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Millennial Trains Project: Forest Service Employee Shares Lessons-Promotes Careers in Public Service

Of all the places I expected to have a life-changing experience, I would never have guessed it would involve a moving train on a transcontinental journey with other young professional millennials.

But somewhere between Whitefish, Montana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, I realized that this journey would transform my outlook as a public servant.

Healthy and Happy Students in D.C. Public Schools

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories! To learn more about FNS nutrition assistance efforts, follow us on twitter at

Decrease Wildfire Risks by Choosing the Right Plants

Traveling at speeds up to 14 mph, wildfires can quickly ravish landscapes and homesteads. Experts with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) are studying what plants can slow fire rather than fuel it.

NRCS’ Plant Materials Centers evaluate and study plants, including those that can reduce fire damage or losses, helping keep people, property and natural resources safe. These centers, located across the United States, can provide information on the type plant best suited for an area given factors such as geography and climate.

USDA’s What’s Cooking website serves up cost effective, healthy recipes

The busy holiday season has begun and families everywhere are starting to plan ahead.  If you’re looking for easy to make, nutritious family meals that you can cook quickly on a tight budget, USDA is here to help with a new web tool, called What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

As Americans prepare for the annual holiday harvest that is Thanksgiving, the American Farm Bureau Federation estimates they can expect to spend an average of $49.04 on a meal for a family of 10.  Our What’s Cooking? tool offers families lower cost alternatives, not just for the holidays but for every day.

Southeast Alaska Trail Crew’s Work on Footbridge Links Generations, Cultures


On a boggy section of single-track trail outside the Southeast Alaska tribal community of Angoon, two men are building a bridge on Admiralty Island National Monument that does much more than simply cross 10 yards of boot-eating muck. This unassuming wooden span is connecting generations, cultures and governments while symbolizing a shared path forward for the Tongass National Forest and Southeast Alaska communities.

The bridge and trail are a vital link in the Cross Admiralty Canoe Route, a 32-mile series of lakes and trail portages that allows backcountry canoeists, kayakers and others to traverse the island. But while the Civilian Conservation Corps established the modern route in the 1930s, the path it follows was not news to the island’s residents, according to Donald Frank, tribal liaison for the national monument.

Turkey Tips Step 2: Preparing Your Feast


Preparing for Thanksgiving can become hectic. On Tuesday we tried to make your trip to the grocery store a little easier, by explaining the labels you’ll find on turkeys for sale. Now that you have your bird, you’re probably thinking about putting your game face on and getting that meal ready.

In between trying to convince your 21-year-old nephew to sit at the kid’s table (because there’s no room at the adult table) and figuring out how you’ll answer your relatives’ questions about where your current relationship is going, we want to help you prepare your meal. With such thoughts possibly running through your head, proper food safety practices are sometimes treated like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving: always required but too often ignored and overshadowed.

The Many Reasons USDA is Celebrating 50 Years of SNAP

Half a century ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964, making the Food Stamp Program (FSP), which at the time was a series of pilot projects, permanent. Despite the post-World War II economic boom felt by many Americans, some rural and urban areas of the country experienced extreme poverty as well as limited access to nutritious, affordable food. The Food Stamp Act of 1964 was an important component in President Johnson’s effort to eliminate poverty. This year, we not only mark 50 years of SNAP as a nationwide program, but we also recognize the lasting changes it has produced in both the economy and the nutrition habits of Americans. 

In those early days, the FSP reached families living in deprived areas and served a dual purpose.  It strengthened the agricultural economy, while also providing improved levels of nutrition among low-income households. Even though the FSP was renamed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008, its mission is the same. SNAP continues to serve as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States while supporting the economy.

Secretary's Column: Getting Covered is Good for Rural America

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Living in a rural community shouldn't have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets. Many didn't have access to affordable health insurance through an employer because they were self-employed as farmers, ranchers or rural business owners and entrepreneurs. While those folks take calculated business risks every day, their health should not be one of them.

Giving Thanks to Local Farmers

On Thanksgiving, friends, families and communities come together across America to give thanks and celebrate the autumn harvest.  I love the opportunity to reflect on all that I am grateful for, including the  hard-working farmers and ranchers who provide the delicious and nutritious food for the Thanksgiving table.  I also enjoy making my favorite traditional dishes with fresh, local ingredients that support the farmers and ranchers in my own community.

Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of four pillars of USDA’s work to help revitalize the rural economy, create jobs and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans.   Buying local supports the farmers and small businesses in your community, making it the perfect way to say thank you.

Iowa – the Land of Corn and Soybeans (and More!)

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.

If you take a drive through Iowa, there is no way you can miss our beautiful farms all around you. With the most recent Census of Agriculture counting more than 30.6 million acres of land dedicated to farming, agriculture is truly at the core of Iowa.

Iowa farmers produced more than $17.3 billion worth of crops in 2012, with corn and soybeans making up the largest portion of the state’s agriculture. Our farmers have been leading the nation in production of these two key crops for decades. In 2012, Iowa growers tended to more than 13.7 million acres of corn and more than 9.3 million acres of soybean fields, ranking number one in the nation.