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USDA Foods' Local Roots: DoD Fresh Connects the Farm to School

What do the military’s logistical network, peaches and peppers, and school children have in common? The first delivers the second to the third through a unique partnership between the Department of Defense (DoD) and USDA.

October is National Farm to School Month and the perfect time to celebrate the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which connects schools with fresh and often local produce using their USDA Foods entitlement dollars. Schools order local foods from a variety of sources, and according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 29 percent of districts participating in farm to school are receiving local foods through DoD Fresh.

Celebrating 80 Years of Partnership

This is a special year for rural electric cooperative utilities.  Eighty years ago, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

The REA brought electricity to rural America, ultimately making the United States the source of the world’s food, fuel and fiber—the breadbasket for the world.

Already Planning to Feed More Kids than Ever During Summer 2017

Now that summer has come and gone, I’m happy to announce that this season the USDA Rural Housing Service was able to partner with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to feed more kids than ever before. Three hundred and five Rural Housing Service Multi-Family Housing properties participated in FNS’ Summer Meal Programs, which provide low-income children with free, healthy meals during the summer when school is out. This is 121 more affordable housing communities we were able to serve than the year before, and almost triple the number from 2014.

This is a huge success, and I’m so proud of my team across the country for feeding more kids at our properties than ever before! However, we cannot become complacent because we have the potential to make an even bigger difference in the lives of rural kids. There are more opportunities to partner with borrowers in our Multi-Family Housing and Community Facilities Programs, and I’ve set a lofty goal for summer 2017.

Pennsylvania Landowners Helping Indiana Bat through 'Spooky' Declines

When most people think of bats, images of dark caves, vampires and Halloween come to mind. But actually, bats get a bad rap, and we often don’t know how important they are for controlling insects, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and improving biodiversity.

Many of our nation’s bats are facing population declines to near-extinction levels, primarily because of disease and loss of habitat. One of those species is the Indiana bat, an endangered species that has experienced rapid declines since the 1960s.

Meet Carol & Brad: The Last Family in the #MyPlateMyWins Video Series

This year, our MyPlate, MyWins video series has introduced you to families sharing their solutions for incorporating healthy eating into their unique lifestyles. In the final family video, Carol and Brad share how they plan meals around foods they either produce themselves in their family garden or are on sale at the grocery store. For them, making sure their four children eat right and take care of their bodies is essential!

REAPing America's Clean Energy Future

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, commonly referred to as ‘REAP’, provides financial resources for rural agricultural producers and small businesses to help them improve their bottom line. REAP provides loan guarantees and small grants to support these producers and owners as they improve the energy efficiency of their operations and develop renewable energy sources.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced hundreds of new projects like the one I visited over the summer in Central City, Nebraska.  It exemplifies the strategic thinking our rural communities use daily to find new ways to prosper.  A community just shy of 3,000 residents, Central City is home to the first community solar garden project ever developed in Nebraska.

Celebrating Seasonal Variety at the USDA Fall Harvest Festival

Can you describe your favorite thing about fall? Would it be picking pumpkins, jumping carefree into a pile of crisp leaves, admiring the brilliant riots of color in our national forests and grasslands, eating fall vegetables, or something else entirely?

You can celebrate fall in all of these ways at the 7th annual USDA Harvest Festival on Friday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the People’s Garden, at the USDA Farmers Market and along 12th Street right next to the market. Take advantage of the last opportunity this year to enjoy what’s in season from pumpkins to apple cider at the USDA Farmers Market located at the corner of 12th Street and Independence Ave, SW in Washington, D.C.

Join the Bat Squad and Pull for Bats during Bat Week

Bats have quite the list of positive effects in our world, from the billions of dollars they save in pesticides to natural pollination and seed spreading. Bats eat about one-half of their body weight in insects each night.

We need bats.

In honor of our furry, flying mammal friends, consider pulling for bats during Bat Week from Oct. 24-31. You can make a difference, whether you get a group together to literally pull invasive plants to help improve habitat and food for bats or figuratively “pull” for bats by sharing why they are important to our ecosystem with your friends and family. And, the great news is that you don’t have to be an adult to help bats.

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.

Roundtable Isn't Your Typical CIG Project

This isn’t your typical Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project. There’s no university collecting and analyzing data, or ground-breaking technology being evaluated here.

Nope. This one is a good, old-fashioned meeting.

Why would a meeting be such an important CIG project? Because strategic stakeholders from all over the world come together to deliberate on obstacles, challenges, and generate solutions to increase the amount of private capital, institutional investments, and other sources of non-Federal funding dedicated to natural resource conservation on both public and private lands.