National Grandparents Day 2017:  September 10

National Grandparents Day 2017: September 10

For nearly 40 years, National Grandparents Day has been celebrated as an opportunity to express gratitude for all that grandparents do for families and communities.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau Profile, America Facts for Features, in 1970, Marian McQuade initiated a campaign to establish a day to honor grandparents.  In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a federal proclamation, declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day.

Across the U.S., not only are grandparents appreciated for sharing their time, wisdom, and values, but they are currently stepping up to raise over 7.2 million children under the age of 18 whose biological parents are unable to do so, thus keeping the children out of the foster care system.  In Florida, 11% of children live in homes where householders are grandparents or other relatives.

Locally, in Leon County, there are more than 2,000 grandparent-headed families, where:

  • 13.1% of the grandparents are 60 years and older
  • 39.8% of these families live below the poverty level
  • Nearly 50% of these families have had the children for 5 or more years

The reasons as to why so many grandparents are raising grandchildren are many and varied.  Nationally, substance abuse causes more than one third of this type of placement.  Nevertheless, because of a grandparent’s selfless devotion and generosity to the needs of others, grandparents are, in fact, owed a great deal of thanks for their altruism.

As one grandmother exclaimed, “For my 50th birthday, I got a 2 year-old.  My story isn’t unique.”  In fact, grandparent roles in children’s lives are so significant that the Grandparents as Parents (GaP) Program of the Tallahassee Senior Foundation, funded by the Leon County Commission, grants, and donations, has a program and support group just for them!  According to Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, “The GaP program provides moral support and resource assistance to these grandfamilies who are trying to navigate through their new lifestyle.”

AARP® has streamlined the gathering of relevant information pertinent to this nationwide dilemma.  The AARP® resource, Grand Families Fact Sheet, includes state-specific data and programs available, as well as information about public benefits, educational assistance, legal relationship options, and state laws.  This fact sheet also contains many other resource tools such as the National Council on Aging’s questionnaire that helps grandparent caregivers and/or the children they are raising determine if they qualify for certain programs that pay for food, an increase in income, and/or home and healthcare costs.  Once the questionnaire is completed, the website generates a list of eligible programs and contact information.  (

Take a moment today and every day to give thanks and appreciation for the thousands of grandparents in our community and around the country for the service they do for children.  One thing is for certain:  grandparents are more valuable to their grandchildren and communities than ever.  Grandparents are indispensable and important people.

Want more information about supporting GaP or do you need support yourself?  Contact Karen Boebinger, GaP Program Coordinator, at 850-891-4027 or


Wet Socks

Wet Socks

What’s worse than wearing wet socks? Okay – wet, dirty socks. Or wet, dirty socks with holes. Ooh, ooh, the worst – cold, wet, dirty socks with holes.

If your feet are in clean, dry socks with no need of mending, think for a moment about those not so lucky.

Homeless shelters are continuously in need of new socks. If you’re homeless, you walk – a lot. Many homeless walk several miles every day for food, shelter, and other essentials. Getting the assistance you need is easier when your feet are healthy and don’t have blisters. People are often more motivated to seek employment and keep it when they feel confident in the way they look. Wearing socks and shoes with holes decreases their sense of self-worth. A clean set of socks is often the first step in restoring their feeling of dignity.

Wet socks breed bacteria, which can cause infection. And since more than a million Americans have diabetes, wearing cold, wet, holey, dirty socks puts them at greater risk of skin injuries and infections. According to WebMD, diabetics should never walk barefoot and should wear comfortable socks and shoes that fit well and protect the feet. For more foot care tips, see Tips on Good Foot Care.

If you like keeping things local, know that cotton is considered a power crop in the panhandle of Florida. It’s rotated in alternate years with peanuts to avoid pests, diseases, and weeds. Some socks are 100% cotton; many are a blend of cotton mixed with other fibers.

So, help the local economy in the Florida Panhandle and help someone by giving them socks. Buy new socks with cotton. Keep a pair for yourself and donate some to a homeless shelter near you. (Waterfront Mission is a great place to start – Waterfront Mission Donations.) You’ll feel better and so will they.


Are YOUR Hands Clean?

It’s something we all hopefully learned as children and carry with us now into adulthood: washing our hands often and properly. But I’m sorry to say that we’ve probably all witnessed numerous instances of people leaving the restroom, coughing or sneezing, touching their cell phones or any number of other filthy surfaces, and then neglecting to wash their hands. According to a research study from Michigan State University (2013), only 5% of people washed their hands properly after using the toilet with 7% of men and 15% of women not washing their hands at all. This type of behavior is a recipe for disaster, leading to the spread of germs and pathogens.

Germs and pathogens are invisible and ubiquitous, living on every imaginable surface. Even though they can’t be seen by the naked eye they have the ability to make us very sick, and can even be deadly. According to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist with the University of Arizona, a typical cell phone has approximately 25,000 germs per square inch! We spread germs very easily from surface to surface and from hand to mouth, increasing the potential for illness to ourselves and others every step of the way. If these germs contaminate food contact surfaces or the food we eat, the likelihood for a foodborne illness has been created. Common symptoms of foodborne illness include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal cramps. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

The good news is that we all have the power to stop the spread of germs. The Food and Drug Administration says that “washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others.”

It’s good practice to always wash your hands (CDC):

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Are you following these steps to proper handwashing (CDC)?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Soap and water may not always be available, so using hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Although hand sanitizers don’t kill all germs, the CDC recommends choosing a sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to significantly reduce the number of germs and pathogens on your hands.

For more information on handwashing and hand sanitizers refer to the CDC Handwashing Factsheet. Additional information about foodborne illnesses and the pathogens that cause them can be found at

Spice Things Up with Alternative Seasonings

With today’s continued focus on healthy eating and the dangers of high blood pressure, seasoning and cooking with salt has decreased.  Alternative seasonings such as herbs and spices are excellent additions to any dish without the dreaded sodium.  Herbs and spices are easy to use and can add a variety of delicious flavor combinations to any family favorite.

The difference between an herb and a spice is the part of the plant used.  Herbs come from the leaves and soft stems of the plant.  Spices are taken from the roots, seeds, bark, fruit, or flowers of the plant.  Spices tend to have a stronger flavor than herbs, and are usually used in smaller quantities.

Besides being a healthy substitute for salt, herbs and spices can also replace added fat and sugar without contributing extra calories.  Instead of adding extra sugar to oatmeal, for example, try using cinnamon or allspice.

Add cumin or ground black pepper to more savory dishes instead of reaching for the salt shaker or butter.  Try seasoning meats with herbs and spices instead of coating them in breading or gravy.

Not all herbs and spices pair well with all types of foods.  Herbs and spices should be used to enhance and complement the flavor of food without taking it over completely.

A strong herb such as rosemary would completely overwhelm a mild-tasting food like peas or other vegetable.  Conversely, a mild herb such as parsley would be completely overwhelmed by a strong-tasting food such as lamb or beef.

Dried herbs can be used instead of fresh herbs in recipes, and vice versa.  Keep in mind the flavor of dried herbs is much more concentrated than that of fresh, so reduce the amount accordingly.

Use only a quarter to half as much dried as fresh.  Start with a smaller amount, and then add as needed to achieve the desired taste.

Look for herbs with a bright green color and little or no wilting when choosing fresh ones.  Avoid bunches showing signs of mold, slime, or pests.

Wash fresh herbs in clean, cool water to get rid of any sand.  Fresh herbs need to be stored in the refrigerator, in an unsealed plastic bag, to maintain optimal freshness.  They can last up to three weeks, though should be used within a week for the best flavor.

Dried herbs and spices, if stored correctly, do not spoil.  However, they will lose their flavor and aroma over time.

Ideally, flaked or ground herbs and spices should be replaced every six months for maximum flavor, but can remain viable for up to three years.  Whole spices such as cinnamon sticks and peppercorns can remain effective for up to five years.

Not all herbs and spices are created equal.  When using them in cooking, it is important to remember the more delicate herbs such as basil and chives should be added right before serving to preserve their flavor.

Less delicate herbs such as thyme and oregano can be added earlier in the cooking process since they retain their flavor better.  When creating herb blends, mix, match, and be creative.  Add them to a cheese shaker for easy access during meals.

To learn more, sign up for the Extension Cooking Class series which starts September 7, 2017 at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 84 Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville. Start time is 6:00 p.m. and the cost is $10.

For additional tips about cooking with herbs and spices, call Samantha at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension office at (850) 926-3931.

The After-school Snack Attack: Strategies for Busy Moms

With kids back in school, moms face a set of challenges that somehow seem new every year. One of those challenges is what to feed kiddos who race in the door hungry after a long day in the classroom. As a savvy mom, you know that snacks can help your kids meet their nutritional needs – as long as you pick the right ones. That’s where it can get a bit tricky because in addition to being healthful, the snacks need to be loaded with kid appeal plus be quick and easy to grab. Try some of the following ideas from the different food groups to create a snack that will give your kids calories (energy), meet their nutritional needs, and taste great as well!
• Banana Tortilla Treat – Grab a whole wheat tortilla, spread with peanut butter and sprinkle with low-fat granola. Put a peeled banana on top and roll the tortilla.
• Combo-licious – Top a scoop of cottage cheese with canned fruit. Choose peaches, pears, mango, pineapple or fruit cocktail.
• Wrap It – Spread fresh hummus on a whole wheat tortilla. Add thinly sliced carrots, zucchini, cucumber, or whatever veggie your kids prefer. Roll it up and go!
Feeling rushed in the afternoons? Plan ahead and create a healthy snack shelf at eye level in your pantry and in your refrigerator for kids to grab and go. You might try the following:
• String cheese and a small can of fruit.
• Fat free or 1% flavored milk (chocolate or strawberry)
• Pre-cut raw veggies (celery sticks, baby carrots, cucumber slices) in zipped baggies beside low-fat yogurt dip, cottage cheese or hummus.
• Snack-sized applesauce
• Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
• Flavored rice cakes with peanut butter to spread
• Microwave popcorn
• Whole-grain crackers on the shelf and sliced cheese in the ‘fridge

With just a little planning, you can avoid snack-time stress and help your kids learn healthy eating habits at the same time.

For more ideas, check out these snack tips for parents. 10 Choose My Plate Snack Tips


Seven Tips for a Healthy School Lunch

Seven Tips for a Healthy School Lunch

Jazz up traditional peanut butter sandwiches with raisins or carrot straws.

Now that school is back in session, are your struggling to find healthy and safe lunches to pack?  Do you cringe with every peanut butter and jelly sandwich you make?  If you are like me, finding healthy lunch time meals that are packed with nutrition, offer some variety, and won’t end up in the trash requires planning, creativity, and lots of energy!

  1. Get children involved! Even young school-age children can help make their own lunch.  Give children healthy choices and let them decide lunch menus.  Children may be more willing to eat the food you pack if they have been involved in the process.
  2. Dunk it and dip it. Children love finger foods they can dip.  Serve raw vegetables with hummus or fresh fruit with yogurt.
  3. Offer some “fun foods.” Let children choose some low-calorie fun foods.  Healthy or low-calorie options for the sweet or crunchy tooth include pretzels, plain popcorn, mini rice cakes, low-fat pudding, a miniature chocolate bar, or a rice crispy treat.
  4. Jazz up boring favorites. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a nutritious favorite.  Liven them up with carrot straws or raisins.  Add color and nutrition to sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, or sliced vegetables.
  5. Keep lunches safe. Make sandwiches the night before and freeze them.  Freeze juice boxes or water bottles to keep foods cool and for a cool lunchtime beverage.  Experiment to be sure there is enough time before lunch for the items to thaw.
  6. Re-think leftovers. Even if children don’t have access to a microwave to reheat food from last night’s dinner, some leftovers work for lunch, too. Try cold pizza, meat sliced for a sandwich, or pasta salad.
  7. Skip the fuss and sign up for the National School Lunch Program. While some schools may offer free and reduced-price lunches to eligible families, the school lunch program is for everyone.  School lunches provide low cost, balanced meals that follow USDA dietary guidelines.  Take a break from packing lunch and check out your school’s lunch menu.

Turkey Rolls:
2 flour tortillas
2 tsp mayonnaise
2 slices thinly sliced deli turkey
½ cup shredded lettuce
2 Tbsp shredded cheese, any type

Lay out tortillas. Spread with mayonnaise. Layer turkey slice, lettuce and cheese onto tortillas. Roll up and wrap. Makes 2 servings.

One serving provides 218 calories, 9 g total fat, 20 g carbohydrate and 14 g protein.
Exchanges – 1 bread, 2 meats, 2 fats.

Recipe source:  Janis G. Hunter, HGIC Nutrition Specialist, and Katherine L. Cason, Professor, Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences, Clemson University, New 08/08. Revised 09/11. Image added 8/15.  HGIC 4114