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Posts tagged: schools

The 2010 Census: We Can’t Move Forward Until You Mail it Back

By taking just 10 minutes to answer just 10 questions, farmers and rural residents can help ensure a bright future for their local communities. The 2010 Census is now on its way to every household in the United States – and the results will have a major impact on rural America.

The U.S. Constitution requires a national census once every 10 years to count the population and determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, the federal government uses census data to allocate more than $400 billion each year to state, local and tribal governments.

These funds support many of structures and services critical to the health and sustainability of rural areas, including hospitals, schools, senior centers, job training facilities, roads, bridges and telecommunications infrastructure.

I can think of few segments of the population that have more at stake in this census than rural America. In this economic climate, many rural communities are already struggling. And in recent years, many of them have suffered significant population losses. This makes it especially important that each and every rural resident be counted so their communities receive a fair share of representation and funding from the federal government.

Unlike the Census of Agriculture, which USDA conducts every five years to obtain in-depth information about the nation’s farms and ranches, the population census provides a quick snapshot of the entire nation. Both censuses are vital tools in ensuring the sustainability and prosperity of our rural communities.

So I urge you to please invest in your community’s future by taking 10 minutes to complete your 2010 Census form.

Cynthia Clark, Administrator, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

NASS is an agency of USDA’s Research, Education, and Extension Mission Area

Census workers have been busy visiting residents to increase awareness about the 2010 Census, verify addresses and answer questions. Credit: U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office
Census workers have been busy visiting residents to increase awareness about the 2010 Census, verify addresses and answer questions. Credit: U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office

Homes across the United States will receive a census packet this month. The package will include a census form and a privacy letter describing the confidentiality of the census data and how your privacy is protected. Credit: U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office
Homes across the United States will receive a census packet this month. The package will include a census form and a privacy letter describing the confidentiality of the census data and how your privacy is protected. Credit: U.S. Census Bureau, Public Information Office

An enumerator visits a farmer for the 1940 Census. One of the fifty questions Americans were asked in 1940 was, “Does the person’s household live on a farm?” Credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-91199
An enumerator visits a farmer for the 1940 Census. One of the fifty questions Americans were asked in 1940 was, “Does the person’s household live on a farm?” Credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-91199

Students Have Lively Discussion on Climate Change Across the Atlantic

Yesterday the U.S. Forest Service hosted a side-event at the United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change Conference with some very special stakeholders unable to make the trip. A video-conference discussing climate change was held between DC-area students at Forest Service headquarters and students in Copenhagen, Denmark. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack: Addressing Child Hunger and Improving Health

Today I testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Environment on the important issue of the upcoming reauthorization of the Department’s Child Nutrition Programs. We have a great opportunity right now to combat child hunger and improve the health and nutrition of children across the country, and we cannot let this moment pass us by. Read more »

Merrigan Highlights Successful Farm-to-School Programs

When we rolled out the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative back in September, a special highlight for me was the announcement of the Farm-to-School Tactical Teams.  Through the leadership of Congress and the 2008 Farm Bill, schools can now use federal dollars to support their local farmers all the while providing students with fresh, wholesome foods that taste like they came from just around the corner (because they did!). Read more »

Iowa School District Stays Local for School Meals

As we gear up for our next Facebook chat focusing on USDA’s work surrounding farm to schools efforts, I want to share with you a story that I came across in northeastern Iowa.

KellyBetty Hare prepares local corn for Independence Community School District students Duritsa, who is the School Food Service Director of the Independence Community School District in northeastern Iowa, was asking around about sourcing locally grown foods for her school breakfasts and lunches.  (With USDA’s help, schools around the country provide low-cost or free meals to schoolchildren each day.)  In this case, Kelly was able to link up with local farmers with the assistance of her school board, community members, and a coordinator at the local farmers market.  Now she can serve fresh and local foods like sweet corn, strawberries, apples, and asparagus to her hungry students.

Of course, we here at USDA recognize that Kelly and her team had to be smart to make the leap to serving fresh and local fruits and vegetables in her schools.  While it may seem like a simple, straightforward idea, this isn’t always the case. Starting with the fact that the school year and the growing season only overlap for a few months a year in most parts of the country, Food Service folk have to do serious planning ahead to make this work.

So, as we hold up the Independence Community School District as an example that others may follow, I want to invite you to join our Facebook chat on Thursday at 3pm as we discuss how we can help make local, healthy food a daily part of our children’s lives. Become a fan of the USDA on Facebook today!

Deputy Under Secretary Praises Entrepreneurship by National FFA Students

I just returned from Indianapolis and my first National FFA Convention.  Having missed the first 82 of them, I figured it was about time to see what these folks were up to.  I grew up in a part of northern New Jersey where there was no active FFA presence and where 4-H existed to help the wealthier suburban kids who actually got ponies for Christmas learn how to care for them.

I learned to appreciate FFA while working for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, where the partnership with the state FFA leadership is very strong.  I was blown away to learn that the largest FFA chapter in the State actually is at W.B. Saul High School in Philadelphia. I have been to the state FFA convention and often sent others to the national convention, but I’d never seen it with my own eyes.

Picture 46,000 high school and college age students, about the same number that you would find at a major land grant university, all wearing blue jackets, all polite, all committed to this nation and to agriculture.  It was an exciting, empowering experience.

My main reason for going was to speak to ag-entrepreneurship winners and their families.  About a hundred FFA members, their families and sponsors were there.  Each winner had found some unique way to start a small business or develop an operation.  I’m proud that USDA Rural Development is a sponsor of this competition.

What I told the group was that my favorite animal is a turtle.  If you walk into my office or into my home you will see likenesses of turtles everywhere.  It’s because I was told as a girl that, like the turtle, if you don’t stick your neck out every once in awhile, you’ll never get anyplace.

My primary message to these bright, young students was to find an issue that makes you passionate and go for it.  Become a leader, but be someone who can motivate those around you.  A leader without followers is just someone going for a walk.

Finally, I told them about an exciting new program which Congress put into the new Farm Bill and is enthusiastically supported by Secretary Vilsack and by those of us here at Rural Development:  It is the Microentrepreneurship Assistance Program.  What we’re going to do is select non-profit intermediaries and provide them with funds that they can loan to people who want to start a business.  It’s perfect for the members of the FFA.  The amount to be lent is no more than $50,000 per applicant.  All the details about the program were posted in the October 7th edition of the Federal Register.  If you want to find out more or comment on the program, that’s the place to go.

You know, walking around Indianapolis and seeing all of these great young Americans from Hawaii to Puerto Rico and Florida to Alaska, all together, all motivated, gives me a great feeling, not just about agriculture and its future, but in the future of America.  Trust me, it won’t be another 83 years before I attend my next FFA convention.

Cheryl L. Cook, Deputy Under Secretary