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Happy Holidays ... Waste Not, Want Not!

November and December are traditionally times of celebration of various holidays in America, religious and secular.  This is a time for enjoyment and fellowship in the company of family, friends, and neighbors.  The celebrations almost always include gathering at dinner tables over feasts of the bounty our farmers provide.

Unfortunately, this is also a time when, after the celebration and feasting are done, a significant proportion of the leftover edible food is tossed in the trashcan or put down the disposal.  Much of this food ultimately ends up in landfills.

The Economic Research Service estimates that over 130 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten per year at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, equating to over 1,200 calories per day per man, woman, and child.  On average, this suggests that as a nation almost one-third of the edible food that could meet our caloric needs goes uneaten.

Green Thumbs near Green Bay: Menominee Tribe Cultivates Nutrition Education

Cooking knowledge, proper planning, and access to healthy foods are essential ingredients to healthy diets.  I witnessed this firsthand when I traveled to the food distribution center of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, one of the 20 Indian Tribal Organizations that received funding in 2014 from USDA’s Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) grants.  Their programs offer cooking classes, recipes, nutrition education and resources for Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) participants as well as manage a community garden program which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for tribal members.

Creativity and partnerships allow the Menominee’s innovative educational activities to serve as a shining example of best practices.  A monthly cooking class combines instruction about basic cooking and food safety with interactive games and hands-on recipe preparation.  The class is a joint venture among FDPIR, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Community Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

How to NOT Give Your Office Food Poisoning at the Holiday Party

Most offices host some sort of get-together this time of year and you may be asked to bring a dish. If you’re not bringing food to the office, you may be bringing something to another get-together with family or friends. Follow these tips to be sure your diners remember your nice contribution, instead of a naughty case of food poisoning.

Armchair Travelers Get a Close-Up Look of Southern Appalachian Waters

Deep into the Cherokee National Forest on the headwaters of the Conasauga River, an innovative river conservation program brings thousands of citizen snorkelers to the vibrant waters of Southern Appalachia.  Now armchair travelers can enjoy this experience via a six-minute online film.

“A Deeper Creek – The Watchable Waters of Southern Appalachia,” produced by Freshwaters Illustrated in partnership with the Forest Service, takes the viewer to a pool in the river’s headwaters in southern Tennessee and northwest Georgia. The flowing waters teem with 70 species of fish and a dozen species of freshwater mussels and enjoys a “virtual” snorkeling experience.

Conservation Programs Help Nebraska Farmer Install, Improve Irrigation System

As a little girl, Mary Kay Lyon followed her father around their south central Nebraska farm always dreaming of one day owning the operation herself. Lyon left the farm to attend college, but eventually made it back home when her father retired, determined to run the family farm.

“I wanted to farm since I was old enough to walk,” Lyon said.

Lyon grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle on the farm. Upon her return, she immediately began looking for ways to make improvements. Their crops have always been watered through an irrigation system, but Lyon knew improvements were needed on the old water delivery system.

Five Cs of Arizona

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

For decades, school children in Arizona have been taught the five Cs: Copper, Cattle, Cotton, Citrus, and Climate. These five C’s have been the driving force behind Arizona’s economy, and gave economic security to past generations and hope to many generations. However, all that is changing. Arizona, like the rest of the country, is undergoing an economic transformation. Arizona is moving from a mining and agriculturally oriented economy, to a high-technology and service-based economy. This is changing the patterns of where Arizonans live and work.

Three of Arizona’s Cs – cattle, cotton, and citrus – were counted in the most recent Census of Agriculture and the results showed that they are still economically significant. The value of cattle, cotton and citrus production that was sold in 2012 totaled nearly $940 million, excluding the more than $760 million in milk sales. Total market value of all agricultural products sold topped $3.7 billion.

Even Paul Bunyan is Overshadowed by the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree - and a Precious 10-year-old Boy

A foggy mist did not deter a crowd of onlookers, politicians and U.S. Forest Service employees as a 10-year-old Maryland boy in a wheelchair enveloped by warm blankets flipped the switch to light the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Front lawn of the nation’s Capital.

C-SPAN recorded the event, including the moment when Speaker of the House John Boehner handed the controls to Aaron Urban, who flipped the switch on the 88-foot white spruce from Minnesota. The ceremony culminated more than a year of work to find, select, harvest and transport the tree found on the Chippewa National Forest. Children from that state made more than 10,000 ornaments – many of them dream catchers in the tradition of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa.

Local Food, Local Places: Bringing Expertise and Creative Thinking to Community Economic Development

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.

The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative.

USDA Market News - Enhancing Customer Experience

Farmers, producers and other agricultural stakeholders depend on USDA Market News data to get the information they need when they need it.  They use the data to evaluate market conditions and trends, make purchasing decisions, and assess movement of agricultural products across the globe.  USDA Market News is continuously changing to meet the needs of the dynamic agricultural industry and the data users that we serve.  Now they can enjoy an enhanced experience.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has released an innovative version of the Market News Portal (website) with simplified navigation, giving users easier, more logical access to the wealth of timely and reliable data available to make better informed decisions – or to compete smarter.

Fighting Hunger with Healthy Food: The Perfect Recipe for School Children

This guest blog was submitted by Ellen Parker of Massachusetts’ statewide anti-hunger advocacy organization, Project Bread. As America deals with obesity more than ever, school cafeterias are supporting better nutrition for our kids and echoing public health efforts taking place across the country. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and community partners to continue supporting nutrition guidelines that make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people.

By Ellen Parker, Executive Director, Project Bread

At Project Bread, it is our belief that the opposite of hungry is not simply full, but healthy. We constantly strive to ensure that every person, across Massachusetts, has consistent access to fresh, healthy foods that meet their needs. And ensuring children have access to healthy meals in school is a major part of that.