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Farms to School Food Links Growing Like a Weed

The Free Press WV

Almost all West Virginia school districts get - or plan to get - food from local farms, and Congress may further boost the growing connection.

The Farm to School Act of 2017 would expand existing USDA Farm to School Grants to improve access.

Maximilian Merrill, the policy director for the National Farm to School Network explains it’s a win-win: Farmers supply their food to schools and students learn about agriculture.

“Students participating in educational activities related to agriculture, food and nutrition and health - and school gardens, so students engage in hands-on learning through gardening so they understand where their food comes from and the difficulty it is to grow that healthy food,“ he explains.

The bill asks for funding to be increased annually from $5- to $15 million to better meet the demand for the program. According to the USDA, more than 80 percent of districts in the state take part, and another nine percent plan to.

State districts have invested more than $21 million in local food, helping to provide for about a quarter million students. The Farm to School Act of 2017 would enable that to include summer foodservice program sites and after-school programs, and encourage farm-to-school partnerships between tribal schools and tribal producers.

Merrill notes that the program helps boost farmers’ bottom lines.

“In 2013-2014, that school year, there was $790 million in local foods purchased from farmers, ranchers and fishermen,“ he notes. “And if you look at the multiplying factor, that leads to over $1 billion pushed into the local economy.“

The bill also would improve program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

It’s Harder to Nourish Young Minds If We Don’t Also Properly Nourish Their Bodies

5 Things You Don’t Know About School Lunches (But Probably Should)
The Free Press WV

School lunches have been the focus of much controversy in the past few years, but school cafeteria food been the brunt of jokes for decades, as anyone who has ever attended public school can attest. However, school lunches are no laughing matter. Today, we’re more aware than ever of the importance of nourishing young minds with a healthy, well-balanced diet to equip students for success. But do we really know everything we need to know? Here are five things you don’t know about school lunches—but probably should.

 
1. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has good intentions but is not well-executed—yet.

Most everyone is aware that there is some set of standards that aim to standardize the nutritional quality of school lunches across the nation. Most notably, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, enabling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to overhaul school meals in order to meet currently accepted standards. 

In spite of its noble intentions, the act has been harshly criticized by claims that the food is unpalatable, participation in the school lunch program has dropped sharply as a result, and in turn, school districts are realizing less revenue. Worse, more students are skipping lunch altogether.

On the surface, the Hunger-Free Kids Act makes a lot of sense. It requires school meals to be lower in fat, lower in calories and lower in sodium, as well as contain more lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. The hallmarks of a well-balanced diet, right? Unfortunately, in order to continue to meet student expectations, school lunch programs are often serving reengineered versions of the foods students were accustomed to (think: whole-grain doughnuts, cheesesteak sandwich served on whole-grain bread with cheese low in both fat and salt, and some form of lean meat that some say is unidentifiable to many students). It’s fair to say that these reinvented foods aren’t meeting the bar in students’ eyes.

 
2. Standards require that certain foods be on a student’s trays when exiting the lunch line, but there’s no guarantee the kid will actually eat it.

It also turns out there’s a lot of waste. The act requires that students participating in school lunch programs have certain items on their trays before exiting the lunch line—meaning many fruits and vegetables are dumped into the trash, untouched.

Other critics express concern that by banning certain foods and attempting to essentially force students to consume foods they don’t enjoy, the program may be fostering an unhealthy relationship with food among today’s youth. Proponents of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, however, say that students are starting to come around to some of the healthier options and say that the act simply needs more time to allow schools and students to adjust.

 
3. Your school district may be outsourcing its school lunch program.

Huge food service companies are making bank by securing contracts with public school systems to provide school lunch foods. Privatization of school lunches has been around since the 1980s and 1990s, primarily due to dwindling federal support and funding. Sadly, nutritional standards often take a backseat to the need to control costs.

One public school district in Washington, D.C., gave the concept of privatization a shot beginning in the 2008-2009 school year based on the promise of numerous benefits: better-tasting meals with better nutritional quality, which in turn would result in better student participation in the school lunch program—an attractive benefit for schools.

More importantly, outsourcing the school lunch program was supposed to result in cost savings. Per Washington, D.C., law, any outsourced government service must result in a cost savings of 5 percent or more. An audit conducted in 2016 found that the district consistently failed to realize the projected cost savings:

  • In the 2009 fiscal year, projected savings were 56 percent and actual savings were -4 percent.
  • In the 2010 fiscal year, projected savings were 68 percent; actual savings, 53 percent.
  • In the 2011 fiscal year, projected savings were 73 percent; actual savings, 5 percent.

These savings shortfalls were expected to be made up with the promise of drastically increased student participation (from approximately 51 percent to 71.6 percent in the first year). Higher participation rates typically result in increased revenue through reimbursements per each meal served. However, these projections also failed to play out as expected.

Nutritional standards for healthier school meals may be partially to blame for a lack of participation, but other factors played a role as well. For instance, the report points out that participation rates are typically higher among students who receive free lunches. It’s worth mentioning that the audit did not specifically aim to assess the nutritional value or quality of the foods provided.

Finally, the audit report identifies six other school districts that have privatized food services and subsequently returned to self-operation, including:

  • School District of Philadelphia
  • New York City Public Schools
  • Detroit Public Schools
  • Fairfax County Public Schools
  • New Haven Public Schools
  • Baltimore City Public Schools

For one reason or another, each of these school districts ultimately returned to self-operation after failed attempts at outsourcing food services.

Costs are obviously a pressing factor for school systems today, as many districts are operating on tight budgets, and some are even tapping into reserve funds to get through another fiscal year. But perhaps the more pressing question is whether privatization of school lunch programs results in healthier foods.

 
4. Major food companies make big money by marketing less-than-healthy food choices to schools.

In 2009, privatization was viewed as a possible savior for the sad state of school lunches, promising ready-made, healthy, and tasty meals that meet USDA standards, but these programs largely targeted charter and private schools at the time, as the cost of the meals exceeded the federal reimbursement, and public school districts simply lacked the funding to make up the difference.

For every company offering healthy meal options for schools, there are several making bank by marketing unhealthy options. And ultimately, if student participation isn’t there, the program—no matter how healthy it may be—won’t have the desired impact.

But how is this happening given the nutritional standards that went into effect? It’s the same phenomenon discussed earlier in this article: rather than scrap the idea of serving kids corn dogs for lunch, food companies simply re-invented their products to meet nutritional standards. So, kids are still getting corn dogs for lunch, but maybe they’re lower-sodium corn dogs.

Schools can either purchase foods directly from the USDA at discounted rates (which the USDA obtains from private companies) or they can opt to purchase foods directly from private companies, provided the meals meet the standards, containing the required minimum amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reviewed a number of advertisements targeting the School Nutrition Association, a professional organization representing the 55,000+ school food service employees tasked with choosing and purchasing foods for school lunches. It found 106 ads for unhealthy meat and dairy products; among them, 26 full-page ads for Pizza Hut or Domino’s pepperoni pizza.

 
5. School districts may receive whole, nutritious food—and then process it into unhealthy options like chicken nuggets.

A 2011 article in the New York Times reports that the Department of Agriculture spends about $1 billion each year on foods such as fresh apples, sweet potatoes, chickens, and turkeys. Schools that participate in the program get cash subsidies or USDA foods for each meal they serve. According to the Times, some schools will cook these whole foods on-site, but an increasing number actually send the foods out for processing, turning once-healthy ingredients into unhealthy options such as fried chicken nuggets, pizza, French fries, and other common school lunch menu items.

The reason some schools send whole ingredients out for processing seems counter-intuitive, but it’s possible that it all comes down to the bottom line: it’s a lot easier to cook chicken nuggets for hundreds of students than it is to prepare chicken breasts, for instance, and it often requires simpler kitchen facilities and less-skilled staff to do so. So, while schools are paying more to have these items processed, they may be realizing greater cost savings by reducing their investment in labor costs (fewer hours, fewer skilled kitchen staff) and facilities.

One thing is clear: school lunches have a long way to go, and there’s no simple solution in sight. As school districts struggle to balance costs with meeting federal nutritional standards and other requirements, students are left to weather the storm with lackluster food choices that may not be having the positive effect on their mental and physical health that educators and parents want—and are certainly not having the tastebud-pleasing effects students hope for.

~~  Cynthia Lopez ~~

Packed Lunches: Cutting Corners, But Not Food Safety

The Free Press WV

As a working mom of four boys, ages 8 and under, I’m asked on a near-daily basis: “how do you DO it?!” It’s a carefully orchestrated dance: keeping my family fed, healthy, dropped off at school and daycare at the appropriate times, with their respective accompaniments, whether homework, snacks or lunches. And then in the evening, allowing opportunity to focus on homework and dinner, without sacrificing quality family time. Making this happen on a daily basis takes a keen attention to detail, a little luck and some advanced planning.

I’m game to try anything to help our daily routine run smoothly, and will cut any corners I can. However, one corner I won’t cut is safe food handling and preparation. Because let’s face it—a houseful of children in the throes of foodborne illness is no one’s idea of a good time.


Advanced Planning

To keep our household running as efficiently as possible, I prep the boys’ lunches a few days in advance. I pre-portion snack size bags of baby carrots for two to three meals and place those in the fridge with the other vegetables. On a clean and separate cutting board, I make enough ham sandwiches for two to three lunches. The prepped sandwiches go back into the fridge in a designated spot.


The Morning Of

In the morning, I pack each soft-sided cooler lunch bag with a napkin, cold sandwich, cold baggie of carrots, any other non-perishable sides and either a frozen water bottle or a frozen tube of yogurt. I also slide an ice pack on top of the lunch contents so each bag has two cold sources that keep the contents out of the Danger Zone (temperatures between 40°F and 140°F at which bacteria grows most rapidly) until lunch time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has great resources on safe food handling, particularly for bag lunches.


After Lunch

We’ve taught our boys to throw out their leftovers and not eat anything from their lunches later in the day. When they arrive home from school, they promptly discard anything that didn’t make it into the trash can in the cafeteria. I wipe out their lunch bags with a disinfectant wipe and leave to air dry overnight. 

By prepping a few days of lunches in a session, I save quite a bit of time. Mornings run smoother because there’s no shuffling and rummaging for something to eat. Knowing that the food was safely prepared, stored and packed in their lunch boxes gives me the peace of mind that I’ve reduced the risk of foodborne illness in my kids, while carving out a little more quality time to spend with them in the evenings.

WVBOE Approves Nutrition Policy for West Virginia Public Schools

January 02, 2018 is the take effect date for a new nutrition policy for West Virginia’s public schools.

The Free Press WV

The state Board of Education approved Policy 4321.1 Standards for School Nutrition as a replacement for a previous nutrition policy dating back to 2008.

In general, it aligns West Virginia’s child nutrition standards with federal child nutrition standards.

In many ways, the policy approval is a formality.

“Our schools have been operating under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act since 2012,” Michele Blatt, assistant state superintendent of schools, told members of the state BOE before the vote.

“The Act passed in 2010 and we started transitioning our schools to meet those federal requirements and had all our schools functioning by 2012, but our policy had not caught up with what was occurring in our schools.”

In part, the policy addresses food brought into schools for classroom celebrations or other events.

Under revisions that followed a public comment period, baked goods from home are again allowed in schools if in accordance with local wellness policies which are developed by county school officials.

“When we talk about our current local wellness policy, these are policies that are required by the federal government and all of our districts currently have a local wellness policy,” explained Blatt.

“In that policy, they have to promote student wellness, talk about how they’re going to prevent and reduce childhood obesity and provide assurances that school meals and all other food and beverages sold or provided will meet the applicable federal and state standards.”

Miller Hall, a BOE member, said local control was key. “I think that’s the way it needs to be,” he said.

A portion of the policy revisions prohibit counties from punishing students for unpaid or outstanding school meal debt with denial of meals, blocked access to extracurricular activities, graduation participation bans, refusal of transcript requests or other measures.

“All communication addressing financial matters should be directed to parents/guardians,” the policy stated. “Food and beverages shall not be offered as a reward and/or used as a means of punishment or disciplinary action for any student during the school day.”

More than 400 comments from 180 individuals, a larger number than usual according to state Department of Education officials, were submitted to the DOE prior to the close of the public comment period.

Going forward, Dr. Steve Paine, state superintendent of schools, said the effects of the policy would be monitored. “If it doesn’t work, we come right back and we revisit the policy,” Paine said Thursday.

~~  Shauna Johnson ~~

Healthy Meals Help Kids Succeed in School

The Free Press WV

Making healthier choices from all five food groups is a simple and proven way to help children succeed in school.

A growing body of research links nutrition and achievement, meaning that kids who eat well do better in school. The start of the school year is a great time to give children every academic advantage possible by encouraging participation in the school breakfast and lunch program and including nutrition education in the classroom.

School meals provide a convenient and affordable way for families to ensure children have access to healthy food at school. Student participation in school breakfast or lunch programs is associated with improvement in grades, standardized test scores and school attendance.

When specific nutrients missing from students’ diets are increased (nutrients emphasized in school meals via fruits, vegetables and dairy products) academic performance improves. (Bradley, BJ, Greene, AC. Do Health and Education Agencies in the United States Share Responsibility for Academic Achievement and Health? Journal of Adolescent Health, 2013.)

The link between nutrition and academic achievement is so strong that many teachers across West Virginia and the country are adding classroom nutrition education to their lesson plans.

If you still need some convincing on the importance of nutrition education in the classroom, here are five testimonials from teachers. Parents can share this article with their student’s teachers or the school principal to help make this the best school year ever!


5. Students get excited about learning.: “My class gets really excited about it (the nutrition lessons), and it’s such an important part of teaching ‘the whole child!’”


4. Students put nutrition education to the test in real-life situations: “The greatest thing I notice is that the students encourage each other to eat healthier snacks and foods. They flat out tell each other when they are eating poorly!”


3. The benefits of nutrition education reach far beyond the classroom: “I had a student that went above and beyond and prepared a shopping list of healthy meals for her mom to take to the grocery store! I thought it was amazing to see the students who encouraged their family members to eat healthier.”


2. Improve the quality of your students’ education by teaching a topic left out of standard curriculum: “So many students are not aware of the health benefits in foods and how it affects their body. Students are interested and are engaged when we fill out the workbook. Each student strives to improve their results. This program is a win-win situation.”


1. Nutrition lessons provide essential education that can lead to more academic success: “We discuss healthy eating first at recess time. One student used to bring candy every day for snack and after listening to lessons asked his parents to send better snacks for his brain to learn.”

West Virginia Feed to Achieve Program Aims to End Childhood Hunger

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Feed to Achieve (WVFTA), an initiative of the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Children Nutrition, officially launched today during a special event on the Capitol lawn.

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano served as keynote speaker and addressed the importance of working together to end childhood hunger in West Virginia.

“Hunger among children has a major impact not only on health care costs later in life, but also educational achievement, worker productivity and eventually the ability of the region and nation to compete in a global economy,” Martirano said. “Feed to Achieve will be a tremendous asset to our state. It will also help build the foundation for other states to develop and carry out similar programs for children.”

West Virginia Feed to Achieve is a nonprofit, donation-based program that aims to end childhood hunger in West Virginia by providing grants to programs that are feeding children outside of the school day such as backpack feeding programs, school-based food pantries, community-based food pantries, and church-based feeding programs.

“In West Virginia there are nearly 1 in 4 children that live in a household that does not have sufficient access to food,” said Samantha Snuffer-Reeves, West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition Coordinator. “Feed to Achieve’s main goal is to feed children when they’re most at risk: after school hours, holidays, weekends, snow days and during the summer months.”

The inspiration for WVFTA occurred when West Virginia Senator John Unger was visiting an elementary school in Martinsburg. He asked what students would change about their school and one boy said he would like to receive two lunches so there would be enough food left over for his parents and siblings. “That was a huge wakeup call for our department- something had to be done about childhood hunger in our state, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Martirano said.

West Virginia Feed to Achieve is solely dependent on donations from individuals, businesses and corporations. All donations received directly fund grants that are distributed to eligible social service organizations statewide twice a year.

Grant applications will be received in September in preparation for winter and in April 2017 in preparation for next summer. Funds will then be awarded in November 2016 and June 2017. The West Virginia Feed to Achieve Selection Committee will review grant applications and award funding. Funding amounts will be dependent on the amount of money in the state West Virginia Feed to Achieve fund.

Since West Virginia Feed to Achieve programs are strictly donation based, interested corporate or individual donors are encouraged to visit and make donations on the West Virginia Feed to Achieve website at www.wvfeedtoachieve.com.


09.16.2016 LivingFoodHome | Life StyleNewsWest VirginiaUnited StatesWorldwide

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Report: U.S. Should Use Fewer Antibiotics in Agriculture

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV – A new report calls for banning or restricting the use of antibiotics in farm animals to curb the global spread of infections.

Cameron Harsh, senior manager for organic and animal policy for he Center for Food Safety, explains continuously dosing animals creates stronger strains of bacteria, which makes antibiotics less effective at fighting infections in people.

He says the report is a wake-up call for policymakers to reform common factory farming practices.

“Producers can crowd animals, have higher stocking densities, and they’re getting animals to grow faster on less feed,” he points out. “So, in the long run, these have been misused as a tool to raise more meat and poultry products faster and more cheaply.“

According to the report, from the Britain-based Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, some 700,000 people die each year worldwide from antibiotic-resistant infections, and that number could rise to 10 million per year by 2050.

Industry groups say they’re using antibiotics to keep animals healthy, and maintain the practice is necessary to keep costs down.

Doctors report for the first time in the U.S, a patient has come in to receive care infected with a bacteria that’s resistant to every known antibiotic. Harsh and others see it as a possible result of livestock antibiotic use. He notes that making sure animals have good feed, can access the outdoors and have enough space to lie down helps boost their natural immune systems. And he says an increasing number of people are willing to pay more for drug-free meat, dairy and eggs.

“You’re seeing a lot of companies make strong statements about antibiotic use in their supplies, and make strong commitments to reduce use,” he points out. “But transparency is going to be an important step moving forward, so that consumers can make informed food decisions in the marketplace.“

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has introduced guidelines that would require farmers to get antibiotics from licensed veterinarians, instead of over the counter at the local feed store, and has asked drug makers to voluntarily remove growth-promotion claims from labels.

Harsh maintains those moves don’t go far enough.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

G-OpEd™: Labels on Genetically Modified Foods? Not So Fast

The Free Press WV

States could no longer require labeling of genetically modified foods under legislation approved by a Senate panel.

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted 14-6 Tuesday to prevent the labeling on packages of foods that include genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Vermont is set to require such labels this summer, and other states are considering similar laws.

Senators have said they want to find a compromise on the labeling issue before Vermont’s law kicks in. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the panel, said a patchwork of state laws would be a “wrecking ball” that could be costly for agriculture, food companies and ultimately consumers.

“Now is not the time for Congress to make food more expensive for anybody,“ Roberts said.

The bill would block Vermont’s law and create new voluntary labels for companies that want to use them on food packages that contain genetically modified ingredients.

The legislation is similar to a bill the House passed last year. The food industry has strongly backed both bills, saying GMOs are safe and a patchwork of state laws isn’t practical. Labeling advocates have been fighting state-by-state to enact the labeling, with the eventual goal of a national standard.

Passage won’t be as easy in the Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome a certain filibuster. Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders have both strongly opposed efforts to block their state’s law.

Roberts and Stabenow have worked to find a compromise that can pass the Senate. But those negotiations broke down before the committee vote, and Roberts said the panel needed to move quickly ahead of the Vermont law. Both said they are still negotiating and hope to find agreement.

Stabenow said that for the legislation to receive broad enough support to pass the Senate, “it must contain a pathway to a national system of mandatory disclosure that provides consumers the information they need and want to make informed choices.“

Three Democrats voted for Roberts’ bill: North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Genetically modified seeds are engineered in laboratories to have certain traits, like resistance to herbicides. The majority of the country’s corn and soybean crop is now genetically modified, with much of that going to animal feed. Corn and soybeans are also made into popular processed food ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soybean oil.

The food industry says about 75 percent to 80 percent of foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

While the Food and Drug Administration says they are safe and there is little scientific concern about the safety of those GMOs on the market, advocates for labeling say not enough is known about their risks. Among supporters of labeling are many organic companies that are barred by law from using modified ingredients in their foods.

Those groups said they are holding out hope for a compromise on the Senate floor.

“We remain hopeful that the Senate will craft a national, mandatory GMO labeling system that provides consumers with basic factual information about their food,“ said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group.

National Nutrition Month

The Free Press WV

For National Nutrition Month, Enjoy Food Traditions and Experiences to ‘Savor the Flavor of Eating Right’

Bridgeport, WV –For National Nutrition Month® 2016, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and United Hospital Center is encouraging everyone to “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” by taking time to enjoy food traditions and appreciate the pleasures, great flavors and social experiences food can add to your life.

“Your source of energy and nourishment is through the foods you consume; thereby, helping you to live and protect your body against diseases, said Sherry Spagnuolo, RD, LD, registered dietitian at UHC.  “Certainly food should be enjoyed. So the way you prepare and combine food is also important.”

The Free Press WV


Enjoy Food Traditions and Social Experiences

There is an obvious social component to food. Whether a nightly family dinner, special holiday occasion or social gathering, food often plays a central role.
“Getting back to the tradition of eating together as a family is significant in that it promotes the family bond and helps us to eat healthier too,” Spagnuolo said.  “It is certainly a ritual that we all need to practice.”


Appreciate Foods Pleasures and Flavors

Take time to appreciate the flavors, textures and overall eating experience. In today’s busy world, we often eat quickly and mindlessly. Instead, try following this tip to help you savor the flavor of your food: Eat slowly.

“Eat slowly to savor the flavors and textures of your food,” Spagnuolo says.  “This not only allows you to appreciate what you’re consuming, but it can also help you to eat less as your stomach will send a message to your brain that you are full.”


Develop a Mindful Eating Pattern

How, when, why and where you eat are just as important as what you eat. Being a mindful eater can help you reset both your body and your mind and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.
“Avoid multitasking through you meals, “said Spagnuolo.  “Take time to mindfully eat so that you will feel fuller faster and be less likely to over eat.”


Consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

“Making good food choices, based on your individual health and nutrient needs, and including healthy habits, like exercise,  can be essential in contributing to an overall healthy lifestyle,”  said Spagnuolo.

Possible School Lunch Improvements

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV - Members of the U.S. Senate are working on a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize child nutrition programs, including the national school lunch and breakfast programs for the next five years. Among the changes, the legislation includes funding for expanded kitchen equipment to enable staff to prepare fresh-cooked meals for students.

Claire DiMattina, executive director with the advocacy group Food Policy Action, says this comes after a trend of school districts centralizing food preparation and utilizing frozen meals and vegetables.

“Because we’re talking about serving fresh fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy meals and meals with less sodium and some of those things you just can’t serve if you don’t have a place to prepare them,“ says DiMattina.

The legislation also would require that 80 percent of grains served in schools are whole grain and it puts in place sodium-reduction requirements. Once lawmakers are back in session, the bill will have to be added to the calendar to be considered by the full Senate.

The bill also doubles funding for the Farm to School Grant Program, streamlines summer meal coordination and expands summer meal programs. DiMattina says if passed, the legislation would have a direct impact on children in the state.

“For a lot of those kids, these are one or two of the only healthy, nutritious and hopefully delicious meals they’re having every day,“ she says. “So, it’s important that we’re providing meals that are healthy, that they want to eat, that are providing the necessary nutrients.“

The former Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that went into effect in 2010 has been criticized for encouraging a menu with food many children won’t eat. This bill is the reauthorization of that legislation and includes some changes.

~~  Dan Heyman   ~~

Petty Wins Culinary Contest

The 3rd Annual Gingerbread House Contest sponsored by First Neighborhood Bank was held at the Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg on December 12, 2015.

Sixty houses were entered and displayed in the contest.

The Free Press WV


There were seven divisions and $7,000 in awards.

Analysse “Annie” Petty placed first in the school division.

The Free Press WV
Gabriel Devono (Gilmer County Schools Superintendent),
Analysse Petty, Chef Annette Benson (instructor)


A $200 check was awarded to Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center and her class will receive a pizza party to celebrate her accomplishment.

Annie attends the ProStart/Culinary Arts and Health Occupations programs at the Calhoun-Gilmer Career Center.

The Free Press WV


She is a TASC completer through the Option Pathway and will be a 2016 graduate of Gilmer County High School in May.

Annie is the niece of Danielle Cottrill of Rosedale Road, Normantown, WV.

The Free Press WV

New Food Safety Rules: Something to be Thankful For?

The Free Press WV

CHARLESTON, WV -  The Food and Drug Administration is putting new food safety rules in place, and advocates of the change say that’s something to be thankful for.

The FDA is finalizing rules for three basic categories of groceries: produce, imports, and processed foods.

Sandra Eskin, director of the Safe Food Project for The Pew Charitable Trusts, says she’s going to take a moment at her Thanksgiving table to be grateful.

“We have a safe food supply in this country, but it can be safer,“ she says. “And it’s made safer by rules like these that are going to make the people who grow and import the food responsible for the safety of it.“

Some farm and food industry lobbying groups have chafed under federal rules in the past. Eskin points out the new regulations will be phased in starting with the big operations first.

She adds many of the rules will be enforceable, rather than voluntary, for the first time.

The rules also will require producers, growers and importers to ensure the food they produce or import has minimal contamination. That’s a change, for both produce and for imports.

“For the very first time, the entity that imports a food product regulated by FDA is responsible for the safety of that product,“ says Eskin.

Many people probably assume all the important food-safety rules were put in place a long time ago. But Eskin says that isn’t the case. She says every time there is a serious food-safety problem, regulators consider updating the rules. That was the case a few years ago, when a lot of people became ill after eating fast-food hamburgers.

“Looking at ground beef, looking at this particular horrible strain of E. coli, we have cut infections by 50 percent. And that is quite an achievement,“ she says.

For consumers, Eskin notes there is still a need to follow all the basic rules for safe food handling, storage and preparation at home. But she says they can also be thankful that their food will be safer and more sanitary before they get to it.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

DHHR Encourages Residents to Take Steps to Avoid Foodborne Illness

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health (BPH) is reminding residents of the importance of proper food preparation and food storage temperatures during the holiday season. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne illness is a common, preventable public health problem. Each year, one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated foods or beverages. Foodborne illnesses commonly occur due to unclean hands, not separating raw meat from other foods, not cooking foods to the correct temperature and not refrigerating food properly.

“Foodborne illness sends more than 100,000 people in our nation to the hospital each year,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, State Health Officer and Commissioner for DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health.  “Taking the time to ensure that proper food handling measures are taken around the holidays and throughout the year can go a long way in preventing an outbreak of illness such as norovirus, salmonella or E. coli.”

BPH offers the following tips for preventing foodborne illnesses:

• Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C) as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.

• Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 155°F (68°C) as measured with a food thermometer.

• Cook all poultry and stuffed meats, poultry, fish and pasta to an internal temperature of 165°F (73.9°C) as measured with a food thermometer.

• Foods should not be thawed at room temperature. Safe thawing methods include in the refrigerator, under cool running water, or in the microwave.  If food is thawed in running water or the microwave, it should be cooked immediately.  It is also important to allow sufficient time to thaw food.

• Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40°F (4.4°C) or below and the freezer at 0°F (-17.7°C) or below.

“Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food,” said Gupta. “Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food to avoid cross-contamination. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting boards, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water.”

According to Dr. Gupta, it is important to discard any food left out at room temperature for more than two hours.  Place food into shallow containers and immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.  Make sure you use cooked leftovers within four days.

Venison Is An Excellent Low-Fat Alternative To Beef

The Free Press WV

SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV - As West Virginia’s hunters take to the field, they gain more than just an enjoyable day with family and friends. Many will successfully harvest a deer and fill their freezer with an ample amount of “heart-healthy” venison (deer meat).

 “Venison is an excellent alternative to beef for those concerned with healthier choices in their diet,” said Paul Johansen, chief of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section (DNR). “Venison is a good source of protein for many West Virginia families and has fewer calories and less fat than an equivalent serving of beef.”

 After the harvest, hunters can ensure their selected venison cuts will be the best quality and flavor if they take a few simple steps in caring for their game. Meat should not be exposed to excessive dirt or moisture and should be cooled as quickly as possible to avoid spoilage.

 Hunters are not the only West Virginians who benefit from deer harvested in the state. Over the past two decades, the DNR has sponsored the Hunters Helping the Hungry (HHH) program. Since its inception in 1992, generous hunters and financial contributors have enabled the processing of this highly nutritious meat which has provided more than 1.1 million meals for needy West Virginia families. Visit www.wvdnr.gov/Hunting/HHH.shtm for information about Hunters Helping the Hungry.

 For more information about the HHH program or West Virginia’s various deer hunting seasons and regulations, consult the 2015-2016 West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary available at all DNR offices and license agents or visit the DNR website at www.wvdnr.gov.

Bon Appétit: Pumpkin Bread with Toasted Coconut

The Gilmer Free Press

Ingredients:

Servings: Makes one 8½x4½“ loaf

  Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  ½ cup whole wheat flour
  2 teaspoons baking powder
  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1 teaspoon ground ginger
  1 teaspoon kosher salt
  ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  2 large eggs, room temperature
  1 cup canned pure pumpkin
  1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  ½ cup virgin coconut oil, warmed, slightly cooled
  2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
  1 tablespoon granulated sugar


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat an 8½x4½“ loaf pan with nonstick spray; line with parchment paper, leaving a 2” overhang on all sides. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, and oil in another large bowl until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, coconut, and granulated sugar.

Bake bread until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let bread cool 30 minutes in pan. Turn out on a wire rack and let cool completely.

Do Ahead: Bread can be baked 3 days ahead. Keep tightly wrapped at room temperature.

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