Additional ‘Smart Steps’ child care payment assistance opportunities available across the state

The Smart Steps Child Care program is designed to partner with parents who are working or pursuing post secondary education to secure affordable quality child care

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) announced additional Smart Steps child care payment assistance opportunities across the state to be a resource for income eligible parents who are working, pursuing postsecondary education, or a combination of both. The Smart Steps program is a part of the Department’s 2G for Tennessee initiative – a two-generation approach focused on both the child and the parent’s well-being.

Families are often faced with the difficult task and balancing act of juggling their household budget; work hours; and having a safe, reliable and enriching child care environment for their children.  More than 2,900 families have signed up for the Smart Steps program since its launch in June 2016 on a first come first serve basis. TDHS is now offering 2,100 additional slots in order to reach families in need of affordable quality child care across the state. These new slots will be available effective February, 1 2017.

“Smart Steps remains a game changer for parents working and/or pursuing educational goals in Tennessee,” DHS Commissioner Dr. Raquel Hatter said. “We are excited to expand this opportunity to more families to support their progress by providing access to affordable quality child care. Participating children are also enrolled in the Imagination Library. This new category of child care assistance is in alignment with the department’s 2G for Tennessee focus and Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55.”

Smart Steps is available to income-eligible working parents and parents pursuing postsecondary educational goals that have children ages six (6) weeks to five (5) years of age. Families that participate in Smart Steps are responsible for a portion of their child care costs or co-pay based on a sliding income scale. As part of the program, children will be enrolled in quality, affordable, child care facilities and the Imagination Library.

Smart Steps participants can choose from more than 2,400 DHS licensed child care facilities across the state. Along with independent research, parents can use tools offered by the department to assist in choosing child care. These include the find child care tool located on the DHS website, the Child Care Report Card posted in all licensed child care facilities, and the Star Quality Program, which recognizes providers that exceed minimum licensing standards.

Applications are available at DHS county offices or at:

Space is limited in the program and will be awarded to eligible families on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information on the Smart Steps Child Care Payment Assistance Program please call visit or call 615-313-3893.

To learn more about DHS’ two generation strategy, 2G for Tennessee, visit:


Recent mumps outbreaks cause concern

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mumps, the illness many associate with childhood, can infect people of all ages and has been on the rise as some neglect to immunize themselves or their children. The Tennessee Department of Health is concerned about increases in mumps cases, including an ongoing outbreak in neighboring Arkansas which so far involves more than 2,400 suspected or confirmed cases of the illness.
“We are talking about this now because we are obviously worried about the significant rise in mumps cases in neighboring states and want everyone to be sure they are up to date on immunizations before it’s too late,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Mumps is a viral illness acquired through close contact with an infected person. It is usually a mild condition in children but can have more serious complications for adults. We should all be sure we and the people we care about are current on immunizations.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults born in 1957 or more recently who have not had mumps receive at least one dose of the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR vaccine in their lifetimes. Two doses are recommended for adults in high-risk settings:  those attending college, working in a healthcare facility or traveling internationally. People born before 1957 are presumed to be immune through natural illness in childhood. Some may not recall having mumps because one-third of mumps cases are extremely mild or without symptoms.
“We strongly encourage children more than one year of age and adults under 60 who do not know if they had mumps as a child and do not recall receiving mumps vaccine at some point in their lives to get the MMR vaccine,” said TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “Hundreds of millions of MMR vaccine doses have been provided and its safety record is excellent.
“While few vaccines provide 100 percent protection against illness, two doses of the MMR vaccine are about 88 percent effective in preventing mumps,” Jones said. “That’s an impressive preventive measure to keep you and your family healthy, and to help prevent the disease from spreading to others who may not be able to be immunized.”
TDH recommends all parents and adults talk with their healthcare providers about the need for MMR vaccine for themselves and their children, and to discuss any existing conditions that might be of concern. Women who are pregnant or anticipating a pregnancy in the near future and people with weakened immune systems should discuss immunization with their health care provider.
Frequent hand washing can help prevent mumps. Those who suspect they are infected should stay home until their healthcare provider informs them they are no longer able to spread the virus.
“Complications from mumps can include encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, and meningitis, which is inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and the spinal cord,” said Dreyzehner. “It can also affect ovaries, testicles and other parts of the body, causing permanent damage in some people. The best protection against mumps is proper vaccination with the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR vaccine.”
Two doses of MMR vaccine are required for school and college students in Tennessee. MMR vaccine is available at all county health departments to any individual for whom protection from these diseases is desired. Certain insurance companies may be billed. Sliding scale fees based on income are available to people without insurance. Call your local health department for an appointment and for answers to questions you may have. To find a health department near you, visit
For more information about mumps, visit
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Seeks Environmental Achievers

Nominations now open for the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is inviting Tennesseans to submit nominations for the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards.

“Maintaining the health of Tennessee’s natural environment is critical in keeping Tennessee a great place to live, work and play,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “These Awards are a great opportunity to recognize the work done by our citizens to enhance Tennessee’s most valuable assets in a sustainable way.”

The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards include ten unique categories: Building Green, Clean Air, Energy and Renewable Resources, Environmental Education and Outreach, Environmental Education and Outreach (school category), Land Use, Materials Management, Natural Heritage, Sustainable Performance, and Lifetime Achievement.

Any individual, business, organization, educational institution, or agency is eligible to apply, provided it is located in Tennessee and the project was completed during the 2016 calendar year. All nominees must have a minimum of three consecutive years of overall environmental compliance with TDEC. Self-nominations are encouraged.

“Tennesseans continue to make our state a stronger and healthier place through innovative ideas and collaboration across industries,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “The recognition these annual Awards provide help motivate and empower individuals, organizations and communities to keep pushing the needle on stewardship efforts across the state.”

A panel of judges representing agricultural, conservation, forestry, environmental, and academic professionals will select award recipients based on criteria including level of project or program completion, innovation, and public education. The deadline for nominations is March 31, 2017. Award recipients will be announced in May 2017.

For more information about each category, judging criteria, and nomination forms, visit TDEC’s website at


Grab Your Juice Fast And Go Healthy This New Year!

Too much holiday cheer? Fatty foods, sweet treats, alcoholic drinks?

Fear not! The New Year is your chance to hit the reset button and go healthy.  One study showed that people gain weight between October and December and another one to three pounds between Christmas and New Year. About half the weight was lost quickly, but the other half hung around for a while.

One way to quickly lose weight is to try a fast, says best-selling author and nutritionist Cherie Calbom, known as “The Juice Lady,” whose latest book is The Juice Lady’s Guide to Fasting ( You can lose at least a pound a day and recharge your energy, she says.

Sugar, fat, and alcohol damage the body in more ways that just adding on pounds. Studies show that alcohol and sugar contribute to fatty liver disease. Other studies show that sugar is as addictive as cocaine. No wonder we find it hard to stop eating sweets once we start. And according to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, eating too much animal fat may damage your hypothalamus, the area of your brain that regulates energy balance.

If wellness is your New Year goal, juice fasting gives your immune system a boost with its abundance of antioxidants such as vitamin C and carotenoids that strengthen the immune cells. It’s also a great way to look younger and more refreshed.

The juice fast is the best post holiday detox diet. With a juice fast, you give up solid foods, and enjoy delicious, nutrient-rich beverages. Juicing is particularly beneficial because it’s broken down like a predigested food. It’s very easy to absorb the nutrients, which get right into your system.

Start with Calbom’s 3-day cleansing juice fast for a quick detox and reset. Juices flush the system and their antioxidants bind to toxins and carry them out of the body so they don’t damage cells. The only thing to watch is fruit if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia. Although you can add a small amount of low sugar fruit like green apple or berries for flavor.

If you aren’t sure you can hack a liquid fast because you’ll crave flavor, think again. Here are three of Calbom’s favorite recipes, designed to taste great while cleansing out the holiday junk.

Weight Loss Buddy Cocktail
Serves 1

Jerusalem artichoke juice combined with carrot and beet is a traditional remedy for sat-isfying cravings for sweets and junk food. The key is to sip it slowly when you get a craving for high-fat or high-carb foods.

1 Jerusalem artichoke, scrubbed well
3-4 carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed, ends trimmed
1 green apple (lower in sugar than red or yellow)
½ cucumber
1-inch chunk ginger root
Cut produce to fit your juicer’s feed tube. Juice ingredients and stir. Pour into a glass and drink as soon as possible.

Beet- Berry Liver Cleanse Juice
Serves 1-2

Beets have been used as a traditional remedy for liver cleansing by many naturopathic doctors and nutritionists.

2 medium beets
1 cup blueberries
1 green apple
1 large carrot
1 broccoli stem
1 lemon, peeled
1-inch chunk ginger
1/2 cup coconut water

Juice all ingredients. Add coconut water, stir, and enjoy!

Green Muscle Mender
Serves 1

Are you strength training? Spinach helps your muscles recover due to its high magnesium content—157 mg per cup.

1 large handful spinach
1 green apple
1 cucumber
1-inch chunk ginger root
2-inch piece fresh turmeric root (optional)

Juice all ingredients, stir, and enjoy!

Ready to Take Action?

1. Get a juicer that’s easy to use or find a good juice bar. You can also use freeze dried juice powder in a pinch.
2. Drink 3-6 glasses of juice a day.
3. Drink 8 glasses of water to flush your system.
4. Check out the Dirty Dozen at You’ll want to avoid the most heavily pesticide sprayed produce and get organic when it comes to these twelve.
5. Pick the best day to start and get all your produce assembled in advance unless you’re going to your local juice bar.
6. Many people find it easiest to start on a weekend day.

About Cherie Calbom, MSN (aka The Juice Lady)

Cherie Calbom MSN holds a Master of Science degree in whole foods nutrition from Bastyr University. Known as “The Juice Lady” for her work with juicing and health, she is the author of 32 books including her latest The Juice Lady’s Guide to Fasting and Sugar Knockout. She and her husband offer juice cleanse retreats throughout the year, 30-Day Detox online and Garden’s Best Juice Powder. She has lectured worldwide on juicing, detoxing and fasting including consulting for the Royal Family of the UAE. Winner of the TTAC Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with juicing and detoxification, her blogs and books on juicing, cleansing and health have helped thousands of people live healthier lives. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for her free newsletter at

100K Tree Day: Largest Community Tree Planting Event in Tennessee History Scheduled for February 25th, 2017

100k day logoTennessee Environmental Council Offers 100,000 Free Tree Seedlings for Volunteers, Home Planters, and Community Planting Locations Across Tennessee

NASHVILLE, December 21, 2016—The Tennessee Environmental Council (Council), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry (TDA) and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) announced today their partnership to distribute and plant 100,000 native Tennessee trees across our state on Saturday, February 25th, 2017. The event is being hailed as the single largest community tree planting event in the state’s history.

All trees are offered at no cost to Tennessee residents and organizations who register at the event website from now through 2/19/2017 (while supplies last) and commit to planting them on Saturday 2/25. Because of anticipated high demand for these trees, the Council encourages people to register for their trees as soon as they find out about this opportunity. Donations and sponsorships are encouraged on the event website to help cover the costs of making trees available free to participants.

“We are doing this because we care about Tennessee’s beautiful environment, and planting trees is a meaningful, fun and effective way to improve our communities,” says John McFadden, Chief Executive Officer of Tennessee Environmental Council. “Trees provide many, many benefits to our communities, our economy and the environment, including increasing home values, cutting cooling costs, and even increasing expenditures in retail locations,” says McFadden. “Communities that have more trees have less crime, graffiti, and less litter. And trees soak up the stormwater, a leading cause of water pollution in Tennessee,” says McFadden.

This effort is made possible with assistance from several state agency partners. The Division of Forestry nursery grows the trees and delivers them to the eight TDEC field offices across Tennessee. Many Tennessee State Parks will serve as public distribution points and TWRA wildlife biologists and agency personnel provide invaluable knowledge to landowners about how to restore and improve Tennessee’s tree canopy. Finally, all three agencies continue to support the project financially, making it possible for all Tennesseans to receive trees at no cost to plant at their homes, businesses and/or farms.

“Planting trees is a simple way to prevent pollution before it occurs and help protect Tennessee’s water quality,” says TDEC Commissioner Robert J. Martineau, Jr. “Just 100 trees can capture nearly 140,000 gallons of rainwater annually, limit storm water runoff and add critical water resources to our reservoirs.”

Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton says, “You can look out almost any window and understand the importance of forestry to Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry is a proud steward of that resource. By taking part in the 100K Tree Day, we look forward to working with the public and our partners to improve the woodlands across our state.”

TWRA Assistant Commissioner Bobby Wilson says “Trees are important to everything we do as a management agency,” Wilson is assistant director for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “Our birds, terrestrial wildlife, and even fish benefit from the wise management of our woodlands.”

“Trees are a key symbol in the Bible,” says Ryan Bennett, Co-Director of Blessed Earth Tennessee.  “Where a tree is mentioned, there you will find God at work bringing life and hope.  Every time we plant a tree, we are bearing witness to the life giving qualities of God and God’s work in the world.”

Chris Jones, President and CEO of Middle Tennessee Electric says “we are happy to be part of this effort by serving as a distribution points for Rutherford, Williamson, Wilson and Cannon counties and to continue to partner with Tennessee Environmental Council.”

Vicki Turner, President of the Tennessee Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation says “we are proud to partner with the Council and their efforts to re-forest Tennessee and re-introduce the American Chestnut. Restoration Chestnut trees were planted earlier this year in select state parks to honor our veterans. We look forward to the day we can plant 100,000 American Chestnuts across Tennessee.”

Homeowners, businesses, and groups of any kind will receive free trees for their property or community, and are being asked to plant them on February 25th. Earlier this year more than 6,000 volunteers and dozens of organizations participated in 50K Tree Day (February 27 2016) planting trees in 92 counties, generating an in-kind value over $400,000 in volunteer labor by planting almost 46,000 trees in one day, according to

Event organizers are looking for individuals and groups to get involved. For more information or to sign up visit

100K Tree Day is coordinated by Tennessee Environmental Council, Cumberland River Compact, Tennessee Department of Agriculture (Division of Forestry), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee State Parks, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Sponsors for the effort include the above agencies and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Cooperative’s Sharing the Change program, and Nashville Natives.

Library and Archives provides copies of vital records to Gatlinburg wildfire victims

When Sarah Jo Myrick and her husband Robert evacuated their Gatlinburg home ahead of the fast-approaching wildfire in late November, they were rightly more concerned about their safety than their possessions.
“We didn’t take anything with us,” Sarah Jo Myrick said. “We just got out of the house.”
When they returned to their home of almost 47 years, almost nothing was salvageable.
The couple had kept their important documents stored in a fireproof cabinet, but the cabinet was broken when it fell from an upper floor to a lower one as fire spread through the house. The Myricks are in the process of rebuilding and replacing what they lost in the fire, with some assistance from the Tennessee State Library and Archives and other agencies that keep copies of records.
The Myricks were one of several families victimized by the Gatlinburg fire who asked the Library and Archives to help them find copies of their marriage certificates.
“We’re very thankful to the Library and Archives for providing copies of those records for us,” Sarah Jo Myrick said.
While the Gatlinburg fire was an unusual and tragic situation, the Library and Archives provides replacements for vital records to citizens on an almost daily basis.
“Most Tennesseans don’t realize that the Library and Archives can provide them with copies of older birth certificates, marriage certificates and, in the case of deceased loved ones, death certificates,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “These records are kept by other agencies until they are at least 50 years old, then the records are transferred to us. When fire or other tragedies strike, people often need copies of those types of records in order to get on with their lives. Providing those records is a service we offer that people don’t know they need until they really need it.”
The Library and Archives stores preservation copies of records for the local courthouses in Tennessee’s 95 counties. If records in the county archives are damaged or destroyed, they can be replaced with those copies. The Library and Archives was able to provide invaluable help, for example, after the Van Buren County Archives burned two years ago this month, destroying the property deed records for the entire county.
“Sometimes people think of the Library and Archives primarily as a place to go if you’re conducting historical research of some sort,” State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “And that is certainly an important role that the Library and Archives plays. However, we also provide these vital records that people need in their everyday lives. That’s what we really want people to understand – that we’re here to serve all Tennesseans, not just those with specialized interests.”

New Year’s resolutions already broken? Vanderbilt study shows which health changes lead to long-term benefits

The project began with a question—among a list of 10 lifestyle behaviors, any of which a person can change immediately, which ones have the most impact on health?

Here’s the list, in random order:

  • Strength exercise
  • Low-fat intake
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Adequate sleep
  • Seat belt use
  • Consumption of whole grain breads
  • Regular breakfast
  • Increased intake of fruits/vegetables
  • Avoidance of unhealthy snacks
  • Nonsmoking

All of these are good ideas for better health, but Vanderbilt’s Health & Wellness team identified the ones that have the most impact over the long-term.

Leading the way as most impactful was No.1, eating a low-fat diet, followed by 2. aerobic exercise; 3. nonsmoking; 4. seat belt use, and 5. adequate sleep.

“We wanted to identify what we could tell people they could start doing right now,” said Mary Yarbrough, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Clinical Medicine and executive director of Faculty and Staff Health and Wellness, and the senior author of the study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“People can get paralyzed by so much information. This can provide focus,” she said.

The study was based on 10 years of de-identified data provided by Vanderbilt employees who voluntarily participated in an annual health risk assessment. The researchers examined the data from more than 10,000 Vanderbilt health risk assessments submitted between 2003 and 2012, and matched risk factors to health outcomes across the studied population.

“This is one of the most important questions that people ask themselves: ‘Of the health behaviors that I can control today, what are the most important to my long term health outcomes?’” said Daniel Byrne, Director of Quality Improvement and Program Evaluation  in the Department of Biostatistics, who was the lead author of the study.

He noted that the data show that even small changes can affect health over time.

“If you are sedentary, and begin to exercise one day a week, that benefits significantly the prevention of diabetes,” he said. “You can’t change your age, race or genetic makeup, but you can change what you eat or how much you exercise.”

Yarbrough said that she thought one of the most significant findings of the study was the importance of sleep.

“The thing that I most often hear people say about their health that I think we need to educate them about is, ‘I don’t need much sleep.’ We need to remind people that seven to eight hours of sleep is really a good idea.”

She noted that diet, exercise, nonsmoking and wearing seat belts are better-known healthy lifestyle measures than adequate sleep, but  “in terms of healthy-habits education, sleep is our next frontier.”

Both Yarbrough and Byrne pointed out that this is a Vanderbilt study, using data provided by Vanderbilt employees, and acknowledged the institution’s leadership in health promotion to employees as the keystone to the data collection that made the study possible.

“We want to be a learning health system and use what we learn to help employees,” Byrne said. “This is translational, population-based research, using one of the largest, most comprehensive employee data sets ever studied.”

Beyond the information that individuals can use to change unhealthy behaviors, the Vanderbilt study can also serve to guide other employer-based health promotion efforts, and shows that a focus on prevention can pay dividends in better employee health.

“Vanderbilt should really be proud of itself,” Yarbrough said. “There is a rationale to what we were doing. We were preventive when preventive wasn’t cool.”

Other Vanderbilt staff and faculty who worked on the study included Lori A. Rolando, M.D., MPH; Muktar H. Aliyu, M.D., Dr.PH.; Paula W. McGown, R.N., MSN; Lisa R. Connor, R.N.; Bradley M. Awalt, M.S.; Marilyn C. Holmes, M.S., R.D.; and Li Wang, M.S.

The research was supported in part by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences grant 2 UL1 TR000445-06.

TDHS honors second annual No Tennessee Child Hungry Excellence Award Winners

Nashville – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) honored the second annual No Tennessee Child Hungry Excellence Award recipients during a ceremony held in the Old Supreme Court Chambers of the State Capitol Building.

Tennessee’s Summer Food Service Program consisted of more than 70 sponsors at about 2,300 sites who served nearly 3.6 million meals to children across Tennessee. Tennessee’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is intended to ensure that children who benefit from free and reduced price meals during the school year have access to nutritious meals during the summer months. The No Tennessee Child Hungry Excellence Awards were established in 2015 as a way to recognize the hard work and dedication of SFSP sponsors and sites.

“We greatly appreciate the time, hard work, and dedication put forth by SFSP sponsors, sites and volunteers. Because of them, thousands of children across the state received meals who live in food insecure environments,” said TDHS Commissioner Dr. Raquel Hatter. “This is a tremendous support to many Tennessee families. It’s a great example of partnering with purpose.”

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Administrator Robin Bailey, News Channel 2 WKRN anchor Dawn Davenport, News Channel 5 WTVF meteorologist Bree Smith, TDHS Commissioner Dr. Hatter and additional members of the TDHS leadership team joined in honoring the award recipients.

“The USDA Food and Nutrition Service commends all who had a hand in providing nutritious meals to children across the state this past summer and congratulates the 2016 Excellence Award winners.  Additionally, we appreciate state leadership and its commitment to ensuring children have access to healthy meals during the summer”, said Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Administrator, Robin Bailey.

TDHS Chief Officer of Programs and Services Cherrell Campbell Street added, “Providing nearly 4 million meals to children across the state is a huge accomplishment made possible by those honored here today, and all SFSP participants. We congratulate them on their success and appreciate their continued commitment to the well-being of Tennessee’s children.”

Award categories included the Impact Award, Trailblazer Award, Healthy Happy Meals Award, Shining Star Award and special Rising Star Award.

Award winners are listed below in detail:

Trailblazer Award: The Trailblazer Award was presented to the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) for demonstrating innovative ideas when implementing its summer food program. The Knoxville Knox County CAC has provided children summer meals since the 1960’s. In summer 2016, it extended its reach to low-income housing communities in a first time partnership with the Knoxville Knox County Head Start program. Through the partnership, Head Start allowed use of two buses that were used to deliver meals to approximately 448 additional children through this special outreach effort. The Knoxville Knox County plans to expand mobile outreach sites next summer as well.

Impact Award: This year the Impact Award went to two organizations for their strategies to reach more children: Shelby County Schools and the Southwest Human Resource Agency.

As one of the early adopters of the Summer Food Service Program, Shelby County Schools continues to expand availability of meals across Memphis. The Shelby County Department of Nutrition Services serves as program sponsor and provided meals to more than 600 meal sites in summer 2016. Serving eight counties in the west Tennessee area, the Southwest Human Resource Agency increased its reach by 22%, adding 50 meal sites to its roster in summer 2016. The Southwest Human Resources Agency has been a SFSP sponsor for more than 10 years.

Healthy Happy Meals Award: The Healthy Happy Meals Award was presented to the Tri- County Upward Bound at Austin Peay State University. The Tri-County Upward Bound program provides academic classes, counseling, tutoring, test prep, enrichment and more to teens in Cheatham, Houston, and Stewart counties on throughout the school year and summer.  As part of its summer program, the Tri-County Upward Bound program spent time designing meal options that were appealing and nutritious for participating teens.

Shining Star Award: The Shining Star Award was presented to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, for excellence in all award categories.  Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee has been a SFSP sponsor for more than 16 years. It provides meals to children in urban areas and has partnered with rural community organizations for greater reach. Second Harvest offers a variety of SFSP meal options for sites, with nutritious meal combinations prepared at their own facility. This year as part of its SFSP kick-off, Second Harvest hosted an on-site field trip that allowed children to prepare food and learn about the nutritional benefits of each ingredient. The children also participated in a Farm 2 Families demonstration in which they planted a fruit or vegetable seed that they could take home and watch grow.

Rising Star Award: For the second year, a special Rising Star Award was presented to 11-year-old Myka Coward. Myka came to the Department’s attention in 2015 for her efforts to provide school lunches to classmates in need.  Myka started Lemonade for Lunches three years ago. Each summer she operates a lemonade stand, with all proceeds used for school lunches at her school. This year Myka reached an all-time high of $600 in sales, which she gave to two school cafeterias at the start of the school year.

Following the awards ceremony, honorees had much to say about the work that led to the award win.

“We served almost 160,000 lunches in 10 weeks, and 60,000 breakfasts in the same time frame. It’s a big collaborative effort among all of our volunteers and site supervisors. The best part of serving summer meals is seeing children’s faces when they receive a meal and knowing they won’t be going hungry,” said Patti Pickler, Director of Community Outreach for the Southwest Human Resource Agency.

Calvin Johnson, Shelby County Schools Director of Nutrition Operations commented about the school system reaching many children, but there being an unmet need because often families don’t know about the program. He added, “I accept this award on behalf of people I worked with in the past and currently for all the hard work and dedication they have rendered to Shelby County Schools and children throughout the county.”

Second time award winner Myka Coward and her family were on hand, along with her younger sister who has begun her own charitable work.

“When we started Lemonade for Lunches we weren’t aware that the need was out there. Now that Myka’s been at it for 3 years, we see there is a tremendous need, not just in our county but across the whole state. We are very proud of Myka and that she’s willing to help in any way she can,” said Randa Sturgill, mother of Rising Star Award winner Myka Coward.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee was also recognized for showing innovation and creativity with children served throughout the summer.

“Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is grateful to partner with the Summer Food Service Program to provide meals to at-risk children during the summer months,” says Whitney Cowles, Director of Nutrition and Program Assurance at Second Harvest.  “Through this partnership, Second Harvest worked with organizations in 10 counties across Middle and West Tennessee to serve more than 34,000 meals to children in need. With one in four children in Tennessee at risk for hunger, it is important for us to continue working together to ensure no children in Tennessee go hungry.”

To learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services and the No Tennessee Child Should Go Hungry initiative visit:

To add your strength, send an email to Join the call to action for Tennesseans to fight hunger in their local communities by donating, volunteering, raising awareness and other activities that support the end of hunger.

Smoky Mountains communities unite to support area tourism

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. – As the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee begin the recovery process following the Nov. 28 wildfires, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County, Tennessee tourism officials have united to reinforce a strong message delivered by Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.

“If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg, come back and visit us,” Werner said in a Nov. 30 press conference, encouraging visitation as a show of support to the popular vacation destination located next door to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited. Werner lost his home and business in the fire.

Local tourism officials are reinforcing the message that the vacation destination’s many attractions, theatres, restaurants and lodging properties are operating as usual after recent wildfires in the area, urging travelers who have reservations to not cancel.

In Gatlinburg, the area surrounding downtown experienced significant losses this week; however, the heart of the city’s town is intact. The structures along Gatlinburg’s main strip still stand, including Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smoky Distillery, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and the Convention Center. Downtown Parkway will be open to the public beginning 7 a.m., Dec. 9.

Businesses in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville suffered no damages, and are operating as usual. Dollywood, the state’s most-visited ticketed attraction, is open. Also, Smoky Mountain Winterfest festival, which spans all three cities, continues through Feb. 28. Restaurants and lodging properties in Pigeon Forge are operating on normal schedules.

Townsend, in Blount County, is open for business, including the entrance to Cades Cove, a popular Smoky Mountain scenic drive is open.

The area has received an overwhelming outpouring of donations, phone calls and support from community members. First responders from across the country helped battle the blaze.

“The generosity and concern shown to our community is a blessing beyond words,” said Mark Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But it has also reinforced to us that our community is not just here at home. Our community is all the folks who have visited with us through the years, who feel a very special connection to our cities and these mountains. They continue to ask us how they can best help us because they, too, want to see this area rebuild.”

According to Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council Director Mary Hope Maples, tourism is the county’s largest industry. “Tourism is the lifeblood of Sevier County and its three gateway cities—Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Our tourism officials have an obligation to our residents to sustain our tourism industry to ensure that employees have jobs to support themselves and their families.”

A Community Resource Center opened on Dec. 1 to assist residents with insurance claims, unemployment filings, building permits for both residential and commercial structures, driver’s license replacement and other processes necessary during the rebuilding process. In addition, several employment agencies are on site to help displaced workers find jobs.

“Many people have asked us how to help. One of the best ways to help the Smoky Mountains recover from the wildfire’s impact is to come visit us and help keep our community strong and working,” said Brenda McCroskey, Chief Executive Officer of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.

“We are happy to report that businesses along the Parkway in Sevierville, including Tanger Outlets and Apple Barn and Cider Mill, are open as usual and ready to help you enjoy your Smoky Mountain vacation,” McCroskey added.

“As we strive to keep our folks working so that they can support themselves and their families, our greater community can help us in several ways,” said Leon Downey, Executive Director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “If you have reservations, don’t cancel; come and see us during Winterfest. Consider us as you make your plans for spring break and next summer’s vacation. This will help us sustain our businesses and jobs.”

For more information about Smoky Mountain Winterfest as well as other information about visiting Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County, please visit

Used eyeglasses, reading glasses needed for mission trip to Cambodia

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Prescription eyeglasses, reading glasses and financial donations are being collected at Tusculum College to support a mission trip to Cambodia through the Asia’s Hope organization.

Dr. Patricia Hunsader, dean of the School of Education at Tusculum College, will participate in the mission trip later this month and is working through the college’s Center for Civic Advancement to collect items for the trip.

For Dr. Hunsader, this will be her thirteenth trip to serve the region through work projects such as the medical clinic planned for this trip.

“The people in the area served by the medical clinics do not have access to eye care of any kind,” said Dr. Hunsader.  “We are not medical professionals, we work with the trained personnel in Cambodia, but we can provide energy, organization and financial resources.”

As part of that, Dr. Hunsader will collect the glasses and financial resources and take them with her to the clinic.

Anyone wishing to donate may do so at the drop off location in the Charles Oliver Gray North building on the Greeneville campus. Items need to be received by Wednesday, December 14.

“Our team will host a medical clinic and plan to provide prescription eyeglasses to adults from five slums in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,” said Dr. Hunsader. “All of the items collected will be used for this purpose.”

She added that plans are in the works for a second trip in 2017 that will be organized to include students at Tusculum College.

Tusculum College, the first college in Tennessee and the 28th oldest in the nation, is a liberal arts institution committed to providing a liberal arts education in a Judeo-Christian and civic arts environment, with pathways for career preparation, personal development and civic engagement. Approximately eighteen hundred students are enrolled on the main campus in Greeneville and two off-site locations in East Tennessee. The academic programs for both traditional-aged students and working adults served through the Graduate and Professional Studies program are delivered using focused calendars.


Statement from Action on Smoking and Health on e-cigarettes

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a new report today, December 8, 2016, that presents research and policy recommendations on electronic cigarettes and their use among adolescents and young adults.

The report, which was reviewed by 150 experts, highlights some of the risks associated with using electronic cigarettes, including nicotine addiction, behavior risks – including the use of other drugs and other tobacco products – as well as the potential harm from ingesting the aerosol from electronic cigarettes, which is not merely water vapor and contains potentially harmful chemicals.

“Given the increased use of e-cigarettes among youth in the U.S., we are very pleased that the Surgeon General has issued a report on this important issue. It is essential that the public health community evaluate the scientific facts surrounding electronic cigarettes,” stated Laurent Huber, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health. “The report illustrates that while electronic cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, they are not harmless. Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can have negative effects on brain development, and they also have the potential to be a gateway to other tobacco products for new smokers. This scientific evidence will guide the discussions around electronic cigarettes both in the United States and around the world.”

The Surgeon General calls for action including further regulation of electronic cigarettes to protect public health, raising and enforcing minimum age requirements for electronic cigarettes, incorporating e-cigarettes into smoke-free policies, regulating marketing, launching educational campaigns, and continuing research on electronic cigarettes and their health impacts.

“While alternative nicotine delivery devices may have a role in cessation, this role needs to be supported by science. In addition, there is a worrying trend that major tobacco companies such as Philip Morris (Altria), British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, RJ Reynolds and others are aggressively expanding into the electronic cigarette markets, in part due to the less strenuous regulatory environment. Huber continued, “Given that their aim is not to help smokers quit but rather to increase the demand for their nicotine products, the recommendations from the Surgeon General’s report, particularly the suggestions for regulating marketing and sales, will aid in ensuring that electronic cigarettes do not become a new public health threat in years to come.”

Action on Smoking and Health congratulates the Surgeon General on the release of this important report, and we welcome the opportunity to renew our commitment to continued discussions on the best practices for electronic cigarettes.

Ober Gatlinburg plans to reopen after Smoky Mountain Wildfire

GATLINBURG, TN.  December 8, 2016—After what will be a 10-day recovery period from the devastating wildfires that swept through Gatlinburg, Ober Gatlinburg will reopen in two phases. On Friday, December 9, Ober Gatlinburg’s Downtown Tramway Mall will be open from 9:30 am – 6:00 pm.  This will include the Ski Mountain Grind Haus Coffee Shop, LeConte Deli, Tramway Gifts, Mountaineer Candy Kitchen, Silver Galleon, Miss Sadie’s Old Time Photos, Spa To Go, and the Green River Gallery.

The following Monday, December 12th, Ober Gatlinburg’s Mountain location will reopen with regular operating hours to drive up traffic only.  There will be free shuttles departing from the Downtown Tramway Mall regularly.  Outdoor activities available on Monday the 12th will include the Ski Mountain Coaster, Snow Tubing, Wildlife Encounter, Scenic Chairlift, and pending weather conditions—the Alpine Slide.  Indoor activities opening on Monday 12th include the Ice Rink, Carousel, Seasons of Ober Restaurant, The Loft Lounge, Sidewalk Café, The Market, The Fudge Shoppe, Ober Snack Bar, Ski Mountain Sports, Slopeside Apparel and Gifts, O’Bear’s Playhouse, The Galleria Logo Shop, Family Crests, Jensen Images and The Leather Shop.

The Aerial Tramway will remain closed until all inspections have been completed and have been cleared by all entities involved.  A comprehensive plan to inspect the Aerial Tramway was launched immediately after management learned of the impact on Ski Mountain Road.  On December 7th, a cable specialist arrived on Ober Gatlinburg’s property to inspect the cables that move the Aerial Tramway.  On Friday, Dec 9th, a representative from Doppelmayr will inspect the Tram towers and an electronics engineer from Swiss-based company Frey AG Stans will be on property to inspect all electronics located in the Aerial Tramway control room.  The final Inspection will be completed by the State of Tennessee.  Ober Gatlinburg will release more information regarding the opening date of the Aerial Tramway as soon as possible.

Ober Gatlinburg would like to thank the all of the firefighters, first responders, disaster relief workers, city employees, utility departments and volunteers who continue to work tirelessly to save our town.  The outpouring of relief and support our community has received is unprecedented and appreciated.

For more information and specific information regarding operating hours contact 865.436.5423, visit or email

Johnson County Middle School program lets students earn and spend Longhorn Bucks

JCMS students shop for themselves and others at the JCMS CARE Club Store (Creating Acts of Random Kindness Everywhere)

JCMS students shop for themselves and others at the JCMS CARE Club Store (Creating Acts of Random Kindness Everywhere)

By Marlana Ward

Students at Johnson County Middle School (JCMS) got into the Christmas spirit a little early thanks to generous sponsors and the JCMS Care Club.  The school’s gym was transformed into a Christmas shopping village with students shopping amidst festive decorations and music to help set the giving spirit.
The CARE (Creating Acts of Random Kindness Everywhere) Club at JCMS was founded by Jessica Muncy, school counselor, as a way to let students get much needed items by putting forth extra effort and earning the goods themselves.  As Muncy would see students passing in the hallways, she would notice that some needed shoes, clothes, school supplies, and other things that while some kids would take for granted, could be a big deal for others.  “We tend to need something but don’t want to be embarrassed,” Muncy explained.  “I was seeing kids with soles coming off their shoes or without jackets and wondered how I could make the program cool.”  Rather than simply giving the students a hand-out, which could be embarrassing for some, Muncy came up with an idea that would help the whole school while letting kids earn goods for themselves.
The idea Muncy developed became the CARE Club Store which has been nicknamed ““ by students.  The store, which is located within the JCMS Media Center, is stocked with various clothing items, toiletries, school supplies, and other small goods that a young teen might need for school.  The store only accepts Longhorn Bucks that are awarded to students for a variety of achievements or good deeds.   Longhorn Bucks may be given for attendance, grades, or for being observed doing a good deed for another student or staff.  Each student carries a register in which teachers may write “deposits” when a student is found deserving of the bucks.  Bucks can also be lost if a student engages in behavior which results in disciplinary action.
In November, CARE received a delivery of goods from Dollar General Stores to use in their store. These items were toys and things that might be intended for a younger group than the JCMS student body.  Muncy took inspiration from the donation and began plans to set up a small Christmas shopping day for the students to use their Longhorn Bucks to purchase gifts for family members that could be a luxury that some would not be able to afford otherwise.  JCMS Principal Edna Miller saw potential in the idea and encouraged Muncy to expand the idea and make a larger event for the student body utilizing the school’s gym.
The CARE club wanted to make the event as successful and memorable as they could for the students so Muncy set out to seek more donations for the day.  Toys R Us came through in a big way with the donation of tablets, video games, sports equipment along with several other items that any kid would love to have on Christmas morning.  Walmart, Big Lots, and Dollar General also donated more great items to JCMS and soon the tables were filling up for the kids to peruse and use their earnings towards.
The staff at JCMS were as excited for the event as the students.   Many dressed in Christmas themed attire and excitedly helped the kids as they shopped.  Muncy added, “For some kids, this may be the only Christmas shopping they get to do.”
Items were available at a variety of prices.  Clothes, toiletries, and small novelty items cost the least and larger items were available for those who had put forth extra effort to earn and save Longhorn Bucks.  The largest, most desirable items such as the tablets and video games were set up in a raffle-style manner to make sure every student had a chance to win the high-demand electronics.  For just a few bucks, a student’s name could go into a drawing that was awarded at the end of the school day.
Seeing students’ eyes light up as they entered the gym and saw the items available for the first time brought great joy to everyone involved in the day.  It is hoped that word of the program will spread a second event can be held for the hard-working students at JCMS before Christmas break so they can earn additional gifts for friends and family.
Without the generosity of the community and the stores from around the area, an event of this type would be impossible for these students.  Muncy explained the impact of this kindness:  “With so much pain and negativity happening, it’s nice to start off the Christmas season with a good spirit.”  It is easy to get discouraged by the continuous strife in the news today.  By choosing to focus on love and giving, these teenagers are learning to be a positive influence on the world around them.
By rewarding their actions and efforts, students are learning responsibility and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from giving your best and being a blessing to others.  The kindness shown by the community and from businesses to these kids will ripple throughout the families of the young students as they take what they learn about giving and express that sentiment beyond the walls of JCMS.  Any person, business, or organization wishing to donate toward the CARE club program’s Christmas initiative may contact Jessica Muncy at Johnson County Middle School.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offers safety tips for holiday decorating

Lights and decorations are a special part of the holidays, but also bring an increased potential for injury, especially to young children, according to safety experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

According to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Emergency Departments nationwide have seen an estimated 12,000 injuries involving holiday decorating each year since 2009. Most common injuries include falls from ladders, lacerations from ornaments and ingestion of small objects.

“The holiday season brings an increased risk for fire and burn injuries, as well as lacerations from breakable decorations and choking or poisoning when children attempt to ingest small or poisonous objects,” said Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “It is important to follow the safety tips provided when decorating, and make sure all young children are under active adult supervision.”

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offers these tips to keep homes safe and prevent holiday-related injuries:

Safe Decorating

  • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.
  • Look for the “ETL” or “UL” label on lights to make sure they have been tested for safety.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
  • Don’t overload extension cords or outlets with too many plugs.
  • Turn off and unplug all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Make sure an adult is present when candles are lit, and blow out the candles before leaving a room.
  • Keep candles at least three feet away from anything that might burn.
  • Store candles, matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children.
  • Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you buy one, look for a statement specifying this protection.
  • Live trees should be watered frequently, keeping the stand filled with water at all times.
  • Place tree away from fireplaces, radiators and other heat sources. Heated rooms dry trees out rapidly, creating fire hazards.
  • Avoid putting ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on lower branches easily accessible to young children.

Poison Prevention
•  Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach of children.
• Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach.
• Mistletoe, holly berries and the Jerusalem cherry plant can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach them.


For more information about holiday safety and other home safety tips, visit In a poison emergency, call the Tennessee Poison Center at (800) 222-1222.

Johnson County honors our veterans

By: Angie A. Gambill


military-flags-wamerican-flagA large crowd gathered at Heritage Hall on Friday to honor and remember our military veterans on Veteran’s Day.   Johnson County is traditionally a Republican county in a solid blue state, and patriotism was naturally running high following last week’s election.
Scott Wilkes, an Army veteran and pastor of First United Methodist church included a prayer for healing for Republicans, Democrats and Independents as well as the new president-elect.
Johnson County Middle School music teacher and “Vocal Intensity,” comprised of seventh and eighth  grade students, were a major part of the program. Their renditions of “Blue and Red and White,” “We Honor You,” “Song for the Unsung Hero” and “This Is America” in which Davis joined her music students’ voices, met with much applause and appreciation. Richard Dionne, master of ceremonies, Air Force veteran and commander of the Johnson County Honor Guard reminded those in attendance that these young people across our great nation are what it’s all about. “We are passing the torch to the next generation,” he said as he asked the students to stand that had a military member in their family.
Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter reiterated Dionne’s message and added that veterans gave their “today for our tomorrow. Freedom is never free.” Potter dedicated the service on Friday to Kerry Gentry and Harry Wills, two community-minded veterans that very recently departed this life to “serve on a larger stage.” He mentioned that both these men had set the bar high for all of us.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey spent his last Veteran’s Day in office in Johnson County. He told everyone how much he had come to love this county and its people. He also spoke in wider terms of the country as a whole and remarked that no other country on earth enjoys the peaceful transition of power that is present in the United States. He spoke with emotion in his voice of President Obama and President-elect Trump sitting down together in the White House to discuss the country’s future. The Lt. Gov. ended on a light-hearted note by saying, “If anyone wants to know why I’m leaving public office, I will show you the pictures of my grandchildren on my cell phone.”
Newly elected state Senator-elect and captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve Jon Lundberg thanked Ramsey for the solid groundwork laid by him throughout East Tennessee and the state as a whole. He expressed his desire to continue the relationship enjoyed by Ramsey and Johnson County and thanked the veterans for their service. He reminded everyone that when our veterans return home that our jobs begin. According to Lundberg, 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day. “Our brothers and sisters need us. I challenge you to reach out to them.” He also spoke to the students taking part in the program. “We wear these uniforms in honor of you.”
The Johnson County Veteran’s Day ceremony ended with a tribute to all veterans from every branch of the military and the service flags presentation.  A wreath was placed on stage in memory of those that have passed away. Dwayne Dickson, pastor of First Christian Church, gave the benediction with a prayer of gratitude for our nation and our veterans.

Mountain City elects new mayor, county continues overwhelming Republican vote

Tuesday, November 5th was the 2016 General Election. The statistics for Johnson County are below.
In the race for President and Vice President of the United States, Donald Trump and Mike Pence received 5,400 votes, at 81.94 percent.  Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine received 988 votes at 14.99 percent of the vote in Johnson County.
In the race for the United States House of Representatives, First District, Republican Phil Roe won with 5064 votes, or 81.76 percent.
In the race for Tennessee Senate 4th District, Republican Jon Lundberg won with 5004 votes at 98.99 percent of the vote.
In the race for Tennessee House Third District, Republican Timothy Hill took 5267 votes at 88.36 percent of the vote. “I want to thank the people of Johnson County who have chosen to send me back to Nashville to be their conservative voice and to represent their interests,” said Hill. “It is humbling and a tremendous honor to receive this strong vote of confidence. I will continue to have an open door and do my best to listen to constituents concerns as they come up.”
In the race for aldermen for the Town of Mountain City, there were two positions available.  Jerry Jordan received 697 votes at 50.56 percent and Bob Morrison received 512 votes at 37.16 percent.
In the race for Mayor of the Town of Mountain City, Kevin Parsons won with 518 votes at 57.24 percent of the vote.
“During the campaign, I talked with many people who share a similar vision to mine as for the future of the town and their vote proved that,” said newly elected mayor, Kevin Parsons. “ I appreciate my wife Ann, my parents, my children, my family and friends for their support and thank each person who voted for me. Communities with a vision for the future will always be more successful than communities that just accept whatever comes along.  We have done it before when our community came together and took an old dirty, dilapidated industry building in town and turned it into a vibrant and well used community center.  Our community also had a vision for the future to have a performing arts center and as far as I am concerned went above and beyond that with our beautiful Heritage Hall.  Many of those same citizens have told me that they are chomping at the bit to undertake a new project and under my administration we are going to get together and decide on another project to bring growth and positive change.  If anyone has a vision for the future, we want to hear it so please contact me whether it be big or small as long as it helps us grow.”
“When I served as mayor before I made mistakes. I made some decisions that despite my best efforts upset some people and I realize that you can’t please everyone but to anyone I offended or hurt, I sincerely apologize and offer my hand of fellowship beginning today,” Parsons continued. “I want us to all work together because together we achieve more. We want to work with our chamber of commerce and county government to help fill our empty buildings on Main Street with many of the items we can’t buy locally today and in doing so will create new jobs. Doe Mountain recreation is going to grow and we are going to find a happy median with our residents and businesses to further support this treasure that the state has given to us. I have productively served with three of our four fine aldermen like Kenny Icenhour, who is one of the best listeners I know and I grew up with Bud Crosswhite and while we don’t always agree on everything, he like me, has the best interest of the town in his heart. ”

To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.

USDA seeks applications for $25 million in conservation innovation grants

Funding available in six focus areas, including data analytics
tools and precision conservation

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that USDA is seeking new proposals for cutting-edge projects that will provide new conservation opportunities through its competitive Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the department will invest up to $25 million for projects that spark the development and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches in areas like conservation finance, data analytics, and precision conservation to benefit producers on private agricultural and forest lands.

“Conservation Innovation Grants have played a critical role in developing and implementing creative new methods to conserve the nation’s private agricultural lands and strengthening rural communities,” said Vilsack. “Today’s announcement builds on our support of technologies and approaches that help producers increase resiliency to extreme weather such as drought and floods.”

CIG is authorized and funded under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and fosters innovative conservation projects that accelerate the transfer and adoption of promising technologies that benefit natural resources, agricultural production and forest management. The 2017 focus areas for project proposals include the following:

  • Innovative approaches that benefit historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers and those with limited resources;
  • Natural resources data analytics tools—such as software and mobile apps—that increase producer knowledge of conservation benefits and alternatives;
  • Precision conservation tools that uncover opportunities for better input management (for example, nutrient management addressing source, timing, rate and placement), or address in-field vulnerabilities;
  • Conservation finance approaches that demonstrate the potential for new investment strategies to accelerate and expand private lands conservation;
  • Demonstration, evaluation and quantification of the effects of water management and soil health practices to minimize off-site impacts of natural resource challenges, such as excess sediment and nutrient runoff;
  • Pay-for-success models that stimulate conservation adoption and achievement of measurable outcomes.

Potential applicants should review the announcement for program funding that is available on Proposals are due by Jan. 9, 2017, and final CIG funding is subject to fiscal year 2017 funding actions. American Indian tribes, state and local units of government, non-governmental organizations and individuals are eligible to submit proposals.

More information on the CIG program, including a link to application materials and submission procedures, can be found on the NRCS CIG website.

Innovative CIG projects in the conservation finance arena are testing new approaches, leveraging environmental markets and improving the ability to measure the impact of conservation actions on the landscape. For example, The Climate Trust has launched a Working Lands Carbon Fund to serve as a revolving source of financing for conservation projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon on working lands. CIG projects have also helped address water management needs, such as the SmartIrrigation Cotton App which helps schedules irrigation on operations in Georgia and northern Florida. More than one hundred and forty users, including agricultural producers and county agents, now use the app.

Since 2009, USDA has invested nearly $173 million to fund nearly 414 national CIG projects. USDA is continuing its commitment to increasing assistance to historically underserved and military veteran farmers and ranchers and the organizations that include and support them, with up to $2 million of this year’s funding has been set aside for projects that target these stakeholders.

CIG is part of the more than $29 billion USDA has invested since 2009 to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect more than 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA’s work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit Caring for our Land, Air and Water: Preserving Precious Natural Resources for Tomorrow.

Tennesseans invited to shine a green light for veterans this Veterans Day

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 10 – Walmart has launched the 2016 Greenlight a Vet campaign and is asking all Tennesseans to join the national movement of visibly showing support for our nation’s heroes. Once our veterans return home, they are often more camouflaged than ever. Through the Greenlight A Vet campaign, Walmart hopes to ignite a national conversation on the value and contributions veterans make in the service of our nation and in our communities.

Here’s how to show support:

  1. Change one light in a visible location at your home or office to green
  1. Inspire others to join the cause by taking a picture of your green light and sharing it on social media using the hashtag #greenlightavet

The Greenlight A Vet movement has generated more than 4.2 million online acts of support.

Shady Valley’s Reford McQueen shares stories and memories of World War II

Reford McQueen in Gardelegen, Germany in 1945

Reford McQueen in Gardelegen, Germany in 1945

By Paula Walter

Reford McQueen, of Shady Valley, served in the United States Army during World War II.  Born in 1922, he was from a family of six. His father had passed away, and he and his brothers and sisters were raised during the Great Depression by his mother.
McQueen was a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program from 1939 to 1943 in the United States. He initially was stationed in Unicoi County for approximately six months before he was reassigned to Washington State. It was for unemployed, single men as part of the New Deal.  It was his first time out of Shady Valley. According to McQueen, he cut wood with a nine-foot saw. So they could roll the wood and make sure it was out of sight to keep the Japanese from hiding near the Pacific Ocean during the war.
McQueen maintains a sense of humor to this day.  “I didn’t know how to drive,” he said of his time in the Army. He drove his first truck and clocked over 320 miles that day.  “I was on the road, and then off the road.” McQueen said. “I volunteered to try and drive so they sent me out to buy food.  I would buy cabbage.  Everyone was hungry,” he said.  “They even had me drive a hearse.”
McQueen reported for basic training in Oglethorpe, Georgia after being drafted in 1943.  “It was one of the prettiest places,” he said. “The prettiest place I ever saw was Yakima Valley.  He learned to drive tanks in Arizona and achieved the rank of sergeant.  “We was just like a bunch of hyenas.”  He attributes making the decision to join the military to a friend.  “You just done what you thought you ought to,” McQueen said.  “You ought to do what you got to do.”
According to McQueen, he left the United States and headed for England during war by ship on the Queen Elizabeth.  “I was the only one that didn’t get sick,” he said. “I ate everything.”  After arriving in England, he went on to France. “We were worrying about getting back home,” he recalled.  He fought during the Battle of the Bulge.  “They had a pile of guns you wouldn’t believe,” McQueen said.
McQueen recalls crossing the Rhine River on a pontoon bridge.  “There were 13 tanks in front of me, “ he said. “There weren’t supposed to be more than four at a time.  It was impossible to get everything done.  We were a bunch of teenagers.  The Germans kept trying to shell as they crossed the river.  It was the first real battle we saw.”  According to McQueen, the Germans had placed themselves up in a church steeple so they could see where the shelling was occurring.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week’s Tomahawk.