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Taste Test: Behind the Scenes with USDA Foods

The is a lot like any other menu, with dozens of healthy options for state agencies to order and distribute through USDA’s nutrition assistance programs.  And every year, foods are added or removed from the list based on customer demand and market conditions. Some offerings are modified to improve nutrition content or make the product and its packaging easier to work with in the kitchen or more acceptable to kids.

The USDA Foods program is a collaboration between the Agricultural Marketing Service (), the agency that procures the food, and the Food and Nutrition Service (), the agency that distributes the food. This school year, the USDA Foods team’s goal for training and conferences is to provide more opportunities to taste new and reformulated products. That way, state agencies can confidently order them and school districts can incorporate them into their menus.

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 and the perfect time to celebrate the , which connects schools with fresh and often local produce using their entitlement dollars. Schools order local foods from a variety of sources, and according to the 2015 , 29 percent of districts participating in farm to school are receiving local foods through DoD Fresh.

Military Experience Opens Door for Soldier to Return to the Farm

Graduating from high school in the small town of Blakely, Georgia, Tracy Robinson was required to take an armed forces aptitude test. When asked what he wanted to do with his life, Robinson said he wanted to farm. The Marine recruiter told him he would be a great field artilleryman.

“I heard the word field and thought it had something to do with farming,” said Robinson. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and after finding out field artillery had nothing to do with farming he stayed and fought for his country for 24 years, serving in Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Farmers Markets Bring Farm-Fresh Foods & Fun to Summer Meals

This , we celebrate a growing national trend that exemplifies the power of partnership in achieving common goals. Across the country, sponsors of are joining forces with their local farmers markets, realizing a multitude of shared benefits.  These partnerships increase access to the local seasonal bounty the summer months have to offer and help keep kids and their families nourished and active while school is out. Check out how three communities are taking full advantage of all that farmers markets during the summer months!

U.S. Forest Service Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act

Signed by President Lyndon Johnson fifty years ago, the marked a fundamental shift in how Americans and the federal government regarded the role of historic preservation in modern life.

The has a long history of protecting significant heritage resources, to share their values with the American people, and contribute relevant information and perspectives to natural resource management. Protecting these resources ensures that future generations have an opportunity to discover the human story etched on the landscapes of our national forests, grasslands and prairie.

Using Science to Help Keep Food Safe: A Day in the Life of a USDA Laboratory Auditor

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read .

From soup to nuts, we use science to help ensure the quality of agricultural products for consumers worldwide. As a Microbiologist for USDA’s , I am one of a small group of highly-qualified auditors that travel across the country to certify over 70 private laboratories. These labs are consistently testing to verify the quality and wholesomeness of U.S. food and agricultural products.

Our approves, or accredits, labs that test agricultural products in support of domestic and international trade. Our programs cover a variety of products from aflatoxin testing in peanuts and tree nuts to export verification for meat and poultry products.

Knitting Together Treasured Landscapes with the Forest Legacy Program

Did you know the is the only federal grant program focused on the permanent protection of important private forestland, conserving over 2.5 million acres to date?

This incentive-based and voluntary program managed by the conserves working forests and environmental benefits for communities. It does this through land acquisition and conveyance to state management as well as through the establishment of conservation easements that allow families to maintain ownership of their land.

Urban Youth Discover Conservation can be Life Changing

A peaceful forest setting mixed with sounds of birds and running water provides a feeling of solitude one would expect in a remote wilderness. But this area is anything but remote. Nestled in the shadow of Atlanta’s metropolitan skyline resides a green jewel so secluded and tucked away that many pass the main entrance without even noticing.

Part of the larger , provides 135 acres of isolated urban forest inside Atlanta’s perimeter. The Children’s Forest is instrumental in connecting underserved communities with conservation education and career paths. Yet for six young adults from inner-city Atlanta, these hidden woodlands in the heart of the city represent more than a forested landscape; they symbolize life-altering experiences.

Addressing the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic

Walk into any town in rural America, and ask someone if they know someone who is struggling or has struggled with addiction.  Chances are the answer will be yes.

In 2014, 28,648 Americans died of overdoses of opioids, a class of drugs that includes both prescription pain medications and heroin.  Heroin-related overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.  In 2013, prescription opioid abuse or dependency affected 1.9 million Americans, and 517,000 Americans had abused heroin within the past year.

Celebrating Black History Month with 'A Night at the Museum'

It was my great pleasure to recently attend what proved to be a truly inspiring wrap-up of national Black History Month—namely, an African American Living Wax Museum event hosted by the 5th-grade class at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

The school kicked off the event this year to recognize the contributions of African Americans in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as to provide hands-on learning experience for the 52 participating students who had to use their research, writing, and oral-presentation skills to portray these individuals—Daniel Hale Williams, George Washington Carver, Sarah E. Goode, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Mae C. Jemison among them.

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