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People's Gardens, Farmers Markets & CSAs at USDA and Across Government

We celebrated a few “firsts” today when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market located outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary announced the first-ever partnership between USDA, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to better support agencies and Federal employees who want to incorporate gardens, farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) into the Federal workplace.

OPM provides Government-wide guidance on health and wellness policies for Federal employees and GSA manages Federal property and offices.  By working together, we can more effectively exchange ideas about how to engage thousands of employees and improve employee health and wellness in the workplace.

Earth Team Volunteers and People's Garden Benefit a Nevada Community

“This partnership couldn’t have worked out any better,” said Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology (AACT) Agriculture Teacher Michelle Burrows.

As part of a senior project to put their agricultural and leadership skills into practice, Earth Team volunteers Samantha (Sam) Antipa and Monique Renteria assist in the People’s Garden of Truckee Meadows. The seniors’ work is helping to grow healthy food and improve their community in Reno, Nevada.

Federal Employees Help to Knock Out Hunger

When I became National Program Manager for the 2014 Feds Feeds Families campaign—the sixth annual, nationwide food drive of Federal employees—I challenged Federal employees nationwide to help knock out hunger by supporting this year’s initiative.  I had every confidence that our Nation’s civil servants would step up in a huge way.  Feds have a tradition of generosity and answering the call whenever, wherever, and however they are needed.  Even so, this year’s results far exceeded my expectations:  14.8 million pounds of donated food went to food banks and pantries across the country.  That’s 7,400 tons of food this year.

Since 2009, the campaign has donated almost 39 million pounds of food to families and individuals in need.  All Federal agencies across the country participated.  Federal employees donated both perishable and non-perishable food items throughout the summer.  This year Feds Feed Families also encouraged employees to take advantage of gleaning (clearing fields of unused produce).

Volunteers Help Americans Eat More Greens

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.

Most of us were reminded every night to eat the veggies on our childhood dinner plates.  And for good reason, too.  Veggies are packed with the nutrients that are essential to good health and, as you may already know, greens are nutritional powerhouses.  Dark, leafy greens are full of antioxidants like vitamin A, C and E, as well as B vitamins, calcium, iron, protein, fiber and even essential fatty acids. But not everyone is able to adorn their plates with these “edible emeralds.” That’s where a group of federal employees stepped in.

Secretary's Column: Serving Up Healthy Food and a Healthier Next Generation

This article was originally posted on ServiceNation.org. Read the original here.

As Secretary of Agriculture, I take USDA’s nickname of the “People’s Department”—first coined by President Abraham Lincoln—to heart. Over the past five years, we have worked hard to build upon our tradition of service to the American people, supporting both the farmers and ranchers who grow our food and giving American families confidence that the food they buy at the grocery store is safe, healthy and affordable.

We could not accomplish our mission without the contributions of partner organizations and individual volunteers across the country. While our work with volunteers is by no means exclusive to nutrition and nutrition education, volunteers act as our boots on the ground in classrooms and communities to teach kids about where food comes from and why the diet and lifestyle choices they make today matter for their future. Volunteers, along with parents, teachers, school administrators, and school food service professionals, are absolutely critical to our efforts to improve childhood nutrition and help this generation of youngsters grow up healthy and strong.

Hunger Knows No Season

There is no “off-season” for the nearly 15% of people in this country facing hunger. Although demand remains high all year round, many of the nation’s food banks experience a major decline in donations during the summer months. USDA programs, however, work year-round to help those affected by hunger.

Through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), USDA helps those in need by purchasing items for food banks and community service organizations. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Commodity Procurement staff coordinates with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to send quality, wholesome foods to these establishments. In FY 2013, AMS purchased more than 212 million pounds of food for TEFAP.

Open for Business: USDA Farmers Market Kicks Off New Season with a Bang

As the USDA Farmers Market prepares to begin a new season, we invite everyone to come celebrate the richness and diversity of the market and the DC community that brings us all together. Whether you're a federal employee, a sight-seeing tourist, or a long-time resident, we are all a part of what makes DC unique. We all play a role in supporting the businesses and economy of the city and the region. You are guaranteed a fun time if you join us on June 7 for our market opening.

Martin Luther King Day-A Day of Service

In a 1957 sermon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged the congregation, asking:  “Life's most persistent and urgent question is:  'What are you doing for others?’ ”

Throughout his lifetime, Dr. King was passionately committed to community and service. On January 21st, USDA Rural Development is proud to join with Americans from all walks of life to honor Dr. King’s legacy through a National Day of Service. The Day of Service — a “day on, not a day off” — is part of United We Serve, President Obama's national call to service initiative.

At USDA Rural Development, “doing for others” is one of our core rural values, and we encourage everyone in our organization to practice Dr. King’s principals of community, volunteerism and service not just on the Day of Service but throughout the year. In Tennessee, the “Volunteer State,” USDA Rural Development employees in the State Office in Nashville helped the hungry over the past year by donating more than 3,800 pounds of food through the USDA Feds Feed Families food drive to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. State Office employees also helped the food bank, which provides food to about 600,000 people across 46 counties each year, to sort food items for easier distribution.

Feds and Farmers Feed Families in Pennsylvania

During this year’s Feds Feed Families food drive, the Schuylkill County USDA Service Center in Pennsylvania beat its last year’s total of 11,084 pounds of donated food with a new total of 19,092 pounds.

Feds Feed Families is a nationwide federal employee effort to re-stock the shelves of food banks and pantries over the summer months when need is high but supplies are generally lower.

Feds Feed Families Helps End Hunger in Tennessee

The fourth annual Feds Feed Families food drive has come to a close and USDA employees helped to bolster local efforts to feed those in need in a big way.  USDA employees, farmers, and friends donated 2.77 million pounds of food this summer and the federal-government-wide total was 7.29 million pounds of food!  This week, USDA is recognizing the great work of its employees and community partners who volunteered to make the food drive a success.

Beyond donating much-needed perishable and non-perishable foods, USDA employees showed their generosity in other ways as well. As the Rural Development state office in Nashville, Tennessee demonstrated, donations of time can be very valuable in helping an organization in your community.