Did you know 12,000 miles of inland waterways connect 41 states, moving more than 60% of grain exports from the field to your marketplace?
By Ashley Schimke
Farm to School & School Garden Program Specialist for Arizona Department of Education
Arizona Farm Bureau recently wrote an article on their Fill Your Plate blog about how American communities are helping to make the next generation healthier. Concerned about the diet related diseases our children face; type II diabetes, childhood obesity, and heart disease are on the hearts of many parents, teachers, administrators, and even our students. One way we can all make a difference in the health of the next generation is to encourage the consumption of fresh and healthy foods served in school meal programs.
The health and well-being of Arizona students is the primary purpose of the Health and Nutrition Services Unit (HNS) at the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, agrees that attention to better nutrition in schools will help address childhood obesity. Arizona schools are doing just that. HNS believes that when students are well nourished they are better equipped with the energy and focus necessary for academic success.
There is no question that school food has been given a bad reputation in previous years, but with recent updates to the nutrition guidelines for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) that is changing. The new guidelines require schools to offer more whole grains, fat free or low fat dairy goods, lean proteins, and increased servings of fruits and vegetables. Schools are not only required to serve more vegetables, but they need to include specific vegetable subgroups like legumes, dark green, red and orange vegetables. What parents don’t like the sound of that? In an effort to assist schools through these changes, HNS will begin a regional training series for child nutrition professionals dedicated to increasing student consumption of vegetable subgroups.
Another effort to improve access to fresh and healthy food is through the Arizona Farm to School Program. Student participation in activities like farm tours, school gardens, and learning where their food comes from in the cafeteria teach students to invest in their health, their community, and their environment. Schools interested in offering Arizona farm fresh food in their cafeteria can contact ArizonaFarmtoSchool@azed.gov for more information.
HNS encourages parents, teachers, food service professionals, administrators, and community leaders to be the role models our students need to develop healthy lifestyles. Join us in the fight for the health of the next generation.
When most people talk about peppers, they are referring to the hot, spicy, or chili variety. But there is a whole other type of pepper that can be used in a variety of ways to help fill your family’s plate. Bell peppers, which come in a variety of colors, are very versatile and offer a great way to add some color and crunch to your everyday dishes. In Arizona, we grow lots of this wonderful pepper throughout the state.
- Bell peppers, which are also called peppers and capsicum in different parts of the world, come in a variety of colors including green, red, orange, brown, purple, white, and yellow.
- The difference in color is sometimes related to the level of ripeness. For example, green peppers are just red peppers that have not yet completely ripened.
- Different coloring equates to different flavor. Green peppers are the most bitter and red peppers are the sweetest. Yellow and orange are in the middle, less bitter than green but not as sweet at red.
- The way peppers are ripened also affects their flavor. Vine-ripened peppers are the sweetest while those that are harvested and then allowed to ripen cannot achieve the same level of sweetness.
- Although they are part of the Capsicum genus, they are the only member of that family of plants that do not contain capsaicin, the chemical that makes other peppers hot and spicy.
- Because they lack heat, bell peppers are also often called sweet peppers.
- The lack of capsaicin in bell peppers is caused by genetics; a recessive gene causes these peppers to grow without it.
- Although bell peppers are technically fruit, they are widely considered to be vegetables.
- China is the largest producer of bell peppers today, followed by Mexico and Indonesia.
- Although peppers are native to Mexico and parts of Central and South America, they are now grown all over the world.
- The bell pepper is said to have gotten its name from Christopher Columbus, who was the first to bring it, and its hotter cousins, back to Europe from the New World. Because most members of the capsicum family are hot, Columbus called them peppers after the peppercorn plant native to India.
- When it comes to nutrition, red peppers are better than the rest. While all peppers are low in calories and high in Vitamin C, red peppers have twice as much as green and three times that of orange. Red peppers are also higher in lycopene and carotene, important antioxidants, than the other peppers.
Great Ways to Use Them
Peppers can be added to almost anything for a burst of color or a crispy crunch. From soups and salads to sauces and salsa, bell peppers can enhance almost anything. Here are some great ways to get these veggies into your everyday eats.
- Join the Party Salad
- Sharla’s Arizona Beef and Veggie Stir Fry
- Abby’s Yummy Veggie Pizza
- Mexican Cole Slaw
- Okra and Tomatoes
- Spring for Salad! (fillyourplate.org)
- 10 Days to Fill Your Day With Fruits and Vegetables: Part 1 (fillyourplate.org)
- It’s National Vegetarian Month: Veg Out! (fillyourplate.org)
One of the biggest differences between today’s children and those of generations past is the amount of time spent outdoors. We blame technology like computers and video games but the truth is, many kids spend most of their time indoors because that’s what their parents do. Think about the most outdoorsy and active kids you know. Odds are they are part of an outdoorsy, active family. So this summer, if you want your kids to spend more time outside making the kind of memories you have from childhood, it’s up to you to lead by example.
Luckily for Arizona families, there is no shortage of fun, inexpensive outdoor adventures to be had. All you need to do is pack some snacks and slather on the sunscreen and pick from our list of 6 great ways you can connect with your kids outdoors this summer.
1. Pack a Picnic
Ants aren’t the only ones who love picnics, but you might hear a little resistance to eating lunch outside and spending the afternoon relaxing and playing. Don’t worry; once you get things rolling, everyone will have a good time. Pack cooling snacks and lots of water but make sure everyone (including you) leaves their electronics in the car.
2. Take a Hike
Strap on a day pack and take a hike on some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country. Make sure you plan ahead for the hottest parts of the day, bring enough water, and pick a trail that is age-appropriate for your children. Read up on hiking safety before you head out especially if you are new to hiking or if you don’t have experience hiking in the desert.
3. Visit the Zoo
Everyone loves the Phoenix Zoo and your family will too. You won’t have to worry that anyone will complain about being bored with so many interesting animals to see.
4. Spend the Day at a Water Park
There are few things that beat the Arizona summer heat better than spending the day splashing, sliding, and swimming at one of the many water parks. Make sure to call ahead to see if you can bring your lunch and don’t forget to pack lots of water-resistant sunscreen.
5. Go on a Geocaching Adventure
Geocaching is like a hiking treasure-hunt and can be a great activity for kids. Using a GPS, you locate a geocache, sign the logbook, and sometimes take away a small momento. Read up on how to geocache here and find geocaches throughout Arizona here.
6. Make Memories in a State Park
Arizona is home to a number of diverse, historic, fun-filled state park experiences. From hiking, to camping, to learning about who lived here in the past, our state parks offer a great way to spend some family time learning and growing together. Find out more about where our state parks are located and what things there are to do where here.
- Fabulous Feasts for Family Game Night (fillyourplate.org)
- My Top 10 List of Summer Veggies (fillyourplate.org)
- My American Farm Games: Farm Fun and Learning Wrapped into One (fillyourplate.org)
As we head into prime grilling season, it’s time to explore how to make the perfect steak. But, this isn’t the obligatory graphic about which cuts of meat are best or how to cool your steak. This is for the steak-loving nerds among us- let’s explore the science of steak.