WIC Vouchers at the Farmers Market

As a part of my WIC responsibilities for ISPP dietetic rotations, another intern and I went to assist at the Morgantown Farmers market to distribute WIC vouchers to participants. The farmers’ market vouchers were mentioned to clients at WIC when I observed this past week. So, now I that I could actually see how participants come and use the vouchers, it seems much clearer to me as to how the whole process works.

Each WIC participant in each family gets a total of $20 worth of WIC vouchers to spend at vendors at the farmers’ market that accept WIC vouchers. So, for example if you’re a pregnant mother at WIC with 2 children under 5 years of age, then you would receive $60 worth of vouchers to spend. The vouchers have an expiration date of October 31st, 2013 so; this gives parents and families time to spend the vouchers as well. Each voucher packet has two $5 vouchers inside. So, each participant receives two packets.

The vendors that accept the WIC vouchers have orange posted signs that families can look for when shopping at any of the farmers’ markets. The WIC vouchers themselves are only distributed at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market on Spruce Street, the downtown location.

WIC was given $2,500 worth of vouchers this year. The amount of vouchers that they are given each year depends on their redemption rate from the previous year. So, in 2011 the Monongalia County WIC farmers’ market redemption rate was 60%. In 2012, their redemption rate was 70% when the state redemption rate was 65%. So, from the numbers I observed it seems that if a county has a redemption rate higher than the state average, they receive more vouchers than the previous year and vice versa.

When the WIC participants pick-up their vouchers at the downtown farmers’ market, they can use these vouchers at any of the farmers’ market locations in the area. Yes, the vouchers are only distributed at the Spruce Street location. But, the vouchers can be spent at any farmers’ market listed below. The participants are only given the vouchers once per summer.

The vouchers seem to be a hot commodity as well. Last week was the first week that WIC was at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market to distribute the vouchers. Out of the $2,500 that WIC started with, they issued $1,900 last week. So, today we started with $600 worth of vouchers. They weren’t all given out today but, I can definitely see how WIC participants love using these. Not only does it serve as a convenience but, it also supports the local economy. The program, in a whole, is such a great motivator for WIC participants to increase fresh fruits and vegetables into their family’s diet. The only restriction on what the participants can purchase is that the vouchers will only be accepted for fruits, vegetables, and herbs. So, families can’t purchase things like eggs, proteins, or baked goods. But again, this is great because it encourages families to eat more fruits and vegetables and maybe even try a new fruit or vegetable!

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Purple Corn is the New Rage?

Purple Corn is the New Rage?

Recently Dr. Oz, yes THE Dr. Oz, has stated that the color purple is currently “hot”.  And from my experience with anything that Dr. Oz says, nutritionally, everyone listens.

Purple corn has recently been crowned the king of the crop, according to Minnesota-based Suntava. From purple carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower to blackberries, grapes, blueberries, and cabbage, a deep purple shade is usually a good sign that fruits or vegetables contain a healthy dose of valuable phytonutrients.

Suntava purple corn has an ORAC value (per 100 grams) of 10,800, where blueberries have 4,669. ORAC scores should not be viewed in seclusion because they are a good indicator of the free-radical busting potential of foods.

The average consumer probably has never heard of purple corn before, like myself. But, shoppers are increasingly becoming more aware of the powerhouse grain source.

Suntava, which initially focused on bringing natural colors from purple corn to market as a replacement for synthetic dye Red 40, has since expanded into purple corn meal, which is used in everything from tortilla chips to snack bars, sourdough, cereals, and cakes.

The important fact that really jumped out to me when I first read about the purple-colored food source, is that its non-GMO. While certain food companies are more interested in the novelty factor of purple snacks, others have really zoned in on the antioxidant message that this food brings to the table.

Suntava Launches Purple Corn to Super Foods Status

USDA ORAC

purple corn suntava

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purple corn

March is Frozen Foods Month!

Frozen Food Month

March a big month in the realm of nutrition and dietetics. It’s not only National Nutrition Month but it’s also Frozen Food Month. Yes, frozen food DOES have its own month believe it or not…

Frozen produce is picked at its peak and flash frozen to maintain all the flavor and nutrients. The Frozen Food Foundation says that frozen fruits and vegetables are equally, and possibly more nutritious than fresh. When you buy fresh produce in the grocery store, it may have been harvested days before and may be past its peak by the time arrives. The produce may also not have been ripe when it was picked and may not be ready when it goes on sale.

Frozen foods keep longer, compared to fresh foods because the freezing process suspends enzyme activity that causes the food to spoil. Depending on the type of food, you can normally store food for several months without losing its quality. You can store it indefinitely if you use free-standing freezers kept at 0 degrees F. This alone can save you hundreds of dollars a year on groceries.

How can you freeze your foods safely?

–        All foods can be safely frozen, but some foods should not be frozen for quality reasons (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, cream etc.)

–        Frozen food stored consistently at -18°C or lower will remain safe indefinitely.

–        Most domestic freezers should operate at temperatures -18°C or lower. As a general rule, if your freezer can’t keep ice cream solid, its temperature is above the recommended level.

–        Always refer to the on-pack ‘best before’ date. The manufacturer’s ‘best before’ date on frozen foods is a quality indicator and is the date until which the product will remain of peak quality (when stored at -18°C or below). For storage in a 3-star or 4-star freezer manufacturers will normally recommend ‘store until best before date’.

–        After the ‘best before’ date a reduction in eating quality may become evident, whilst the product remains safe to eat.

–        Try to rotate foods; putting newly purchased items at the back of the freezer so older items are used first.

–        Freeze your frozen food in appropriate containers, i.e.:  freezer bags and airtight containers.

–        Most foods obey the rule ‘the colder the better’. Domestic freezers have a star rating indicating the temperature they are designed to operate at.

In honor of the month devoted to frozen food, I thought I would share how frozen food can be used as a healthy alternative!

Frozen Berry-Granola Squares

Ingredients:

–        1 c. whole grain granola

–        2 c. fresh strawberries, raspberries or combination

–        3 c. low-fat Greek yogurt

–        1/3 c. agave nectar

–        1 tsp. real vanilla extract

Directions:

–        Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil.

–        Sprinkle granola evenly on bottom of pan and set aside.

–        In a blender, whirl together berries, yogurt, agave nectar and vanilla until blended. Pour berry mixture over granola, smoothing mixture to the edges of the pan. Cover with foil and freeze until firm, approximately 4 hours. Keep frozen until serving.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients:

–        1 lb. strawberries, rinsed and hulled

–        2/3 c. Splenda

–        1 cup skim milk yogurt

–        1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

–        Slice the strawberries into small pieces.

–        Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.

–        Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor.

–        Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

–        Chill for 1 hour, and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

–        Yield: 1 quart

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Happy RD Day!

Happy Registered Dietitian (RD) Day!!

March 13th celebrates Registered Dietitian Day! This celebration occurs every year during National Nutrition Month, which is March. RDs are the public’s go-to healthcare professionals when they need reliable nutrition information, in this field. RDs pull from their experience to create a personalized nutrition plan for people of every age. These are the professionals that are able to separate facts from fads and translate nutritional science into information you, the consumer/client/patient, can use!

Dietitians can improve the health of Americans and save money through healthcare costs. Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) provided by RDs is critical in preventing the top 3 chronic illnesses. It is well documented that MNT is associated with a decrease in utilization of hospital services of 9.5% for patients with diabetes and 8.6% for patients with cardiovascular disease. Also noteworthy is that participation in community-based programs that focused on improving nutrition and increasing physical activity had a 58% decrease in incidence of Type 2 Diabetes.

Registered Dietitians assist to promote a net decrease in healthcare utilization and costs for most people. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that in Idaho, for every $1 spent in wellness programs, companies could save $3.27 in medical costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs. Some interventions have been shown to help improve nutrition and activity habits in just 1 year and had a return of $1.17 for every $1 spent. Reducing the average BMI in the state of Idaho by 5% could lead to health care savings of more than $1 billion in 10 years and $3 billion in 20 years.

Well, unfortunately Wild and Wonderful West Virginia isn’t as lucky as ole Idaho. West Virginia still leads the nation in obesity, and was recently named the state with the highest number of overweight residents in the union. According to the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index released last week, 33.5% of West Virginia’s population is considered obese.

Mississippi is the closest with an obesity rate of 32.2%. Arkansas has a rate of 31.4%, Louisiana is 30.9% and Alabama is listed at 30.4%, to round out the top five.

Residents of the Mountain State believe that a reason for the high obesity rate is the change in physical jobs and increase in availability of fast food. The combination of lack of physical activity and the ready access of fast food and junk food in homes has really contributed to the epidemic. On the flip side of our state, nutrition-related efforts seem to be working as West Virginia is no longer in the top five for childhood obesity!

With the help from schools and communities, West Virginia is increasing physical activity and need for healthier foods. As a unit we are advocating and promoting activity and nutrition. I think it seems to be helping! All thanks to those RDs out there!!!

Job outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nutrition and Dietetics careers are expected to increase much faster (by 20%) than other jobs by 2020 and faster than many other industries within health care. In 2010, the median annual salary for RDs was $53,250, at $23.60 an hour. And the number of jobs available in the nutrition and dietetics field was 64,400.

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Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Fat West Virginia

Nutrition in the Community

RD Day 2013

RD Day

Connecting Undergrads with Grad Students

Undergraduates are Important too

Last Monday, midway through my mini kitchen audit, I attended the WVU Student Dietetic Association meeting.  This on-campus organization consists mainly of WVU undergraduate students in the “Human Nutrition & Foods” or “Bachelor’s in Agriculture with an Emphasis in Nutrition” degrees. I attend these meetings to offer service learning opportunities to the undergraduate students and to keep a “connection” between undergraduates and graduate students. The SDA members usually ask me questions and advice on events, policies, and projects that they are currently working on.

Last week’s meeting entailed:

  • National Nutrition Month ideas and projects
  • Relay For Life
  • Snack boxes to be made by SDA for troops in Afghanistan
  • Valentine’s Day gift bags for the Rosenbaum House
  • School of Pharmacy Dinner at the WV Family Grief Center
  • Happy School programming at the Shack Neighborhood House

 

Nutrition Myth Busters

Nutrition Myth Busters

I stumbled across a clip from Fox News on nutrition myths. The news station put into perspective how consumers seem to be confused about what’s really healthy versus unhealthy.

For a professional opinion, the show brought on Elizabeth Ward, RD to play their version of Myth Busters for all those consumers who thought they were grocery shopping the “right” way. Elizabeth Ward is not only a RD, but also the author of “MyPlate for Moms: How to Feed Yourself and Your Family Better”. So, the host and guest host addressed 4 commonly thought myths from consumers across the country.

Myth 1: All white foods are bad.

  • A common misconception is that consumers should avoid all white and tan colored foods.
  • Consumers focus so much on bright colored fruits and vegetables, and apprehensively shy away from white colored foods.
  • Consumers assume that they should avoid all white carbs because of their bad reputation.
  • The standard is 3 servings/day of whole grains
  • People need to understand that the key to a healthy diet is a balanced diet.
  • There are white foods that consumers do not need to be afraid of! If they’re looking for those phytochemicals that are in all those bright, colorful veggies- there’s no need to stray away.
  • Here are some white colored fruits and veggies to think about: cauliflower, mushrooms, bananas, dates, garlic, ginger, jicama, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, shallots, turnips, and white corn. These foods also include those important phytochemicals that are in brighter colored produce.

Myth 2: All canned fruits and vegetables are bad.

  • Most consumers assume that canned fruits and vegetables are unhealthy. This is not true.
  • Elizabeth reminds viewers that not all canned fruits and vegetables are created equally.
  • Consumers need to look for labels that read:
  1. No added salt
  2. No added sugar, or
  3. Low sodium
  • Canned fruits and vegetables are picked at ripeness. The canning process actually preserves the nutritional value in these foods. And this is especially important in those cold winter months when your favorite produce isn’t in season.
  • The important issue here is READING the LABELS on your canned foods (as mentioned above)
  • Elizabeth Ward also reminds viewers that fruit cups in water or 100% juice is another form of a healthier canned food item.

Myth 3: Eggs are as healthy as cigarettes.

  • This statement was based on an observational study done by scientists. It wasn’t based on a cause and effect study. So, that alone implies biased reasoning.
  • According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, a healthy person can eat 1 egg per day.
  • I think that the uproar about this is the fact that yolk has a bad reputation, concerning cholesterol levels.
  • But, our RD on-hand explains that yolks consist of 90% of an egg’s nutritional value.

Myth 4: You lose weight by only exercising.  

  • A lot of consumers believe that they can eat whatever they want and just workout a little bit longer, and the weight will just shed off of them. This isn’t true either!
  • Studies have shown that shorter exercises and cutting back on calories will result in more weight loss and for the long-run.
  • Harder workouts aren’t acknowledged as longitudinal, compared to shorter, more frequent workouts
  • And of course, cutting back on calories is definitely a major component in weight loss. Ridding unnecessary calories from your typical diet is the key to success.
  • Again, the concept of moderation is stressed here again. Everything that a healthy person does to their body or consumes in their body should be in moderation. Physical exertion and calories included.

http://www.myfoxboston.com/category/233810/fox-25-morning-news