Tag Archives: USDA

Gaming to teach nutrition

At the USDA blog, Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra in the posting “Seeking Game-Changing Solutions to Childhood Obesity” writes that the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a workshop to gather insight from leading experts in the fields of gaming and technology to inform the development of a nutrition game-design challenge. For my money, there’s nothing better than Pajama Sam and “You are what you eat from your head to your feet.” What could be better?

Merrigan speaks at EcoFarm Conference

In the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition newsletter, they note that USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan addressed the crowd at the Ecological Farming Association’s 30th Anniversary EcoFarm Conference. Merrigan was talking to a crowd of seasoned organic pioneers in California as well as the current and next generations of organic and sustainable farmers.

In her address, Merrigan highlighted USDA activities that aim to create a future for farmers in America, including programs to re-establish local and regional food systems.  She described a recent visit to a mobile slaughterhouse and the challenges in re-establishing the infrastructure to meet the market demands for local and regional food systems, and the opportunities in those food systems for new farmers to make a living off of the land.

Hagen Named USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety

Dr. Elisabeth Hagen has been nominated as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Food Safety. Hagen will serve with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“There is no more fundamental function of government than protecting consumers from harm, which is why food safety is one of USDA’s top priorities,” said Vilsack. “We can and must do a better job of ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products regulated by USDA, and Dr. Hagen brings the background, skills, and vision to lead USDA’s efforts to make sure that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply.”

Dr. Elisabeth Hagen is currently the USDA’s Chief Medical Officer, serving as an advisor to USDA mission areas on a wide range of human health issues. Prior to her current post, she was a senior executive at FSIS, where she played a key role in developing and executing the agency’s scientific and public health agendas. She has been instrumental in building relationships and fostering coordination with food safety and public health partners at the federal, state, and local level.

Before joining the federal government in 2006, Hagen taught and practiced medicine in both the private and academic sectors, most recently in Washington, DC. She holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and a B.S. from Saint Joseph’s University. Dr. Hagen completed her specialty medical training at the University of Texas Southwestern and the University of Pennsylvania, and is board certified in infectious disease. She is married and lives with her husband and two young children in Northern Virginia.

USDA Secretary reports on 2009 accomplishments

President Obama’s Cabinet are sharing the accomplishments from 2009, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack offers a report on plans to make life better for Americans in the year ahead. Just click on this link. You’ll see a photo of the President with his cabinet. Vilsack is the tall guy on the left. You can mouseover to get the name of a cabinet member. Then just click on Vilsack to hear his 40 second report.

Vilsack Announces Grants to Help Schools Improve the Quality of Meals

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $25 million in grants to help schools operating a National School Lunch Program (NSLP) replace outdated equipment with new, energy efficient, appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, and other food service related equipment. The new funding which provides $815,762 in the state of North Carolina is a one-time fiscal year 2010 appropriation to State educational agencies.

“President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that America’s children have access to safe and nutritious food through our National School Lunch Program,” said Vilsack. “These grants will help schools obtain much needed infrastructure to better serve their students and will focus on equipment that helps schools provide nutritious meals, support food safety efforts, improve energy efficiency, and expand participation in school nutrition programs.”

As mandated by the legislation, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will award these grants to school food authorities that participate in the NSLP and that did not receive an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 grant for NSLP equipment assistance in FY 2009. Additionally, priority will be given to schools where 50 percent or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced price meals under the NSLP.

Congress is currently considering reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which provides the outline for the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs that serve more than 31 million children. Administration priorities include eliminating barriers that keep children from participating in school nutrition programs, improving the quality of school meals and the health of the school environment, and enhancing program performance.

USDA Hosting State Jobs Roundtables

USDA has begun a series of roundtables and community forums on job creation and economic growth in states throughout the country. The roundtables follow the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth that President Obama hosted at the White House on December 3.The roundtables will be hosted by USDA Rural Development state directors and Farm Service Agency state executive directors. Participants will include business owners, community members, state and local officials, union members, non-profit organizations, economists and other interested parties. Participants will discuss on steps that can to be taken to grow the economy and put Americans back to work. Some of the roundtables may be regional in order to focus on shared interests, economic conditions and cooperative solutions.

The primary focus will be on ideas to accelerate job growth in rural America. Some of the topics to be discussed are:

  • Exploring ways to rejuvenate and promote local businesses
  • Creating jobs by rebuilding America’s infrastructure
  • Creating new opportunities from existing ones, such as with value-added agricultural products
  • Supporting job growth among small businesses
  • Preparing workers for 21st century jobs

Jobs forums that are scheduled in January include:

  • Hawaii: Jan. 4, 5
  • North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota: Jan. 6
  • Iowa, Missouri and Illinois: Jan. 8
  • Nebraska: Jan. 8
  • Tennessee: Jan. 14
  • Kansas: Jan. 21
  • Puerto Rico: Jan. 22
  • Vermont: Feb. 3
  • New Hampshire: Feb. 4

Additional forums will be scheduled in the weeks ahead. Check thier website for more information, http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateJobRoundtableList.htm

Farmers Markets nearly double during decade

The number of farmers markets operating in the US has nearly doubled since 2000. Check out this USDA graph.

Deadline for comments on the food industry

The deadline has arrived for folks wanting to offer their comments to the USDA and US Department of Justice about the food industry.

The federal government is specifically seeking comments and stories about how corporate control of the food system affects average citizens. If you’re concerned that just a few big businesses have so much power over where your food comes from and how it’s produced, be a citizen: tell the government! Your comments will help to inform a series of workshops on the issue in the coming year.

E-mail your comments to agriculturalworkshops@usdoj.gov BY DECEMBER 31.  Or you can submit two paper copies of your comments to Legal Policy Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 5th Street, NW, Suite 11700, Washington, D.C. 20001. All comments received will be publicly posted – if you’d like your comment to be anonymous, please note that in your email.

For more background, check with the US Working Group on the Food Crisis.

USDA Launches Targeted Initiative to Address Hunger

The Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House joined together to launch the United We Serve: Feed A Neighbor initiative today to help combat hunger this winter. The new initiative raises awareness of hunger issues and equips American with the resources to mobilize against the hunger crisis.

On a conference call today, Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Special Assistant to the President Joshua DuBois made clear the need for immediate action to address hunger and discussed how United We Serve: Feed A Neighbor would engage American in combating the problem.

“Hunger has reached crisis levels for far too many in this country,” said Nicola Goren. “The need can seem overwhelming, but it’s not insurmountable. This initiative provides individuals with the tools to identify needs in their community and ways they can ensure that their neighbors have enough to eat.”

Feed A Neighbor is part of President Obama’s national call to service, the United We Serve initiative, and the Administration’s answer to hunger. The two major components of the initiative include an anti-hunger volunteer toolkit developed by USDA that provides information about how individuals can directly and immediately affect hunger and access to service opportunities in their local community on Serve.gov. This intensified effort is part of the Corporation and USDA’s year-round commitment to support anti-hunger programs in communities across the country, and is scheduled to run from Thanksgiving Day through Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, January 18.

USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan in meetings at 36th FAO Conference

On the sidelines of the 36th Session of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Ministerial Conference, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan met with Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), and Akram Musa Hadi Al Hakim, Iraq’s Acting Minister of Agriculture.

“The World Food Program works tirelessly to fight hunger and food insecurity around the world,” said Merrigan. “This meeting was an opportunity for me to thank the WFP on behalf of USDA and the entire U.S. government and reiterate how much the United States values its partnership with this important organization.”

As the United States finalizes its global hunger and food security strategy, it will rely on the WFP’s resources and expertise in safety nets, storage, transportation and logistics to ensure its efforts have the most impact in developing countries.

Merrigan is the first woman to chair the FAO conference, which was last chaired by the United States 20 years ago. As chair, Merrigan is overseeing discussions on the ongoing FAO reform effort and officiated as heads of delegations presented their country’s view of the state of food and agriculture at the conference’s plenary session.

The Conference is the supreme governing body of FAO and meets in regular session every two years. Its main functions are to determine the policies of the organization, approve the program of work and budget and make recommendations to members and international organizations.