Monday, July 26, 2010

Conference to Help Enhance School Meals and Child Nutrition

Guest Blogger: Angela Olige, Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition Division

In an ongoing effort to promote healthy eating habits to Texas schoolchildren, the Texas Department of Agriculture hosted a booth at the School Nutrition Association's annual national conference in Dallas, July 11-14. School nutrition professionals from across the nation attended to share ideas and best practices for improving child nutrition, while also learning about new foods available to school districts and students, grades K-12.

White House chef Sam Kass made a special appearance and presented a healthy cooking demonstration.

Overall, the conference was a great educational experience and served to promote the 3E's of Healthy Living -- Education, Exercise and Eating Right!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tourism Tips offered for Texas Communities

Guest Blogger: Becky Dempsey, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Rural Economic Development

As most city leaders will tell you, tourism is a vital component to their community's well-being. As such, the Texas Department of Agriculture is committed and ready to assist Texas communities with developing strategies that can help boost tourism.

The agency has partnered with the Texas Travel Industry Association (TTIA) for a round of workshops called the "Regional Tourism Series." The series was developed to teach Texas communities how to build and sustain local tourism.

Through the series, communities can learn how to develop a community brand while building an effective website – all from presenters who have already done it.

The series continues this summer and fall in Lufkin, Bandera and Abilene. For more information, check the TTIA website at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rural Texas Communities Going the Extra Mile

Guest blogger: Rick Rhodes, Assistant Commissioner for Economic Development

Rural tourism throughout Texas is a growing trend. Whether shopping for antiques or visiting a farm or ranch operation, Texas offers plenty of opportunities for getting away.

Some rural Texas communities are going the extra mile to attract more tourists.
Levelland, for example, is a certified GO TEXAN Rural Community that is breaking ground on a new event center. The Mallet Event Center & Arena will host events such as rodeos, fairs and conferences that are sure to bring extra tourism dollars to Levelland.

On Wednesday, July 28, the public and community leaders will hold a groundbreaking for the new center. Below is a photo of what the event center will look like once it's completed. Congratulations to Levelland for promoting rural tourism.

For more information on becoming a GO TEXAN Certified Rural Community, visit and click on Retire in Texas.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Property Rights at Stake Along Neches River

Guest blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

You've most likely heard the cliché, "don’t believe everything you hear." Well, in the case of the Neches River, this overused notion holds true.

In a recent move to energize an old effort to designate the Neches River a National Wild and Scenic River, misinformation is being distributed to the public. The false selling point in this effort implies that a wild and scenic river designation would protect landowners from condemnation for the construction of reservoirs. Supporters of the designation also claim that the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Farm Bureau are, or would be, involved in overseeing the designation and plans designed to maintain the Neches in its natural state.

The truth is the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Farm Bureau are both opposed to designating the Neches River a National Wild and Scenic River. Both organizations recently published articles that highlight the true repercussions of such a classification, which essentially amounts to a federal threat to private property owners' rights. With this designation, the arms of federal agencies and other groups are extended to control lands that border upon, are adjacent to or are otherwise included in the river. As such, these entities would be free to prevent development on private land by deeming such actions as harmful to the river.

With private property ownership rights at stake, I encourage you to read more about the true implications of the National Wild and Scenic River designation by visiting the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Farm Bureau.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Camp Wesley Shows Kids the 3E's of Healthy Living

Guest Blogger Veronica Obregon, Chief Communications Officer

I visited Camp Wesley in San Antonio last week with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples to kick off the second session of their Summer Nutrition Programs - federally funded programs that offer free meals in the summer to children who typically rely on the free or reduced priced meals served during the school year.

Camp Wesley is just one of more than 4,600 sites across Texas participating in the Summer Nutrition Programs. While the programs are a great resource to alleviating hunger during the summer, they are only a temporary solution. People do not choose to be hungry, and the reality is that there is usually a bigger problem in food insecure households - such as unemployment, low salaries, etc. To truly end hunger in Texas, we must connect families with opportunities such as education and job training that will help them become self-sustaining.

A nice thing to note about many of the locations sponsoring the Summer Nutrition Programs is that they actually provide more than just free nutritious meals. At Camp Wesley, for instance, they also offer educational activities and physical fitness challenges. This three-pronged approach to being healthy is exactly what Commissioner Staples has been encouraging schools and kids to adopt through his initiative the 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right.

Thank you to the folks at Camp Wesley, and other sponsors across the state, for helping us at the Texas Department of Agriculture fight hunger and obesity in Texas.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Slogan for Granbury ISD School Breakfast Program

Guest Blogger: Angela Olige, Assistant Commissioner for Food and Nutrition

“Shimbermetimbers! This food is good” will be the new slogan for the Granbury ISD school breakfast program.

Jamie Bebbe, a first-grader at Acton Elementary School, submitted the winning entry in a slogan contest held during National School Breakfast Week earlier this year. The drawing will be featured on the elementary menu calendar this coming fall. She also received a portable Playstation donated by sponsor, General Mills.

By hosting this contest, Granbury ISD has exemplified how to engage students to participate in their school meal program, which follows strict nutritional guidelines as set forth in the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy and provides its students nutritious meals.

At the Texas Department of Agriculture, Commissioner Todd Staples has created an initiative called the 3E's of Healthy Living - Education, Exercise and Eating Right. Under this initiative, we developed "Texans Bring It!" This call to action asks students of all ages, "What do you bring to your life to be healthy?" It's safe to say Jamie Bebbe has got the right answer!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What is Sustainable

Guest Blogger: Drew DeBerry, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture

What level of food production and efficiency is necessary to truly sustain a world population that is expected to grow by three billion people by 2050? The answer depends on how you define "sustain."

A recent article from Go San Angelo reports growing numbers of anti-agriculture activists are quick to claim the word "sustainable" to exclusively define organic and small farming operations, but the reality is agriculture in ALL its forms, by definition, "sustains." Large farms actually sustain more people. As a matter of fact, only 10 percent of our nation's farms (with $250,000 or more in sales) are responsible for providing 85 percent of America's food and fiber supply. So let's not confuse buzzwords and definitions. To do so is to compare the proverbial apples to oranges.

While it's foolish to discredit small farms and the organic movement (in fact, they are deserving of much applause), it is equally unrealistic to think their methods and production outputs - however well intended - can wholly sustain the planet's impending population explosion.

To quote the article, “If we continue to allow propaganda to trump science, then the potential for global agriculture to be productive, diverse and sustainable will go unfulfilled. We will not be the ones to suffer the direct consequences, but rather the poorest and most vulnerable,”

Additionally, our farmers and ranchers are the true environmentalists. They know they have to protect their land and animals in order to have a productive operation. And for consumers, it's this simple - we all enjoy being sustained by an affordable, abundant and safe food supply.

Remember, political agendas can be argued and debated. World hunger, on the other hand, cannot.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Salute to the Fourth of July

There is no finer country on earth than the land of the free and the home of the brave, as so eloquently described in Francis Scott Key's "Star-Spangled Banner." Since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1776, the United States has stood for 234 years as the unrivaled symbol of freedom, independence, diversity and possibility.

Thanks to our founding fathers and a history of heroic patriots, we are free to pursue our dreams, raise our children as we see fit and know peace on our soil. We are free from tyrants, servitude and oppression. We are free from religious persecution, government censorship and the kind of anarchy and poverty that leaves much of the world living in fear.

As we gather with family and friends today to celebrate the Fourth of July, let's also take a moment to count our blessings and salute our soldiers. Independence was not handed to us, nor is it granted immunity from evil and ill will. Independence is declared, won and maintained through sacrifice, strength and courage.

While we enjoy the fireworks, barbecues and parades that are symbolic of the Fourth of July, let us also be reminded that the Star-Spangled Banner still gallantly waves today thanks to innumerable American sacrifices. God bless America, God bless our troops and Happy Fourth of July.