May is national bike and walk to school month

National Walk and Bike to School Month this May provides a great opportunity to show children how fun it can be to practice good habits that are healthy for both themselves and the environment.

The Healthy Active Hood River County Coalition wants every child and parent to consider participating in the month-long effort — for personal and community health.

If your children have a safe route to walk or bike to school, support them in doing so in May.

Asthma, childhood obesity and diabetes risk have dramatically risen in children with the decrease in children walking and biking to school, and becoming less active in general.

Here’s what being less physically active is contributing to in children:

n Asthma: Asthma attacks are a leading cause of children’s emergency room visits. Parents driving their students to school now comprise up to 25 percent of morning traffic. Vehicles emit air pollutants, which can worsen asthma.

n Obesity: Children who are overweight and out of shape have reached epidemic levels in recent decades, as children spend an average of seven hours a day in front of screens. This includes TV, video games and cellphones.

n Diabetes: Current statistics say one out of every two children born today will develop Type 2 diabetes.

Kids need physical exercise. Experts say they need at least 60 minutes a day. In the 1960s more than half of all school children walked to school. Now that number is down to 15 percent.

One recent study showed that kids who walk to schools and libraries and find healthy food at nearby supermarkets are 59 percent less likely to be obese than kids whose neighborhoods don’t allow that. And in a study in Spain, girls who walked to school did better on test scores.

Each child that can safely walk or bike to school can start a healthy trend. Portland neighbors are proving it.

According to recent analyses, by 2017, Portland residents will have saved $64 million in health care costs thanks to bicycling. By 2040, the city will have invested $138-$605 million in bicycling, yet saved $388-$594 million in health care costs and $143-$218 million in fuel costs.

Not all children in our community can walk and bike to school safely. This is because of lack of sidewalks, bike lanes and safe shoulders on roads.

If there is not a safe route, you can support them in being physically active in different ways. Walk or bike with your children where it is safe. Go on a hike together. Play chase.

When possible, instead of hearing “beep,” this month encourage your family to be hearing feet!

Check with local schools for their walk and bike promotions and read upcoming editions of the News for more details.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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