Day 268–Best Practices for Garden Food Safety!

Many of us know how to put a plant in the ground and give it some basic TLC to get it growing. But how do we make sure that the gardens we plant yield safe food that will not unintentionally make us sick? And what can we do to make sure children working with us are safe? The North Carolina organization, Advocates for Health in Action have a new web-based resource to address those issues. While it is primarily designed for people starting community gardens, I found plenty of tips for my own home garden!

Here is the link to the booklet. Happy (and safe) fall gardening!

Day 91–Chickens (a post by Ellie)

Ellie and the Silky Chick at the Dig In! Conference

Hi, I am Ellie, Deanna’s guest blogger for today, and I am writing about chickens. Chickens are very good pets to have because of the protein in the eggs. Sadly, I live in Cary so no chickens for me, especially because my mom (Deanna) won’t let me have them (hopefully she will give in).

I did some research on chickens and found out that chickens are related to dinosaurs, so their feet look really weird. Chicken eggs have good protein and pasture raised eggs have more protein and omega 3 fatty acids, which are really good for your heart. So if you live in a city that allows you to have chickens, maybe you should get them. At this conference I went to called “Dig In!”, I got to hold a hen and a chick. The chick fell asleep in my hands immediately and buried its beak between my thumb and forfinger. But the hen surprisingly would not let anyone hold her but me, and soon fell asleep in my arms. She woke up to a boy petting her the wrong way and she crowed at him then fell asleep again. Chicken eggs range in size, some the size of a robins egg and all the way up to the size of eggs that we buy from the farmers market. My favorite type of chicken is a Polish chicken because their feathers on the top of their heads look like a sideways mohawk.

Polish chicken at the Garden Girl, on the Roxb...

I don’t suggest you get a rooster unless you like to wake up at 5:00 am or you really want to annoy your neighborhood. You can always volunteer on a farm if you can’t or don’t want chickens roaming your front or backyard 24/7. Chickens, like any animal, need feed, water, grooming, and a shelter. So that is a little bit about chickens.

Day 90–Healthier School Fundraisers and Wellness, Part 2

Chocolate chip cookie dough.

It all started with cookie dough. And a well-intentioned effort to raise money for a good cause (See post here).

Now, let me say uprfront, I am not the food police and I am not against a good cookie. In fact, I love cookies. Personally, I don’t buy store bought cookies or cookie dough because I don’t think they taste anywhere near as good as homemade. But that’s me. If you want to eat nothing but commercial cookie dough 24/7, that is your business. Enjoy!

But when teachers and parents spend valuable time teaching young people to make good food choices to reduce childhood obesity and diabetes, it doesn’t make sense to me to send those same children out to sell 3 pound tubs of high fat cookie dough (or chocolate bars or McDonalds gift cards) to their families and neighbors.  We don’t tell them to not smoke, then send them out to sell ashtrays and lighters, right? Young people pay attention. They are watching us. They see us talking the talk, but walking to Krispie Kreme…for money to pay for playground equipment…so kids don’t get fat. Say what???

I may be resisting giant tubs of raw cookie dough, but the good news is, I am not alone! I spent yesterday morning at a healthy fundraiser workshop sponsored by Advocates for Health in Action and came away with many great ideas as well as contacts with other parents and teachers who are involved in school wellness. The good news is that there are lots of creative, non-food options out there for raising funds. The challenge is going to be putting together a team of parents, students and teachers and developing a couple of target initiatives for the coming school year. Here are some things I learned:

  • My county actually has a wellness policy (WCPSS Wellness Policy 5125). While the policy doesn’t give guidance on the nutitional value of foods sold as fundraisers, it does provide some guidance about food in the school. This includes not using food as a reward for student achievement.
  • 49.5% of 12-18 year olds in NC are overweight or obese. I’m not math girl, but that is one out of every two teens in my state!
  • In 2010, North Carolina spent $107.18 million to treat medical conditions related to children with diabetes, high weight and inactive lifestyles. That is just children–not adults!

So what is a PTA, booster club, or youth league to do? There are plenty of options available! Here is a sampling of what I discovered:

  • Fun runs, walks, bike-a-thons take a lot of work by volunteers, but they can be very lucrative for schools.
  • Selling flowers, plants, rain barrels or delivered mulch can tie into a school’s gardening efforts and encourage environmental awareness. One local high school is selling mulch that is delivered and spread by the football team!
  • Selling coupon books, magazines, and school spirit apparel raise money without any large deliveries of goods required.
  • Talent shows, plays, dances and concerts highlight student achievement and give young people a chance to shine. Depending on the community, they can also help foster relationships with nearby neighborhoods.
  • In our area, The Produce Box offers a fundraiser vegetable box!

The workshop also addressed the issue of concession sales at games and/or meets. The goal with concessions is not to take away all the unhealthy options, but to offer healthier options, make them more convenient and price them a bit lower than unhealthy options. What might these include?

  • Soft pretzles
  • Low-fat popcorn
  • Tortilla chips with salsa
  • Sandwiches
  • Turkey burgers
  • Fresh fruit
  • Fruit kabobs
  • String cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Trail mix
  • Water
  • 100% vegetable juice
  • Unsweetened bottled tea

I also learned a great deal about wellness grants available in my community that pay for anything from athletic equipment to healthy food tastings.

Clearly, there is life beyond the cookie dough!