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Posts tagged: Virginia

Back to School Checklist: Fruits and Veggies

A girl eating an apple on the Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs poster

USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.

Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.   

So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »

It’s County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market at Night, County Fair Time poster

It’s County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night. Join us on Friday, August 21, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall!

August is prime time for city, county and state agricultural fairs! These fun summertime events bring communities together.  Farmers markets also are an increasingly popular community gathering spot.

So, what would happen if the fair theme was combined with a farmers market?  You would get County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night on Friday, August 21, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall!

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has managed the weekly daytime USDA Farmers Market, at 12th and Independence Avenue, S.W., in Washington, D.C. for 20 years.  The daytime market is open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through October. Read more »

Lessons from the Field: A New Series for Food Hub Development

Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services in California

Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services (third from right), met with the Sacramento County of Governments and other partners to discuss food hubs in the greater Sacramento area. Rural Development’s new report Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned From the Field, is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to food hub development and other local food enterprises.

Since 2009, USDA has invested in 29,100 local food opportunities, including food hubs, small scale processing and farmers markets across all 50 states and the US territories. These investments include over 12,000 loans and micro-loans to small-scale producers who often sell products locally and over 13,000 high tunnels (low-cost covered structures that extend the growing season and make locally-grown products available later in the year).

However, as with any investment, the success of a business depends not just on an infusion of capital, but also on good planning.  Technical assistance services such as feasibility studies, business planning, financing strategies, supply chain logistics, marketing, and guidance with the policy and regulatory environment are equally important. Read more »

Urban Garden Tackles Hunger, Boosts Nutrition

Lee and Linda Marshall harvesting herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel

Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).

One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need.  The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »

Closing the Summer Hunger Gap for Kids in Rural America

Children enjoying a nutritious summer meal in Virginia

Children enjoy a nutritious summer meal served at the Sandston Woods Apartment Complex in Henrico County, Va.

Cindy Bomar is a dedicated person; she is dedicated to her job and to her various volunteer organizations.  And most of her charitable efforts are devoted to helping children, especially poor children.

As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for youth in Virginia, Cindy has all too often seen the suffering of poor and neglected children and teens. “I advocate in the best interest of these children so that they are not lost in the system,” she explains. Read more »

USDA Agencies, Suppliers and Vendors Taking Steps to Improve USDA Foods Purchase Process

Fresh vegetable cups at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

Just after the ACDA event concluded, we met in California with producers and processors about our fruit and vegetable purchases for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). These meetings are another example of the steps we take to learn from our stakeholders and improve USDA Foods products. USDA Photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commodity purchases play an important role in supporting American agriculture.  One commodity purchasing effort – the USDA Foods Program – purchases about 2 billion pounds of nutritious, domestically produced foods each year and supplies this food to families, schools, food banks, and communities nationwide, also serving as a key tool for combatting hunger.

Together, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Nutrition Service and Farm Service Agency manage the USDA Foods Program. And together, we have launched the USDA Foods Business Management Improvement project, a broad effort to review and re-engineer USDA’s food procurement practices to improve the program for our customers and stakeholders. Read more »