Posted by on October 1, 2013 - 2:52pm

The news of the government shutdown has by now reached everyone’s ears and has sparked questions and concerns about the state of our nation. While several groups are directly affected in this stalemate, special attention must be drawn to the 9 million low-income women and children who may be adversely affected around the country.  These women and children rely on the government for food assistance through the “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children,” known colloquially as the Women and Infant Children Program (WIC).  Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association, said that the state programs that serve this population may run out of money as early as next week, while others may be able to stay afloat until the end of the month.  The WIC clinics are funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so when Congress fails to approve funding, it leaves WIC clinics, and the women and children they serve, in the lurch.  Since WIC programs are run by states through grants from the federal government, it is unclear which states will be hit harder than others.

Only women and young children who have acute nutritional deficits qualify for the WIC program.  They are given food benefits that average a meager $45 a month with benefits including vouchers to purchase whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, dairy and dairy substitutes, and infant formula.  The program also provides health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and children up to age five.  The WIC serves 53% of all infants born in the United States.  Every little bit helps these women and children who struggle to make ends meet in the lowest socio-economic quartile, and the uncertainties of the stability of the WIC program during the shutdown is an immense stress.

With Congress and the nation focused on larger, hot button issues, it’s easy for smaller programs like the WIC to fall through the cracks.  It’s equally important, however, to understand the ramifications of the government shutdown in order to truly grasp the magnitude of this event.

To learn about our local Chicago WIC clinic, click here.

Sources: CBS News and NPR

Posted by on December 4, 2012 - 12:30pm

A 9-year-old girl from Western Scotland named Martha ‘Veg’ Payne started a blog called NeverSeconds that caught the attention of Scotland’s politicians. Her blog documented her public primary school’s lunches, chronicling the low points and the high points. Because she was documenting some of the unhealthy and unappetizing lunches her school was serving to the students, she received some negative feedback from Scotland's politicians and her school.  With her father owning a farming property, and a physician for a mother, Martha is no stranger to nutrition and health. She began her blog in the early part of May and it went viral in just a few days. Within weeks, Martha had a million viewers. By the middle of June, her viewer count jumped to two million and she received support from television "cheflebrity," Jamie Oliver. She's made her way into coverage from The Telegraph, Time, the Daily Mail and numerous food blogs.

This was not all the attention she received. Once the school found out what was going on, she was forbidden to bring her camera to her classes. The school also insisted she shut down her blog. Martha, known as ‘Veg’ on her blog, spoke about the incident stating she was taken to her head teacher’s office and was told she was not allowed to take any new photos of her school dinners. This came about due to a newspaper’s headline that particular day.

Here is a child who is passionate about nutrition and motivated to make positive changes. She was able to influence a change of the cafeteria food in her district within two weeks. In fact, children in her school were allowed unlimited fruit, salads and bread. Martha also got children all over the world excited about their school lunches. Over the seven-week life of her blogs, she received photos of school lunches from Japan, Germany, Finland, Spain, Illinois and Washington State, just to name a few.  Martha sounds like our kind of girl!


Posted by on May 5, 2010 - 4:55pm

A recent article by Appel and Anderson in the New England Journal of Medicine, reaffirms previous studies that have suggested that salt intake reduction can be a highly effective, inexpensive way to reduce deaths due to heart disease and stroke.  Table salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride and the maximum recommended levels of sodium is 2300 mg per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).   The mean intake of salt (reported as sodium on food labels)  in the United States is very high and far above the recommended levels.   Unfortunately, American men average a consumption of between 3100-4700 mg. of sodium per day; women range 2300-3100 mg.

It is well known that sodium plays a role in developing high blood pressure (hypertension) and that high salt at an early age may enhance our propensity to high blood pressure in certain populations as we age. It is the sodium part of table salt that is significant.   In an earlier blog on sugar, we mentioned that sugar occurs naturally in certain foods. The same is true for sodium.   One of the ways we can lower salt intake is to simply cook with less salt and not salt the food once it gets put on our plates.  However, about 75% of our dietary salt comes from processed foods that contain the mineral before we even prepare it.   A good example is the tomato.    A fresh tomato naturally has 14 mg. of sodium; a cup of canned tomato soup has 932 mg. of sodium per cup (depending on manufacturer).   Another example:  3 ounces of fresh tuna has 50 mg. sodium and the same amount of canned tuna has 384 mg. sodium.   Part of the challenge is to convince policy makers and the public at large that prevention in the long run is much cheaper than the treatment of heart diseases and stroke.

According to the authors cited above, a national effort to reduce daily sodium intake by 1200 mg. could annually reduce the number of new cases of coronary heart disease by 60,000-120,000 and there also would be significant reductions in new cases of stroke and heart attack.    Sound like a simple fix?  This would involve major changes in the food industry, our lifestyles and our cooking patterns.   While people already impacted by these chronic health conditions may adapt, would people who are currently healthy be inclined to pass up a piece of grandma's apple pie for a fresh picked apple?