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Food security

An Insider's Journey to Improving Food Security and Literacy in Tanzania

USDA’s McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program helps reduce hunger and improve literacy and primary education in low-income, food-deficit countries around the world. Today, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) works hand-in-hand with non-profit charitable organizations and others to operate McGovern-Dole programs in 25 countries. One of these partnerships is with Project Concern International (PCI) for a multifaceted school feeding program in northern Tanzania.

FAS caught up with PCI Operations Officer Kara West while visiting Tanzania to glean an insider’s perspective on the program.

Philly Market Rises Up to Meet Hunger Challenge

Did you know that nearly one-third of the food available to U.S. retailers and consumers never makes it to the dining room table?  That’s 133 billion pounds of food going to waste--all of which has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation, and climate change.  Experts have projected that reducing food waste by just 15 percent would provide the equivalent of enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year.

That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), decided to help tackle the problem by sponsoring the Terminal Market Food Waste Challenge.  Produce markets across the U.S. joined the friendly 90-day competition by making sure that usable fruits and vegetables were not thrown away.  While these fresh foods weren’t picture-perfect supermarket quality or simply didn’t sell, they were healthy, wholesome foods that could be made into juices, added to animal feeds, used for compost, or donated to charity.

Research in Energy Security Helps Lead to Food Security in West Africa

Research shows the majority of people in Africa depend on biomass to meet their energy needs, with approximately 80 percent relying on wood energy. Such high dependency makes families vulnerable to unexpected and sudden changes, including extreme weather and socio-political events. Researching and developing ways to diversify energy sources is crucial for a more sustainable, food secure future.

A project funded through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Cochran Fellowship Program on “Biofuels for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods,” hosted by the University of Missouri (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources International Programs, set out to address this very issue. The research and training program was organized for West African Cochran Fellows to learn how different uses of biofuels can help support sustainable livelihoods in their communities. The two-week-long program consisted of workshops, field visits and interactive discussions in cooperation with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, the MU Center for Agroforestry, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and Envest Microfinance.

Biosecurity Education and Compliance are Critical in Preventing Avian Influenza Outbreaks

The December 2014 to June 2015 avian influenza outbreak was the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history. The virus contributed to the death of more than 48 million birds, either due to infection with the virus or depopulation to prevent additional spread.  The virus was introduced into the U.S. by wild migratory waterfowl and then spread from farm to farm in a number of ways.  This included farms sharing equipment, vehicles moving between farms without being cleaned or disinfected, employees moving between infected and non-infected farms, rodents and small wild birds reported inside some poultry houses, and feed stored outside or without appropriate biosecurity measures. The virus spread was also assisted by instances of noncompliance with industry-recommended biosecurity practices.

Fortunately, avian influenza poses little threat to human health and food safety. Human infections with avian influenza are rare and most often occur after direct contact with an infected bird. Avian influenza does, however, adversely affect food availability and the economy. If a single bird became infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus during the 2014-15 outbreak, every bird in the same commercial poultry house – which contains an average of 30,000 birds – was depopulated.

NIFA Programs Key to Reducing U.S. Household Food Insecurity

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) opened its doors on Oct. 1, 2009, created by the 2008 Farm Bill.  NIFA begins its eighth year as USDA’s premier extramural agricultural science agency by examining its role in helping reduce hunger in the United States.

As a nation, we are making great strides in combating food insecurity—the limited access to adequate food due to a lack of money and other resources. A recent household food security report issued by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shows the lowest figures on record for food insecurity among children.

Funding and leadership from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) support many food and nutrition assistance programs that provide low-income households access to food, a healthful diet and nutrition education. Three such programs are the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI), Community Food Projects (CFP), and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

September: A Nice Time to Celebrate Rice Research

September is National Rice Month, and the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas, is well positioned—literally and figuratively—to support the production, harvest, and public enjoyment of this versatile and nutritious grain. And on the world-food security front, ARS’ Stuttgart center is closing in on genes that regulate rice’s uptake and storage of iron, thiamine and other important vitamins and minerals—a pursuit that could bolster the nutritional value of this cereal grain crop as a staple food for roughly half the world’s population.

In the United States, nearly 85 percent of the rice eaten by consumers is grown on family-run farms across six States:  Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. Of these, Arkansas produces about half of all U.S. rice on nearly 1.3 million acres of cropland.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program Responds to the First Lady's #GimmeFive Challenge!

Through its 15 nutrition assistance programs, USDA strives to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides aid to child and adult care centers and family or group day care homes for the provision of nutritious foods that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of young children and the health and wellness of older adults and chronically impaired disabled persons. CACFP administrators and program operators receive support from many advocacy organizations who help ensure children and adults participating in CACFP receive nutritious meals. Below is a story from one of those advocacy organizations, the Child Care Food Program Roundtable.

By Chris Clark, Child Care Food Program Roundtable

In 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to end childhood obesity, Let’s Move!, celebrated its fifth anniversary. To mark the occasion, she issued the #GimmeFive challenge which encouraged all Americans to do five things to lead a healthier lifestyle. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) community heard this call to action and developed its own CACFP Take ACTION Challenge. That Challenge was launched at the 2015 CCFP Roundtable Conference, where over 500 conference attendees got up, got moving and performed the #GimmeFive Dance!

Digital Plant Diagnosis: Turning a Mobile App into an Agricultural Game-Changer

Ireland lost about 20 percent of its population to starvation and emigration during the great famine of 1845-1849 because disease destroyed that nation’s major food source – potato.  Today, an Irish-born professor at Penn State University believes that a similar situation in other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, could be a thousand times worse.

But there’s hope, he said, because modern food producers have a tool the 19th century Irish did not – smartphones and mobile apps, like PlantVillage.

Reversing Pollinator Decline is Key to Feeding the Future

Without pollinators, we don’t eat—it’s simple as that—and, at the moment, large numbers of pollinators are dying.  With the world’s population projected to exceed 9 billion in just the next 30 years or so, that is not a good position for us to be in.

More than 90 species of U.S. specialty crops require pollination, and various animals, including bees, butterflies, moths, bats, and birds are a critical part of the pollinator-plant ecosystem.  Despite the myriad species of pollinators available, American farmers rely on one species of honey bee, Apis mellifera, for most of the pollinator services to pollinate their crops. Wild and managed bees together add $15 billion in crop value each year.

US Ag Exports Create Big Opportunity Around the World

When I reflect on USDA’s international work over the past seven years, I don’t just see a great record of accomplishments, I see the building of a strong foundation that positions rural Americans to compete, grow and thrive in the years ahead.

Today, we’re launching the sixth chapter of USDA Results, which tells the story of our efforts, and our impact, alongside our partners over the last seven years to open new export markets, improve trade and capacity building, and empower future trading partners striving to build their own economies.