- Author: Chris M. Webb
Your support of local food producers strengthens your local food system. Strong local food systems provide fresh food for their communities; foster the connection between cities and countryside; keep local money in the community, strengthening the local economy; reduce pollution and oil dependence; reduces potential food safety problems; and much more.
Eating local foods is a great way to get good nutrition, help the planet, and support your local economy. It’s easy and tastes great, too! To find a Farmer’s Market near you try using the USDA’s Farmer’s Market locator.
More information can be found on our previous Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food post!
- Author: Chris M. Webb
Our office receives many food safety related calls at this time of year. Most of these calls are about the star of the Thanksgiving meal – the turkey.
Today I will share with you a great website that provides the answers to these types of questions. It is the FoodSafety.gov site. The home page includes podcasts and video instructions on preparation, stuffing and cooking your turkey.
Written instructions and much additional information can be found off the home page or by following this link.
Safe guidelines for storing leftovers can be found off the home page or by following this link.
More about the FoodSafety.gov site can be found on a previous post.
I will be out the remainder of this week but will post a new article when I return Monday.
- Author: Chris M. Webb
Last month, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the creation of the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The institute will be the research arm of the USDA. Secretary Vilsack began his speech by saying,
"The opportunity to truly transform a field of science happens at best once a generation. Right now, I am convinced, is USDA's opportunity to work with the Congress, the other science agencies, and with our partners in industry, academia, and the nonprofit sector, to bring about transformative change. We can build on recent scientific discoveries - incredible advances in sequencing plant and animal genomes, for example. We have new and powerful tools -- biotechnology, nanotechnology, and large-scale computer simulations -- applicable to all types of agriculture.”
He outlined what the USDA focus of resources will be to accomplish the hoped for outcomes to improve human health and protecting the environment. They are:
- USDA science will support our ability to keep American agriculture competitive while ending world hunger. At a time when disruptive climate change threatens production of some of the world's staple foods, some of the biggest gains we can make in ending world hunger will involve development of stress-resistant crops.
- USDA science will support our ability to improve nutrition and end child obesity. At USDA we want to take the nutrition and food choice insights we have gained from our science to test out some new approaches to school lunches, breakfast and our other nutrition assistance and education programs.
- USDA science will support our efforts to radically improve food safety for all Americans. Each year in the U.S. alone, food-borne pathogens like E. coli kill 5,000 people and sicken 75 million more; the cost to the economy from these infections exceeds $35 billion.
- USDA science will secure America's energy future. President Obama has set ambitious but achievable goals for securing America's energy future from new domestic sources, including 60 billion gallons a year from biofuels by 2030. We plan to focus specifically on rapidly improving the amount and quality of plant-based feedstocks that will be the source of biofuels.
- USDA science will make us better stewards of America's environment and natural resources. We believe that research in this priority area will identify agricultural operations in the United States that, within 10 years, will be net carbon sinks.
Secretary Vilsack ended his speech by saying, "I am asking today for a commitment of will and energy to bring about our generation's new era of agricultural science. I look forward to charting a course together to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery in the agricultural sciences, speed the application of new knowledge to address challenges facing US and global food and agriculture, and translate new knowledge into tangible benefits for the American people and the world."
The speech can be read on the USDA’s website.
- Author: Chris M. Webb
The Federal Government has recently launched a new food safety website, FoodSafety.gov. The sub heading is, Your Gateway to Federal Food Safety Information. It is a great site, not only full of wonderful information, but arranged in an easy to navigate layout with easy to follow language.
The home page features ‘ask a question’ and ‘report a problem’ in the upper-right-hand corner. You can also subscribe to alerts and email updates as well as listen to podcasts and view videos. In addition there is a ‘recalls and alerts’ area that gives information about food recalls. The recalls and alerts information, like everything else on the site is easy to follow and written in an easy and concise manner. There is a feature called ‘get food safety widget’ that allows you to add the recall and alerts section to other websites or blogs.
Other options for additional information include: keep foods safe, food poisoning, inspections & compliance, news & events, multimedia & educational materials.
The site can be found at http://www.foodsafety.gov/index.html.
- Author: Chris M. Webb
This week Ventura County UCCE’s director, Rose Hayden-Smith travels to Washington DC! Rose is a W.K. Kellogg/IATP Food & Society Fellow and is in Washington this week to attend meetings on National Food and Ag Policy. She will be sharing with us on this important topic throughout the week.
This morning found me at the National Food Policy Conference. The keynote speaker was Kathleen Sebelius, former governor of Kansas, and now serving in the Obama administration as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
In her brief tenure, Sebelius has been busy framing a response to H1N1 influenza, and dealing with a host of food system issues for the new administration, an administration that is focusing seriously on food safety.
She got right to the point about childhood obesity. Sharing government statistics that medical treatment for all cancers in the U.S. tops $93 billion each year, she pointed out that the medical costs associated with treating obesity DOUBLE that, exceeding $186 billion per year. She indicated that chronic diseases cause 70% of deaths in America, and that their treatment represents 75% of all health care costs. She attributed much of America’s battle with obesity to poor childhood nutrition. Her conclusion? There will be huge benefits to both human health and the economy by addressing both childhood obesity and food safety.
Sebelius promised to “focus relentlessly on prevention,” viewing it as a “great investment.” There will be a national initiative, and American Recovery and Investment funds to support prevention efforts.
Sebelius is working closely on this effort with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. They served as governors together (Sebelius in Kansas, Vilsack in Iowa). The idea that DHHS and USDA will be working closely together – along with the Department of Education – is somewhat novel. This administration is emphasizing inter- and intra-agency cooperation to a degree seldom seen previously.
Food safety is a major area of focus for Sebelius. The national food safety workgroup she sits on has identified three core principles:
- Prioritizing food safety, not in response to specific crises, but to anticipate and prevent crises from occurring;
- Building partnerships and casting a wider net, sharing best practices across the nation, and building partnerships across agencies. Specifically, Secretary Sebelius spoke of the DHHS partnering with USDA on food safety, and with the Department of Education playing a role in childhood nutrition education.
- Being proactive.
Secretary Sebelius stated that along with the USDA, the DHHS strongly supports the pending WIC and Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization and the pending Senate food safety bill.
Like yesterday, imports were referenced in terms of food safety. Per Sebelius, 20% of food is imported, and more than 1/3 of produce and ¾ of seafood are imported. She spoke of the need to develop a 21st century food policy that emphasizes safety.
The morning’s big announcement was the launching of www.foodsafety.gov This website represents a significant effort to better serve American consumers by serving as a clearinghouse for all food safety issues. Recall and safety information is provided here, and you may sign up for email updates and feeds. There is a widget that enables individuals and agencies to link the website to their own sites. Mobile phone alerts regarding important food safety information will soon be available.
I visited the site today, and noted something interesting: the collaboration. This site is a joint effort between the White House, the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control, the FDA, DHHS, National Institutes of Health, and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services Division. This site is truly a valuable resource, and I urge you to visit it.
Sebelius noted that the “highest mission of any government is keeping its citizens safe.” The government’s new food safety website will help accomplish this.
Around lunchtime, I went with four colleagues over to the USDA for a meeting about the People’s Garden Initiative. While walking by the garden – which looks very different from when I saw it in March, a scant five weeks after it was planted – I saw Bob Snieckus. Bob is a landscape designer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which is one of seventeen USDA agencies. I met Bob last March at the People’s Garden Partnership Forum, when he shared design plans. Today, Bob was working in the garden on his lunch hour, doing some volunteer work to perfect what already looked wonderful in preparation for the USDA’s Harvest BBQ, an event for members of Congress that was being held tonight, before the President’s address on health care.
Our group of gardening advocates had a wonderful and productive meeting with USDA staff about national gardening efforts and the USDA’s work in this area. I’ll post tomorrow what I learned about the green and sustainable efforts being undertaken by the USDA. The great work being done there deserves its own blog posting!
- Breakfast meeting with the Executive Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to learn more about federal ag policy and legislation, including the Farm Bill.
- Meeting with Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the USDA (gardening is one of three agenda items).
- Visit to the White House Garden. We have learned we will also be given a tour of the kitchen. New restrictions prevent us from taking any bags or cameras, but we believe that the White House staff will provide us with some pictures of our visit.
- Evening reception to present policy ideas to press and policy makers. Bet you can guess what my policy idea is….yes, a national gardening initiative like the WWI and WWII Victory Garden campaigns!
Random observations: High seventies today, scattered sprinkles. Warm and humid, but absolutely lovely this evening. We are staying at an historic hotel off of DuPont Circle, with a tiny lobby. As we crowded into the lobby this evening, preparing to walk to dinner, Madeline Albright and Tom Daschle came through the door, and headed up the flight of narrow stairs for a meeting. We ate dinner tonight at a restaurant called Founding Farmers. Founding Farmers is an unusual restaurant: it is owned by a collective of family farmers who are committed to serving sustainable food in a sustainable environment (the restaurant is LEEDS certified). The food was excellent, reflecting seasonal availability and a perfect mix of classic American dishes (cornbread and fried green tomatoes were appetizers we shared) and more eclectic offerings. The food is reasonably priced. I had a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup, and coffee. Six of us shared an enormous slice of red velvet cake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
My tablemates were Jim and Rebecca Goodman, Wisconsin dairy farmers; Lisa Kivirist, organic farmer/eco-preneur/writer/innkeeper from Wisconsin; Abigail Rogosheske, Institute of Ag and Trade Policy, Minnesota; Zoe Bradbury, young farmer/writer from Langlois, Oregon (and her husband, Danny, who is from Ventura!); and Roger Doiron, gardening hero and founder of Kitchen Gardeners International. Roger’s influence has made the White House visit