Competition Spurs Healthy School Lunches

A Top Student Chef Competition in Baltimore has been the perfect way for students to make their own addition to the school lunch menu. They can add items healthier than the normal pizza and burgers served up on the daily grill. A recent item added to the Centennial High School’s menu is the Chicken Wrap, served up with corn salsa on a whole wheat tortilla. It incorporates the right portions of proteins, carbohydrates, and vegetables with more flavor and nutrients than the usual tacos on Tuesdays.

The competition has been going on for a few months now, with a Buffalo Chicken Wrap and Chicken Quesadilla already added to the menu. The menu items must be easy enough for the servers to make during the quick lunches at high school, as well as go through a nutritional analysis.

I remember going through the cafeteria line, dreading what would be on the menu that day. Would it be cardboard pizza, half soy-half beef burgers, or some lame macaroni and glue (what we used to call it)? I would end up eating the fruit cup and side of veggies, drinking my milk or juice and throwing the main course away. I am sure the high school students are relieved to see something on the menu that not only looks good, but tastes good and is healthy for them too. Instead of worrying about packing a lunch and trading crackers for cookies, the students can be relieved to see a fresh sandwich or wrap served up with some fresh fruit and salsa on the side.

Across the country, another change in school lunches can be seen in California. LA Unified School District has released news that they are cutting strawberry and chocolate milk off the menu. This leads to some hope that school lunches will soon be more nutrient dense and flavorful for the students. Many big guys, like the US Departement of Agriculture, reimburse schools for using flavored milks. Over 60% of milks consumed at schools are flavored. This worries the dairy industry that they won’t be making as much money if flavored milks are taken out. Kids may not choose to drink milk at all if their usual choice is not on the menu. Will they boycott milk altogether or get used to the idea that they shouldn’t be drinking that much sugar with their meal? Schools need to educate the students about why they are taking the milk off the menu, and how it will benefit them in the immediate and long term future.

Childhood obesity is a huge problem right now in the United States. Revamping the school lunch menus and removing the junk is necessary to help the children build a healthier, disease free, future. Jamie Oliver sparked the idea of removing the flavored milks, and has made an impact on the superintendent John Deasey. The next steps to take are to remove the chicken nuggets and other processed foods and use fresh, natural replacements. The problem is that schools are only funded about 77 cents per meal, per child. This will not be able to cover fresh produce, let alone boiled or baked chicken as the protein. The real issue comes down to politics,which hopefully will be changed in the near future. If Michelle Obama can supposedly release a new food pyramid (plate) then I am sure she can make a difference in the amount schools are funded per meal. The Choose My Plate program debuted a few weeks ago, and will hopefully be featured in classroom presentations about nutrition.
Children are the future. One in three children in the LA Unified School District are overweight or obese. Removing sugary and processed foods from the menus, and replacing the amount of sugar served with the same amount of fiber will make a tiny dent in the obesity epidemic. It is just a start to the entire process of remaking the school lunch menus to create a healthier next generation.

Competitions like the one in Baltimore should be a country wide program to ensure that students are eating what they choose, and that their choice is flavored and healthy. But again, it comes down to money. Someone in power needs to make the decision to allot more dollars to the meals, and future, of the children in this country.

Photo credit:flickr.com/photos/wlscience/4569761556/

Google Finds A Greener Way to Pay

Google has released a greener way to pay with an application called Google Wallet. Currently they have teamed up with MasterCard to use the touch and pay system that many credit cards already employ. The new phones contain a chip that transfers the credit card information with a single tap of the phone, as if ringing it up.

All different kinds of cards can be entered into the application, including debit, credit, gift, and loyalty. Security is the main concern when entering the credit card information on the phones, but it is just as safe as if one were shopping online. Google keeps customer information privately encrypted and is one of the largest trusted companies.

The reduction of making plastic credit cards is a greener way to pay. Instead of having 10 pieces of plastic in each wallet, one cell phone will be used. People already use their cell phones for managing their bank accounts, such as depositing checks by picture and checking their balance. Now a withdrawal will be added to the list. Digging through a wallet for the right store card or credit card will become a thing of the past. People will only have to take their cell phone from their pocket and swipe it by the teller.The decrease of any plastic production is better for the earth. Plastic lasts centuries in the soil and does not need to be produced anymore than it is. Paper money is another issue as it is reprinted, recycled, and tarnished daily. With this new Google App, the world will be saving soil for sustainable practices. The air will be a tad bit cleaner from the alleviation of credit card production. Surely not everyone has a smart phone today, and will be buying in on this new trend, but it is something to look forward to.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/squeakymarmot/2058416935/sizes/s/in/photostream/

Kids Take A Green Stance to Better the Future

The green movement has recently been invited into the minds of the youth through an increased emphasis on environmental education in schools. Some schools have been having fun at eco-carnivals while others are marching for a greener planet. The latest event was the Green Your School Challenge that asked kids to come up with creative initiatives focused on school food, climate change, energy conservation, and recycling. Ten schools were selected and rewarded as the “Top 10 Green Schools.”

These new programs are more than just teaching what the three R’s mean: reduce, reuse, and recycle. They are teaching children that they are the future and a vital part of the green movement to create a cleaner environment. Some schools are part of programs like the “Recycling Spies” who reward children who are seen recycling, while other schools hold assemblies to teach how to fight the climate change. There are now classes to point out how and why animals are going extinct, and the controversial issues that surround these reasons.
Several events have happened this month and will continue to occur. One student has been reported for suing the state of Colorado for ruining his environment and failing to protect the climate. A group called iMatter organized a youth march that included over 25 countries. Children marched through their towns with signs that said things like, “I hang” with a picture of clothes hanging out on a line. Another sign displayed the words, “I power” with a windmill attached. Children are uniting worldwide to create a cleaner, greener, environment. Kids are taking a stance and reducing the pounds of greenhouse gases by the millions. They are the future and are taking a hold of it into their tiny, but powerful, hands.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/wwworks/440672445/sizes/s/in/photostream/

Sea Lions Killed for Eating Salmon Endangers Environment

The Federal government has just passed a law allowing anglers in Washington and Oregon to kill sea lions because they are eating spring salmon at the Bonneville Dam. These fish travel to Columbia each year after spawning a new generation. Near 25% of the salmon that travel are enlisted in the Endangered Species Act, which gives a reason to protect them. The National and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service admits that this is a drastic measure to take and limit the amount of sea lions killed to 85 per year.
According to animal scientists, this account for getting rid of the sea lions is not justified. Sea lions and salmon have had a natural relationship for hundreds of years. Anglers are the reason for a high percentage of the salmon not making it to Columbia, while sea lions will deplete less than 3%. Farm hatcheries and migrating juveniles are the main reasons they have made it to the endangered list.
Farm hatcheries are an unnatural way to produce large amounts of fish for human consumption. They are altering the environment to reduce the need for fishing in the wild, but are actually doing the opposite. These farms build dams and pollute the waters, depleting the natural sources of fish. The construction of concrete dams and water pollution are endangering migrating salmon and the environment in Oregon and Washington. Killing sea lions is not going to fix the problem, it is just going to create a new one: dead sea lions on the banks of the rivers.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/yeomans/81133170, flickr.com/photos/mdove64/3034018646

Deadliest Tornadoes Since 1950 Terrorize Southern States

An astronomical wave of tornadoes have hit the southern states of the U.S., tearing through multiple towns and lives. More than 310 people have been reported dead in the six affected states. Cadaver dogs are searching for the missing population amongst the rubble of houses and buildings.

 

Over one million people are left without power, functioning gas stations, or food supplies. Roads are impassable leaving victims hard to reach. Citizens are being encouraged to boil their tap water for safe use. All traces of life have been destroyed in several entire blocks of cities. From a bird’s eye view, this region has been scarred into disfigurement.

 

President Obama is visiting the storm’s epicenter today. He visited the wrecked University of Tuscaloosa in Alabama, to shine a spotlight on the severity of the suffering of these families. Obama told local mayors that he will be there to help, signing a storm declaration to allow affected citizens and businesses to ask for federal financial assistance. Money, food, and water will soon be transported to the victims surviving this aftermath. Some relief will be bestowed upon families, but not nearly enough to give emotions a rest.

 

It will costs millions of dollars for the recuperation of this disaster, placing the recovery of the recession on the back-burner. People will be left trying to piece their lives together for years to come.

 

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/tabithahawk/5667284669/sizes/s/in/photostream/

Energy Crisis Hits Obama and the Nation Hard

gasoline prices high rising crisis energy President Obama’s ratings are going down due to high gas prices, but this is not a new phenomenon. According to history, presidential approval ratings always drop as gas prices rise. This will be a setback for Obama, as he gears up for the race for a second term. At near $4 dollars a gallon average, and many locations already well over that mark, Obama’s approval ratings have reached his all time low of 41 percent.

While the turmoil in the Middle East has affected Americans at the pump, this is not the sole reason for the price spike. Gas prices do not always coincide with the price of oil, and it can take up to two weeks for them to be affected. The US dollar is currently weak and this makes it more difficult for America to buy what it requires, like crude oil. All nations have increasing demands for gasoline, and the US dollar is weaker in comparison.

As gas prices continue to rise as the summer driving season approaches, something must be done to save money. Car manufacturers are aware of the crisis and are cranking out more green cars daily. The new Volkswagon Bug gets 40mpg on the highway, similar to these top six fuel-efficient cars. Besides saving money on gas, people must cut corners in other areas to be able to travel. Using less electricity by turning off lights and appliances, riding a bike or walking to local locations, and carpooling are just a few good tips to deal with the energy crisis. On the bright side, almost all of these activities are more environmentally friendly than driving.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/rihara/5610631604/

Drug Resistent Staph Bacteria Found in Half of all US Meats

About 94 percent of Americans slice, cook, and eat meat daily. Recently, Translational Genomics Research Institute did a test in five large cities across the United States, testing chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. They found that 47 percent of meats tested contained staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria is a common cause of infections from skin rashes to life-threatening diseases like pneumonia.

The bacteria has always been in meat, but its resistance to antibiotics is rapidly growing.The bacteria has been found to be resistant to penicillin, tetracycline, and other antibiotics commonly prescribed to heal infections. Farmers give antibiotics to the livestock to make them grow big fast and to prevent them from becoming sick from the surrounding bacteria. This can be particularly dangerous because doctors will have to find new ways to cure infections caused by Staph.

The quality of meat found in grocery stores can have a major disadvantage to local farms due to the close quarters of the livestock. Bacterial risks skyrocket because of the daily dose of antibiotics, bacteria, and added warmth of the living situations.

The Food and Drug administration regularly checks for salmonella and other bacterias, but Staphylococcus aureus may be added to the list after this recent discovery. Consumers should pay special attention to expiration dates, handling, and cooking of raw meat. Most Staph can be killed by cooking meat at appropriate temperatures, but mishandling it is what can spread the bacteria. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has suggestions and information to avoid contamination of Staph.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/andreasivarsson/4901550691/

Microbes Found to Melt Plastic in Ocean

Can a new found bacteria save us from our plastic carelessness? The 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii may have found an answer. They recently discussed the discovery of a bacteria in the Sargasso Sea that seems to be melting away our plastic pollution. Scientist Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Massachusetts found a bacteria in microscopic views of a plastic bag, some fishing line, and a plastic pellet. He viewed a bacteria called vibrios, which is related to food borne illnesses, such as food poisoning from raw seafood. Eukaryote were found in the plastic reefs, as well. They are more complicated than bacteria, and may be creating a whole new community unknown to humans.

It appears as if the microbes are burning through the plastic, but cannot be seen if they are eating or digesting it back into the environment. This is the first time that microbes have been found to break down plastics in the ocean but not the first time ever. As of January 2009, a 16-year old boy named Daniel Burd created a tweaked yeast solution that broke down plastics that can be found in landfills. The results of his scientific research project did not conclude if the byproducts were carcinogenic or not, and neither did Tracy Mincers findings.

It would be an amazing find if the microbes are disintegrating our plastic pollution without carcinogenic results, but a detrimental one if they are giving it back to our marine life as a more harmful toxin. So we must wonder, are these plastic melting microbes helping or destroying our environment?