Friday, May 12, 2017

Make School Meals Great Again?

If you are like me, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture's school meal program announcement came as a shock.  After doing a little research, the changes aren’t nearly as dramatic as they seem at face value. The new proclamation gives states control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium and milk. The rest (the meat and potatoes if you will) of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) nutrition standards remain untouched. Here’s the inside scoop:

·         Whole Grains – Since many schools are finding it hard to obtain whole-grain rich products and prepare them in a way that is appealing to students, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “will allow states to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in serving 100 percent of grain products as whole-grain rich for School Year 2017-2018”. This system has actually been in place since the 2015 appropriations bill.

·         Sodium – We all know that too much sodium can negatively impact our health (if you didn’t know; now you do!). To this end, the HHFKA requires schools to gradually (over 10 years) reduce the amount of sodium in school meals. A mandated sodium reduction was set to take effect July 1, 2017 however; the new proclamation states that schools do not have to meet this reduction until 2020.

·         Milk –Schools can now offer 1% flavored milk to students. This is a change since schools can currently only offer flavored milk that is fat-free and unflavored low-fat milk.

The take away message – it is going to take longer for schools to fully meet the HHFKA nutrition standards. In the meantime the USDA is working to implement long term solutions and provide technical assistance to school districts so they can better comply with the nutrition standards.

For more information on the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA):

Friday, May 5, 2017

Drinking Water Awareness Week

Are you a water-waster? Although 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, our water supply is actually very limited. 97% of Earth’s water is salt water or unusable and 2% is permanently frozen, leaving only 1% available for human needs. It is up to us to conserve what is left. May 7 - 13, 2017 is the American Water Works Association’s annual Drinking Water Awareness Week, which is a perfect opportunity to recognize the importance of water. This year’s local focus is water conservation; here are a few tips:

In the kitchen:
·         Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.
·         If washing dishes by hand, plug the sink or use a wash basin instead of running water the entire time.
·         Scrape your plate instead of rinsing it before loading it into the dishwasher. Not rinsing dishes prior to loading the dishwasher can save up to 10 gallons of water per load.
·         Run the dishwasher only when it’s full.
·         Try composting instead of using the garbage disposal.
In the bathroom:
·         Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth or shaving. This alone can save a household more than 200 gallons of water per month.
·         Install a water-saving shower head.
·         Take a 5 minute shower instead of an 8 minute shower. This can save 7 gallons of water with EVERY shower.
·         Fix leaky appliances. Check for a toilet tank leak by adding a drop of food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 10 minutes. Make sure to flush immediately after this experiment to avoid staining the tank.
In the laundry room:
·         Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.
·         The next time you purchase a washing machine, try a water-saving model.
·         Use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
·         Collect rainwater to re-use for irrigation and watering.
·         Only water the lawn or garden when rainfall isn’t enough. In general, lawns only need up to one inch of water per week, including rainfall. Shrubs, trees and other perennials need even less.
It is up to us to conserve our water supplies. By making these tips every day habits, you can make a difference.

“Water: To know it is to love it.”