ANOTHER VOICE: USDA school nutrition rule bears fruit

The U.S. Department of Agriculture works every day to improve childhood nutrition and combat obesity in order to raise a healthier generation of Americans.

In recent days, we have had some positive developments in this work. USDA released a promising new report on the impacts of providing our children with healthy snacks. We also took new steps to provide families with better information to combat obesity.

The new report examined the results of USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fruits and vegetables at no cost to students in more than 7,100 schools in low income areas.

We found that as students are introduced to fresh fruits and vegetables, they try them – and in most cases, they enjoy these snacks. Students participating in the program ate 15 percent more fruits and vegetables than their peers. In fact, when these fruits and vegetables were offered in schools, almost every student tried one.

For those who chose a fruit, more than 85 percent ate most or all of their snack. For students who tried a vegetable, more than 60 percent ate most of it, or finished the whole serving.

Research by USDA’s Economic Research Service has also found that these healthy foods are often no more expensive than less-nutritious foods. Still, there are millions of American families who lack access to healthy foods due to economic or geographical barriers.

USDA recently announced a measure that will improve nutrition education for low-income families, ultimately helping them to access more nutritious foods.

The new policy aims to give more flexibility for states to provide targeted education to recipients of the SNAP program, with a special goal of increasing healthy eating habits and reducing obesity. The new measure will help expand farmers markets and community gardens that help expand access to healthy foods. It will provide assistance for parents to access nutrition information. And it will help retailers provide healthier foods to participants in SNAP.

These efforts to increase availability, affordability and information regarding healthy foods are more important than ever today. One-third of kids today are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for preventable illness in the decades to come. Along with malnutrition, this threatens our nation’s security and economic well-being in the decades to come.

By improving access to healthy foods for our young people and their families, we can help create generational change to reduce childhood obesity and child malnutrition. Together, we can give today’s young people the tools they need to grow up healthy, strong and ready to succeed.

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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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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