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Partnering with the National Council of LaRaza on Good Nutrition

As Deputy Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), I was honored to join our partner, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), community leaders, families and a representative from the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative at a press briefing to promote promising practices and policies that can help turn the tide on child hunger and obesity and improve access to nutritious foods for Hispanic children and their families.  The press briefing took place the day after USDA’s release of the 2009 Household Food Security Report in the United States.   NCLR’s press conference was an effort to draw attention to the fastest growing and youngest population across the United States who have difficulty putting healthy meals on the table, due to inadequate access to nutritious food.  Hispanic children are among those at greatest risk for overweight and obesity and, at the same time, are the most likely to be living with hunger.  Both obesity and hunger have serious implications for children’s health and well-being -- all of which are  priorities of the Obama administration.

Secretary Vilsack Announces New Steps to Address Climate Change

Earlier today it was my privilege to address those attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico. Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing our planet, and the United States is taking significant action to meet this challenge. Under President Obama’s leadership, the U.S. is advancing policies that address climate change by promoting energy efficiency in our homes, cars and businesses, increasing the domestic production of clean energy – including biofuels – and by investing in renewable energy technology.  The United States is also vigorously engaged in international climate negotiations while continuing to work with Congress on domestic climate legislation.

Integrating Climate Change Issues in Forest Management

Cross-posted from the US State Department Blog from the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16) in Cancun, Mexico

Addressing the climate challenge requires advancing policies and partnerships that span a number of initiatives, including protecting the forests. In the United States, forests cover 749 million acres (33 percent of the land). However, the variety of benefits we receive from forests and grasslands are threatened by climate change. For instance, nearly one-fifth of U.S. water supply originates on National Forest land, and U.S. forests offset 12 percent of total greenhouse emissions in the United States.

NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program Aids in the Recovery of Louisiana Black Bear Habitat

The Louisiana black bear was once abundant in the Mississippi River Delta. But by the 1950s, the population was severely diminished in Louisiana, mainly due to habitat loss. Luckily, a voluntary land conservation program offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is helping this threatened subspecies of the American black bear stage a comeback.

Secretary Tom Vilsack Speaking Today at Climate Change Conference

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is speaking today at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, at 2:30 p.m. EST.  He will be addressing actions that USDA is taking to strengthen the role of agriculture and forestry in helping to address climate change. The Secretary will discuss ways landowners can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration while improving their financial bottom line. The speech will be streamed live via web broadcast and the public is invited to watch his presentation at: at 2:30 p.m. today.

Food For Thought Initiative Improving Nutrition and Fighting Hunger

There was plenty of warmth and goodwill keeping a bitterly cold Washington morning at bay as I joined the folks at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, at today’s rollout of their Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget, multi-media outreach initiative.  The educational outreach materials are designed to help support families with children between the ages of two and eight, by nurturing their overall development through good nutrition to create positive outcomes that will last a lifetime.  The campaign is aimed at the nearly one in four American children–seventeen million, based on our own USDA Food Security Report estimates–who don’t get the food that meets basic nutritional needs due to difficult economic or social conditions.  There couldn’t be a more appropriate time, given our current economic circumstances, or a more fitting place to have the discussion than on Sesame Street, the best known street in the world, with Elmo and friends, some of the best known characters in America.


My family spent Thanksgiving morning at the D.C. Central Kitchen, where we helped prepare dinners for the homeless and needy in our nation’s capitol.  While some might describe our act as ‘giving to others,’ truth is that it was a gift to us.  I want my children, aged 10 and 11, to understand that not everyone has what they do and that we need to care about others and serve our community.  We all had a blast, by the way, and it made this Thanksgiving one of the best ever!

This is not a soup kitchen, but a centralized kitchen facility that prepares around 4,000 meals daily which are delivered by a fleet of trucks to partner agencies like homeless shelters, rehabilitation clinics, and after school programs. 

Winter Farmers Markets are Hot Despite the Cold Weather

USDA Farmers Market Directory Counts Nearly 900 Winter Farmers Markets.

The tents are up. The vendors are ready, with proud displays of local produce, meats, baked goods, and other delights. Customers are out – shopping, visiting, and mingling.  It’s a typical farmers market scene, robust with fresh, healthful, local food and lively connections between consumers and producers.

It must be the height of summer, right?

Food Banks: A boots on the ground effort

I have been with the USDA for a little over six months, and have had bouts of excitement and nervousness that come with learning the ins and outs of featured programs like Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition initiatives. It wasn’t until I sat down and researched the agency, that I understood the breadth of our program portfolio and their numerous benefits for millions of Americans. Fast forward a half year, and the complexities of becoming an effective hunger advocate are evident. Invited to attend the Tarrant Area Food Bank Partners Meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, my eyes opened to a much larger world.