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Posts tagged: Virginia

Farm to School: We Are Here to Help!

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.

One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »

Federal Employees Help to Knock Out Hunger

AMS Deputy Associate Administrator Karen Comfort, Feds Feeds Families’ 2014 National Program Manager, tells the crowd that the campaign delivered 14.8 million pounds of donated food that went to food banks and pantries across the country.

AMS Deputy Associate Administrator Karen Comfort, Feds Feeds Families’ 2014 National Program Manager, tells the crowd that the campaign delivered 14.8 million pounds of donated food that went to food banks and pantries across the country.

When I became National Program Manager for the 2014 Feds Feeds Families campaign—the sixth annual, nationwide food drive of Federal employees—I challenged Federal employees nationwide to help knock out hunger by supporting this year’s initiative.  I had every confidence that our Nation’s civil servants would step up in a huge way.  Feds have a tradition of generosity and answering the call whenever, wherever, and however they are needed.  Even so, this year’s results far exceeded my expectations:  14.8 million pounds of donated food went to food banks and pantries across the country.  That’s 7,400 tons of food this year.

Since 2009, the campaign has donated almost 39 million pounds of food to families and individuals in need.  All Federal agencies across the country participated.  Federal employees donated both perishable and non-perishable food items throughout the summer.  This year Feds Feed Families also encouraged employees to take advantage of gleaning (clearing fields of unused produce). Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.

An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »

Soil Health Brought to Life on Lawn of USDA’s Whitten Building

Oklahoma Conservation Commission Soil Scientist Greg Scott talks about the practical benefits of best soil management practices during NRCS’ soil health demonstration earlier this month. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Oklahoma Conservation Commission Soil Scientist Greg Scott talks about the practical benefits of best soil management practices during NRCS’ soil health demonstration earlier this month. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Recently, I watched Jason Weller, chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) provide testimony on the benefits of soil health during a House Agriculture Committee hearing. After the Chief’s impassioned testimony, I met with the crew setting up the rainfall simulator demonstration on the lawn of the USDA’s Whitten Building.

I couldn’t help but hope that the “Bundled Benefits of Soil Health” event would effectively illustrate what Chief Weller had only hours earlier discussed with lawmakers. Before long, the audience began to assemble and people passing by from the National Mall stopped to watch as a cowboy from Oklahoma, Greg Scott, a retired NRCS soil scientist and Chris Lawrence, NRCS cropland agronomist in Virginia, delivered the event’s soil health message. Read more »

USDA Smokey Bear Paintings on Display for First Time

Nature's Gold Medal Winner, Rudy Wendelin painting, 1988.

Nature's Gold Medal Winner, Rudy Wendelin painting, 1988.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If you hear a deep resonant voice and the words, “Only YOU…,” you probably could complete the iconic words, “…can prevent forest fires.” More than seven in ten adults in the United States would recognize Smokey Bear and know his message, according to a 2011 Ad Council survey.

Now some of the illustrations that helped create the image we most associate with Smokey, who celebrates his 70th anniversary as spokesbear for the U.S. Forest Service (FS) this year, are on display for the first time. Nineteen original paintings by Virginia artist Rudolph Wendelin from USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) Smokey Bear history collection are being featured in an exhibit at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. Read more »

Creative Solutions to Ending School Food Waste

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium. Approximately one-third of all food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels.  While research has shown that food wasted by children is similar to the rest of the U.S. population, there are many ways schools can reduce food waste and teach students about the impact it has on the environment and in their community.

At Chesterbrook Elementary School in McClean, VA, every student learns how to separate waste into categories like recyclables, food to be donated, upcycling bins, and general trash.  The school’s Eco Team, run by sixth graders, ensures their fellow students are putting waste into the correct bin. The team then collects, weighs, categorizes, and places the food to be donated into separate refrigerators, provided by the Food Bus, a non-profit organization that works with schools to donate food that would otherwise go to waste. Read more »