I’m BORED!

I’m BORED!

 

I’m BORED!” is not a statement a parent/caregiver wants to hear just days into summer break!  Boredom is a feeling. The feeling of being unsatisfied or uninterested can lead to boredom. Boredom can also result from too much time on your hands. Boredom may occur when you do the same thing over and over again. Boredom can affect both physical and mental health and, let’s face it, it is not just kids who get bored!

Nevertheless, boredom, like any feeling, is important to recognize and manage. In fact, people who are good at noticing how they feel and adjusting (self-regulating) their behavior are more likely to do well in school and life, have healthy relationships, and manage difficulties and setbacks – boredom included.

How can we combat boredom? We can counter boredom with constructive activities. Constructive activities are those that require a bit of personal output, or something one actually has to do.

Therefore, before your summer vacation takes a nosedive, think of ways to ward off the doldrums. Know, too, that watching too much screen time can only make boredom worse because screen time, for the most part, is a passive type of activity/entertainment. While there is certainly a place for passive engagement (watching a movie, for instance, or reading a book), you do not have to do anything! Moreover, when the body and mind are not actively engaged for hours on end, things can go downhill… quickly.  Many find actively or constructively doing something satisfying can enlighten your body, your mind, and your soul.

Think about it… while reading a book is passive, your mind is 100% active; the same goes for a movie or your favorite show. However, being engaged, like talking to someone about what you are watching or reading, takes the passive activity to a new level; talking about the activity makes it more constructive because you get really involved in it by sharing. It’s the non-participatory part repeated hour upon hour that can cause the negative effect. The body needs a balanced diet of both passive and constructive activities.

Constructive activities help activate your body, mind, and soul. So, before boredom happens, take a proactive approach to finding a solution before the problem starts. Of course, the internet is full of ideas; some of them are quite good! Personally, I like the approach where the set up requires a few easy to use resources that can quickly engage the user.

Parents and caregivers should help model the behavior they want their charges to follow. Knowing a few tricks to turn passive activities into constructive ones will help the long, hot summer be the best one yet.

Canned Food Gone Bad…

Canned Food Gone Bad…

A dent can lead to food spoilage in canned products.
Photo source: Heidi Copeland

It started with a visible dark line running down the pantry wall. My eye traced the dark line up to an upper shelf, only to realize a can of food was leaking. My first reaction was, “Oh, no! Botulism!” then I quickly recognized that the guilty can contained a highly acidic food, which hinders the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism.

A yeast more likely caused the line creeping along the wall. However, it still made for a fun afternoon of cleaning and inspecting every remaining can in the pantry.

As the photo illustrates, the can was leaking from a tiny, indecipherable breach. Perhaps there was a small dent in the can when it was purchased. Maybe it was dropped and the damage went unnoticed. However, one thing that is certain is that purchasing and storing a damaged can is cause for concern. Dents, punctures, or even rough handling can compromise the integrity of a can, which can lead to leaks and contamination.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the safety and integrity of canned foods. The incidence of spoilage in canned foods is low, but when it occurs, it is important to know what to do. In most cases, the best actions to take are to discard the food immediately and thoroughly clean any contaminated areas. NEVER open a bulging or leaking can. Wear protective equipment, especially gloves, when handling damaged and leaking cans.

The table below includes useful descriptive terms used in the canned food industry – it is a helpful tool for the consumer, too.

Photo source: www.fda.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From a cursory glance, I learned externally, my can was a leaker. The can was ever so slightly dented; perhaps the dent caused a weakness, the can rusted, and the liquid started to drain out.

Because of this canned food misadventure, my pantry got an early spring-cleaning. All the items around the offending can were removed, inspected, and thoroughly cleaned. The shelves and walls were also cleaned to remove any residue.

Cleaning the pantry should not just be done when something leaks, however. The cans and boxes in the pantry should be regularly rotated (first in, first out: FIFO) as well as inspected for pests and/or damage, and the shelves and walls should be periodically cleaned to help prevent any cross-contamination.

Other than leakage, mold, or other obvious clues that canned food is spoiled, there are other signs as well, some of which may not be noticeable until after the can is opened. Some of these include:

  1. The can lid does not seem attached correctly: it moves when touched or is bulging.
  2. The food spurts out when the can is opened.
  3. The can is rusting or corroded. Both rust and corrosion will eventually create tiny holes that let both air and bacteria into the food can.
  4. Dents: dents compromise the integrity of metal, causing a breach. Even the smallest breach in the can may lead to contamination and spoilage.
  5. Sound: an unnatural, loud hiss when the can is opened can be a sign of unwanted fermentation or other biological processes.
  6. Unpleasant smells are a good way to detect possible spoilage, even if the food still looks good.

Visual inspections are important in the food world. Do not wait until there is a mess in the pantry before taking an inventory and weeding out the old and damaged products. It is important to rotate even canned food to keep it from sitting too long. Store newer items behind older ones to ensure items are used before their expiration dates.

Resource: https://www.fda.gov/food/laboratory-methods-food/bam-chapter-21a-examination-canned-foods

For more information about food safety and proper food storage, please contact:

Heidi Copeland, Leon County Extension Office, 850.606.5229.

Samantha Kennedy, Wakulla County Extension Office, 850.926.3931

 

American Rescue Plan: Enhanced, Child Tax Credit

American Rescue Plan: Enhanced Child Tax Credit

American Rescue Plan: Enhanced Child Tax Credit

It is not often (or ever) that working families receive a windfall.  Nevertheless, that is exactly what the enhanced, Child Tax Credit as part of the American Rescue Plan is.  Moreover, it is a significant chunk of money for many families to receive on a monthly basis. If you qualify for the payments start thinking now about what to do with the money.  Without a plan for spending, this money might be spent before you realize it!

The credit amount will be made through advance payment starting July1, 2021 ending December 31, 2021. This tax law change can be a boon to struggling families.  Families can receive financial assistance now, rather than waiting until the 2022 tax filing season to receive the Child Tax Credit benefits.  Please try to be mindful of this money. Start with a plan. A spending plan, also called a budget, is simply a strategy you create that helps you meet expenses.  A good spending plan can keep you from spending money without thinking.

The credit is now extended to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories. For the first time, families residing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Territories will receive this vital financial assistance to better support their children’s development and health and educational attainment

 

Leon County Child Tax Credit Infographic

Leon County Child Tax Credit Infographic

 

Earth Day 2021

Earth Day 2021

 

Fresh orange carrots with dirt and green stems

Carrots
Photo source: Heidi Copeland

According to industry standards, some of these carrots could not be sold because of “Serious damage” or  any defect which seriously affects the general appearance of the
carrots in the container. 

Waste less, save money is a great creed to live by.  Really, it is that simple.  One excellent example of this is food. Research indicates that 40% of all food in America is wasted yet, one in eight Americans does not have enough access to affordable, nutritious food. In other words, they are “food insecure.”

Wasted food is a MASSIVE  problem at the commercial, institutional and residential levels. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates there is more food than any other single material in our everyday trash and that approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted. In fact, in 2015, the USDA joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a goal to cut our nation’s food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.

The sad fact is, most people do not realize how much impact food and food waste has on the earth and its issues of sustainability. Food waste occurs at every level of involvement. Examples of food waste include growing, processing (by-products too), transporting, point of sale, plate waste and uneaten prepared foods, and kitchen trimmings and their eventual disposal. Preventing food waste at all these levels can make a difference in addressing this issue.

However, preventing food waste it is not as easy as it seems.  Many consumer factors also contribute to the problem.

  • Food date labels confuse people. Use by/sell by dates are not always about food safety but about peak quality.  Many foods are still safe to eat after their dates. Inspect “expired” foods closely via sight and smell before consuming –  find ways to use up food past its prime.
  • Households overbuy – do you really need super sizes? Buying in bulk is not always less expensive if much of it is discarded. Only purchase what you know you will use and do not get lured in by the “more for less” deals.
  • Massive portions are often served – share or learn to love leftovers. Split enormous portions into multiple meals.
  • Grocery stores overstock their shelves to maintain an image of abundance.
  • People demand “perfect” produce.  Farmers have a hard time selling less than stellar items. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are just as delicious and nutritious as their more photogenic counterparts. Places such as farmers’ markets and community gardens are good places to find imperfect produce that would otherwise go to waste.

This Earth Day, (an event first celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the United States and is now a globally coordinated event in more than 193 countries) commit  yourself to taking an action.  As the late Neil Armstrong famously quoted as he stepped on to the moon… “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind!” If each of us considered and implemented our own practical or creative approaches to preventing food from going to waste what would our collective actions mean for mankind?

row of orange carrots with dirt and green stems

Fresh Carrots
Photo Source: Heidi Copeland

The best way to reduce food loss at home is not to create it in the first place.  Not only would we individually save money, our collective efforts could conserve resources for future generations. The best method is the one you use.

  1. Reduce wasted food – shop smart, plan what you purchase, and use it, ALL of it!
  2. Maximize the efficiency of your refrigerator based on science. Read your refrigerator manual to learn where the coldest spots in the refrigerator are and what foods benefit from refrigerator location.
  3. Maximize the efficacy of canned products… use the FIFO (first in first out) method of rotation to use the oldest product before the newest on the shelf.
  4. Donate what you cannot use to others.
  5. Divert food scraps to animal food (chickens anyone?)
  6. Compost
  7. Landfill as the last resort.

Common causes of personal food waste include overbuying, over preparing and spoilage. The basic tenets of sustainability – reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse, work to reduce food waste too! Pay attention to purchases, eat what is prepared, store food properly, and refuse to waste. We can all do our part! Let’s start today.

https://savethefood.com/recipes/ 

 

Earned Income Credit for Tax Year 2020

Earned Income Credit for Tax Year 2020

Do you quality for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or Earned Income Credit (EIC)?

 

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or Earned Income Credit (EIC), is a refundable tax credit targeted to working people with low to moderate income. 

EIC is a refundable credit.  You can take advantage of the credit even if you do not owe any taxes. (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-prior/p596–2020.pdf)

Plus, there is a new feature… the LOOKBACK rule for Earned Income Credit (EIC).

As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, passed in December of 2020, you can use your 2019 earned income to determine your EIC and the Additional Child Tax Credit if your 2020 earned income is lower than your 2019 earned income. This is an especially important rule. You can use whichever income gets you the larger credit.

To qualify for the EIC:

  • You must have at least $1 of earned income: wages, salary, tips, net self-employment earnings (income less expenses), or disability benefits up to a certain threshold
  • You file a federal income tax return for the tax year even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file a tax return
  • Taxpayer (and spouse) and any qualifying child must each have a valid Social Security number issued before the due date of your return
  • Taxpayer must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien for the entire year
  • Filing status can be married filing jointly, head of household, qualifying widow(er), or single. (You can’t claim the EITC if your filing status is married filing separately)
  • Your tax year investment income must be $3,650 or less for the year
  • Cannot file form 2555 relating to foreign earned income
  • Rules for qualifying children:
    • Child(ren) must be under age 19—age 18 or younger—at the end of the tax year and younger than you or your spouse (if you file jointly) OR under age 24 and a full-time student and younger than you or your spouse (if you file jointly) OR any age if permanently and totally disabled
    • The child must either be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or a descendant of any of these individuals, which includes your grandchild, niece, or nephew
    • The child must have lived with you for more than half of the tax year (some exceptions apply)
    • Only one person can claim the same child for the same tax year

The EIC may be disallowed if the taxpayer incorrectly files for the credit but does not meet these requirements.