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USDA and HHS Partnered this Summer to Help Human Trafficking Survivors in Rural and Tribal Communities

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and many survivors of it didn’t realize that their situation was a crime. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.  Any child engaged in a commercial sex act is a victim of trafficking, regardless of force, fraud, or coercion.

This summer, USDA and HHS leveraged its resources to coordinate efforts that address the needs of human trafficking survivors in rural and tribal areas.  This joint partnership resulted as part of the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the U.S., a five-year plan by the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This Plan outlines more than 250 actions the Federal government will take to coordinate and collaborate on anti-trafficking responses with state, Tribal, and local government and non-government organizations.

Food Hub, Food Truck and Food Education: Northern Colorado School District Takes Farm to School to the Next Level

A bin of acorn squash sits on a pallet at the Weld County School District 6 central kitchen, right next to a bin of yellow onions and a 1,000 pound tote of russet potatoes – all locally-grown. A walk through the facility is enough to convince anyone that Weld County School District 6 is committed to scratch-cooked, locally-grown food for its 22,000 students at 35 schools.  In this rural Colorado school district, where over 40 languages are spoken at home and 66 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals, fresh, tasty food is the norm – even down to the green chili, a southwestern favorite roasted in-house, using three varieties of local peppers.

About a quarter of the central kitchen is dedicated to processing fresh fruits and vegetables.  Mushrooms are sliced, carrots are shredded and onions are diced. With funding from a USDA Farm to School Grant in 2013, this food hub portion of the kitchen was furnished with tables, wash stations and equipment to process local food for Weld County’s own meals and for other districts in the area.

Colorado Proud School Meal Day Features Local Yak, Peaches, Potatoes and More!

From locally-raised yak burgers to school garden-grown zucchini, Colorado schools kicked off the school year with farm to school gusto! On September 14, an estimated 550 schools reaching 160,700 students celebrated Colorado Proud School Meal Day by featuring fresh, locally-grown food in their school meals. The annual event is organized by Colorado Proud, a program to promote local foods through the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Students from the public Denver Green School celebrated with special guests including Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Katie Wilson and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Guests joined students for a delicious school lunch featuring homegrown zucchini, onions, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Students voiced their excitement for the fresh food, and guests headed outside to the school farm where the produce was grown.

Unique Conservation Partnership Helps Create Win-Win Situation

By keeping their grasslands intact, two Colorado ranches are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting vital wildlife habitat, all while earning additional revenue.

It may seem too good to be true, but it is thanks to a unique partnership spearheaded by the Climate Action Reserve, one of North America’s leading carbon offset project registries.

With the help of a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Climate Action Reserve listed Raven’s Nest and Heartland Ranch, both owned by the Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT), as the first two grassland offset projects developed and executed under a new Grassland Project Protocol.

New SNAP Pilot Provides Grocery Delivery for Homebound Disabled, Elderly

Cross-posted from the Disability.gov blog:

Your neighborhood grocer may be conveniently located just a few short blocks away. But for many persons with disabilities and the elderly participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the store might as well be on the other side of the world.

It’s a difficult problem that USDA’s new homebound food delivery pilot aims to alleviate, not just for the more than 4 million nonelderly adults with disabilities participating in SNAP, but also for the nearly 5 million seniors, who often face similar challenges and who may face disabilities, as well.

Working Together to Develop Local Strategies for Strong Rural Communities

How will decisions about where we locate new development or upgrade existing infrastructure impact our future economic vitality and fiscal health?  How can we site and plan public facilities and housing so they have the greatest benefits for our community?  How can we rebound from years of population loss?  How can we capitalize on our unique history to become the kind of place we want to be in the future?  These were some of Alton, Missouri’s residents’ many questions Smart Growth America addressed during a recent USDA Rural Development supported technical assistance workshop.

During my visit to Alton, I was amazed at this small town’s vision, energy, and commitment to revitalizing its economy and improving the lives of its 870 residents.  Local leaders are bringing life back to their downtown by improving the built environment and hosting cultural events, developing the regional food system, strengthening tourism to nearby National Forests and beautiful rivers, and more.  However, I’ve seen rural communities with similar dreams fall short of their goals due to a lack of technical expertise, local capacity, financing, and partnerships.  That’s why USDA is working with Smart Growth America to bring innovative solutions, funding ideas, and insights from their experiences around the nation to communities who want a brighter future.

Local Foods in Schools Bring Rural Communities Together

From the west coast to New England, rural communities across the country are implementing community food systems’ strategies. The projects are bringing more local food into school meals, promoting healthy eating habits and expanding markets for American farmers and producers.

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is proud to support these efforts. Over the past four years, approximately four out of ten schools impacted by the program are in rural communities. We look forward to supporting similar projects in the future and are currently accepting applications for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding. Visit our grant opportunities page for more information.

To celebrate the release of the FY 2017 RFA, we are highlighting two projects that are having a big impact in their communities.

Following Water in the Rocky Mountains

In cycling the Continental Divide in Colorado, you get a vivid picture of where much of our water comes from. During my long bike rides up there, I commonly find snow still melting in June. This snowmelt adds to streamflow that becomes our renewable water supply and my drinking water supply.

The part of rain and snowfall that does not naturally go back into the atmosphere becomes our water supply and it varies greatly across the United States. In the wettest regions, such as New England, precipitation is plentiful and about half of it ends up in streams or replenishes ground water supplies.

Navajo and Hopi Expand the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network

Susie Wauneka has discovered a unique way to serve her community; by watching the weather. Wauneka is a proud member of Navajo Nation and is a Navajo Community Health Representative, providing critical health care services for members of the Nation. In December 2015, she discovered yet another way to serve—by using a Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) precipitation gauge to track the amount of rain and snow that falls.

The CoCoRaHS network is a unique grassroots network of thousands of trained volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to improve meteorological science by measuring and reporting precipitation amounts (rain, hail, and snow). CoCoRaHS is the largest provider of daily precipitation observations in the United States. The data from these observations are used by USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for tools such as the United States Drought Monitor.

Now That Was A Sweet Ride!

Your face is dusty. Your All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) is muddy. Your adrenaline is at an all-time high. You have just finished riding one of your favorite trails on the U.S. Forest Service’s Grand Mesa National Forest and couldn’t be happier.

But, do you ever wonder how all these miles of off-highway vehicle, or OHV, trails traversing a vast and diverse landscape stay in good shape? The fact is forests across the nation have the annual challenge of maintaining hundreds of miles of trails with limited budgets and personnel.