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Then and Now, USDA Feeds the Nation

During the holiday season, food banks across America experience a spike in demand and this year is no different. Today that seasonal demand is also bolstered by a significant rise in client numbers because of the current U.S. economy.

One of those food distributors seeing an uptick in demand is the Capital Area Food Bank, a food hub with more than 700 partners that distribute commodities to locations in the District of Columbia, northern Virginia and parts of Maryland.

Strategic Partners Collaborate for Jobs and Healthy Communities in Southeast Alaska

“Heaven on Earth” – it’s the popular sentiment of residents living in Southeast Alaska.  If you’ve ever taken an Alaskan cruise no doubt it was through the Southeast Panhandle where miles of wild beauty delights the eye.

It’s no wonder Southeast Alaska is a premier destination for U.S. and international travelers.  With that in mind, it may come as a surprise this singularly picturesque region has endured an economic hardship that continues to loom over its residents.  Since the downturn of the once thriving timber industry the majority of rural communities in Southeast have experienced a downturn in their local economy along with declining populations, fewer job opportunities and increasing energy costs.

Food Safety This Holiday Season

Cross posted from the White House blog:

With the holiday season in full swing, many of us are thinking about the meals we’ll soon be sharing with family and friends.  Whether it’s turkey and egg nog, or latkes, or a New Year’s buffet, food is always a central and cherished part of the festivities. Of course, we all know that a necessary ingredient for any meal is food safety.

When the President came into office, he said that “protecting the safety of our food and drugs is one of the most fundamental responsibilities government has.” He pledged to strengthen our food safety laws and to enhance the government’s food safety performance.

DC Quake Rocked the District, but the Tweets Rolled On

Number seven on our list of Social Media Moments was our August Twitter chat with Food and Nutrition Service’s Under Secretary, Kevin Concannon and ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser.  This edition of Dr. Besser’s weekly live chat addressed hunger in America and allowed audience members to pose questions to Under Secretary Concannon via Twitter. This was a great opportunity for us as we opened our virtual doors to many individuals who might not otherwise be able to “speak” directly to our key official on the issue.

Although the Under Secretary and other agency leadership often travel to schools, food banks, community centers and other venues to talk about hunger and nutrition issues, this Twitter chat was a little bit different.  This wasn’t a planned speech or a more common scheduled Tweet from our blog. The Twitter chat was Concannon having a conversation with people he had never met but who gathered virtually around an important issue. Sitting in the room around our laptop with the Tweet-stream projected on the wall, we were able to use our well-established Twitter channel in a more nimble and free-flowing manner, rather than just a broadcast.

A Year in the Office of the Chief Scientist

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.

2011 is the first full calendar year that the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) has been staffed and running. First established by the 2008 Farm Bill, the OCS has since been filled out with senior advisors and agency scientists working with USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE) Dr. Catherine Woteki. Together, they coordinate and translate the science of USDA research agencies into meaningful products and communicate to USDA stakeholders and the general public about USDA science. Here is what OCS has achieved this past year:

Sharing our Harvest Festival, Virtually

We're fortunate to have a functional garden right at our doorstep in Washington, DC. The People's Garden is always buzzing with plantings, harvest and learning opportunities for employees and visitors alike. Every fall, The People's Garden team puts together a Harvest Festival celebrating the end of the growing season with food, recipes, games and entertainment. Although there are People's Gardens sprouting up worldwide, we know most of our blog readers and Twitter followers wouldn't be able to attend.

How One School in Georgia Handles The Most Important Meal of the Day

Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I have to agree especially when it comes to children. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast helps keep kids alert and focused on learning rather than lunch. But not every child eats a nutritious breakfast at home. In fact, even though 32 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program each day, only 12 million students eat a school breakfast daily. That means we have to continue to work to get those school breakfast numbers up!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Our Favorite Social Media Moments from 2011

As 2011 draws to an end, this is a time where we begin to look back on things we learned or achieved, and to make resolutions for the year ahead.  We wanted to take the end of 2011 to look back on the wide range of social media activities that we had the pleasure of planning, executing and watching unfold across the Department in an effort to better serve you, our most important audience. From Twitter chats, to video challenges, to new ways to share valuable data, we think USDA really upped the ante on the social media front this year.