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SNAP credit will help the needy enjoy a farm-fresh diet

FITCHBURG — A new healthy-food reimbursement incentive that will be offered through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program this spring was met positively by the representatives of local nonprofits who attended an informational meeting at Fitchburg Public Library on Wednesday.

Through the new Healthy Incentives Program, any time a SNAP recipient purchases local fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets or community-supported agriculture programs, they will receive a matched credit on their EBT card equal to what they spend on produce.

The equal reimbursed amount can them be used at any other store for any future SNAP eligible purchase.

The new program, which is being coordinated through the Worcester County Food Bank and the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance, has been seeking public input over the last few months, before the new initiative is launched in April.

“Today went pretty great, people are excited about the program,” said Liz Sheehan-Castro, director of advocacy for the Worcester County Food Bank. “Every month I’ve been getting new and different people to come in and share their expertise and input.”

Local DTA partners, like the Worcester County Food Bank, are holding meetings in order to field suggestions for how the program should be implemented in their area and hear concerns for what obstacles might be faced in their communities.

“I think cooking classes would be huge,” said Elizabeth Chin, a HealthAlliance Hospital dietitian who attended Wednesday’s meeting in Fitchburg. “It’s one thing for people to buy these fruits and vegetables, but I would guess a lot of them don’t know what to do with them or only know how to prepare them in one certain way.”

Another suggestion that came out of Wednesday’s meeting was to implement a color-coding system for the kinds of produce for sale.

“I like the suggestion of color coding as far as processing food, storing food, what is able to be frozen and what isn’t. Having that system in place at the different points of sale, I think, would be very helpful,” said Brian Calnan, an area administrator for the Catholic Charities.

“I suggested that we should really focus on the kids, because they will spread the message to their parents,” said Brenda Payton, a representative of the Guild of St. Agnes Early Education Care of Worcester.

People who attended the meeting also discussed challenges the new program might face locally, including the likelihood that SNAP recipients would be able to find transportation to the kinds of markets that would be participating in the Healthy Incentives Programs.

There was also discussion on people not being able to understand the language in which the program is being explained to them.

“We have to make sure this is delivered in the right language, because we can have the best program, but if that person doesn’t understand it, it won’t be successful,” said Gina Plata-Nino, a staff attorney with the Central West Justice Center.

The new program will last until April 2020, and is being funded through a $3.4 million grant from the USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Grant program.

The program does provide a monthly reimbursement cap. Households with one to two members are capped at $40, three to five are capped at $60, and six or more at $80.

Though it will bring in more customers to local farms, and possibly require them to produce more crops, local farm owners like Virginia Lashua of Brookside Family Farm in Westminster are getting involved in an effort to promote healthier diets.

“It does help our business, but I’m not out to take advantage of anyone,” Lashua said. “Everybody should be able to eat and eat well and afford that food.”

Area farms participating in the program:

FITCHBURG: The Fitchburg Farmer’s Market

LEOMINSTER: The Leominster Farmer’s Market

LUNENBURG: Lanni Orchards

WESTMINSTER: Brookside Family Farm

ATHOL: The Athol Farmer’s Market, The Farm School

BOLTON: Nicewicz Family Farm

CONCORD: Barretts Mill Farm, Hutchins Farm

GROTON: Autumn Hills Orchard

HUBBARDSTON: Lady Bug Farm Produce

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter and Tout @PeterJasinski53.

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Dueling Quarterback Diets: Matt Ryan vs. Tom Brady

Nutritionists Weigh In: Brady’s Diet

Sports and conditioning specialists Clark and Marie Spano, a registered dietitian and certified sports and conditioning specialist, applaud Brady’s emphasis on a plant-based diet. Research has found that plant-based diets can improve body mass index, blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol while reducing the need for medication for chronic disease and lowering your chance of dying from heart disease.

However, they aren’t sure omitting the nightshade vegetables is crucial. While some diets recommend avoiding them, claiming they lead to inflammatory reactions, Clark says evidence supporting that is lacking.

Spano says that nightshade vegetables may disagree with certain people. But “I don’t see any reason to take out nightshades unless you have tested positive for an allergy or food sensitivity,” says Spano, a sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks NBA team.

Another nutritionist gives their “no-dairy” rule a thumbs-down. “Any diet that restricts entire food groups almost always puts someone at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says Tim Ziegenfuss, PhD, a sports nutrition and exercise scientist. He has done consulting for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, among other football teams.

Clark says that eliminating all sugars isn’t necessary. Under the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, 10% of total calories can come from added sugars, she says. And while Brady’s emphasis on whole grains is good, the dietary guidelines say only half of all grains need to be whole grains.

Neither Clark nor Spano favors coconut oil. “It has a couple of fatty acids that can increase cholesterol,” Spano says. She prefers using olive, pecan, or avocado oil, citing their vitamin E content and other benefits. Vitamin E is key for a healthy immune system and vessel functioning.

“I have great respect for people who pay attention to what they eat.” Clark says. “An athlete’s diet is a reflection of how they live their life, how they train.”

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Diet Doc Rejects hCG Diet and Opts for Proven Weight Loss …

JACKSON, MS–(Marketwired – February 02, 2017) – The hCG diet, originally created by Dr. A.T.W. Simeons in the 1950s has been a controversial diet plan for several reasons. hCG is a hormone that women naturally create during pregnancy and when taken in injection form, it has been associated with quick weight loss of up to one pound per day. Most experts however, link these results to its corresponding diet plan, which only allows 500 calories to be consumed per day. The diet also restricts exercise due to this low-calorie count, which on a regular basis is not only hazardous to one’s health, but also has the same effect as crash dieting in which pounds easily come back after the diet has finished. Most importantly, there has been no consensus within the medical community with regards to safety and guidelines for the hCG diet’s proper dosing and use. As a result, medical weight loss experts at Diet Doc, as well as a host of others have long-since deemed the hCG diet as both ineffective and risky.

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Loughborough researchers use photography to encourage people of Ghana make healthier diet choices – News

Loughborough researchers are hoping photographs taken by women in Ghana of what people eat and drink in their communities will encourage them to make healthier diet choices.

Ghana, like many other African countries, is currently experiencing rapid change, a key one being increasing migration to cities.

These changes have resulted in people having unhealthier diets in urban areas and an increase in diseases such as obesity and diabetes. But there is limited understanding of the factors that lead to dietary change – particularly the role that social environments play, such as family or friends, or the neighbourhoods that individuals live in, and their access to healthy food.

Loughborough Professor Paula Griffiths is joining a team of international researchers – led by the University of Sheffield – to investigate the drivers to dietary changes in Ghana, and why people in the country are choosing unhealthier foods over their traditional diet and what influences these choices.

Professor Griffiths, from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, will be working in two Ghanaian cities, the capital Accra and the smaller provincial city of Ho. The project team will be recruiting 32 women, aged between 13 and 49, from the poorest groups of these communities and giving each of them a camera for a week.

During that time they will be asked to take photographs that reflect things about what they eat and drink and the things that influence food and drink choices in their community.

“We want to capture the good things that already exist in their community, as well as the things that need to change to help people lead more healthy lives,” explains Professor Griffiths.

“By handing participants cameras we are empowering them to tell their stories about the changes they are experiencing in the city to their diet, their experiences with food and the things that influence the things they eat and drink in their daily lives.

“At the end of the project every participant will select a photo that they would like to be exhibited, to highlight the story they want to tell about the things that affect food and drink choices in their community. We will be organising local exhibitions to generate as much impact as we can from their photographs, using them to identify interventions that could be adopted with local experts and policy makers to improve diets and harness the healthy aspects of traditional dietary habits.”

This ‘photovoice’ research is part of a larger project, which will see the creation of maps of food and drink outlets in the community, dietary assessments, meetings with stakeholders about their readiness to implement and receive interventions and a review of existing policy already in place that looks at healthy eating in Ghana.

Principal investigator of the study, Professor Michelle Holdsworth, from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research, said: “Diets are changing globally and dietary transition is now happening in most cities of the global south, including countries in Africa, Central and Latin America and Asia.  Here we see people’s habits are changing from a traditional plant-based diet – which are healthier – to a diet that is high in processed, energy dense convenience foods, rich in fat and sugar, but poor in nutrients.

“Unhealthy diets are associated with the rapid rise of diet-related diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”


Many Fast-Food Containers Have Risky Chemical

Feb. 1, 2016 — The next time you get a muffin with your coffee or pick up a hamburger at a drive-thru, you could also be getting a side of chemicals that have a poor safety and environmental record, a new study shows.

Researchers tested more than 400 samples of bags, wrappers, boxes, and cups from 27 fast-food and fast-casual restaurant chains in the U.S. in 2014 and 2015.

Many of these kinds of paper packaging and paperboard containers are laced with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, they found.

PFASs, also called fluorinated chemicals, are a big class of more than 3,000 widely used chemicals that make things grease- and stain-resistant. The problem is, the substances don’t break down over time. That means they build up in the environment and in our bodies.

They have been linked to a variety of human health issues, including cancers, reproductive problems, immune system damage, and high cholesterol. These typically happen when people are continuously exposed to small amounts over long periods of time.

“There are some studies showing that they come off on the food, so you’re basically eating them, and that’s not a good idea,” says study author Arlene Blum, PhD, a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute.

One-third of all the samples, or 33%, tested positive for PFASs, according to the study. Bread and dessert wrappers were the most likely to have them — about half tested positive. Burger wrappers were second — 38% of those tested had PFAS. About 1 in 5 paperboard containers, like the boxes that hold french fries, also tested positive. Paper cups seemed to be in the clear — none tested positive for PFAS.

Perhaps most concerning, during a second test to confirm the results in 20 containers, six containers tested positive for PFOA, or C8, a chemical that was once a major component of Teflon nonstick coating.

PFOA is a specific kind of PFAS. For safety reasons, the EPA asked manufacturers to stop making it in the U.S., and last year, the FDA officially banned it in food packaging used in this country. But PFOA is still being made in other countries, like China. The study authors say it’s not clear exactly how PFOA ended up in some of the food packaging they tested, but it’s not a good sign.

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