salsa recipe. Read more »

Food Insecurity Among American Households – Surveying the Numbers

USDA’s annual food security report shows that 14.3 percent of American households were food insecure in 2013. Food-insecure households lack consistent access to adequate, nutritious food. “Very low food security” is the more severe condition, with one or more household members at times reducing their food intake below normal levels.

USDA’s annual food security report shows that 14.3 percent of American households were food insecure in 2013. Food-insecure households lack consistent access to adequate, nutritious food. “Very low food security” is the more severe condition, with one or more household members at times reducing their food intake below normal levels.

USDA’s latest report on food insecurity in America shows that the prevalence of food insecurity is down from a high of 14.9 percent of U.S. households in 2011 to 14.3 percent in 2013. This annual report takes a look at the number and types of households that had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of financial or other resources. Back in 2007, about 11 percent of U.S. households were food insecure, but with the economic downturn in 2008, that rate had increased and remained relatively high.

Given improvements in employment and other economic indicators, some have wondered why food security has been slow to improve. A recent study by my colleagues and me at the Economic Research Service sheds light on this question. We found that while unemployment declined in 2012 and 2013, inflation and the price of food relative to other goods and services continued to increase. These increases offset improvements in food security that might have resulted from the decline in unemployment.  This study provides a useful backdrop to understanding trends in and causes of food insecurity. Read more »

Back to School, Back to Healthy After-School Snacking

Fun-Shaped Mini Hass Avocado and Cheese Sandwiches make eating nutritious avocados fun.

Fun-Shaped Mini Hass Avocado and Cheese Sandwiches make eating nutritious avocados fun.

PeanutAllergyFacts.org contains videos and other materials that highlight the importance of food allergy management and offering resources to schools.

PeanutAllergyFacts.org contains videos and other materials that highlight the importance of food allergy management and offering resources to schools.

Kids love to snack.  But snacking—if done right—doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are plenty of tasty and healthy options available that will help satisfy the snack-attack of even the pickiest eaters.

Incorporating fresh fruit, like watermelon, into after-school snacks is a great choice for kids who have a bit of a sweet tooth.  And, as an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C, a two-cup serving of watermelon packs a good nutritional punch that any parent can appreciate.  Watermelon Sandwich Wraps can be a perfect after-school snack.  For more creative ideas on how to serve this healthy treat, take a look at the top ten ways to enjoy watermelon

Read more »