Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone invests in local foods.
As a law student, I spent a summer working and living with the Sokoagon Band of the Chippewa, a Native American tribe located in rural Northern Wisconsin. Tribal leaders and members extended to me their kindness, friendship, passion and laughter. They are some of our country’s finest.
But, make no mistake, the Sokoagon face challenges shared by many persistently poor rural communities across our country.
That summer, I saw with new eyes the importance of dependable and consistent employment, housing, health care systems and education. That summer I also saw that for many rural Americans these things, taken for granted by many, are luxuries. Read more »
Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Vernita Dore reveals the largest Community Facilities loan ever obligated in the history of Ohio Rural Development - $91.4 million – to community members attending a groundbreaking ceremony at Richland Mall. Dore was on hand to inaugurate new construction in Avita Health System's ongoing effort to convert the former Lazarus Department Store into a full-service hospital. (USDA photo)
Imagine for a moment what it must be like to get injured in an accident, or have a heart attack or stroke, and have the nearest medical facility be an hour’s ambulance ride away – and that’s after the ambulance from thirty miles away gets to you.
That’s an unfortunate reality faced by many rural Americans, where the miles between critical care centers can reach into the triple digits. USDA Rural Development is working to change that reality. Read more »
The term “farm to preschool” encompasses efforts to serve local or regionally produced foods in early child care and education settings; provide hands-on learning activities such as gardening, farm visits, and culinary activities; and integrate food-related education into the curriculum. Here, USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon participates in a hands-on lesson about local foods at a YMCA preschool in West Seattle, WA.
“May I have more kale chips, please?” asked a four-year old preschooler during one of my first site visits as farm to school lead for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region. The preschoolers I was visiting grew and harvested the kale themselves a few feet beyond their classroom door and were enjoying the crisp treat as a snack. At the time, the USDA Farm to School Program was just beginning to expand their support to K-12 schools. Since then, I have worked with school districts in bringing the farm to their cafeterias and classrooms.
Our reasons for supporting farm to preschool are numerous. While the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 authorized the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to establish the Farm to School Program, the legislation also expanded the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to not only aid child care institutions in serving nutritious foods, but to contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development. Farm to preschool meets that requirement, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to increase access to healthy environments. As evidenced by the eager kale chip request, farm to preschool efforts can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Read more »
AMS Architect Fidel Delgado is helping design a year-round community gathering place that brings local foods to downtown Greenwood, S.C.
Across the country, from small towns to big cities, a vibrant downtown likely includes a farmers market. That is exactly what city leaders from Greenwood, S.C., were thinking when they talked about revitalizing their downtown. The Greenwood City Council voted unanimously to approve a $2.1 million construction bid for a new multi-functional farmers market, the Uptown Market. The Uptown Market will be 156 feet long and 47 feet wide and a focal point for the community. The planned site was originally the location of the town’s railroad station and inspired the design that mimics a train station to fit the historical character of the town.
USDA supports partnerships across the country to create greater economic impact for rural Americans. In 2013, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Architect Fidel Delgado got involved in providing technical assistance for the development of Greenwood’s new farmers market. With over 20 years of experience, Delgado provided case studies and worked with City Manager Charlie Barrineau to understand the community needs, learn about the area farmers, and review the site. Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams said, “Fidel brought great insight to the project and really helped expedite the process.” Read more »
In 2014, President Obama identified the first five communities to be part of the Promise Zone initiative — a new placed-based effort to leverage investments, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities and improve the quality of life in some of our country’s most challenged communities. As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to Rural America and our tribal areas, eastern Kentucky Highlands and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma were part of the first named Promise Zone communities. Yesterday, the Administration announced eight additional new Promise Zone communities including one rural area in the Low Country of South Carolina, and one tribal community, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Through Promise Zone effort, the Obama Administration is working across all channels and with partners to address some of the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Luke Tate, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Mobility co-authored a blog on how Promise Zone partnerships help to increase economic mobility in the communities they serve.
Cross-posted on the White House blog: Read more »
Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)
As a kid, I spent Christmas vacations with my family and my grandfather in the longleaf pine forests of South Carolina. While my grandfather and father (and later me) were quail hunters, you don’t have to be a sportsman or a sportswoman to appreciate longleaf pine. Longleaf forests are home to countless wildlife species, a diversity of plants, and provide valuable wood products, such as heart-pine floors that are cherished across the South. Longleaf forests once covered some 90 million acres along the Southeast coastal plain, but over the past two centuries, development, conversion, ill-planned timbering, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf’s range to a mere sliver of its former extent.
USDA and our many conservation partners are working to restore longleaf forests, and we’ve seen significant progress in the recent years. Now, a new Farm Bill program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, is providing additional support to the effort. Read more »