Articles and Information from GA Foods

Back-to-School Nutrition Tips for Families!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 24, 2016 11:00:00 AM

back_to_school_LR.pngAs children head back to school, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to celebrate Kids Eat Right Month by ensuring children are properly fueled to grow and succeed.

"The start of the new school year coincides with Kids Eat Right Month providing the perfect opportunity to revamp your families' eating habits," says registered dietitian, nutritionist, and Academy spokesperson, Caroline Passerrello. 

Here are some tips for developing healthy habits in your children:

Shop Smart

Get your children involved in planning and shopping for your meals. Make sure the planned meals have a variety of foods and include protein, vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy. At the store, encourage your children to pick out one or two new foods to try. Also, use this time to teach them about reading nutrition labels. 

Cook Healthy

Involve your children in food preparation. Let them cut and mix ingredients. Kids are more likely to try new foods if they help prepare them. This is also a good time to teach them about food safety practices such as washing hands before preparing food. For more tips about cooking with kids, check out this video.

Eat Right

School_Lunch_LR.pngEncourage your child to participate in school meals, such as breakfast and lunch. School meals now have strict nutrition standards that most lunches brought from home do not meet. A study done by Tufts University found that only 27% of the packed lunches met 3 out of the 5 nutrition standards for school meals. 

At the end of the day, sit down for a family dinner. Enjoy a healthy meal and share the day's experiences with one another. Research indicates that families who eat together have a stronger bond, and their children have higher self-confidence, and perform better in school.

 

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Topics: Child Nutrition

The FOUR Things ALL Food Service Staff Need to Know!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 18, 2016 2:34:39 PM

The most important component of food safety is employee training. Though some foodborne illnesses can be traced to specific suppliers, the manner in which food is handled is usually the culprit. 

Investing in training procedures that educate food handlers about the proper way to prepare food is of the utmost importance. Something as simple as an unwashed hand or a seemingly innocent sneeze really can compromise the integrity of a food product. Too many food service providers make the critical mistake of assuming that food handlers understand the nuances of proper personal hygiene. Some employees mistakenly believe that their personal hygiene is up to par when, in reality, it does not meet the standards of their employer.

Hand_Washing.png1. Proper Hand Washing

Every food service worker should be thoroughly trained in regard to how to clean his hands. Simply running warm water over one’s hands with a dab of soap will not provide a comprehensive clean that guarantees food safety. Rather, employees must be shown how to properly wash their hands. They should have the opportunity to view an in-person demonstration as to how hands must be cleaned before work starts, before returning from break/lunch and after using the restroom. To the surprise of many, a thorough hand-cleaning requires the use of hot water and anti-bacterial soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Employees should be taught to perform a mental countdown during this hand-washing period to ensure their hands are thoroughly cleaned. Even the lower portion of the wrists should be cleaned as this area often comes into contact with food, dishes and utensils.

2. Correct Food Handling

It is imperative that food service providers train their staff to handle food in the proper manner. Every food service worker should use gloves unless gloves preclude the proper preparation of the food. The unfortunate truth is that few food service workers use food prep gloves as they should. Plenty of food service workers will touch food with their bare hands, assuming that a hand-washing performed hours ago will prevent the transmission of harmful bacteria and other particles that can cause illness. Food service managers should explain that touching knife handles, cutting boards, pots, pans, trays and other kitchen items can result in tainted food. Each of these kitchen items has the potential to harbor germs and viruses. Merely touching a pan’s handle with one’s hand and then using that hand to prepare food can spread germs to a diner’s meal. Employees must also be trained to discard their gloves after they have come into contact with other potentially germ-laden surfaces. Keep a fresh supply of food prep gloves on-hand at all times so food service workers do not hesitate to scrap their used gloves for a new pair that is guaranteed to be germ-free. Though a steady supply of food prep gloves will certainly add to overhead expenses, their aggregate cost is minimal compared to the risk of sickening a patron and the financial impact of an outbreak of food poisoning.

3. Avoiding Cross-Contamination

Proper food handling procedures extend beyond washing one’s hands and using food prep gloves. Employees must be extensively trained regarding cross-contamination prevention tactics. If possible, use color-coded cutting boards for different ingredients.  For example, green for produce and red for raw meat.  If budget doesn’t allow for designated cutting boards, food handlers should be taught to clean cutting boards and other food preparation surfaces after cutting raw meat, fish and poultry. These surfaces should be cleaned with hot, soapy water and sanitized with at least one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach (or similar sanitizer) mixed with a gallon of water. 

Utensils used to prepare these foods should be cleaned with hot water and an anti-bacterial dish liquid before being returned to the food preparation area. If these food prep items are not thoroughly cleaned, they could carry harmful bacteria from the meat, poultry or fish and transmit it to the next item that is sliced on the surface or prepared with previously used utensils. Furthermore, it is imperative that food service managers train their staff to keep marinated poultry and meat in a covered dish at all times. This way, potentially harmful airborne particles will not be able to reach the food as it soaks up the marinade’s flavors in the ensuing hours.

thermometer_food_storage.jpg4. Storing Food and Temperature Management

When it comes to food storage, a surprising number of food service managers errantly assume their staff understands the basics. It is widely assumed that food service workers know the ins and outs of proper food storage simply because they have experience in the industry. In reality, most food service workers have drastically different ideas as to what qualifies as the proper way to store food. This is precisely why every employee should be extensively educated regarding the appropriate temperature for food storage and cooking.

If the temperature in the kitchen/food prep space is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perishable food should be refrigerated within an hour or less. Otherwise, the widely accepted food safety standard for perishable food is to properly store in the refrigerator within two hours or less. Merely tossing perishable food like poultry and meat into the refrigerator/freezer will not suffice. These sensitive items should be tightly wrapped in a secure manner to preserve their quality. A thorough wrapping will also guard against meat juices from leaking out and tainting other food.

Food service workers should also be taught to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the on-site refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis. The refrigerator should always be at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less at all times. The freezer should be kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit or less. Though many food service employees will let fresh fish, poultry and ground meats sit in their home refrigerator/freezer for several days, there is a different standard when it comes to serving the public. Such food should be either cooked or frozen within two days. Pork, lamb, veal and beef should be cooked or frozen in five days or less.

For more training resources, download our free food safety training modules!

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Topics: Food Safety

How to Prevent Roaches and Other Pests in Your Dining Facility

Posted by Lou Hurd, Plant Manager on Jul 27, 2016 11:00:00 AM

With so many people relying on your facility for their daily nutrient needs, any evidence of pests can be devastating. Implementing sanitation procedures and creating an unfriendly environment for pests such as roaches, can help you keep things running smoothly and your clients fed.

Create a Hostile Environment for Pests through Sanitation

Pests are attracted to kitchen environments for many of the same reasons as humans. They are warm, they have wonderful smells coming from them and there is a supply of food. While common sense dictates carefully cleaning your kitchen to keep pests away, it goes beyond a general cleaning to create a hostile environment for pests. In food service, sanitation is key to creating a hostile environment for pests, and there are several steps involved in the process.

1. Seal all possible points of entry into your buildingcaulking.jpg

While it may not curb all roaches or some other types of pests from coming into your kitchen since they often find entry through shipments being received, you can significantly reduce the chance of pest infestation by sealing up any outside points. Look for even the smallest of openings around pipes, gas lines or vent ducts since pests and rodents can fit into very small spaces. A fully-grown rat can squeeze itself through a 1-inch opening, so if the opening is too large to seal with caulking, cover it with a screen.

Despite the heat that may collect in a dining facility, it is necessary to keep exterior doors closed to prevent entry. While receiving shipments and outgoing items may require frequent opening of doors, be sure your doors are closed immediately and are not blocked open for any length of time.

2. Outdoor cleanliness matters

Always keep the area outside of your facility free of trash and make sure any garbage containers are emptied regularly. Pests are attracted by organic matter breaking down, so the cleaner you can keep your disposal area, the better.

3. Practice good housekeepingsanitizing.png

Encourage your staff and volunteers to clean up spills immediately and to always thoroughly sanitize equipment after each use. When you consider the size of most pests, it does not take much for them to find a reliable source of food in your kitchen. Pay special attention to areas such as the space around mixers (where flour dust may go unnoticed) and meat grinders (make sure small particles of meat do not remain around the unit). Other areas of particular concern include drains, where organic matter can collect, and trash containers that need frequent emptying and cleaning.

4. Food must be adequately stored

The easier it is for pests and rodents to access food, the more likely you will be to face a problem with them. Whenever possible, use airtight containers to store dry goods and never leave bags of flour, oats or other grains open. Teach employees to put away items quickly when they are finished with them so the possibility of infestation is greatly reduced. Working clean helps make general housekeeping and sanitation efforts less taxing.

5. Limit the areas of food consumption and storage

If you have locker space for employees, they should be cleaned regularly, and food storage, other than the day's lunch or dinner, should not be allowed. Define an area for employees to eat, be it a break room or one area of your facility, and encourage them to keep it clean. These areas should be regularly given a thorough cleaning and included in your sanitation program so pests are deterred from finding a food source this way.

6. Select your pest control company carefully

Eradicating pests through pesticide use should be your last defense since it often results in product loss and downtime for your facility. Many pest management companies offer preventative services designed to be effective within food handling guidelines and can reinforce your sanitation efforts. Pest control should be considered a complement to your sanitation program rather than your sole protection.

Creating a hostile environment for pests and rodents is critical to your dining facility's success. With you and your employees working together to eliminate a food supply or comfortable habitation, you can prevent roaches, pests and rodents from putting your clients and your facility at risk.

GA Foods' goal is to become the industry gold standard in food safety and facility sanitation. We also want to help other dining sites and facilities excel in food safety practices. We have created a FREE self-audit checklist to help prepare your site for health inspections and ensure your team is following HACCP standards.

Download Free Health Inspection Self-Audit

 

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Topics: Food Safety

Everything you NEVER Wanted to Know about Roach and Other Pest Infestations

Posted by Frank Curto, Phd on Jul 20, 2016 11:00:00 AM

cockroach.jpgRoaches and other pests are, of course, a major concern for dining facilities – and the food industry as a whole. Aside from the basic “yuck factor”, which can certainly impact your customer base, these pests can be a serious health hazard to both workers and customers and can damage your bottom line via the destruction/contamination of products.

For these reasons, pest management is an integral part of day-to-day operations, and a good management plan depends heavily on knowing as much as possible about the issues you are working to prevent or resolve. To that end, here is everything you never wanted to know about roach and other common pest infestations.

About Roaches

Roaches – or cockroaches – are one of the most common pests to infest food service operations, and these pests have some very unpleasant characteristics. Among the most important of these is the fact that many have been shown to carry as many as 50 disease-causing microorganisms, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), including those at the root of diseases like salmonella, cholera, typhoid and dysentery, among others.

As these pests invade stored foods or scuttle across surfaces, dishes and utensils, they can leave these pathogens behind, spreading these illnesses to your customers and workers. Roaches are also the source of allergens that can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive people and respiratory symptoms in asthma sufferers.

All roaches are nocturnal insects. Some types live primarily outdoors, making nighttime raids on food service facilities, while others move right in, hiding during the day and foraging at night. All reproduce at a rapid rate, with females producing up to 40 eggs per month.

Since roaches typically make themselves scarce when people are about, they can be difficult to detect – especially during the early stages of infestation. Signs to watch for include roach droppings – which typically look like bits of pepper – around likely hiding places. These may include cracks, crevices, under shelf liners, beneath or behind appliances, in storage areas, around garbage or in basements and/or drainage areas. Additionally, inspecting the facility after dark – walking into a dark, quiet area and switching the lights on – can reveal roach activity that might otherwise go undetected.

Rodent Invasions

Mice and rat infestations are another very common problem in dining facilities. These pests can present serious health hazards – carrying and spreading diseases that include salmonella hantavirus, tularemia, plague and typhus. They can be extremely destructive as well, invading and contaminating food supplies, and gnawing away at walls, electrical wires and much more as they make themselves at home in your facility.

Telltale signs of rodent infestations include a musty smell, brown droppings shaped like grains of rice and signs of gnawing on food packaging, trash bins and/or other items. Often, inspections done at night with a flashlight can catch these pests in action.

Flies

These flying insects – most commonly houseflies and/or fruit flies – are another pest that commonly plagues food service facilities. These creatures also have the potential to spread disease, often carrying a range of pathogens – as many as 100, according to Food Safety Magazine – that can cause diseases that include typhoid, cholera, salmonella, dysentery, and parasitic worms. These insects breed in areas that contain moist organic materials – food scraps, for example – such as garbage bins, drains or the floors in food preparation areas.

Efficient Facility Sanitation Procedures: Your First Line Of Defense Against Insect and Rodent Infestations

These pests invade dining facilities because they provide reliable sources of food and water. Integrated pest management can make these facilities less attractive to pests. Efficient sanitation procedures are an integral part of any good pest management plan – helping to prevent new infestations or resolve existing ones.

Sanitation measures that are key to preventing or resolving these issues include keeping foods in airtight containers and storing them at least 5 to 7 inches above the floor, keeping floors and surfaces free of food debris, thoroughly cleaning areas that collect organic waste – floors, floor drains and garbage bins, for instance – at least twice weekly, removing food cartons immediately after unpacking.

Leaving a clear space along walls – inside your facility and outdoors – can help discourage rodents, as can keeping clutter – handy for nesting – at a minimum throughout your facility. Inspecting for roach droppings regularly and removing any that are found is also important, since these are an important food source for newly hatched insects.

A good pest control specialist can advise you on other measures to take to discourage pests, such as sealing entry points, controlling moisture, baits, traps, poisons and effective inspection techniques. However, good sanitation is considered by many such experts as the single most effective means of pest control.

GA Foods' goal is to become the industry gold standard in food safety and facility sanitation. We also want to help other dining sites and facilities excel in food safety practices. For more information on pest management in food service, download our tip sheet:

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Best Practices in Food Safety

Posted by Paula Ardilla, QA/HACCP Coordinator on Jul 13, 2016 11:00:00 AM

When it comes to food preparation, one can never be too safe. As evidenced by Chipotle's norovirus outbreak, foodborne illness has the potential to harm consumers and devastate a business's bottom line. The manner in which food is handled during the preparation process plays a significant part in determining its on-the-plate integrity. Sure, some of the blame for foodborne illnesses can be cast upon food suppliers that fail to grow, cleanse, store and deliver ingredients in the proper manner. Yet the main onus of food safety is on those who actually handle the food immediately before it is served.

Common Food Safety Stumbling Blockstemp_taking.jpg

Harmful bacteria can't be seen, tasted or smelled. This is precisely why food safety is such a daunting challenge. A food handler could prepare an absolutely gorgeous meal with diverse colors and tasty ingredients, serve it at the perfect temperature and unknowingly sicken diners. Even the slightest mistake in food preparation has the potential to result in mass illness.

In some instances, the ingredients are tainted with E. Coli or Salmonella from the get-go. In other instances, the food handler makes an error in the cold holding of temperature control for food safety. Some over-sanitize their food preparation space, unintentionally poisoning entree ingredients. Or, maybe food workers show up to their shift with unwashed hands or an illness and spread bacteria to a side dish/main course. A myriad of other food safety stumbling blocks regularly rear their ugly heads, from pest activity to cross-contamination and the use of expired ingredients.

The Four Main Steps of Food Safety

The Food Safe Families campaign has garnered significant attention for its food handling advice. The four steps of the campaign are as follows:

  1. Clean: Food handlers should always wash their hands before touching food. They should also wash their hands when returning from break and lunch. Furthermore, food preparation workers should thoroughly clean their hands after using the restroom. Merely running warm water over the fingers will not suffice. Rather, an extensive washing with hot water and anti-bacterial soap for at least 20 seconds is necessary.
  2. Separate: Food prep workers should be hyper-conscious of the possibility for cross-contamination. Cross-contamination can occur in a physical, chemical or biological manner. As an example, food handlers should take great care to avoid preparing something like a salad on a surface upon which raw meat was chopped.
  3. Cook: It is imperative that food handlers remain cognizant of the temperature at which each dish should be cooked. If meat, poultry and fish are not cooked at the proper temperature, the raw or under-cooked flesh could sicken diners. It is prudent to place cooking temperature “cheat sheets” in areas of the kitchen where meals are cooked.
  4. Chill: Food should not be left on the counter or other room-temperature areas to sit for extended periods of time. When in doubt, refrigerate food in a prompt manner. This way, there won't be an opportunity for bacteria to accumulate and possibly sicken those who consume the food at a later date.

Perishable food should be refrigerated within two hours, regardless of the circumstances. If the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perishable items should be refrigerated within the hour or less. Unfortunately, many restaurants, eateries and other food service providers fail to check the temperature of their refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis. Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that the refrigerator is at a maximum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should be kept at a maximum of zero degrees Fahrenheit. For more information on the steps to safe food, check out this blog article.

Food That Lacks an Expiration Date

If you were to poll food service workers regarding the expiration date for fresh food, you would receive an array of different answers. Most people think that fresh poultry, ground meats and fish can last for days. The truth is that these foods should be either cooked or frozen within two days after purchase. When it comes to veal, pork and lamb, the cook/freeze window stretches to a mere 3-5 days.

Freezing food is necessary to preserve its integrity beyond its initial freshness date. When in doubt, throw it out. Customer illness due to improper storage and general food worker negligence has the potential to harm the bottom line and even lead to crippling lawsuits.

Additional Food Preparation Tips

hand_washing.jpgThough most food service workers understand the importance of washing their hands, many forget to perform a thorough cleanse after handling food. It might seem a bit egregious to wash one's hands after handling each unique ingredient yet such a food safety tactic is vitally important to prevent the spread of bacteria and other harmful particles. Furthermore, the cutting boards, counter tops and utensils used to prepare food should be regularly sanitized with liquid chlorine bleach and water.

GA Foods is creating a culture of food safety. Our goal is to become the industry gold standard in food safety and facility sanitation. We also want to help other dining sites and facilities excel in food safety practices. We have created FREE food safety training modules for your staff. Click below to download.

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Topics: Food Safety

This 4th of July, Give Thanks

Posted by Lianna Lashley on Jun 28, 2016 1:31:42 PM

Declaration_of_Independence.jpg

For many, the 4th of July is an opportunity to gather with family and friends, light up the barbeque and blast off dazzling fireworks displays.  However, Independence Day is also a time to pause and reflect on the freedoms and liberties we enjoy here in America, and to offer our thanks to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have answered the call to serve this country.  

Let freedom ring! 

This weekend, while celebrating at your local parade, barbeque or fireworks display, take a moment to ponder what these things signify.  While we're enjoying the colors and booms of fireworks lighting up the sky, our enlisted servicemen and women are actually experiencing "bombs bursting in air".  While watching the local 4th of July parade with family, remind your loved ones that the very freedoms we are celebrating are still being fought for by our friends and neighbors. And while enjoying that mouth-watering barbeque and slice of Americana (a.k.a. apple pie), remember those brave men and women who aren't able to observe this holiday with loved ones, because they're fighting to preserve our way of life.

How you can give back...

Showing your gratitude to our servicemen and women can be as simple as saying "thank you for your service" or sending a thank you card. It doesn't matter how big or small the gesture, showing your genuine appreciation for the sacrifices made by members of our Armed Forces can deeply resonate. However, if you'd like to get more involved, there are a number of non-profit organizations whose mission is to aid our Armed Forces stationed overseas and our veterans faced with transitioning back to civilian life. Here are just a few...

  • A Million Thanks allows individuals to grant wishes for our troops.  Wishes can range from needing money to repair the family car, to taking a spouse on a long, overdue honeymoon when reunited.  You can also fund a scholar through the Million Thanks Education fund, which provides tuition assistance to children of our country's fallen heroes.

  • Operation Shoebox is an organization based in Florida that sends care packages and letters of encouragement to our troops.  A small bag of coffee, toiletries, or even sports gear can be the reminder of home that our troops need to boost morale while stationed overseas. 

  • Have a passion for knitting or crocheting? Operation Gratitude sends handmade scarves and hats to troops during winter. Knitting not your thing? Through Operation Gratitude, you can put together care packages and write letters for our troops too!

From the Revolutionary War to those stationed overseas today, the sacrifices of the men and women of our Armed Forces have made celebrating the 4th of July for 240 years (and counting!), possible. From all of us here at GA Foods, we sincerely thank all United States veterans and active-duty troops for their service to this country. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

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Topics: Military, Armed Forces

Millennials vs. Seniors: How Sleep Needs Change As We Age

Posted by Lisa Gonzalez on May 25, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Our guest blogger, Lisa Gonzalez, has had years of experience with volunteering in nursing homes and organizing local senior activities. Realizing that this was her passion is what got her involved with ElderCorps.org, a resource geared towards the care and well-being of the aging population.

sleeping_senior.jpg

Have you noticed that senior citizens tend to sleep less than those below the age of 65? Studies have shown that elderly individuals have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep than their younger counterparts. While there are numerous causes for these sleep-related issues, it is important that everyone from millennials to seniors get quality rest.

How Sleep Changes Over Time

According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans go from needing up to 17 hours of sleep a day as a newborn to needing a minimum of 7 hours of sleep as a senior citizen. While this 10 hour shift may seem dramatic, it is important to remember that it occurs over an extended time period.

Additionally, once a person reaches his or her young adult years, the amount of sleep needed changes very little, if at all. In other words, once your body is fully developed, you should require a similar amount of sleep for the rest of your life. Though seven to nine hours per night is recommended for adults, there are variations from person to person.

Why Sleep Changes As We Age

Each stage of our lives comes with its own natural sleep needs:

Ages 0-5 Years: During this time, children’s bodies and brains are developing at a rapid pace, thus, requiring 10-17 hours of sleep each night.

Ages 6-17 Years: As children get older, their bodies are preparing them for the transition to adulthood. While they are still developing, the process is not happening as fast as it previously was. As such, they typically only require 8-11 hours of sleep during this time.

Ages 18-64 Years: At this time, our brains and bodies have become fully developed, which means we only require sleep to restore any damage done during our waking hours. During these years, the amount of sleep needed remains relatively constant, at about 7-9 hours per night.

Ages 65+ Years: During this time, seniors still require a similar amount of sleep as their younger counterparts (7-8 hours per night). Unfortunately, many seniors find it increasingly difficult to sleep after age 65.

Development throughout life, amongst other factors, dictates how much sleep we require. Once we hit age 65, however, many natural changes occur that can disrupt our sleeping patterns. These can include:

Changes in Melatonin Levels: Some doctors suggest that elderly individuals produce less of the hormone Melatonin, which is partially responsible for sleep.

Changes in Circadian Rhythm: Our Circadian Rhythm is our own personal internal clock that tells our bodies how to function properly throughout the day. Some doctors believe that this rhythm becomes increasingly off balance as we age.

Development of Insomnia: Sleep disorders, mental health issues (such as depression), physical ailments, and sometimes even surroundings can all lead to insomnia or sleeplessness and affect senior health. As we age, we are more prone to health-related issues, making it more difficult to sleep. Other factors that may contribute to sleeplessness in senior citizens include:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Lack of proper nutrition
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • Concerns or anxiety about aging
  • Physical pain
  • Certain medications
  • Insufficient nighttime routine

Sufficient sleep is crucial for everyone, regardless of age, as it factors into many parts of our lives. However, as the elderly community is already at higher risk of medical and mental health issues, it is important that they are not exacerbated by improper sleep.

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Topics: Senior Health

Summer Meals Feed Hungry Kids

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on May 11, 2016 1:44:24 PM

summer_feeding.pngThroughout the school year, many children rely on school meal programs to keep hunger at bay. Due to food scarcity in the home, these meals may be the only substantial nutrition some of these kids receive each day. However, when summer break arrives, many of these child nutrition programs end and kids are left hungry. This is when they require community assistance to fill the gap. Here are ways that communities can get healthy summer meals to children in need.

The Summer Food Service Program

Summer should be a time of rest and fun. It should also be a time for kids to develop in healthy ways so that they can learn things quickly when the new school year begins. Children living in poverty are at a disadvantage in summer because they no longer have access to the meals they normally get in school.

Hunger leads to increased illnesses and delayed development, which puts these children behind their peers when school starts again. If you wonder what can be done about this, you aren’t alone. Many people are unaware of government resources that are available for providing free summer meals to kids. One of the biggest programs is the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides reimbursement for organizations offering summer meal programsfor eligible children. If you want to mobilize a new summer food service for hungry kids in your area, your first step should be to look over the USDA’s programguidelines and contact them for assistance.

Ideas for Distributing Summer Meals to Children

Using mobile units
Even when there are food programs in place, the number of needy children receiving meals can fall drastically in summer. This usually occurs because many lack transportation to the food sites. Mobile food units solve this problem by bringing the food closer to home.

Different types of mobile units can be used. For example, if a neighborhood contains daycare centers or community centers with kitchenettes, refrigerated trucks can be used to deliver the food and leave it at the site. However, in rural areas and neighborhoods without suitable kitchen areas, mobile units like food trucks are usually a better option. These do not have to be actual food trucks. Many communities have creatively repurposed old buses, campers or minivans to serve as mobile kitchens. 

For the best impact, mobile units should be distributed to several different areas in the community. By planning half hour to one hour stops at various points in neighborhoods, a greater number of children can be reached and fed each day.

Combining meals with fun activities
One of the most important parts of creating a successful meal program is making kids feel welcome. Combining the service with games, contests and athletic events, or bringing in entertainers helps generate more publicity and excitement. Pairing free meals with summer fun can also draw kids who are wary of being identified as poor and hungry. The activities give them another reason to show up.

These events can be held at public parks, schools, recreation centers and similar sites around the community. To reach the most children in large metropolitan areas, it is best to host these at several locations.

Combining child nutrition services with senior programs
Some communities offer programs similar to Meals on Wheels but they deliver food to children in summer and not just senior citizens. However, this isn’t the only way that child and senior services could be combined. By sponsoring summer food service programs at senior centers, assisted living centers and similar venues, you can improve child nutrition while providing social opportunities between generations.

Getting the Word Out

The impact of the best meals program won’t be very strong if few people know about it. No matter how great the program is, it relies on some footwork to make the community aware of it. Here are easy ways to spread the word:

  • Ask television stations to mention it during broadcasts.
  • Put and announcement in the community section of your local newspaper.
  • Distribute flyers to neighborhood churches, shops, homes and community centers.

Flyers should contain all the information that kids and parents need to know about the program. This includes who is eligible for free meals, days and times the meals will be distributed, and what, if anything, kids should bring. In most cases, kids just need to show up to be fed.

Thanks to the help of the summer food service program and local volunteers, summer meal programs can cost little to operate yet they make a big difference in the lives of hungry kids. GA Foods provides food service to summer meals centers, both large and small.  

Improving child nutrition in summer means these kids can perform better the following school year. Healthy mental, physical and social development requires adequate food. As we support summer meals for kids, we are paving the way for a healthier community as a whole. If you are looking for a local program for your children, click here.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, Food Assistance, Food Assistance Programs, Food Security

In Celebration of Older Americans Month

Posted by Ritch Brandon on May 4, 2016 11:00:00 AM

President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation on April 18, 1963 designating the month of May as Senior Citizens Month, later to become known as Older Americans Month.

May's designation as Older American's Month has created a time for us all to pause and acknowledge the contributions of our most experienced citizens, particularly those who served and defended our country.  We at GA Foods have proudly served older Americans through Meals on Wheels programs since 1973.  And for over 15 years, the SunMeadow® brand has become a mainstay in the knapsacks and cargo pant pockets of U.S. troops on the move.  We are proud to take this time to pause and reflect on the accomplishments and contributions of those we serve.

President John F. KennedyThe average age of the seniors we serve is 78 years old.  Someone that is 78 was born in 1937 or 1938.  At that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States, the Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey, and the Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.  Since then, our "average" senior has lived through the Attack on Pearl Harbor, WWII, the Korean War, the ratification of six amendments to the United States Constitution, the discovery of DNA, Brown vs. Board of Education, the development of the polio vaccine, the Vietnam War, the signing of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960 and 1964, the Cuban Missle Crisis, the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Apollo 11's landing on the Moon, Watergate, Roe vs. Wade,  and eight different government administrations...and that was just in the first half of their lives so far!

The knowledge and wisdom that an entire generation has accumulated through those events is a national treasure.  For all of you who have "well experienced" adults in your lives, be it your parents, grandparents, other family or friends, we urge you to take the time in May to reach out and visit with this special person.  Listen to their stories.  Receive their wisdom and perspective on life.  Be there to lend support...even for "simple things" that are no longer quite so simple for them.

While GA Foods provides home delivered meals to older adults year-round, we will use May to focus on how older adults in our community are leading and inspiring others, how we can support and learn from them, and how we might follow their examples to blaze trails in our own lives.  We wish all "older Americans" great health and happiness!  

Wellness Resources for Olders Adults

Brain Health
Source: Administration for Community Living

Falls Prevention
Source: National Council on Aging

Go4Life Exercise & Physical Activity Campaign
Source: National Institute on Aging

Healthy Eating As We Age
Source: USDA

Long-term Care Planning
Source: Department of Health and Human Services

Older Adults and Oral Health
Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Sleep and Aging
Source: National Institutes of Health

Discover OAM: Visit http://acl.gov/olderamericansmonth

Contact your Area Agency on Aging:
Visit http://www.eldercare.gov/ or call 1-800- 677-1116

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Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers

The Causes of Malnutrition in Older Adults

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 27, 2016 11:00:00 AM

While we often hear about children in our society not having access to a proper diet and measures being taken to try to improve their condition, we do not hear as much about the issues facing our older adult population. The fact is, as many as 50-percent of seniors are at risk for shortcomings in their daily food nutrient requirements. Evidence-based research has produced some startling facts that build a case for working to overcome malnutrition in seniors.

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The Staggering Costs of Undernourished Older Adults

You are likely aware that malnutrition in seniors will impact their health and well-being, however, it may surprise you to learn that in the United States alone, over 50 billion dollars is attributed to the cost of disease-associated undernourishment in the aging population annually. While chronic health conditions can cause a nutrient deficiency, malnutrition also leads to more health complications, falls and hospital admissions in older adults. It is a dangerous cycle that must be stopped. Some more statistics that may astonish you include:

  • One of every two seniors are at risk of malnutrition
  • A 300-percent increase in healthcare costs is linked to undernourishment in older adults
  • Up to 60-percent of seniors hospitalized suffer from the result of malnutrition 
  • Malnutrition can increase a hospital stay for a senior by as many as four to six days

Considering the relatively low cost of ensuring adequate nourishment, it is vital that we do what we can to prevent malnutrition in seniors.

Adequate Income not the Only Way to Defeat Malnutrition in Seniors

Malnutrition in seniors is not relegated only to those with low incomes. There are several underlying causes of undernourishment in the aging population.  Most can be categorized as physiological, sociological, psychological or pathological.

Physiological Causes

During the aging process, many changes occur in the body that contribute to decreased appetite and a lack of interest in food:

  • A decrease in both the senses of taste and smell lower the desire for meals
  • Diminishes in taste and smell may lead to increased salt and sugar intake and lower the desire for adequate variety of food choices
  • Slower gastric function and decreased acid production delays emptying the system
  • Lean body mass decreases, further slowing metabolism and hunger 

While these changes are a natural progression, being aware of them and watching for signs is critical in preventing malnutrition in seniors.

Sociological Causes

Aging is difficult for many to accept and can have a serious effect on the sociological factors involved in seniors' eating habits:

  • A reduced ability to shop for and prepare food
  • Fixed income and socioeconomic status may affect food choices
  • Impairment of life skills and activities
  • Being alone at mealtimes

Outwardly you may not realize these are all factors in undernourishment, but in this class there are attainable solutions.

Psychological Causes

Concerns in this category run deeper than the social aspect of decreased appetite and should be addressed with a medical professional as soon as they are suspected:

  • Depression and a general attitude that life is meaningless
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Grief over the loss of a spouse or friends
  • Life events that are emotionally stressful

Armed with understanding, combating undernourishment in seniors due to psychological concerns can be improved quickly through emotional support and proper medical attention.

Pathological Causes

The final category of causes is another that requires medical intervention and if symptoms are observed, should be addressed as early as possible:

  • Problems with the teeth and jaws
  • Alcoholism
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Underlying disease such as cancer, diabetes and thyroid issues
  • Dementia 
  • Medications that interfere with digestion or hunger

Again, these are all causes that should be addressed by a medical professional as early as possible to mitigate the effects of malnutrition in seniors. 

How We can Overcome Malnutrition in Seniors

While we we may not be able to eradicate undernourishment in all seniors, armed with this information, you can be sure your loved ones or older adults in your care are not at risk for malnutrition. Some tips include:

  • Regular nutritional assessments and follow-up on any prescribed treatments
  • Spend time together, particularly at mealtimes whenever possible
  • Consider a prepared meal service to combat apathy or poor food choices
  • Try to help your senior loved-one stay as active as possible, both socially and physically

One senior at a time, we can all help prevent malnutrition in our older adult population by focusing on those under our care and understanding the underlying causes. 

The more a senior has access to healthy foods and all of life’s necessities, the easier it will be to age-at-home. For more information on choosing a home-delivered meals provider, download our free ebook:

Download 9 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home-Delivered Meals Provider

 

 

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Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, Senior Health, Nutrition Care

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