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Back-To-School food safety tips for parents and caregivers

 

Food Safety Education Staff

WASHINGTON, August 18, 2016 – Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle, or back in the car for those of us shuttling students to and from school. The new school year means its back to packing lunches and after school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is foodborne bacteria.

Bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean – Separate – Cook – and Chill.

Packing Tips

  • If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources.  Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
  • Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack.  By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
  • If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140 °F or above.
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

  • If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by ‘following’ @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and by ‘liking’ Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

If you have questions about storage times of food or beverages, download USDA’s new FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices. By helping users better understand food storage, the FoodKeeper empowers the public to choose storage methods that extend the shelf life of the food and beverages in their home. Better food storage should reduce food waste and reduce the frequency of users preparing and eating products that may be spoiled. The application was recently updated to include food storage information in both Spanish and Portuguese.

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Amazing Race experience in Sleeping Bear Dunes

Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

The Michigan Adventure Race: Sleeping Bear Edition will be held September 17, 2016, in and around Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Glen Arbor, Mich. It offers participants a unique way to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary and a rare opportunity to race in a National Park/Lakeshore. Registration is open through September 14 at www.miadventurerace.com.

Teams of one, two or three will set out from The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor by running/hiking, biking and paddling to on- and off-trail checkpoints pre-marked on a map, collecting as many as they can within either five or ten hours. Racers find that they get just enough of a break to catch their breath, stopping to read the map, punch their scorecard at each checkpoint, and transition between running, biking and paddling.

The 5-hour race includes the opportunity to conquer five Amazing Race-like challenges, revealed just before the race. These require no special training; just a little brain and body power such as running into a woods to find and solve a few word puzzles or tossing and catching refreshing Lake Michigan water between teammates. Five-hour racers can use a mountain or road bike to get from one area to another. Rentals available. A short paddle section will be available as well but race organizers will provide the boats.

Those choosing the challenging 10-hour race must trek, bike and paddle to more difficult and distant checkpoint locations in place of the Amazing Race challenges. Ten-hour racers must have a mountain or cyclocross bike. Rentals available. Rental canoes and kayaks also available or racers can bring their own to save some money.

While adventure racing shares some elements of triathlons, the most striking difference is that adventure racers must figure out their own route from one checkpoint to another using a pre-marked map and cutting through woods often void of trails. A good sense of direction and teamwork are critical skills. Basic compass skills are helpful as well (a free clinic will be available on August 27 in Grand Rapids; an online version is on the race site in the Learn More section).

The charity partner is Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear whose mission is to preserve and interpret the rich heritage of historic structures and cultural landscapes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Multiple Amazing Race-like challenges during the race will involve these historic structures or cultural practices of those who once lived here.

For more information about the race and to register, go to www.MIAdventureRace.com and visit www.facebook.com/MIAdventureRace to join a growing community of adventure racers.

 

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Be the Referee

 

By Mark Uyl, Asst. Director, MHSAA

Be the Referee is a weekly message from the Michigan High School Athletics Association that is designed to help educate people on the rules in different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Clipping in the free-blocking zone

Most of the recent rules changes in high school football have all dealt with increasing player safety.  The most significant change for the 2016 season focuses on safety, especially for offensive and defensive linemen.

For many years, the Free Blocking Zone, that area between the two offensive tackles, was an area where two types of blocks that are illegal on other parts of the field—blocks below the waist and clipping—were legal if it was done by linemen, initially at the start of the play.

For this season, clipping is now an illegal block, even in the Free Blocking Zone; while blocks below the waist continue to be legal from in front.

 

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Catch of the Week

OUT-Catch-of-week-TrollaFive-year-old Lincoln Trolla, son of Katie (Wolfe) and Joe Trolla, landed a 13-inch bass during his first river fishing trip in Breckenridge, Mich. While it was an inch short of being a keeper, it was a mountain of fun to reel in!

Congratulations, Lincoln, you made The Post Catch of the Week!

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Weigh less under a full moon

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

If you desire to weigh less, weigh yourself when the moon is overhead or even better when it is a New Moon. When the sun and moon are both on the same side of the Earth during a new moon, they exert greater gravitational pull together and make you weigh less. Tides are highest when the gravity from both pulls toward them. You will weigh your least when the sun and moon are directly in line. The opposite side of the Earth experiences high tides at the same time. This results in high tides every twelve hours. Unfortunately, our bathroom scales do not measure fine enough to actually show how much less you weigh. It is only a fraction of a pound.

The Perseus Meteor shower article two weeks ago took precedence over the moon’s gravity because it only occurs once annually. We experience moon cycles monthly. The Perseid meteor shower peaks about August 11-13 but we can observe increased meteors for a greater time about a week before and after peak.

I have read the moon’s gravity is not great enough to create tides in the Great Lakes because the size of the lakes is too small but my observations do not agree. It is well known that tides in oceans raise and lower water by several feet daily. In the open ocean it is not observable, but along the shore, water retreats great distances when the sea floor slope is gentle. If the coast drops abruptly, it is still noticeable but one must look at the nearly vertical cliff walls. Sea wall life becomes visible for several hours before the water rises again.

I observed a tide in Lake Michigan near Manistique in the Upper Peninsula. We lived there for a couple years when the girls were little. We would frequently walk the mile to the lakeshore with wagon in tow just in case the girls became too tired.

The lake surface was as smooth as glass on a warm summer night. A full moon worked its way to zenith. Dolomitic limestone slabs of flat rock peppered the shallow water near the swimming beach. Some of the flat slabs barely protruded above still water. Rocks made an inviting stepping-stone trail to a large rock that rose several feet above lake level. We walked on the dry slabs to the big rock and sat to enjoy the evening. It was a movie quality evening. We had the lake, quiet, beauty, and the distance sounds of nature from the shore all to ourselves. It was a choice family evening.

We sat on the rock as the moon moved overhead. A Great Blue Heron fed in the shallows to the west. Ring-billed and Herring Gulls walked the beach gathering food morsels in the dimming light as day became night. The moon was bright enough to create shallows of our silhouettes. Aquatic insects skimmed the shiny water surface. We looked for fish but I do not recall if we saw any. I guess it is good reason to pull my daughters away from their busy lives and take them back to look for the abundance of life and see if we can observe fish. Life thrives in the water, on the surface, and above it. I know fish must be present or the heron would not have been wading and hunting.

When we decided it was time to walk home, we planned to walk on flat rocks used to reach our high rock perch. Most were now under water. Moon’s gravity had drawn Lake Michigan closer. The surface of the lake was higher but unlike large ocean tides, Lake Michigan had risen about a half inch. It was enough to submerge several of our stepping-stones. I did not have a millimeter ruler to measure the change. I should have gotten a dried grass stem to determine the vertical lake level change. It is another reason to return so I can measure how high a rock protrudes at low tide twelve hours earlier and then measure how much it is submerged when the moon pulls Lake Michigan closer. Take your family outdoors to observe and experience wonderful everyday nature phenomena.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Whatever your party, choose a designated driver 

CAR-Driver-sober

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign supports driving safety  

Law enforcement officers from police departments, sheriff’s offices and the Michigan State Police are hoping the designated driver gets your vote this election season, as stepped up drunk driving patrols continue through Sept. 5 across the state. The patrols are part of the annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

“When it comes to traffic safety there is no debate, the designated driver always wins, yet Michigan alcohol-and/or drug-involved fatalities were up 20 percent in 2015,” said Michael L. Prince, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) director. “Hundreds of families are suffering tragic consequences because drivers made the wrong choice to drive drunk. The law enforcement officers participating in this campaign are dedicated to changing that.”

Fifteen people died in 12 traffic crashes during the 2015 Labor Day holiday period, a significant increase from six fatalities during the 2014 Labor Day holiday. Nearly two-thirds of the 2015 Labor Day holiday cashes involved alcohol. During last year’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement, officers arrested 351 drunk drivers and issued 2,630 seat belt and child restraint citations.

This year’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign will also include stepped up seat belt enforcement. A recent observation study indicates Michigan’s seat belt use rate is increasing this year after remaining fairly constant for the last five years.

In Michigan, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, although motorists can be arrested at any BAC level if an officer believes they are impaired. Motorists face enhanced penalties if arrested for a first-time drunk driving offense with a .17 BAC or higher. Michigan law requires drivers, front seat passengers and passengers 15 and younger in any seating position to be buckled up. Children must be in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4’9” tall, and children under 4 years old must be in the back seat.

The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is supported with federal traffic safety funds coordinated by the OHSP. Grant-funded impaired driving and seat belt enforcement is part of Michigan’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013.

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American drivers aren’t securing their loads on the road

 

More than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways during the past four years, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Those crashes resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014. AAA is calling for drivers to properly secure their loads to prevent dangerous debris.

AAA researchers examined common characteristics of crashes involving road debris and found that:

  • Nearly 37 percent of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object. Overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris can increase a driver’s risk of losing control of their vehicle and make a bad situation worse.
  • More than one in three crashes involving debris occur between 10:00 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., a time when many people are on the road hauling or moving heavy items like furniture or construction equipment.
  • Debris-related crashes are much more likely to occur on Interstate highways. Driving at high speeds increases the risk for vehicle parts to become detached or cargo to fall onto the roadway.

“This new report shows that road debris can be extremely dangerous but all of these crashes are preventable,” said Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Drivers can easily save lives and prevent injuries by securing their loads and taking other simple precautions to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.”

About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads. The most common types of vehicle debris are:

  •  Parts becoming detached from a vehicle (tires, wheels, etc.) and falling onto the roadway
  •  Unsecured cargo like furniture, appliances and other items falling onto the roadway
  •  Tow trailers becoming separated and hitting another vehicle or landing on the roadway

Drivers can decrease their chances of being involved in a road debris crash by:

• Maintaining Their Vehicles: Drivers should have their vehicles checked regularly by trained mechanics. Badly worn or underinflated tires often suffer blowouts that can leave pieces of tire on the roadway. Exhaust systems and the hardware that attach to the vehicle can also rust and corrode, causing mufflers and other parts to drag and eventually break loose. Potential tire and exhaust system problems can easily be spotted by trained mechanics as part of the routine maintenance performed during every oil change.

• Securing Vehicle Loads: When moving or towing furniture, it is important to make sure all items are secured. To properly secure a load, drivers should:

  1.  Tie down load with rope, netting or straps
  2.  Tie large objects directly to the vehicle or trailer
  3.  Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting
  4.  Don’t overload the vehicle
  5.  Always double check load to make sure a load is secure

“Drivers have a much bigger responsibility when it comes to preventing debris on the roads than most realize,” said Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA. “It’s important for drivers to know that many states have hefty fines and penalties for drivers who drop items from their vehicle onto the roadway, and in some cases states impose jail time.”

Currently every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road. Most states’ penalties result in fines ranging from $10-$5,000, with at least 16 states listing jail as a possible punishment for offenders. AAA encourages drivers to educate themselves about specific road debris laws in their state. Drivers should also practice defensive driving techniques while on the road to prevent debris related crashes from occurring.

“Continually searching the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead can help drivers be prepared in the case of debris,” said William Van Tassel, Manager of Driver Training Programs for AAA. “Always try to maintain open space on at least one side of your vehicle in case you need to steer around an object. If you see you are unable to avoid debris on the roadway, safely reduce your speed as much as possible before making contact.”

AAA also recommends that drivers avoid tailgating and remain alert while on the road. Additional tips on defensive driving and how to report road debris to the proper authorities are available online at AAA.com/PreventRoadDebris.

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Five things to know before hitting the road 

 

From RepairPal

Check out these tips before hitting the road on Labor Day weekend:

Changing brake pads more frequently actually saves you money

Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true—changing brake pads actually does save you money. By leaving brake pads in too long, the brake rotors—much more expensive pieces of equipment—wear down at a much faster rate. This is an expensive repair that you don’t want or have to make—you’ve got a tan to catch!

Rotate tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles to save your suspension

It’s common to get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we can forget to rotate our tires. However, this causes them to wear out faster, and can damage your suspension, steering, and traction. On your long summer trip, switch up your tires so that you can cruise smoothly to your destination.

Dirty air filters waste your fuel and damage your car

Replacing your air filter regularly is a simple—yet often overlooked—procedure that costs drivers lots in wasted fuel and damaged system components.

Properly inflate tires to improve gas mileage by up to 3 percent

When tires are not properly inflated, it causes fuel efficiency to drop. Plain and simple: more money wasted on gas means less money for your summer BBQ snack list.

Individual mechanics are often far cheaper than dealerships but how do you know who is reliable?

RepairPal [repairpal.com] was created to solve the costly problem of untrustworthy repair shops, and independently certifies auto repair shops nationwide for superior training, quality tools, fair pricing and a minimum 12-month/12,000-mile warranty.

Using RepairPal’s cost estimator, mobile website and certified network before your trip eliminates the need to shop around to find a quality auto mechanic near you. They provide fair prices, excellent warranties, and trusted customer reviews.

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Tips from Social Security when applying for disability

 

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Becoming disabled and unable to work is a very stressful time in one’s life. There are so many questions and unknowns when you have to transition out of the workforce due to medical issues. While an employer may offer short or long-term disability, most people faced with a disability will file for benefits with Social Security.

If you’re facing life with a disability and don’t know where to start, we encourage you to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityssi. After reading about Social Security disability, if you’re ready to file, you can do that online as well.

When applying, be prepared to answer a number of questions including:

  •  When your conditions became disabling:
  •  Dates you last worked;
  •  The names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of visits to your doctors;
  •  The names of medications that you take and medical tests you’ve had; and
  •  Marital information.

In addition, if you plan on applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability payments, for people with low income who haven’t paid enough in Social Security taxes to be covered, you will answer questions about:

  •  Your current living arrangement, including who lives there and household expenses;
  •  All sources of income for you and your spouse, if applicable; and
  •  The amount of your resources, including bank account balances, vehicles, and other investments.

You can view our disability starter kit at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm.

Remember, we are there when you might be faced with one of the hardest obstacles of your life. Social Security helps secure today and tomorrow with critical benefits for people with severe disabilities, not just during retirement. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

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Fall care for a healthier, better looking lawn 

Melinda Myers fertilizes a lawn to help it recover from the stresses of summer. Photo by Mark Avery.

Melinda Myers fertilizes a lawn to help it recover from the stresses of summer. Photo by Mark Avery.

By Melinda Myers

As summer fades into fall, it is time to help lawns recover from summer stress and prepare for the winter ahead.

Continue to mow your lawn as long as it continues to grow. Grow cool season grasses like bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches tall. Warm season grasses like bermudagrass, carpetgrass, centipedegrass and zoysia should be grown at 1 to 2 inches tall while St. Augustine should a bit higher, 2 to 3 inches, for best results. Taller grass is better able to compete with weeds. And there is no need to cut it shorter for the health of your lawn.

Mow often, removing no more than one-third the total height. Leave these short clippings on the lawn. They will quickly break down, adding organic matter, moisture and nutrients to the soil.

And as you mow you can take care of all those fall leaves at the same time. Shred the fall leaves and allow them to remain on the lawn. As long as you can see the leaf blades through the shredded leaves your lawn will be fine. And just like the clippings, they add nutrients and organic matter to the soil.

Fertilize your lawn with a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com). University research has shown that fall fertilization is the most beneficial practice for home lawns. Less disease problems and slower weed growth means your lawns—not the weeds and pests—benefit from the nutrients. Fall fertilization also helps lawns recover from the stresses of summer because it encourages deep roots and denser growth that can better compete with weeds and tolerate disease and insects.

Those in colder regions growing cool weather bluegrass, fescue and perennial ryegrass should fertilize around Labor Day and sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, but before the ground freezes.

Homeowners in warmer climates growing warm season grasses like centipede, Bermuda and zoysia should fertilize around Labor Day. Apply a low-nitrogen slow-release fertilizer then and in early October if overseeding the lawn. Make sure the last fall application is at least one month prior to the average first killing frost. Fertilizing later can result in winter damage.

Weeds often gain a foothold in the lawn during the stressful summer months. A healthy lawn is the best defense. Even with proper care, weeds can bully their way into the lawn. Try digging, root and all, to remove small populations of weeds. Weeding can be a great tension reducer and physical workout.

If this isn’t possible, consider spot treating weeds or problem areas with a broadleaf weed-killer. Those looking for more organic options may want to try one of the more eco-friendly products with the active ingredient Fehedta or Hedta. Whether using traditional or environmentally-friendly products read and follow label directions carefully.  All these products are plant killers and can cause damage to other plants if not applied properly.

Fall, when the lawn is actively growing, is the best time to core aerate or dethatch northern lawns suffering from thatch build up or compacted soil. Thatch is a layer of partially decomposed dead grass plants that prevents water and nutrients from reaching the grass roots. Use a dethatching machine to remove thatch layers greater than one half an inch. Or core aerate the lawn to create openings in the thatch layer and help reduce soil compaction to encourage root growth and allow water and nutrients to infiltrate the soil.

Overseeding your lawn in the fall helps increase thickness and improves the overall health and appearance of the lawn. For best results, overseed directly after aerating.

Begin implementing some of these strategies and soon you’ll be on your way to a healthier, better looking lawn for the coming growing season.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is http://www.melindamyers.com/www.melindamyers.com.

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