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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.

USDA Delivers on Ways to Prevent Food Waste

Less than 2 years ago, the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, with the goal of reducing food waste in the United States.  We set an ambitious goal of having at least 400 businesses, schools, and/or organizations join the challenge by letting us know what they are doing to reduce food waste in their operations.  USDA also committed to finding ways in which its 33 agencies and offices could help reduce food waste through policy, partnerships, and research.

As of today, we have surpassed our membership goal by signing up 1,313 participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.

The number and diversity of participants joining the challenge are indicative of a growing movement to reduce food waste that is spreading across the country.

What Most People Don't Realize is Behind Their Thanksgiving Dinner

You can picture it now, can’t you? The familiar sounds of a parade or football game playing on the TV while little ones chase each other through the house. More friends and family members than you can ever remember in one place at the same time. And the aroma … those delightful smells that let you know it’s a holiday.

You see the table surrounded by mismatched chairs, dinnerware and cutlery. And on that table, neatly decorated with the rich colors of the season, sit bowls filled with traditional fare and in the center of it all, the pièce de résistance – the golden brown bird around which the entire meal is built. Turkey. The year’s most prestigious meal!

It's Someone's Birthday! Whooo?

Whether you give a hoot and don’t pollute or go out and lend a hand to care for the land, thank Woodsy Owl, the iconic symbol of conservation of the U.S. Forest Service.

After all, Woodsy Owl celebrates his 42nd birthday on Sept. 15 and has outlasted most environmental symbols from the 1970s and even expanded his repertoire to include such things as helping preschoolers learn their ABCs via conservation messages.

USDA is Composting, You Can Too!

As part of the Food Waste Challenge USDA employees are working together to reduce the amount of food waste at our Headquarters office in Washington, DC. Currently 2,400 pounds of food and paper waste is recycled from our cafeteria each week. Our goal is to increase that by 5% to at least 2,520 pounds of waste by the end of Fiscal Year 2014.

Food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste going to landfills, accounting for over 20% by weight. USDA headquarters employees are reducing food waste every time they eat in the cafeteria. Many of the items they use, such as plates, bowls, trays, paper cups, napkins, utensils and clamshells, are compostable.  The headquarters cafeteria and hallways are equipped with compost bins that are specially designed for all food waste, including meat and dairy products. The bins are emptied several times each day and the waste is transported to a waste pulping system in the basement.

Conservation Work Has a Place in Your Backyard

Whether you live in the country, on an average-sized suburban yard, or on a tiny plot in the city you can help protect the environment and add beauty and interest to your surroundings with backyard conservation.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service works with farmers and ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land, resulting in cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better habitat for wildlife.

But conservation work is not just for farmers or ranchers. You can help protect natural resources, whether your place is measured in acres, feet or flower pots.

Compost: A Gardner's Basic Ally

Today, the People’s Garden hosted a workshop about composting. Pat Millner, who has done a lot of research on composting and utilizing compost at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, taught it. It was fantastically fun and informative, and Pat brought in several examples of composters for us to see.