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USDA Reaches Out to Growing Asian American and Pacific Islander Population

Did you know that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) make up the fastest growing population group in the United States?  Increasing over four times as rapidly as the overall U.S. population, AAPIs are projected to more than double by 2060, from 20 million today to 50 million. A recent event in the nation’s capital focused on the implications of this trend, in a public exhibit and conference entitled "Fast Forward 2060" (FF 2060) As USDA’s Senior Advisor and Director of AAPI Affairs, I was excited to participate in this event and exhibit the ways that USDA serves the AAPI community.

Community-based organizations, government agencies, associations, businesses and media gathered in Washington, DC on December 7, 2016 to reflect on the progress that had been made under the White House Initiative on AAPIs (WHIAAPI) and discuss the challenges that still lay ahead. Since 2009, the White House Initiative on AAPIs under President Obama has been working to improve the quality of life for AAPIs by increasing access to federal programs and assistance, as recounted in a legacy video shown by WHIAAPI at FF 2060. USDA has been very strategically engaged in WHIAAPI throughout the Obama Administration.  USDA’s exhibit at FF 2060 showcased some of our focused results.

USDA Unveils Landmark New Rules to Protect Farmers

Cross-posted from the White House blog:

Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking some major steps forward to protect farmers – including swine, beef cattle, and especially poultry growers – from unfair treatment by the often much larger processors who purchase their fully grown hogs, cattle, and chickens. These three rules are another step forward in response to the President’s Competition Initiative announced in April, which has the goal of enhancing competition to help consumers, workers, and small businesses get a fair shake in the economy.

Making a Promise in Puerto Rico

When Roosevelt Roads Naval Base ceased operations in 2004, the surrounding region suffered a significant population and financial loss. The land transfer process from the Navy to the local government created the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), entity with the responsibility of leading the rebuilding process and revitalization of the former base and the adjacent communities of Ceiba, Fajardo and Naguabo. The collaboration between the LRA and the communities seeks to improve public infrastructure and renovate economic activity in the area, as well as improve access to health care, improve educational opportunities, reduce crime, and spur job creation.

The area served by the Roosevelt Roads LRA in eastern Puerto Rico was recently designated a Promise Zone by President Obama. This designation made the region eligible for funding that can help them develop job training for a modern workforce, improve access to education, and provide for the development of improved public safety and affordable housing.

Una Promesa para Puerto Rico

Cuando la Base Naval de Roosevelt Road cerró operaciones en el 2004, el área cercana sufrió una baja poblacional y una gran contracción. Como parte del proceso de transferencia de terrenos de la Marina de los Estados Unidos al gobierno local, se creó la Autoridad de Redesarrollo de Roosevelt Roads (LRA). Esta organización es la encargado de dirigir el proceso de planificación y revitalización de los terrenos de la antigua base junto a los municipios de Ceiba, Fajardo, y Naguabo.

El trabajo de colaboración entre estas comunidades y  la LRA busca mejorar la infraestructura pública y renovar la actividad económica del área, mejorar el ofrecimiento de servicios médicos y educativos como también crimen y la creación de empleos.

Find Your Town, a New Tool Promoting Small Towns from the White House Opportunity Project

Charming, historic, cozy, vibrant, quaint and fun. Small towns and rural places hold a special place in our vision of America. They offer residents a unique and often genial place to live. Visitors and those just passing through come to enjoy distinct lifestyles, commerce, and countryside.  Yet, many rural towns have trouble promoting themselves and planning for a vibrant future. That is why we are helping to launch Findyour.town.

At USDA Rural Development, we know small towns may also be unaware of how our programs can help them thrive. We help build new fire stations, provide affordable housing, help expand a local business, strengthen broadband infrastructure in their community and so much more. To get the word out, we are working with The Opportunity Project, a White House initiative to expand access to opportunity for all Americans by putting data and digital tools in the hands of families, communities, and local leaders, to help them navigate information about the resources they need to thrive. Private sector tech developers and federal agencies come together to build digital tools that help address critical federal policy challenges, get information directly to the people we serve, and put federal data to use in innovative new ways.

Gulf of Mexico Communities Depend on a Healthy Gulf

The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our nation and our economy, providing valuable energy resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary recreational activities and a rich cultural heritage.  This ecosystem was significantly injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history—and has also suffered from harm caused by hurricanes, subsidence and other human actions and naturally-occurring events.

With the historic settlement of the litigation with BP, there will be up to $16 billion available for ecosystem restoration in watersheds across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas through the RESTORE Act, the Natural Resource Damages Assessment process and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Celebrating Progress: National School Lunch Week 2016

Cross-posted from the Food Research and Action Center blog:

Last week, children from more than a dozen schools and child care centers across the nation joined First Lady Michelle Obama for her final harvest of the White House garden. This event was more than just photo ops and shaking hands; kids got their hands dirty, harvesting the produce they later used to prepare a healthy meal. This was a neat experience for the students who participated, but it was also representative of the types of activities students are participating in all around the country. School gardens, nutritious snacks, farm to lunch tray meals, and nutrition education are all part of the healthier school environments students are experiencing each and every day.

Today kicks off National School Lunch Week 2016 and continues our month-long observance of Farm to School Month, and this year, there’s a lot to celebrate. More than 50 million children around the country attend schools that participate in USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Not only are their meals full of nutritious foods – with 99 percent of schools nationwide reporting that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards – their entire learning environment fosters healthy habits now and throughout the rest of their lives. The Smart Snacks Final Rule aligned the standards for snacks offered to students during the school day with the nutrition standards that apply to lunch and breakfast. In addition, the recently published Local School Wellness Policy Final Rule ensures that any food and beverage marketing kids are exposed to during the school day must adhere to the Smart Snacks standards, sending a consistent, positive message to students about the importance of healthy eating.

Continuing Lincoln's Charge: USDA Serving the People

When President Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more than 150 years ago, he called it “the People’s Department” because USDA addresses the vital interests of the people. Now, more than ever, it is necessary for USDA to collaborate across federal agencies and into local community-building institutions to meet the unique challenges faced by the people of rural America.

USDA Rural Development (RD) plays a key role in supporting the diverse communities in rural America. The incredible resilience, hard work, and enduring cultural values of our rural population embody the beauty of America and are worth cherishing.

Using Data for Social Good

We are entering a new era of information openness and transparency.  Open data has the potential to spur economic innovation and social transformation.   Focusing just on economic impacts, in 2013, for example, the consulting firm McKinsey estimated the possible global value of open data to be over $3 trillion per year.  A study commissioned by Omidyar Network has likewise calculated that open data could result in an extra $13 trillion over five years in the output of G20 nations.

These impacts illustrate why it is important that we encourage people of every age to invest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.  For example, the White House initiative on Equal Futures Partnership, aims to open more doors to high-quality education and high-paying career opportunities for women and girls in the STEM disciplines, fields in which they are currently underrepresented. To support this effort, Federal science and technology agencies, private corporations, and academic institutions are taking steps to collect better data on women and girls in STEM fields, expand STEM mentoring opportunities, encourage research-driven teaching practices, and increase access to online STEM-skill training.

Students from Every State and Territory Show Off Local Pride with MyPlate-Inspired Meals at the 5th Annual Kids' "State Dinner"

At the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, we are excited about using local foods and flavors to create healthy and delicious plates. Through our MyPlate, MyState initiative, we are working to connect American families with the foods grown in their communities – raising awareness that all healthy foods and flavors have a place on MyPlate.  As part of that initiative it was my privilege to attend the 5th annual Kids’ “State Dinner” last month, when the winners of the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, were honored for their MyPlate-inspired recipes.  For the first time this year’s contest, in which young chefs ages 8-12 from across the country create healthy recipes and show off their food know-how, included an emphasis on local and regional foods through MyPlate, MyState.

It was thrilling to see such creative approaches to amplifying local and regional foods. The winners truly captured the agricultural, historical, and cultural significance of their communities through food. I had the pleasure of meeting many amazing young chefs in attendance, including 11-year-old Abhijith from Missouri, who incorporated local catfish into his recipe, and 12-year-old Grace from West Virginia, who picked the vegetables in her dish from a community garden.