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
A3. DS Merrigan: Need more farmers! especially young ones! start2farm.gov & ow.ly/csVS6 can get new farmers started. #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
A7: Merrigan: .@USDA_ERS does research on comparative & competitive local food pricing. ow.ly/csXBM & ow.ly/csXDi #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