April 2015 Archives

VegOut! in the Chronicle

Recipe for Success
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Vegout Chron pic.jpgRecipe for Success reminds you to eat your vegetables
Nonprofit promotes better eating with monthlong challenge
By Greg Morago-March 10, 2015

Caloric indulgences are always aplenty in Houston. But when the rodeo pulls into town, temptations can overwhelm even the most sensible of diets. Houston has nearly a month-long love affair with chocolate-dipped cheesecake, foot-long sausages on a stick, funnel cakes with a flurry of powdered sugar, heaping portions of barbecue, jaw-busting burgers and deep-fried bacon during the run of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Which makes VegOut!, a campaign sponsored by Recipe for Success, so perfectly timed. Read the whole story.

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

Recipe for Success
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birthday_cupcakes__58456.1405367087.1280.1280.jpgAn Editorial for the Houston Chronicle, by Gracie Cavnar.

In 2004, I celebrated the news that Susan Combs, Texas Agricultural Commissioner at the time, had wrestled control of the school lunch program from those who supported the idea of soda machines in elementary schools and Sara Lee on the lunch line.  I was proud that Texas, which was leading the nation in childhood obesity rates, was also leading the way on meaningful reform to help reverse the epidemic. Last month, I got a headache when I read that Sid Miller, our current Texas Agricultural Commissioner, is on a campaign to reverse those rules and will probably succeed, despite protests from health experts, teachers and parents.

It had been a heads-up from Susan about vending machines in schools that sparked my own fight to save the next generation from a lifetime of obesity.  Now Mr. Miller was using time-tested political tactics to distract Texans from the real issues surrounding school food with his high-profile crusade to allow Moms to bring birthday cupcakes from home to little Johnny's class. The indignation of it all! Guvmint rules prohibiting dearly held family traditions of classroom birthday celebrations! The cupcake wars were a red herring, a non-issue. In fact birthday cupcakes have always enjoyed a waiver in both state and federal school nutrition rules.  But let's not let the facts get in the way.

School lunch is a hot potato--or should I say French fry--and always has been. There is a whole lot of money involved.  We spend over $10 billion annually on the National School Lunch program. That's big business. So, no wonder politicians like to ignore the Surgeon General's warnings.
Food in schools has always been controversial.  Started in 1946 in response to the nutritional deficiencies of U.S. military recruits, the school lunch program soon became embroiled in serial struggles among food and drink companies, farmers, agribusiness, school administrators, and nutritionists.  They fought over who could regulate what, where and when. It was all about the money.  Remember the ketchup and pickle relish controversy in the early 80's?  That was nuthin compared to efforts made by the soda industry to break into the lunch line.  In 1983, acting on a suit brought by the National Soft Drink Association, a panel of judges ruled that the USDA could regulate drinks only in public-school cafeterias, and only at mealtimes. As long as soft drink and candy companies had the permission of local school boards and administrators, they could sell anything, any place at anytime.  Vending machines began to multiply like bunnies in the hallways and gymnasiums of our schools.

It was bad enough that parents were already dealing with the cartoons, the toys and cross marketing that motivated the tiniest tots to demand sugary cereal and chicken nuggets.  But now, even if they limited TV, parents could no longer shield their kids from junk food access.  No matter what the home-rule, a five year old with money in his pocket could buy his own soda at school or have nothing but chips for lunch.  And what a coup for the snack food giants! Snaring a cradle to grave customer while making millions.

At the same time, obesity rates skyrocketed: Between 1980 and 2000, rates doubled and obesity has now eclipsed smoking as the number one health hazard in America.  Today, over half of all Americans are obese and 10% of us have Type II Diabetes.  This year, 400,000 Americans will die from diseases linked to their obesity and one million of our feet will be amputated. Sadly, every year the obesity epidemic reaches further down the age charts. 23 million American kids are already obese. Now, its not unusual for a six year old to develop chronic diseases that we used to only see in their grandparents: Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, liver disease, kidney failure and even cancer. 

Obesity is not just killing many of us; it's costing all of us--$270 billion in 2011 alone.  That's not only in healthcare, but also lost time at work, disability payments and increased insurance premiums for everyone.
The map to turn this epidemic around has been in our hands since 2005, when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Institute of Medicine published a sweeping manifesto. After four years of gathering reports from over 60 top health researchers and documenting obesity trends along with its financial and health impacts, their action plan laid out recommended interventions at every level of our society, from home, to neighborhood, to school, town, city, state and federal.  They considered schools one of the most influential settings to encourage healthy behavior. The group, along with the American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics called for an overhaul of school lunch guidelines along with elimination of all sugar-sweetened beverages, snacks and low nutrient food from vending machines and campus cafeterias.

By then, over 21% of elementary, 62% of middle and 85% of high schools had vending machines on campus and 83% of them offered a-la-carte foods on the lunch line from vendors like Taco Bell, Subway, Domino's and Pizza Hut.  School districts across the country pushed back. They counted on the extra revenue from vending and food contracts--typically upwards of $125,000 a year per school, and so did the big soda and snack food companies.  A raft of advertising ensued--$52 million annually directed at kids alone, to promote exercise as the best way to stay healthy, while celebrating American's freedom to eat what we want.  Go ahead; you deserve a break today!

Research indicates that what we eat and the way we eat it is at the root cause of obesity, so the school cafeteria is a great place to start changing habits.  American taxpayers foot the bill for 21.5 million kids to eat free meals at school every day.  For 80% of these children--16 million who are food insecure, it's often their only meal.  I'm wondering why we would agree to line the pockets of the junk food industry on the taxpayer's dime to feed our most vulnerable kids high-calorie, nutrient-poor food that contributes to their chance of becoming obese and practically ensures that we will continue to pay for a lifetime of their chronic diseases?  One of the most effective disruptors to the poverty cycle is good health.  Wouldn't the taxpayer dollar be better spent to guarantee healthy school lunches?

Shame on Mr. Miller for signaling to Texas schools that it's OK to go back to the old, profitable unhealthy ways; but shame on us for letting him get away with it! Cupcake anyone?

Snack Time

Emily Paul
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If you are someone who only eats at meal times, power to you. Around 3 PM on most days, I am struck with an intense snack craving akin to someone on a two hour hike. As a teacher, I know I am not alone in that feeling. The last bell of the day rings and kids are off scavenging for snacks like leopards on the hunt. Unfortunately, many students settle for highly processed, fire hydrant red powdered "cheese" puffs and other snacks with a similar dirth in substence. Parents, fear not! We have an easy and delicious alternative: Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars. 

These bars are the perfect refueling snack for children (and adults too!) who need the energy for afternoon activities like tutorials and sports, without the excessive sugar and salt. The nuts offer great protein while the wheat germ adds a nice fiber boost! Enjoy. 

Granola Bars 2.png

Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars

Recipe by Justin Kouri

 Ingredients

 1c Rolled oats

½c Pecans, roughly chopped

¼c Shredded coconut

2T Coconut oil

1/3c Honey

1T Brown sugar

1t Vanilla extract

2T Wheat germ

½t Sea salt

¼c Dried cranberries

PROCEDURE

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a 9"x5" loaf pan with parchment paper so that there is an extra 2" on the long sides of the pan. This will make it easier to remove the finished product from the pan.

Place oats, pecans and coconut on baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, stirring the ingredients every five minutes.

Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, combine coconut oil, honey, brown sugar and vanilla in small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Right when it begins to bubble, remove from heat.

 Once the oat mixture is toasted, place in large metal bowl. Add wheat germ, salt and dried cranberries to the oat mixture. Add the warm honey mixture to the bowl and stir until everything is combined.  Pour into prepared pan, and press with spatula so that the mixture is uniform. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then wrap with plastic and chill for 45 minutes, or overnight. Pull the granola loaf out of the pan, cut into 6  uniform bars and serve.

 Yields: 6 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes

Active cooking time: 15 minutes

Inactive cooking time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Skill level: Easy

Let us know how you and your kiddos like them in the comments below! What would you add?  

Why We Are Front & Center @Bayou Green Day

Recipe for Success
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VegOut! festival.jpgWe want to celebrate the historic legacy of Houston's bayous as the first food highway into town at the city's inception and to bring some cultural relevance into the connection of land, water, and the vast diversity of Houstonian's foodways.  The RFS team will be at three parks on Saturday, April 4 as part of the Houston Parks Board Bayou Green Day. 

We helped create an event passport as another salute to the original gateways to Houston, so we will be stamping passports at all three of our booths:  At Gragg Park folks can stop by to share their Favorite Holiday Food Stories on video and earn a passport stamp.  Then, at Spurlock Park we are helping folks write original poetry and enter our Garden Haikus for Earth Day contest, which will be judged by Rich Levy (Poet and Director of Inprint.) Poets will earn another passport stamp.  At our #HoustonDigsRealFood booth located in Mason Park, we will have all the necessary materials to make a plant pot, plant a veggie from seed and earn another passport stamp   Snaring three stamps will win the passport holder a prize from Success Rice & Mahatma Rice, which will be givenout at all three Recipe for Success booths.

It's just another food adventure with Recipe for Success Foundation that reflects our efforts to celebrate and share our appreciation for fresh, nutritious food and inspire a culture where healthy eating is the norm.  Here is a link to all the other things happening during this event.  Send us you pictures and have fun.