Articles and Information from GA Foods

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

Posted by Mary O'Hara on Nov 22, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Gratitude.jpgThanksgiving is the time of year when we express gratitude for all the good things in our lives. But did you know that there is scientific proof that maintaining an attitude of gratitudeall year long can be beneficial to your health?

According to Harvard Medical School, expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better. Research conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of University of Miami, revealed some compelling facts about the importance that gratitude plays in determining attitudes.

In the study, one group wrote about things for which they were grateful that occurred during the past week, while the second group listed things that had irritated or displeased them. After ten weeks, the group that listed things they were grateful for felt much more positive and had a better outlook on their lives. They also experienced fewer visits to the doctor than the group who focused on their irritations and negative interactions.

Other studies have looked at how gratitude can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person, but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Appreciation of Others

We all experience stress in the workplace. Busy case managers and caregivers certainly have their share of work-related stress. People who spend a good amount of time caring for others may often neglect their own well being, and need to learn ways to enhance their sense of self.

Remembering to say “thank you” to others can go a long way in making somebody’s day. In fact, workers who receive appreciation from their managers on a regular basis report that they feel more motivated and positive about their jobs.

Benefits of Gratitude

There are many simple ways to develop a grateful attitude. Below are some scientifically proven benefits of gratitude:

  • Opens the door to more relationships
  • Improves physical health
  • Improves psychological health
  • Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Increases mental strength

Practice Thankfulness

Just like learning to replace unhealthy food choices with healthier options, we can also develop new habits to adapt our attitudes and cultivate gratitude. Here are some suggestions from Harvard:

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person, if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you've received each day.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.)

Seeking Peace

Feeling grateful even for daily minor annoyances may be another way to deal with stress. For example, instead of being negative about a re-scheduled meeting, think of that extra time as an opportunity to give more thought about the contributions you can make or questions you may have during the meeting.

Small adjustments to one’s attitude can go a long way in seeking peace. According to an article by Anna Hart, “Replacing ‘I’m so stressed about this’ with ‘I’m so excited I get to do this’ has been a game changer for me….I think gratitude is an invaluable practice to any workplace since it also prevents us from taking co-workers for granted or harboring feelings of resentment,” she added.

Here at GA Foods, we are grateful to be of service to others, which is reflected in our core values of Touching Lives, Integrity, Trust, Ownership and Commitment.

As case managers and caregivers, you make many positive contributions everyday in helping others to live better lives and we are grateful for your dedication and commitment!

Happy Thanksgiving from the GA Foods Family!

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Topics: Senior Health, Thanksgiving, Caregivers, Blessed, Healthy Meals for Seniors

Confessions from a Caregiver

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Nov 16, 2016 3:13:44 PM


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Pictured is Maureen and her children with her mother, Alice. (And by the way, it was Maureen's 43rd birthday!)

My Back Story

In 1992, we placed my dad in a long-term care facility. He was partially paralyzed from a stroke, and we couldn’t care for him at home. After a year of living apart from my dad, my mother asked to move in with me. Despite living in a senior living community, she was lonely. She was only 71-years old. She had some health issues and limited mobility, but she was completely independent. At the time, my husband and I had a 2-year old daughter and another baby on the way. I had a busy and demanding career. The thought of having another person in our home to help out was very appealing.

Download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You

True Confessions

However, over the 18 years that she lived with us, her health steadily declined and she became more dependent. Fortunately, she was never to the point of needing help with activities like bathing or feeding, but we couldn’t leave her alone overnight. She needed us to drive her to doctors’ appointments. (No Uber, yet!) Simple activities like grocery shopping, attending church, or going out to dinner required wrestling her wheelchair into our car. We had to run her errands, like going to the bank or picking up prescriptions. There was constant fear that she would fall and break her hip. And she hated having to rely on us for everything.

Here is my confession – I didn’t make it easy for her. Between juggling my career, my family, and her needs, I was tired and exhausted. I resented her presence. Sometimes, I wanted to be alone with my husband and children for dinner. I wanted to be able to go away for a weekend with my family without having to make arrangements for my mom. I got tired of having to take time off work to take her to the doctor. And she knew how I felt about everything.

My mom never wanted to be a burden. So she asked a neighbor to take her shopping. She asked my kids to run her errands. She asked people from church to take her to the doctor. She visited my sister to give us time alone. And she tried to do anything she could to make life easier for me.

This made me feel guilty because now other people’s lives were being disrupted, not just mine. My neighbors, friends, and family shouldn’t be impacted to make my life easier. I should be able to do this on my own. She took care of me for over 18 years. As her daughter, it was now my responsibility to take care of her. And I could not have been more wrong.

No One is a Caregiver Superhero

My mom passed away five years ago after complications from hip surgery. (Yep, she fell and broke her hip.) I’ve had time to get some perspective, which leads me to my next confession – I’m not a caregiving superhero – actually no one is a caregiving superhero.             

Caregiving is hard. Caregiving comes from a place of love and can be rewarding, but it is hard. It is demanding. It is stressful. As a matter of fact, it is bad for your health. Studies have shown that caregivers are more likely to have a chronic illness than non-caregivers. Caregivers are at greater risk for depression and a decline in quality of life.

Caregivers aren’t limited to those caring for an aging, disabled, or ill family member. A caregiver can be a foster parent or a grandma raising her grandchildren. A caregiver can be a professional like a nurse, case manager, or social worker. A caregiver may provide full- or part-time care. They may live with the care recipient or provide care and support from a distance. The care may range from helping with tasks like shopping and cleaning to providing complex medical care.

The best advice I can give a caregiver is take care of yourself. Taking care of you isn’t selfish. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. It gives you the strength and energy needed as a caregiver. It actually helps you become a better caregiver.

I was fortunate -- I had great support from my sister. But if you or someone you know has caregiver burnout or is ignoring their own needs, download our free eBook, A Caregiver’s Guide to Taking Care of You.

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Topics: Senior Health, Caregivers, Care Managers

Veterans Day, a Brief History

Posted by Lianna Lashley on Nov 9, 2016 1:33:06 PM

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery

Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor or pay tribute to the sacrifices made by all U.S. veterans – living or deceased – for serving our country during war or peacetime. It falls on November 11th each year, which is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities between Germany and the Allied Nations, marking an end to World War I. However, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, many Americans confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day, and even more don’t know the history behind the national holiday.

A day to honor veterans of WWI

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919. However, fighting stopped seven months prior when an armistice was signed and went into effect, temporarily stopping fighting between the Allied Nations and Germany. The armistice was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour in 1918. The first Veterans Day was observed on the anniversary one year later, in 1919. 

It was called Armistice Day at that time, and President Wilson marked the day when he proclaimed “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations...”

Americans observed the day by having a moment of silence beginning at 11am and suspending all business activities for several minutes, and having public parades or town hall meetings. Armistice Day wasn’t recognized as a legal holiday until 1938 – two decades after the end of the Great War. A little over a year after Congress approved the act that recognized Armistice Day as a legal holiday, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. 

Armistice Day → Veterans Day

World War II required the largest mobilization of American forces in the history of the nation. It was the most devastating international conflict in history, claiming the lives of millions of servicemen and civilians. WWII ended in 1945. Unfortunately, a mere five years later it was followed by the deployment of American troops to fight in another war, this time in Korea, when North Korea invaded South Korea.  

After American soldiers returned home from the Korean War, at the behest of the nation’s veteran’s service organizations, the name of Armistice Day was changed by removing the word ‘armistice’ and changing it to ‘veterans’, and it was decreed that November 11th is a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

National Veterans Day ceremony

The Veterans Day National Committee holds a ceremony every year on November 11th at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in observance of Veterans Day and to honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The observance begins at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside with a parade by veterans' organizations and speeches from American leaders. 

The Veterans Day National Committee also recognizes regional Veterans Day observances held throughout the country.  From parades to military exhibits and tributes, find more information on Veterans Day ceremonies in your area, here.

From those who fought in World War I to those stationed overseas today, the sacrifices of the men and women of our Armed Forces have made living in this great nation possible. All of us here at GA Foods sincerely thank all United States veterans and active-duty troops for their service to this country. 

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Topics: Military, Armed Forces

Managing Diabetes in Senior Adults

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Nov 2, 2016 11:06:13 AM

Senior with Diabetes2.jpg

When caring for seniors with diabetes, it is important to focus on nutrition. A diabetic diet needs to be packed with nutrient-rich foods including vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Having regular meal and snack times is also important in order to manage their blood glucose levels.

Since November is National Diabetes Month, now is the perfect time to discuss a consistent carbohydrate diet. This diet is one of the most effective meal plans for people with diabetes because it helps manage blood glucose levels, while giving seniors flexibility in meal planning. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy for metabolic functions and physical activities. Without them, the body cannot function.

Carbohydrates come in three forms: sugars, complex carbohydrates (starches) and fiber. It is important to understand the different types of carbohydrates in order to manage diabetes through diet. 

Sugars: Sugary carbohydrates are also known as simple or fast-acting carbohydrates. Sugar can be found naturally in fruits and milk, and as added sugar in desserts and refined grains.

Complex Carbohydrates:  Also known as starches, complex carbohydrates include potatoes, beans and whole grain foods such as oats, pastas and breads.

Fiber: Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. It is found in plant foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. Foods with high fiber content are part of a healthy diet, because they help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

To learn about meal service providers for seniors with diabetes, click here.

What is the necessary carbohydrate intake?

The National Academies' Institute of Medicine recommends that adults should get 45 to 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. This means that 900 to 1,300 calories should encompass carbohydrates for those eating a 2,000 calorie diet. Therefore, it is important to feed the body carbohydrates.

The necessary carbohydrate intake varies from person to person depending on age, weight, blood sugar and activity level. For example, seniors generally need fewer carbohydrates on a daily basis, as they are less active and their bodies metabolize more slowly. However, it is still important for seniors to maintain a consistent intake of carbohydrates in order to sustain their nutrient needs and regulate their blood sugar levels.  

Great ways to ensure seniors with diabetes are getting the correct amount and type of carbohydrates are creating a meal plan or using a food service provider that offers balanced meals. Having a set meal plan or using a food service provider also helps to avoid malnutrition.

What is a consistent carbohydrate diet?

A consistent carbohydrate diet is a meal plan that helps its users keep track of the carbohydrates they consume and stabilize their carbohydrate intake. The ultimate goal is to ensure every meal has the same carbohydrate count. This diet is effective for managing diabetes because it helps control blood sugar levels.

How does a consistent carbohydrate diet work?

When using a consistent carbohydrate meal plan, carbohydrates are counted in portion sizes (15 grams), also known as carb choices. The number of carb choices varies between individuals based on their health status, age or past eating habits. The number of carb choices also varies depending on whether users are eating a meal or a snack. Generally, meals should be between three and four carb choices while snacks should consist of approximately one to two carb choices. However, when caring for seniors with diabetes, individualized carb choice levels for meals and snacks may be necessary. 

How do I educate seniors with diabetes on a consistent carbohydrate diet?

Understanding how many carb choices foods have is the first step to being able to educate seniors on the consistent carbohydrate diet. Foods considered to have one carb choice include a slice of bread, a cup of milk or a small apple. For most manufactured foods, the carb choices are listed under the term "Total Carbohydrate" on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate" is listed in grams. Remember, 15 grams equals one carb choice. 

It is also important to read and understand the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label. The “Total Carbohydrate” section of the Nutrition Facts labels is based on one serving size. Therefore, eating three servings is triple the amount of carbohydrates.

Providing seniors with a consistent carbohydrate diet is one of the best ways to manage their diabetes. If seniors do not feel comfortable with preparing their own meals, suggest a food service provider, such as GA Foods, that uses registered dietitians to plan the meals. Having the experts plan and provide the meals takes all the guess work out of the equation.

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

 

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Topics: Senior Health, Diabetes, Healthy Home Delivered Meals, Healthy Meals for Seniors

The Negative Effects of Added Sugar

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Oct 26, 2016 12:44:53 PM

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There are two different types of sugar – naturally occurring sugar, found in fruits and vegetables, and added sugar, which comes in many forms including granulated sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose and fructose. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons for men. However, the average American greatly exceeds this maximum recommendation. Euromonitor, an international research company, revealed that Americans consume 126 grams (31.5 teaspoons) of sugar per day, which equals 101 pounds of granulated sugar annually!

Regularly consuming excessive amounts of added sugar negatively impacts the body’s ability to function properly, leading to poor health. This is especially true for senior citizens who have eaten diets filled with added sugars from a young age. Many seniors experience the negative effects of diets filled with excessive amounts sugar, as they find themselves struggling with diseases including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Due to the fact that many seniors rely on pre-portioned, convenience foods, it is important to research home-delivered meal providers to ensure the meals meet all DRI requirements, including the recommended sugar requirements.  

Click here to learn the impact sugar has on the body.

Effects on the Body

Added sugar has no nutritional value. It offers nothing but high-caloric, empty calories. Every teaspoon (4 grams) of sugar consumed equals 16 calories. Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor in the University of California and a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism, says that the body can safely metabolize six teaspoons of added sugar per day. However, most Americans are consuming an average of 31.5 teaspoons (126 grams) of sugar per day. Excess sugar turns into body fat, and has been linked to many of the chronic, metabolic diseases people are struggling with. These diseases include, but are not limited to, obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia.

Obesity: The body stores excess sugar as body fat. This leads to weight gain, and can lead to obesity if excess sugar consumption becomes a repeated habit.

Cancer: The body uses glucose, a form of sugar, to generate energy. However, when too much sugar is ingested into the system, it can be dangerous. Cancerous cells feed on the excess sugar, which can cause tumors to grow.

Diabetes: After eating, the body converts food into glucose while the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps glucose to get into the cells of the body where it can be used to make energy. With diabetes, the body may not make enough insulin, use the insulin in the right way, or both, causing blood sugar levels to be too high.

Heart disease: Consuming large amounts of sugar puts added stress on the heart, decreasing the muscle’s function and leading to heart failure and/or heart disease.

Dementia: Excessive sugar consumption also affects the brain. The brain responds to sugar in the same way it responds to other drugs, including cocaine and alcohol. Brain functions such as thinking, memory and learning are closely linked to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this energy source.

Steps to Take to Prevent Excessive Sugar Consumption

It is important to be able to understand the different ways sugar is added into food and beverages. Healthcare providers, Area Agency on Aging (AAA) networks and Case Managers are great resources when looking for home-delivered meals, as their primary goal is to provide nutritious, well-balanced meals to seniors. There are a couple steps to take to ensure regulated, added sugar consumption.

First, look for meal providers that offer low sugar products. For example, GA Foods’ meals are low in sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol. Partnering with companies that share the same values will make it easier to achieve the end goal, which is providing nutritious, well-balanced meals to seniors.

Second, check the Nutrition Facts label for added sugars. On May 20, 2016, the FDA announced updates to the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods. One of these updates was listing “added sugars” in grams and as a percent Daily Value. Package updates are not required until 2018; therefore, the added sugar information may not be on all labels. However, companies should be able to provide the breakdown of naturally occurring sugar versus added sugar in their meals if the information is requested.

When it comes to senior nutrition, regulating excess sugar is crucial. Simple ways to guarantee healthier food choices are partnering with home-delivered meal providers who offer meals low in sugar and understanding the Nutrition Facts label.

To learn more about the impact that sugar has on the body, download our fact sheet.

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Topics: Senior Health, Healthy Meals for Seniors

Child Nutrition: How to Get the Students to Eat Healthy Meals

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Oct 20, 2016 9:15:04 AM

school-lunch-2.jpgAccording to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity in children has more than doubled over the past three decades and quadrupled for adolescents. Data from the same source also indicates that more than 30 percent of children and adolescents were either over their ideal weight or obese as of 2012.

Healthy Child Nutrition
Since most children eat at least half of their meals at school, it is important for schools to offer nutritionally-balanced meals. The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are great opportunities for schools to provide students with healthier food options.

Let's Move!
First lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! initiative to address the growing challenge of childhood obesity. The aim of the initiative is to instill healthy eating habits in children in their early years, which they will ideally carry for life. Providing healthier foods in schools has been one way of achieving this goal.

One of the major achievements of this initiative was to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release new rules in 2012 for school meals. These rules boosted the nutritional quality of the meals served and was the first major revision of school meal standards in more than 15 years. 

Learn more about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act here.

Getting the Children to Make Healthy Food Choices
While the above achievements are steps in the right direction towards providing healthy food options in schools, the main challenge, and the ultimate triumph, will be getting children to actually eat healthier foods.

Those making decisions about school nutrition can do the following to nudge students towards putting healthy food on their trays:

Getting students involved
Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC), an organization that champions the cause of child nutrition, developed Cooking Up Change. This is a competition where high school culinary students are challenged to cook healthy and tasty school meals. Winners from across the country travel to Washington, D.C. for a national competition every year. In Washington, they get a chance to interact with political leaders and showcase their creations.

Getting involved in the HealthierUS School Challenge
Involvement is an important part of the Let's Move! initiative. It is a challenge that sets high standards for the quality of school food and urges participation in school food improvement programs. It also seeks to create opportunities for physical activity and for nutrition education. This national program has spurred schools to embrace these standards by adopting its activities. Schools that excel at it are recognized and awarded with monetary incentives. Since August of this year, 4,661 schools have been recognized as a HealthierUS School.

Setting up school salad bars
This is yet another initiative of the first lady's Let's Move! initiative where she challenged Americans to set up 6,000 salad bars in schools. The goal is to give kids a choice of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables everyday by encouraging them to have salad daily. The National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, Whole Foods Market, and the United Fresh Produce Association Foundation and Food Family Foundation all responded with a Let's Move! Salad Bars to Schools initiative.

Fruit and vegetable salads are a key part of healthy child nutrition and the salad bars have done a lot to encourage kids to make healthy food choices in schools. As of September 2016, $12,180,919 was raised and 4, 714 salad bars were made available.

Participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)
This program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service. Along with encouraging healthy child nutrition, this program was also started to combat childhood obesity. The program has worked very well to introduce school children to a wide variety of produce that they might otherwise never had available.

The program is administered in partnership with FNS and state agencies in both public and private sectors. The program also supports recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine to give school children healthier snack choices.

A Starting Point
There are several resources school nutrition professionals can use to encourage kids to choose healthy foods in schools. A good starting point would be to download, Keys to Excellence: Standards of Practice for Nutrition Integrityfrom the School Nutrition Association. Use this tool to review, evaluate and improve the quality of your school nutrition program and get the students in your school or community on the path to good health for life.

For more information, download our free book:

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Topics: School Lunch, School Breakfast, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Benefits of School Lunch

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Oct 12, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Students-choosing-healthy-foodSince 1962, the U.S. has been celebrating National School Lunch Week in appreciation of the National School Lunch Program. This year's celebrations will run from October 10th to 14th with the theme 'Show Your Spirit'. The theme was chosen to remind students, parents, and school officials that a healthy school lunch is a big part of enabling children to get through the day. 

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) 

The NSLP is the largest federal child nutrition program. It provides school children with meals that are nutritious, balanced and free, or very low cost, every school day. The program was established in 1946 by President Harry Truman when he signed the National School Lunch Act.

National Farm-to School Month

October is also National Farm to School Month. First celebrated in 2011, this month is all about connecting schools and local farms with the aim of ensuring schools have a constant supply of healthy produce. The objective of the National Farm to School Network is also to create opportunities related to agriculture, health and nutrition education, as well as to support local and regional farmers.

Benefits of the NSLP

While celebrating National School Lunch Week, it is important to keep the benefits of the program in mind.

Nutritional benefits

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) published a Child Nutrition Fact Sheet on the NSLP. They found that the program had a number of nutritional benefits to students.

One benefit is in regard to the quality of meals served in schools. In order for schools to be reimbursed for the meals they serve, schools must adhere to strict federal nutrition standards. The lunches must provide one-third, or more, of the recommended quantities of key nutrients. Reimbursable meals also do not exceed the limit of 30 percent fat, and have a maximum of 10 percent saturated fat.

Academic performance has also been shown to be enhanced by healthy school lunches. Research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established that kids who participate in the NSLP have healthier lunches than those who bring lunch from home or don't participate in the program for other reasons. 

Scientific research has also established that good nutrition can improve behavior, academic performance, and general cognitive development in growing children. Also, children who are well-nourished participate more in class and extra-curricular activities. 

Another benefit of the NSLP is that it provides an opportunity to teach children about healthy nutrition at an early age. This can positively impact their food choices for the rest of their lives.

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The NSLP has been instrumental in keeping kids in school until they graduate. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) releases an annual report on education in the U.S. and other countries, and the NSLP has been an invaluable source of data to establish the number of students living in poverty. However, this is done with the awareness that it should not be confused with the actual number of overall population living in poverty.

For instance, a report filed on April 16, 2015, indicated that in 2012, just a little over half of the students in public schools were eligible for free or reduced-fee school lunches. This was in contrast to the actual poverty rate of public school students which stood at 22% in the same year.

The numbers 

In 2012, the NSLP fed over 31 million children every school day. All the students at schools participating in the program are eligible for regular price lunches but there are several ways that a child can become eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Eligibility is determined by family income. Students from households with an income that is at or below 130 percent of the poverty income threshold are eligible for free lunch. Those from households with an income that is between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty threshold are eligible for reduced price lunch.

Lowering dropout rates with healthy meals

The NSLP has been instrumental in keeping children in school until they graduate. NCES statistics for the 2007-2008 school year indicated that there is a strong link between poverty and students dropping out. 

The Condition of Education Report published in 2010 indicated that high poverty secondary schools produced fewer students who attended four-year colleges; 28% of graduates from high-poverty schools completed four-year college courses compared to 52% of those who graduated from high schools with low poverty levels.

Reason to celebrate

One thing to celebrate during the 2016 National School Lunch Week is the higher number of elementary and high school students who stayed in school because they were ensured a filling and healthy lunch. 

You can find different tools and guides to celebrating National School Lunch Week on the School Nutrition Association website. A child who wants to go to school to develop their potential, should be able to do so without worrying about what they will be eating.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Teens and Food Insecurity

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Oct 5, 2016 11:00:00 AM

teen_food_insecurity.pngFood insecurity in children is a significant problem in the United States. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates, 7.8 percent of American households with children were food insecure* in 2015 – a percentage that amounts to 3 million households that were unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Additionally, in 247,000 households, food security was characterized as very low, indicating periods of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

Food insecurity is known to have detrimental effects on children of all ages. However, according to recent research, teens experience its effects quite differently than younger children. This research, done by the Urban Institute (a research organization that focuses on economic and social policy) and Feeding America (a nationwide network of food banks), examined the unique perspective and struggles of teens who face food insecurity in their homes. This was done via the creation of 20 focus groups made up of teens, ages 13 to 18, in 10 diverse communities. According to researchers, findings were similar across all of the focus groups, and many of them were rather disturbing. Among the most notable findings are:

Food Insecurity in Children: Teens Feel Responsible

Unlike younger children, teens in household experiencing food insecurity frequently feel obligated to help provide for themselves and others. While parents typically try to protect their teens from hunger, as well as those feelings of responsibility, teenagers commonly take an active role anyway. Often, that role includes depriving themselves to ensure that younger siblings have enough to eat, finding ways to bring food into the household, and/or working out ways to stretch family food supplies – eating with friends or relatives, for instance, or saving school lunches to bring home.

Learn more about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act here.

Fear Of Being Stigmatized Deters Teens From Traditional Assistance Avenues

Teens are well aware that food insecurity in children is a widespread problem. Among teens who participated in this study, even those who did not experience food insecurity in their own homes were aware of neighbors or classmates who suffered from hunger on a regular basis. However, in spite of that awareness, teens from food-insecure families were found to work actively to hide the problem in their own homes due to a fear of being stigmatized. That fear led many teens to avoid traditional means of assistance, such as food pantries or free school meal programs, accepting help only from close friends or family in private. 

Some Teens Take Drastic Measures To Help Provide

Researchers found that the vast majority of teens who are determined to assist in providing for their families would prefer to provide that help via income from gainful employment. However, job opportunities for teenagers are very limited, particularly in communities with high poverty rates. Consequently, many teens resort to less conventional methods to bring money and/or food into the household. According to study authors, teens in 8 of the 10 communities involved in this research stated that young people engaged in criminal activity to provide for their families, including shoplifting, drug dealing and theft of items that could be sold for food money. Some teens discussed deliberately going to jail, as well as failing in school in order to be placed – and fed – in summer school. Teens in all 10 communities were aware of teens who resorted to prostitution, having sex in exchange for money to feed their families. Most of these incidents, according to researchers, consisted of exploitative relationships with older adults.

Effective Solutions are Needed

The picture that emerges from these findings illustrates the urgency of effective solutions in addressing food insecurity in children. Study authors stress the need for more research on the affects of food insecurity on teenagers in particular, an issue that has not yet received the attention it deserves.

Many school nutrition programs have had success in eliminating the stigma teens feel when receiving free and reduced school meals:

  • Universal School Breakfast combined with Breakfast in the Classroom - With this model, all students receive free breakfast. It is served in their first period classroom, so there are no barriers like needing to get to school early.
  • 2nd Chance Breakfast - Usually served after first period, individually-packed Grab n' Go meals are available on a cart in the hallways. If not utilizing Universal Free Breakfast, tablet-based point of service allows for a cashless system, charging agains student accounts or eligibilities. 
  • Healthy Meals Vending - These special vending machines are integrated into the school's point of service, allowing reimbursable meals to be charged against student accounts and eligibilities. Placing them in high traffic areas around the school provides easy access.
  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) - CEP is now an option throughout the U.S. Under CEP, a school district can offer all meals at no charge to all students, if 40 percent or more of the students are direct-certified for free meals.  CEP can be used district-wide or just in one school. 

While these options do not negate the problem of teen hunger, they do provide students with healthy meals without social stigma. More needs to be done to provide vulnerable teens with effective support and solutions they need to overcome the unique challenges they face in food-insecure households.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act expired over a year ago. Congress still has not passed a reauthorization bill for programs that feed our hungry children and teens. For more information, click below.

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*Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch, School Breakfast, Food Insecurity, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Age Well by Eating Well

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Sep 28, 2016 11:00:00 AM

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Proper nutrition is the key to aging well, and it has many health benefits. The vitamins and nutrients in food can help you fight diseases, boost your energy and help you sleep better.

For more tips on energy boosting nutrition click here.

Senior Nutrition

Many senior citizens don’t receive adequately balanced meals, which leads to malnutrition. Malnutrition among seniors is directly correlated to the increasing diagnoses of diseases in the senior population. It is very important to consume the recommended amounts of nutrients every day in order to help your body age well.

Good Nutrition Can Prevent Disease

Consuming natural, minimally-processed foods maximizes the body’s intake of vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are necessary in order for the body to age well and fight against sicknesses and diseases. Multiple health studies have proven that some foods reduce the risk of, and may even prevent, certain chronic conditions. 

We’ve composed a list of the most common diseases among seniors as well as the healthy foods to include in your diet to help prevent them.

  1. 1. Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is the No. 1 killer of Americans. If you have heart disease, it is recommended to limit the amount of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium you eat each day. A few heart-healthy foods include salmon, nuts, tomatoes and dark chocolate (made up of at least 60 – 70 percent cocoa).
  1. 2. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often referred to as the silent killer. Over time, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Foods that are high in potassium can help reduce your risk of hypertension. Some examples are bananas, potatoes and leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens and kale.
  1. 3. Diabetes comes in two forms, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce insulin. With the help of insulin therapy and a healthy diet, type 1 diabetes can be managed. Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is a problem with your body that causes your blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle. Diabetic meals should be low in sugar and carbohydrates. Eating cherries, avocados and cinnamon are great because they are linked to reducing blood sugar levels. 

Benefit From a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet consists of a balance between fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meat and healthy fats. Every meal you eat has the potential to help your body perform successfully. Aside from reducing the risk of diseases, the nutritious meals you eat can also boost your metabolism, improve your mood and help you sleep better at night. Eating an adequate amount of micronutrients including iron, omega-3 fatty acid and folic acid will ensure a positive food-mood relationship.

Make Small Changes

You don’t have to adjust your diet all at once. Start with small changes like switching from a sugary breakfast cereal to a whole grain cereal or oatmeal. Or, snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods like crackers and chips.

In addition to making small changes, set small, realistic goals to help you acheive your end result. If your end goal is to have as much energy at the end of the day as you do in the morning by three months from now, setting small goals such as getting seven hours of sleep every night, buying more fruits and vegetables when grocery shopping and drinking eight glasses of water daily are great starting points. Achieving these small goals will keep you motivated on your end result, and they'll improve your overall health.

Eating Well on a Budget

Eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive. We’ve created some helpful tips for eating right on a budget. One way to stick to your grocery budget is to create a grocery list. Creating a grocery list ensures you won’t forget any items you need for the week, and it makes you less likely to purchase junk foods, as they are not on the list.

Eating healthy takes some planning. For more information on food swaps you can make to your diet to give you an energy boost, download our energy boosting nutrition tips sheet. 
Download Energy Boosting Nutrition Tips

 

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Topics: Nutrition, Malnutrition in Elderly, Senior Health, Healthy Home Delivered Meals, Nutrition Care, Advice from Dietitians, Affordable, Healthy Foods, Healthy Meals for Seniors, Healthy Foods

A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish

Posted by Glenn Davenport, President on Sep 14, 2016 1:00:00 PM

mission_vision_values.jpgAt GA Foods, we formally review our mission, vision, values and creed during our quarterly employee meetings.  As you know, people need to hear something several times for it to be really retained. Plus, new employees may be hearing it for the first time, and it is important that everyone understands our company's purpose, plans, and goals, as we go forward.

Our Mission

When we think of our company's mission, we think of it as "why we exist".  Our mission statement at GA Foods is simple, but very impactful.  

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We define nourishment a number of ways.  Obviously, it's about the food. But it's also about supplying what is necessary for life, health and growth; to cherish, to foster, to keep alive. "Nourishment" captures our compassion and our empathy for those we serve.  And then the word delivered.  Not only do we physically deliver meals to people's homes, but we also deliver on our promises.

Our Vision

Vision is "what we want to be". Our vision is very simple and easy to remember. GA Foods' vision is: 

Nourishment delivered, 30 million times a year, by the year 2020.

We abbreviate our vision as ND|30|2020.

Our Values and Creed

Our values are "what's important to us". We have six values:

Touching Lives
Commitment
One Team
Ownership
Integrity
Trust

We embedded these six values into our creed:

I am GA Foods. I touch lives. I am committed to working as one team, united by a sense of ownership and guided by integrity and earned trust.

At every meeting, I ask an employee to volunteer to say the creed from memory. If they do, I give them $50.00. I've been doing this for a couple of years, and we've never had a meeting where somebody could not come up and say the creed.  That's one of the ways that we keep our mission, vision, and values alive.

Lessons from a 13-Year-OldSarahKate.jpg

I shared with our team that the other day, my 13‑year-old granddaughter, Sarah Kate, told her parents and three siblings that “a goal without a plan is just a wish” and “are your habits that you have today on par with the dreams that you have for tomorrow?”

As a 63‑year-old President, and proud grandfather, I learn and am inspired by many; not the least of which is a 13-year-old.

Pictured: Sarah Kate

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Topics: GA Foods

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