Monthly Archives

May 2017


Our Kids Face More Chronic Illnesses Unless We Change What They Eat at School

One-third to one-half of children born since 2000 will acquire Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma and breast cancer.

If present trends hold, our children will be the first in the nation’s history not to live longer than their parents according to the National Institute of Health and school lunches are contributing to the problem. There are a number of school systems, however, that have successfully changed the way our kids eat.

Schools Lunches: Unwrap-and-Heat High Calories and Low Nutrition

The best description for school lunch food is “fast-food” said pediatrician AyalaLaufer Cahan MD. “Overall, it’s salty, sweet and fatty; the meat is breaded and highly processed – even the fruit and vegetables aren’t fresh for the most part. Most of the schools have no kitchens and just unwrap and heat foods,” she said.

The school meals, however, are not the only problem. There are also the food and beverages sold in the cafeteria or vending machines which make up a big part of what kids actually eat while they’re in school.

Kids spend half their waking hours in school and consume half of their daily calories while on campus. Changing school food is critical in the effort to combat obesity.

Communities Are Finding Ways to Improve School Lunches

From the Food Network Star Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign to Chicago’s Healthy Schools Campaign, there are a number of nation-wide and local efforts to improve how our kids eat.

Cook for America™, founded by Kate Adamick, JD and Chef Andrea Martin, LLC, focuses on training and empowering school food service personnel to provide healthy, cooked-from-scratch school meals through five-day culinary boot camps. Offered nation-wide, they are now running a series of boot camps in Colorado.

“We use a lot of culinary language.We move into knife skills.We give them French terms to understand what they are actually doing.We do basic cooking techniques and put them in chef whites.We had kids walk by the classroom the other day and they said, “Oh, look at all the chefs in the room. So, we start to give them a sense of identity,” said Martin.

They also teach them “stealth health”, i.e. how to hide the vegetables so the kids will eat them; for example, blending vegetables in the spaghetti sauce or adding pureed squash to the macaroni and cheese. “The issue is not that kids won’t eat it.The issue is, the adults think the kids won’t eat it.And it is almost universal that we see the kids really do eat it,” said Adamick.

Ann Cooper, author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, along with Martin, Adamick and Alice Waters, transformed the Berkeley, California school lunch program from “100 percent of the food arriving in plastic, reheated in plastic, and served to the kids in plastic,” to a program that includes:

  • Salad bars in all schools
  • Removal of 95% of the processed foods
  • Hormone- and antibiotic-free milk
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables served daily
  • Most foods made from scratch
  • Organic or whole wheat rolls
  • 50% of rice, brown
  • Majority of food purchased locally
  • Natural and grass fed hamburgers and hotdogs

Needs Parents to Help Make It Happen

On August 4th,Congress passed The Child Nutrition Bill which allocates $4.5 billion over a decade to support school cafeterias and introduce new standards for food sold in schools, including vending machines.

The impact from this, however, will take time, and it’s not enough. Schools can meet the program requirements for school lunches in any way they choose – as long as nutrition satisfies the federal guidelines. The National School Lunch Program is implemented on a national level and administered on a state level. Local school authorities make decisions on the specific foods and meals prepared and served.

Improving school lunch programs will need to be done at the local level and it will take more than just the school cooks to make it happen.

If you want to improve the school lunch program in your district, chances are there is a way. Two good resources for starting are Ann Cooper’s book Lunch Lessons which gives readers the tools to transform the way children everywhere interact with food. Another is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign which outlines steps to success for parents, schools, the community, elected officials, kids, community leaders and chefs.

Cooper says school cafeterias have $2.40 per day to spend on each kid – 70 percent of which goes to payroll and overhead. That leaves 72 cents to spend on ingredients. So it takes more than what most schools have budgeted to improve school lunches but it can be done.

The Berkeley program is a partnership among the Berkeley Unified School District, the Center for Ecoliteracy, and the Chez Panisse Foundation. Colorado schools are receiving support from several foundations and federal stimulus funds. Chicago’s program is supported by Applegate Farms. So there is support out there.

“I feel very empowered,” said school cook Shannon Soloman, a Cook for America™ boot camp graduate and mother of five who just lost 100 pounds. “I want to bring my education to the kids.That is where my heart, that’s where my passion is.Five-star restaurants are great and I love the chef learning I had right now but impacting the lives of our children and bringing that to our school district, it’s the most important thing to me right now in my life.”


Choosing a College – Five Questions You Thought Were Too Dumb To Ask

Choosing a college is one of the first steps to take in college planning. Some students choose colleges impulsively and for the wrong reasons. Others put some real time and effort into the college search to make sure they have chosen schools with a good fit.

Many times parents and students have questions and they don’t know where to turn for answers. Sometimes they think their questions are too dumb to ask. Here are 5 recent questions I have been asked about choosing a college.

1. How do we begin the process? I think it is important for students to do some self-reflection and consider what it is that they want in a college experience. They should write down the answers so that they have some criteria to go on. What locations are preferable and is there a size range that seems comfortable? Do you need a city nearby or is a small town more appealing? Are there activities you want to pursue and how available are they? How much academic challenge do you want?

2. Do we need to know what our child wants to major in before we start our college search? With few exceptions, students do not need to know what they want to pursue as a major. Choosing a college that offers a wide variety of majors will give students a chance to explore many different options. Many students do not declare a major until the second semester of their sophomore year. If I have a student who expresses an interest in engineering, obviously I want them to look at schools that offer an engineering program.

3. What if we don’t know about many schools? You need to find a place to start. For a while, some of your research might be hit and miss. There are websites that provide a list of schools based on criteria that your student checks off. Some of these schools may be appropriate and some may not. You can visit different college websites and get a feel for what is important to the school. There are some good books at the library that can also help you begin choosing a college. High school counselors and educational consultants can also assist with putting together an initial list.

4. Are public colleges and universities better than private schools? Some students prefer a large public university because they want to go to school with a lot of people. They don’t object to large lecture classes and they like the idea of being anonymous in a big school. Sometimes they are also less expensive. Other students want a smaller college with more discussion classes, getting to know their professors and having more opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities. Some private schools are more expensive, but they can also be very generous with their financial aid and scholarships.

5. How many schools should our teenager consider? I usually suggest that students keep an open mind when choosing a college. Sometimes teens change their minds from the initial college search to the time they begin the college application process. With college admissions as unpredictable as it is, I think students should apply to at least 5-7 schools.


Ten Things to Consider About Your Career Decision

In a competitive environment, career decisions are often considered as one of the most important decisions. However, we know that not everyone’s career is smooth sailing. In fact, most of us go through stages of growth, challenges, turbulence, and discovery before we finally arrive at the right destination. Often this process is long and painful, and through this ardous process, we may have missed several boats on the way to success!

A few things that are useful to consider at cross roads in our career decisions:

What’s your passion?

Things such as your hobbies, interests, things that you enjoy doing, or things that you like, can be potential clues showing where your passion lies. Activities that you enjoy and that give you a certain sense of satisfaction and accomplishments are usually good indicators for your career direction.

What do you value as a reward?

Reward system is an important aspect while deciding a career, and different people usually value reward differently. Start by asking yourself what is reward to you? Money, prestige, recognition, life style, health, fame are all rewards.

Be pragmatic and realistic

Nothing beats old fashioned pragmatism and realism. When deciding which career path to choose, you need to make sure that it is pragmatic and realistic. There is no point in getting a job that you enjoy but in which you are unable to sustain a livelihood. Ultimately, a career or a job is a way to sustain a living; as such, realistic and pragmatic factors such as (1) supply and demand for a profession, (2) monetary compensation, and (3) your expected standard of living must also be considered.

Find out your strengths and weakness.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will give you insights about what resources you have and which areas in your live you need to improve on. In addition, this information will help you identify which career is suitable for you, and whether you have the qualities that are required for the job.

Know your personality.

Personality plays a huge role in an individual’s career success. Having expert technical skills does get you the job. However, if a person wants to excel in his/her career, personality matters. It will determine how well you get along with your bosses, colleagues, clients, and other relevant people.

Emotional Intelligence.

As with personality type, having a healthy level of emotional intelligence is a must for good career progression. Working well in teams and having good relationships with your colleagues are as important as having good technical skills. Not everyone is born with good emotional intelligence. However, the good news is, emotional intelligence can be learned and developed. So those who know that they are low on emotional intelligence, fret not, because you can change things around by seeking the right help.

Take a psychological test.

Psychological testing for personality type, emotional intelligence, career profiling, competencies, and aptitudes are often overlooked. However, these tests can give you valuable insights on otherwise undisclosed/undiscovered area in your life and personality. These are useful tools that can help you save time and opportunity cost while attempting to decide on a career choice.

Do some research on possible careers and their characteristics.

Knowing yourself is a start. Now you need to find out what the jobs that you have in mind are like. Online research for career description can be helpful in giving you an idea of what the characteristics of the job are.

Talk to professionals in the field.

Opinions and advice from professionals who are already in the field is a great way to get information about a specific career. An understanding the nature of the job, and insights on the expectations for a specific job constitute valuable knowledge to have while assessing your potential career choices. Career fairs and job internships are great way to start getting industry related information and experience.

Get career advice

The quickest way to address career concerns is to get help. Like any therapist or consultant, career advisors can help you gain insights about your strengths, weaknesses, personality, and make recommendations on a career that you will find rewarding.