Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Healthy Snacks Good for Student Waistlines and for Schools’ Bottom Lines

Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project
WASHINGTON — (JUNE 26, 2012) — Updating national nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold in schools could help students maintain a healthy weight and increase food service revenue, according to a health impact assessment (HIA) (PDF) released today by the Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project and the Health Impact Project.

The findings come as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prepares to issue policies requiring that food and beverages sold outside of federal school meal programs meet minimum nutrition standards. These items sold in vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria a la carte lines are often called “competitive foods” because they compete with school meals for students’ spending.

The projects, both collaborations of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, conducted this HIA to examine how the USDA’s updated nutrition standards would affect student health. It also looked at the potential impact such changes could have on school revenue.

This HIA marks the first time such an evaluation has been completed to inform a new federal rule and is one of the most comprehensive scientific reviews ever conducted on competitive foods. Vetted by a wide array of experts, the peer-reviewed research includes an assessment of more than 300 studies and original economic data analyses.

“The evidence is clear and compelling,” said Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project. “Implementing strong national nutrition standards to make the snacks and beverages our children consume healthier is something that schools and districts can afford. The USDA should do all it can to finalize and help implement strong standards.”

The HIA found that national nutritional standards for snack foods and beverages would reduce the consumption of these items during the school day. With many children eating roughly half of their daily calories at schools, new guidelines will likely have a meaningful impact on student weight. For example, the spike in childhood obesity that occurred between 1988 and 2002 could have been substantially decreased by a modest reduction of just 110-165 calories a day.

The report also showed that many schools may be losing money from their food services departments when students buy snack foods instead of healthier breakfasts or lunches. School districts in states with nutrition standards for snack and a la carte foods and beverages saw total food- service revenues generally increase after the guidelines were put in place. This is largely because more children will purchase school meals if there are fewer items competing for their lunch money.

“School districts on average experienced an increase in food-service revenues after the implementation of standards for snack foods and beverages—even when controlling for factors such as the economic downturn, population size, demographics and poverty levels,” said Portland State University Professor Neal Wallace, who conducted the HIA’s economic analysis. “The increases in food-service revenues were found to offset any losses in sales of competitive foods, leaving overall food-related revenues virtually unchanged.”

All children would benefit from new nutrition guidelines, particularly those in vulnerable populations. Students from low-income families who participate in free and reduced-priced meal programs would be more likely to buy healthier foods after implementation of the guidelines. Likewise, these new standards would help black and Hispanic children, who tend to have a higher incidence of obesity and related diseases.

Based upon the rigorous research conducted by the HIA, the projects recommend that the USDA:
  • establish nutrition standards for all foods sold regularly onsite during the school day and that are outside of the USDA meal programs;
  • set nutrition guidelines for all beverages sold on school grounds; and
  • adopt policies and practices that ensure effective implementation of the standards.
“This HIA looked at the health impact of higher nutritional standards in the context of the significant financial challenges that schools face already,” said Aaron Wernham, M.D., director of the Health Impact Project. “We found that schools can afford to do the right thing. School districts with healthier snack food and beverage policies also tend to do better financially. It is a win-win.”

The Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project and the Health Impact Project worked with Upstream Public Health, a non-profit research and policy organization with experience in completing detailed assessments of health impacts, to conduct this assessment.

HIAs are part of a fast-growing field in the United States. In 2007, there were only 27 such studies. Today, roughly 200 HIAs have been completed or are ongoing.

Kids' Safe & Healthful Foods Project Article:

A Supremely Important Decision...

Each and every one of us will need to access health care at some point in our lives and the Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures that the progress being made toward protecting patients, improving quality care, and emphasizing prevention will continue.
As we look forward, it is important to recognize how the law is already making significant strides in helping millions of Americans access and afford the care they need, including:
·    61,000 patients with serious medical conditions, like heart disease and stroke, who have been able to access health care coverage through the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIPs) established under the law.
·    86 million Americans who received at least one free preventive service last year, including cholesterol and blood pressure screening, nutrition counseling, and tobacco-cessation counseling (or counseling to quit smoking).
·    3.6 million Medicare beneficiaries who saved a total of $2.1 billion in 2011 on prescription drugs as the ‘donut hole’ closes.
·    3.1 million young adults who now have health care coverage because they are able to stay on their parents' plan until the age of 26.
And in 2014, 122 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will finally have peace of mind that they cannot be denied coverage or charged higher premiums based on their condition.
Additionally, the law has helped prioritize the fight against our nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers with the launch of the Million Hearts campaign. This initiative has brought together key government agencies, companies, and nonprofits, including the AHA/ASA, to work toward the goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next 5 years.
In the months and years ahead, the AHA/ASA looks forward to continuing to work with Congress, the Administration, the states, our fellow public health partners, and advocates like you to work toward quality, affordable health care for all Americans. 

Questions about the Affordable Care Act? Learn more about what the law means for you! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You're the Cure Advocate and American Heart Association Volunteer Crowned Miss Minnesota!

Congratulations to Siri Freeh, You're the Cure advocate and American Heart Association volunteer for being named Miss Minnesota!  Check out the article from the Star Tribune below:

U nursing student is new Miss Minnesota

Miss Minnesota 2012 was crowned Saturday night at Eden Prairie High School. Miss Northwest Siri Freeh, 22, of Lake Park in Becker County, was chosen from among 22 contestants in the Miss Minnesota Scholarship Pageant. She is a junior at the University of Minnesota, where she is a nursing major with the intent of obtaining a doctorate specializing in cardiovascular research.

Freeh will next compete for the title of Miss America in January. First runner-up was Miss Brainerd Lakes Rebecca Yeh; second runner-up was Miss Coon Rapids Samantha Phillippi; third runner-up, Miss St. Paul Elizabeth Scipioni, and fourth runner-up was Miss West Metro Bethany Beniek.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Farm to School program finding success in region

WORTHINGTON — Imagine having 800 ears of fresh, locally-grown sweet corn delivered to your local school to serve students for lunch.

It sounds delicious, but who is going to shuck all of the ears and how much is it going to cost?

Cathy Rogers, food service director at Pipestone Area Schools, has found producers willing to supply her with fresh fruits and vegetables, and can get enough volunteer labor from students at school to help make it work.

Rogers has been instrumental in leading the Farm to School program at Pipestone Area, and she was one of four panelists to speak about the program Monday night at Worthington High School.

Nearly 30 people attended the meeting, from local produce growers to food service employees, school board members and local leaders. The Farm to School project is a primary focus of Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Plan (SHIP), and is partially funded through state dollars.

“It’s an attempt to link our farming community to local schools so students have access to local fruits and vegetables and farmers have a new market,” said American Cancer Society’s Rebecca Thoman of the meeting. ACS has joined SHIP in promoting Farm to School as a way to attack the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

With 140 school districts and nearly 800 schools participating in the Farm to School program, SHIP officials are hoping to expand the program further. About 80 percent of school districts in the Southwest SHIP region (Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles and Rock counties) participate in Farm to School at some level.

Paul Karelis, Worthington High School principal, said the local district is starting its own garden this year. A nearly 2-acre plot has been planted with sweet corn, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon and radishes.

“You really have to watch what you’re going to try to produce,” Karelis said. “Squash and eggplant, those are all good things, but how often are you going to see eggplant on your school menu?”

Rogers actually introduced eggplant at Pipestone Area this past school year and, to her surprise, the students ate it all. The eggplant, along with sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, carrots, salad greens, peppers, cabbage and potatoes are purchased from Edgerton-area farmers Gary and Marsha Boverhof. The Boverhofs were also seated on the panel Monday night.

Rogers said she began buying local produce four years ago, starting when a producer showed up at the school with a trailer filled with melons. That first year she purchased watermelon and cantaloupe, and it expanded the second year with the purchase of apples from Stonegate Orchard near Slayton.

“Then SHIP came in and said they had money to help with Farm to School efforts,” Rogers said, adding she attended educational sessions and speed dating-type programs in which food service managers met with local growers to discuss supply and demand opportunities.

It was during one of those speed dating-type programs that Rogers met the Boverhofs, who own a 30-acre vegetable plot just 20 miles from the Pipestone school.

“One of the advantages in a smaller school is we have the shaking hand agreement,” Rogers explained. “We don’t have any contracts. I don’t menu (the food). When it comes, that’s what we have for lunch. It’s awesome, it works great.”

In addition to the Boverhofs and Stonegate Orchard, Rogers gets fresh hydroponic romaine lettuce from one farmer and hydroponic tomatoes from another. Approximately 18 percent of her lunch program budget is dedicated for Farm to School products, and nearly 30 percent of the food served in the school cafeteria comes from local growers. Pipestone Area serves approximately 1,200 students in the school lunch program.

“It is more expensive, it is more time consuming, but we’re there for the kids,” Rogers said, adding cooks in the school then use the items for a lot of made-from-scratch foods.

Just as the fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy options for students and a good choice for food service workers to serve, the Farm to School program also benefits the growers by having a steady market for their product.

“It’s just another market for us,” said Gary Boverhof, adding their farm already sold wholesale and at farmer’s markets.

“The biggest issue we have, probably, is that the seasons don’t really jive,” he said. “Summer is vegetable season.”

The Boverhofs recently added a greenhouse to their operation to extend the growing season later into the fall and get fresh produce earlier in the spring, which they hope will provide more opportunities to market their produce to the schools.

With 350 students in the school’s summer program, Rogers said she is able to utilize some of the summer crops the Boverhofs raise. What she’d really like is a way to process and store those foods for use during the school year.

Already, students in the family and consumer sciences classes at Pipestone Area use the leftover produce as they learn about food preservation methods.

Bonnie Frederickson, a former public health worker and now SHIP employee, said not all Farm to School programs look alike. Food service workers in schools need to figure out what works best for them.

“What Farm to School looks like in one place is not how it’s going to look in another,” she said.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Celebrating the New CPR Bill in Minnesota

On Thursday June 7th, a small gathering was held at the State Capitol to celebrate the passage of the CPR in Schools Bill and honor the legislative champions and some of the key volunteers who helped pass this monumental bill into law in Minnesota. This new law guarantees Minnesota generation after generation of future life-saving heroes.  Legislators who attended to help us celebrate were Sen. Carla Nelson, Sen. Chuck Wiger, Rep. Bob Dettmer, Rep. Jennifer Loon.

Why the Obesity Epidemic is Growing

Check out this clip from MSNBC's Morning Joe on the growing childhood obesity epidemic:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Health Commissioner Ehlinger to receive Child Advocacy Award from Minnesota Chapter of AAP

The Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MN-AAP) will present Dr. Edward Ehlinger with the 2012 Child Advocacy Award at its annual dinner tonight.

MN-AAP's Child Advocacy Award is presented each year to one individual from the community who goes above and beyond his or her everyday routine to advocate for the health and welfare of children in Minnesota.

As Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Dr. Ehlinger has taken an active role in issues involving newborn screening, immunizations, lead poisoning, tuberculosis, teen pregnancy prevention, and health care homes all in the face of a state budget crisis, government shutdown and divided Legislature.

Over 35 years he has led efforts to improve health care for college students, lower infant death rates in the metro area, create and sustain school-based clinics to increase access to care, and provide services to meet the needs of newly arrived Southeast Asian immigrants.

Dr. Ehlinger's nomination was supported by Dr. Robert Jacobson, incoming president of the MN-AAP, as well as Governor Dayton, the Commissioners of Education and Human Services, and numerous colleagues at MDH.

"Health professionals in the private and public sector agree that Dr. Ehlinger has been an extraordinary advocate for children, especially the poor and marginalized," Dr. Jacobson said. "We are fortunate to have a commissioner who demonstrates his commitment to keeping children and their families healthy on a daily basis, despite countless challenges."

With nearly 1,000 pediatrician members, MN-AAP is committed to improving the health of all children and teens in Minnesota. For more information about the award, Dr. Ehlinger or MN-AAP, visit


Minnesota Department of Health - Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics