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Posts tagged: #RuralMade

“Fuel Up to Play 60″ Has Game Plan to Supercharge School Fitness and Nutrition

Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visiting Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture

Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visits Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture during the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit. Photo courtesy of Fuel Up to Play 60.

Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.

In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few. Read more »

A Farmers Market Soars in Michigan

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaking ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaks ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents.

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation sits in rural Central Michigan about 90 minutes northwest of Flint. One of the newest business enterprises to open on Reservation is the Native Farmers Market.  I was there for the groundbreaking with Tribal Chief Steve Pego, and other tribal members to represent USDA’s investment in this exciting project. USDA Rural Development provided a $200,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to build the farmers market pavilion and supporting parking lot.

As we took shovel to ground, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Steve Pego recalled how the typical local diet consisted largely of home-grown foods and game from hunting when he was a kid. He lamented how packaged foods and other items have since taken their place. His vision is that the Native Farmers Market will reconnect tribal members with their traditional foods and increase access to healthy food options for the community. Read more »

Homes on the Mend, Neighborhoods on the Rebound

USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker (center with wheelbarrow), U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (center with level), local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders with first-time homeowners Jessica and Jason Smith

In honor of National Homeownership Month, USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker (center with wheelbarrow), U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (center with level), local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders join first-time homeowners Jessica and Jason Smith (far right)

Jessica and Jason Smith used to watch home improvement shows in which old and deteriorating houses are completely renovated. They never thought they’d be the ones giving a neglected home new life—until now. While building their dream of homeownership, they are quite literally helping revitalize a neighborhood.

Last week in honor of National Homeownership Month, I joined U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders to meet the Smiths at their work-in-progress in St. Helens, Oregon. Jessica and Jason participate in CAT’s Self-help Acquisition Rehabilitation Program (SHARP) funded with support from USDA Rural Development. The effort allows families to use their own sweat equity as down payment on a home and provides an affordable USDA mortgage for the balance. As the local partner, CAT receives USDA Mutual Self-help Housing grant funds to qualify families, identify home sites, and coordinate professional construction assistance. Read more »

A Celebration of Homeownership

The Hausman family of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

The Hausman family of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska used USDA Rural Development's Single Family Guaranteed Loan Program to purchase a home to call their own.

Homeownership Month 2015 is already coming to the end, and I couldn’t be happier with the celebrations I’ve participated in, read about or listened to stories of.

In 30 days I have visited seven states across our nation to meet the people that work for and with USDA Rural Development to help make homeownership a reality for so many rural American families.

I’ve seen hardworking folks in California and Montana push up the walls to their future homes; I met families in Ohio and Oklahoma who were already moved in, but still thoroughly filled with the joy of homeownership. Read more »

For the Love of Trails and Trout

Sam Knob Trail restoration under construction

Sam Knob Trail restoration under construction. Photo courtesy of Ward Deaton, CASP

This post was submitted on behalf of the Pisgah Ranger District recreation staff and fire crew – Paul Ross, Forest Service Office of Communication

Accessed by the Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounded by the Black Balsam Mountains, the Sam Knob Project is located in one of the most scenic and highly visited portions of the Pisgah Ranger District. As we celebrate National Trails Day and National Fishing and Boating Week, we are highlighting this location as a showcase of how recreational trail design can protect critical fish and wildlife habitat and enhance user experiences. Read more »

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students’ Lives

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »