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Posts tagged: rural communities

Affordable Care Act Gives New Farmers the Freedom to Farm

As every farmer and rancher will tell you, life on the farm means you make tough choices every day. At times the challenges and risks facing farmers, especially those just starting out, can seem difficult and daunting. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new farmers have one less thing to worry about: they no longer have to choose between doing what they love and having access to affordable, reliable health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.

There are stories like Elena, who worked alongside her father on their Colorado farm throughout her early 20s. The Affordable Care Act allowed her to remain on her parent’s health insurance through the age of 25. But after she turned 26, she had to take a job in town that came with health benefits. By getting Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage, she was able to come back to her family farm while maintaining access to health coverage. Read more »

Summer Sunshine Award Winners!

FNS staff participating in a Summer Food Service Program Kick-off event

On June 13, 2013, FNS staff participated in a Summer Food Service Program Kick-off event in Sacramento, CA.

It may be the middle of winter, but at USDA, we like to celebrate the success of our Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) all year long.  Therefore, the Western Regional Office is thrilled to announce the winners and honorable mentions of the 2014 Summer Sunshine Awards.  A total of eight organizations across the region received Sunshine Awards in 4 unique categories in recognition of their standout efforts in operating the SFSP.  The programs impact in local communities depends on the hard work of state agencies, partnering organizations, local sites and sponsors.  These awards only begin to show our appreciation for the dedication, innovation, and passion behind the respective organizations.

In the category of Strategies to Promote Nutrition and Wellness, California’s Riverside Unified School District was awarded the honor for employing innovative strategies by collaborating with local partners to provide nutrition education and physical activities at summer meal sites. The Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Idaho was also awarded the distinction for their incorporation of fresh local produce into summer meals and offering opportunities for physical activity to children at their summer meal sites. Read more »

2014 in Review: New Farm Bill Allows Kansas Family to Purchase Home

Megan Estrada and her children enjoy a swing on the porch of their new home financed by a USDA Rural Development home loan guarantee.

Megan Estrada and her children enjoy a swing on the porch of their new home financed by a USDA Rural Development home loan guarantee.

2014 will soon be in our collective rear view mirrors, and USDA Rural Development has had an incredibly productive year. This week we are looking back on stories from the year that illustrate the impact our programs have on rural communities. Here’s a story out of our Kansas State Office from June.

Megan Estrada and her three children are excited to spend time on their new home’s porch – a home they just moved into this summer. Prior to purchasing their own home, Estrada and her children had spent the last nine years in an apartment in Dodge City, Kansas. Read more »

World Accessibility in Rural America

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

Access to the world via internet and mobile phone services is at the fingertips of most Americans, but this is not the reality for residents of many rural communities across the Nation.

In October 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas. Read more »

Organic 101: Organic Seeds Are Fundamental Right from the Start

Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.

Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.

This is the twenty-second installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The fall harvest is in, and organic farmers are already looking forward to planting their spring seedlings.  Organic farmers rely on organic seeds to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. These seeds are essential to the integrity of the supply chain for quality organic food, feed and other products.  All organic producers must use organic seeds, annual seedlings and planting stock unless organic varieties are not commercially available.

To meet the increased demand for organic seeds, the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is collaborating and sharing information with the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and its partner, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), to better understand the organic seed market and to help farmers locate seed producers and supplies. Read more »

Green Thumbs near Green Bay: Menominee Tribe Cultivates Nutrition Education

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Cooking knowledge, proper planning, and access to healthy foods are essential ingredients to healthy diets.  I witnessed this firsthand when I traveled to the food distribution center of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, one of the 20 Indian Tribal Organizations that received funding in 2014 from USDA’s Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) grants.  Their programs offer cooking classes, recipes, nutrition education and resources for Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) participants as well as manage a community garden program which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for tribal members.

Creativity and partnerships allow the Menominee’s innovative educational activities to serve as a shining example of best practices.  A monthly cooking class combines instruction about basic cooking and food safety with interactive games and hands-on recipe preparation.  The class is a joint venture among FDPIR, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Community Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Read more »