Farm to school effort gets funds

The Louisiana Department of Education Division of Nutrition Support, in collaboration with the LSU AgCenter, announced a multiyear effort toward a statewide Farm to School Program.

The three-year agreement provides $900,000 to support the program and is designed to increase the amount of locally produced foods served in schools.

“Farm to school is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity,” said Melissa Campbell, education program consultant for the Department of Education, which also administers school meal programs. “Farm to school projects foster healthy eating habits among school-age children, and local economies are nourished as well when schools buy the food they provide from local producers.”

During the 2013-14 school year, Louisiana schools purchased more than $10 million of local food, including milk, LSU AgCenter farm to school specialist Crystal Robertson said . And nearly 31 percent of the districts report plans to purchase even more local foods in future school years.

Grant funds are provided by the Louisiana Department of Education through the Farm to School Program interagency agreement and partnership, which include the AgCenter, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as other collaborators throughout the state.

Louisiana statutes require the implementation of a Louisiana Farm to School Program, which is funded with restricted federal child nutrition program state administrative funds, Robertson said.

This partnership focuses on developing statewide training, seminars and an annual Farm to School conference.

Pac-Van buys mobile office fleet

General Finance Corp. subsidiary Pac-Van Inc. has acquired Lafayette-based Gauthiers' On-Site Storage's storage container, office container and mobile office rental fleet.

The acquisition lifts Pac-Van to two locations, Lafayette and Houma, with nearly 1,500 additional units in its fleet and 11 new professionals on its team, said Jody Miller, president of Pasadena, California-based General Finance Corp.

"Southern Louisiana is home to many large manufacturers, chemical plants and related industries, and it provides significant opportunities for Pac-Van to deliver its portable storage and office space solutions," Miller said.

Gauthiers' Oilfield Rental LLC, a Modex Co., will continue to specialize in offshore equipment for its domestic and international oil and gas industry customers.

Scientists suppress fungus in peanuts

A worldwide group of plant scientists that includes an LSU AgCenter researcher have made a significant research breakthrough by suppressing the fungus that produces harmful aflatoxin in peanuts.

Aflatoxins are a major health risk worldwide, and infected crops are not suitable for human consumption.

Zhi-Yuan Chen, a researcher in the LSU AgCenter Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, is one of the collaborators in the project headed by scientists at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. Other participating institutions are the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Along with peanuts, aflatoxin infects corn, cottonseed, tree nuts and chilies.

In his work in the AgCenter, Chen has developed a method of changing the genetics of corn plants to help resist Aspergillus flavus, the fungus that causes aflatoxin.

Through collaboration with scientists at Iowa State University, the genetic material from the pathogen was inserted into the corn in such a way that the plant sees it as invasive and triggers a defense response to generate resistance, Chen said.

The program at the ICRISAT is led by Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur, who had collaborated previously with Chen on a peanut proteomics project and learned about Chen’s novel “pre-immune” disease control strategy during one of her visits to LSU.

The research team at ICRISAT used the same vectors designed and constructed by Chen’s team for corn to introduce into peanuts genetic material that causes the peanut plant to recognize the A. flavus infection and trigger a defense against it.

It’s like a vaccination, Chen said.

Livingston economic group's meeting set

The Livingston Economic Development Council is holding an annual meeting at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 24 at Forrest Grove Plantation, 8743 Stephenson Drive, in Denham Springs.

Lunch cost is $23. Online tickets can be purchased until 10 a.m. Jan. 22, with payment at the door available with reservations made with lisa@ledc.net or (225) 686-3982 by Jan. 22.

MDVIP announces Heal 360 opening

MDVIP, a national personalized, membership-based health care company, announced Heal 360, a primary care practice affiliated with the company, has opened at 8595 Picardy Ave., Tower 1, Suite 300, in Baton Rouge.

Dr. Gunjan Raina is board certified in family medicine and her MDVIP practice is affiliated with Baton Rouge General Medical Center.

Raina is MDVIP's 10th affiliated physician in greater Baton Rouge and 25th in the state. MDVIP-affiliated physicians have small practices, providing individualized primary care to a group of patients who pay an annual membership fee for physician services.

Co-working office planned in Harvey 

Flexible workspace provider Regus is planning an open office, co-working space catering to mobile workers in Harvey — the brand’s seventh location in the greater New Orleans area.

The location will occupy both floors of a two-story building in Fountain Park Center, a 20-acre Mediterranean-style property, the company said.

The 11,640-square foot center is located between the former Avondale Shipyard and Belle Chasse in an area of the Westbank that serves the oil and gas industry of New Orleans and draws in attorneys, consultants, maritime professionals and financial service workers, Regus said.

The center will have a business lounge with co-working memberships, starting at $301 per month, and more than 50 private offices, starting at $443 per month. It also will have two meeting rooms available starting at $65 per hour or $443 per month.