Last Wednesday, I participated in a regional forum of the White House Working Families Summit that was held at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Coming from a small town in Southwest Georgia myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Growing up, my father worked seven days a week on our peanut and cattle farm with help from my mother. To make sure our family had a constant source of income and health insurance, my mother also worked off the farm at the local independent bank. I am fortunate to be the product of hard working parents who provided my sister and me with the best opportunities possible.
All families have a right to have access to a good education system, affordable healthcare and jobs. Our rural families are concerned about creating strong prospects for their children, whether it is on or off the farm. But it is also essential that there are opportunities that will attract young people back to rural areas and help us secure the future of agriculture. Read more »
A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks!
This week is National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week, an important time to emphasize USDA’s commitment to ensure children and teens have access to safe, nutritious meals when school lets out. Through the Summer Food Service Program, federal assistance is provided for state agencies and non-profit sponsors to help children in eligible high-need areas get the proper nutrition they need during the summer when schools are not in session.
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, students across the country are getting healthier school meals with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium. With more than 90 percent of schools meeting the healthy meal standards, children are getting the nutrition needed to reach their full potential. But poor nutrition during the summer months can also affect children’s academic performance during the school year. USDA’s summer feeding programs help children get the nourishing food they need all year long so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn. Read more »
Robert Sorber operates the MicroDesal, which may successfully remove heavy metals, nitrates, phosphorus, and bacteria, making water safe to drink. Photo by Isaac Madsen
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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Clean drinking water for the world is a pretty tall order, considering that the United Nations says nearly a billion people currently go without it. But, that’s exactly the vision that Karen Sorber had when she co-founded Micronic Technologies in 2008 as a family business.
Now a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is bringing the company one step closer to making that dream a reality. Micronic Technologies has introduced “MicroDesal,” a technology that takes well water with unsafe nitrate levels and treats it to the point where the water meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean drinking water safety standards. Nitrates are unsafe for humans – especially children and pregnant women – and livestock. Read more »
Quickly assembling tortilla wraps for hungry students is a hard job. I learned this first hand recently at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mary Lou, Ott and Jean, the cafeteria staff responsible for preparing and serving school meals every day, took control of the kitchen, quickly assembling 300 turkey wraps while I clumsily tried to keep up.
But while I found the prep work to be challenging, I learned that products from USDA, such as the lean turkey in the wraps, make it easier for schools to buy local foods. USDA purchases over $1 billion of food from American farmers for school meal programs every year. Known as USDA Foods, these American grown products include fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean meats and poultry. Read more »
Local residents and town visitors enjoy fresh produce, meats and baked goods each Saturday at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market. Having extra exposure by being listed in the National Farmers Market Directory helps markets like this one in Middleburg, VA connect with more customers. Photo courtesy Cindy Pearson.
Located in Virginia’s horse country, just an hour outside of Washington, DC, is the historic town of Middleburg. Deeply embedded in the town’s roots is a vibrant agricultural sector that is the driving force behind this small community’s success. Each Saturday morning from the spring through the fall, you can find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market (MCFM). Raising the market’s visibility is vital to its continued success, so the MCFM recently updated its information in the USDA’s 2014 National Farmers Market Directory – connecting customers to fresh, quality items produced by its local farmers.
The directory, maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, is designed to provide consumers with convenient access to information about your farmers market listing including: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more. Thousands of farmers market managers around the country are taking a few minutes to update their market listing. Read more »
PSU students interact with a local farmer during one of the program’s field trips.
Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. To reinforce that value, USDA is constantly working to ensure that kids are only being served safe, high quality meals. That’s why we launched Produce Safety University (PSU) in 2010, to address the food safety issues related to fresh produce, particularly as it pertains to school food service.
A joint venture between USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and the Agricultural Marketing Service, PSU conducts five week-long classes each year to instruct school nutrition professionals and State Agency program directors. The sessions focus on facts about the produce industry, produce safety, and produce use in school foodservice. Last week we wrapped up our first session of 2014, at this highly informative event in Fredericksburg, Va. Read more »