As the USDA moves toward increasing participation with the public through "virtual office hours," Twitter has become an effective tool for outreach and education. This month, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan took her turn answering questions about local food systems, school lunches, nutrition programs and more.
Questions and answers have not been edited. Answers directly from Deputy Secretary Merrigan are tagged with "Merrigan." Follow the links embedded in the answers to learn more about USDA local food, nutrition and Farmer's Market programs.
Q1 RT @businessforfood: Please say more about your comment at #WHHangout "go mobile, go mobile, go mobile." Where, how, with what? #AskUSDA
A1 Merrigan: Mobile farm markets, slaughterhouses, trucks etc help make more healthy food avail. Eg: ow.ly/csVjK &...
Q2 RT @JeanTerranova #askUSDA - how can local schools comply w/ nutrition guidelines w/o additional financial assistance from the US Govt.?
A2 Merrigan: #HHFKA does provide $.06 more per meal for meeting standards. #AskUSDA
Q3 frm Ed Garrett of FreshSpinFarm: What's USDA plan for ed + training for new frmrs, often from urban roots, 2 innovate in field? #AskUSDA
Q4: RT @HughesWard7: Does Sec Merrigan support Backyard & Urban Chickens (hens)?
A4. Merrigan: Backyard chickens currently local issue. If you keep them, keep them healthy. Here are tips http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity/
A4: (Part 2): SARE "Backyard Birds" is a good piece too, Need to educate, public health depts. #AskUSDA
#AskUSDA suggestion - #KYF2 should include info about #coops. When you buy from a farmer co-op, you're buying from the farmers who own it.
A5. DS Merrigan: Check out RD Coop magazine ow.ly/csWIO Also in the infrastructure of #KYF2 compass: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=KYF_Compass_Local_Food_Infrastructure.html
Q6 @Chris_B_Leone #KYF2 what is biggest obstacle to getting local food into public schools nearby, health, jobs and community #askusda
A6: DS Merrigan: #Local passion conquers all, but $ helps too! Grant info:
Q6: correct link for #farm2school grants this. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/f2s/f2_grant_program.htm Use your passion too! #askusda
Q7 MT @businessforfood: What #data does USDA use for price points? Stereotype persists local-fresh more $$. Studies differ. #AskUSDA
Q8: @imSparkie @USDA Are there any plans to get local food into colleges/universities? #KYF2 #askusda
A8 Merrigan: Many are already doing it, farm 2 college is growing: ow.ly/csXRy #AskUSDA
~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~Q9 MT @CFcraftbutchery: keep #foodsafety but not burden small meat processors? Regional slaughter key to #localfood #AskUSDA @RealSheree
A9 Merrigan: #localmeat producers can call #USDA Small Plant Help Desk 1877 FSIS HELP w Qs about regs & rules: ow.ly/csYpM #AskUSDA
Q10 RT @SPKrikava: Can't find locally grown oranges in MN. But if you buy from a co-op @Sunkist you're buying frm farmer. #AskUSDA
A10: Merrigan: New ARS plant hardiness zone map informs local: #AskUSDA ow.ly/csYQP
Q 11:@The1ChefMike what BtoB programs does the USDA provide to assist with connecting farmers to buinesses if any #askusda
A11: Merrigan: B&I, VAPG, & other RBS programs help. Use #KYF2 compass to get good illustrations and examples. ow.ly/csZ0W #AskUSDA
Q12 RT @GncCorp #askUSDA Examples where a rural (ie. pop under 50,000) area with a depressed economy makes locally grown food affordable...
A12. (1/2) See Muckleshoot. Terrific work, feat in last week's @whitehouse Google+ Hangout: ow.ly/csZue #AskUSDA #KYF2
A12 (2/2): #farmersmarkets one way to increase healthy food. At end of '11, 2400+ farmers markets took EBT. USDA investing $4M to equip more
Q13. RT @JeanTerranova: What can we do to (a) protect SNAP; (b) help farmers thru the drought; and (c) scale local foods systems? #AskUSDA
A13. Merrigan: Local + drought, all farmers struggling during #drought. Time to support them usda.gov/drought
Q14 RT @realfoodnow: What do you think the role of universities should be in supporting local food economies? #ASKUSDA #KYF2
A14: Merrigan: Lots of universities offering courses on #local economies & #foodsystems. Here's 1 resource list ow.ly/ct0Ew
Q15 RT @LSRebhan: If @USDA recommends fruits & veg as 1/2 our plates, why does < 1% of food subsidies go to frmrs who grow produce? #AskUSDA
A15: Merrigan: Check out specialty crop blog grants on compass. Lots of good news. #AskUSDA #KYF2
A15: We meant block not blog. But read our blog ow.ly/ct1d3
Q16 MT Chris_B_Leone: 1 reason Y local produce not reaching school plates: workers lack knife/cooking skills 4 unprocessed food.
A16: Merrigan: True, sometimes answers can be simple. Equipment needed too, Community Facilities program has $ ow.ly/ct1nP #AskUSDA
Merrigan: Bye for now. Need to carry on convo about where food comes from and who produced it. Thanks for the chat. #AskUSDA #kyf2