Sales of locally grown foods are up in the Champaign-Urbana area as new farmer’s markets start up, and more consumers turn to buy local produce.
Urbana resident Clark McPhail likes fresh food. So, nearly every Saturday in the summer, he bikes to Urbana’s Market at the Square and browses through the dozens of vendors to shop for fruits and vegetables. “In the summertime, 70 percent of our vegetable produce I buy here are from the farmer’s market or Common Ground,” McPhail said. “I don’t mind paying a little extra for quality produce."
Workers at one of the largest employers in Champaign-Urbana are being encouraged to stay physically fit through financial incentives.
A growing number of companies across the country have started encouraging employees to stay healthy by offering financial incentives.
Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, which is one of the largest employers in the area, is pushing for a healthier workforce through its Charge Rewards Program.
Jefferson Middle School in Champaign recently added exercise equipment to its classrooms.
(Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation)
Research at the University of Illinois suggests physical activity can boost cognitive health. To test that theory, Jefferson Middle School in Champaign recently added exercise equipment for its students.
Marcelon Mosley, 11, walks on a treadmill in the assistant principal's office at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign. Mosley started off using the treadmill about three times a week for about 30-to-45 minutes. He can come off as being very calm, expressing very little emotion, but he admits he isn't always that way. He said there have been times when he has reacted strongly to other kids' comments about him, or just hasn't felt motivated enough to keep up with his school work.
When the school began adding the exercise equipment at the start of the academic year, his teachers thought it might be easier for him to relax and focus by getting on a treadmill a few times each week.
He explains that he determines the speed of the treadmill based on his level of anger. If he is in a really bad mood, he said he may double the speed from his normal two miles per hour.
"When it goes faster, it calms me down cause I have so much energy that I want to break somebody's neck or something, and then I just use up my energy walking on the treadmill," Mosley said. Since he started using the treadmill at the beginning of the school year, Mosley admits that he is doing a better job now controlling his anger.
His mom, Cheryl Moore, has even noticed a difference in his behavior. She credits that not only to the exercise, but also to what she and school officials are doing to hold Mosley accountable when he misbehaves or doesn't turn in homework assignments on time.
"I think that it's kind of like a coalition basically with the parents and the teachers working together," Moore said. "What's that famous saying? It takes a village to raise a child." Mosley - along with five of his other siblings - all have ADHD, and he is one of two of them currently medicated for it. His mother hopes to get him off of it by the time he's in high school, but not if that compromises his performance in the classroom.
"It's hardest with Marcelon because actually out of all of our children, he takes the most amount of milligrams," Moore said. "He's very overwrought, and we try to let him do lots of exercise as much as she wants to. He just has tons of energy. It's like the wild in his eyes. When he acts like that, we're like, 'Do you need to go outside and play a lot more?'"
Students like Marcelon seems to benefit from this exercise equipment brought in by University of Illinois Professor Charles Hillman.
Hillman said there is a positive relationship between physical activity and cognitive health. Hillman, who teaches kinesiology and community health at the U of I, has already explored this connection with pre-adolescents, young adults, and older adults. After approximately one hour of exercise, he found that these age groups showed improvements in cognition and achievement.
"What's good for children is good for young adults," Hillman said. "What's good for young adults is good for older adults. Being healthy and exercising and having a higher level of fitness relates to better brain health and better cognition. And so because of that, I believe we need to act early. "
Now, Hillman is doing the same research, but this time with middle school students.
"Puberty changes a lot of things. It changes body. It changes hormone production, and it changes brain," he explained. "And so it's interesting to see during a time when kids are actively going through puberty, what these relationships are between fitness or health factors such as body mass and cognition in children."
Hillman and U of I Psychology Professor Neal Cohen are studying students at Jefferson over a three year period.
They believe that being overweight may affect parts of the brain associated with attention, memory, and cognition. As part of their research, Jefferson Middle School agreed to install exercise equipment around the school - aerobic balls in classrooms, Marcelon's treadmill, and bikes in the library.
In the school library students take turns riding on the exercise bikes. Librarian Kim Anderson said it is a challenge identifying ways the library can support students other than through literacy, which is why when she first heard about the school's exercise initiative, she jumped at the idea.
"They are actually reading when they're working out, and we also have a couple of iPads that we set up, so that they Velcro right onto the stationary bikes so they can flip through and either read a book online or work on one of the education apps," Anderson said.
Some of the students say 30 minutes of physical activity during gym class isn't enough time to stay active during the school day. Eight grader Paige Ducharme said getting more exercise has helped her concentrate.
"Cause you get your brain - like not really moving - but you get more energy inside of you so you find yourself awake more and more energized to be able to listen and make your brain function more," Ducharme said.
Students using the exercise equipment is part of Principal Susan Zola's larger vision. She also plans to transform the school's multipurpose room into an exergaming room where students would be exposed to a combination of games and exercise. In the space,
Zola envisions being able to grab a heart monitor, and do a cross country virtual tour in the mountains.
"So, it's like Wii on steroids," Zola said. "We believe it will take our students health and wellness to a whole different level."
While Marcelon Mosely and Paige Ducharme are physically fit, Zola said there are students at Jefferson who do battle their weight and other related health issues. Zola believes physical activity should be a priority for all students - even those who just want to work up a sweat.
"Wellness and students' well-being and where they land in terms of their healthy living impacts us all in the future," Zola said. "So, the stronger they are in terms of their hearts their spirits their minds their academics, the stronger citizens the stronger community members, the healthier our community will be as a whole."
More about Charles Hillman's research Unit 4 Tries to Stay Ahead of Nutrition Standards (Related) Champaign County Schools Adopt Anti-Obesity Initiative (Related)
Angela Wiley, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is trying to curb obesity and diabetes rates among immigrant communities.
Obesity is hitting Latino children in the United States harder than any other demographic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Angela Wiley, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is trying to curb that trend in immigrant communities living in Illinois. She heads the Up Amigos project, which looks at how biological, social, and environmental factors affect rates of obesity and diabetes. Illinois Public Radio's Rachel Otwell talks with Wiley about her research.
An elementary school in Danville, Ill. has earned national recognition for its approach to fighting childhood obesity --- by teaching its students how to stay healthy.
An elementary school in Danville, Ill. has earned national recognition for its approach to fighting childhood obesity --- by teaching its students how to stay healthy.
When Carol McIntire arrived at Northeast Elementary School in 2007, her staff was working on creating an environment for students to help them win the battle against childhood obesity. From expanding students' daily physical activities to revamping lunch menus, McIntire's arrival accelerated the process.
Childhood obesity has been linked to an array of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Northeast Elementary forged ahead in partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national organization founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation. The school initiated a plan to provide healthier food choices and keep kids physically active. A grant from the Illinois State Board of Education increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Students were also able to taste test produce not familiar to them. Principal McIntire said the program has been a big hit with students and parents.
"Our fresh fruits and vegetable program that we've been able to have here has been such a key to our kids and our families," McIntire said. "Parents talk about how much that means to kids."
Even before being recognized nationally for its efforts, Northeast Elementary made several healthy changes, many of which surpassed the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to Brenda Demos, the former director of food service at Northeast Elementary. She was instrumental in changing the school's lunch menu.
"Finding suppliers of certain products that met Alliance standards was a labor of love," Demos said.
It was important to Demos and her team to keep as many of the students' favorite menu items as possible, while adjusting the recipes with healthier ingredients. For instance, using turkey hotdogs and whole grain bread allowed corn dogs to stay on the menu. Pizza also received a makeover, switching to whole grain crust and low-fat cheese.
Detailed information - complete with nutritional values - was submitted to the Alliance for all menu items.
Recipes would often go through several changes until they were finally approved. After eight months of hard work, Demos and her staff were successful, giving Northeast Elementary a foundation of recipes and menus on which to build even more healthy meals.
Greg Lazelle, the school's current director of food service, picked up where Demos left off when she retired, and did so without missing a beat. Lazelle has expanded the fresh fruit program, and he is looking for more innovative ways to bring healthier choices to the tables at Northeast Elementary.
The school's cafeteria also houses the gymnasium.
Physical education teacher Beckey Burgoyne leads her students in their exercises, which might consist of shooting and dribbling basketballs, using paddleballs, or navigating across a climbing wall or games.
"Watch the stop watch, and every three minutes I will move you," Burgoyne instructed her students before blowing a whistle and turning on some fast-moving music.
Every day, the students have half an hour of gym class, which includes 20 minutes of moderate exercise. On a recent morning, a group of students smile and giggle as they spend their time playing and moving around. Burgoyne said being able to burn off the energy helps them concentrate in the classroom.
"As a former classroom teacher, I know how important it is to have those students get the exercise, blow off the steam, get some fresh air when it's possible," Burgoyne said. "Then they come back, and they're ready to learn again."
In addition to the exercise students get, teachers integrate health and wellness into their curriculum. Speech therapist Kate Cox created verbal exercises encouraging students to discuss various health and wellness topics while also strengthening their speaking skills.
"Where can I add movement to goals I'm already working on instead of sitting around a table and getting out a bunch of cards, can I get them up moving?" Cox said. "If you aren't focused, you're not getting the directions anyway."
Meanwhile, fifth grade teacher Lisa Unzicker assigns a social studies research project on the topic of food deserts.
"What is a food desert?" she asked her class.
One student responds:
"A food desert is a community which residents must travel at least a mile to buy fresh meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. It is where at least 20% of people live below the poverty line and at least 33% live a mile or more from the nearest supermarket."
McIntire credits all members of the staff for making the program work.
"They are constantly looking at their lesson plans for new ways to integrate health and wellness," she said. "Our bottom line is that we do this because it's good for kids."
In Dec. 2010, the school became the first elementary school in the country to be recognized with a gold medal from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. In the year since then, McIntire and her team are just as committed to their focus on health and wellness and continue to expand access to healthy options.
Northeast Elementary is known as the healthy school and there is already a waiting list for next year's admission. McIntire encourages other schools that are interested in adopting her school's health and wellness model to make one or two small changes at a time, aiming for a large goal of a healthier learning environment.
Tami Wacker, the operations manager and regional ombudsman with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging, talks about why a rating system is a useful tool when trying to choose a nursing home.
A CU-CitizenAccess report about nursing homes in Champaign County tells how homes accepting Medicare and Medicaid funding were rated by the federal government. Many of the homes did poorly in the ratings, and an official with one of those facilities said the federal rating system was flawed. An advocate for nursing home residents, Tami Wacker, said the rating system is a useful tool when trying to choose a nursing home, but it's not perfect. Wacker said there is a lot more to consider when looking for the right facility. Wacker is Operations Manager and a Regional Ombudsman with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. The Bloomington-based agency serves seniors and persons caring for them in a 16-county area. Wacker spoke with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows.
A public lecture by the College of Medicine at Illinois
Janet Liechty, assistant professor, School of Social Work at Illinois; Dr. Kristen Vogt, a Carle Hospital physician; and David Buchner, professor, Kinesiology & Community Health at Illinois, spoke at the College of Medicine's Community Medical School on Tuesday, September 27 at the Hawthorne Suites in Champaign. The lecture was moderated by William Marshall, Assoc. Dean for Clinical Affairs at Illinois. This was the second in a three-part lecture series for the public on the basic science of obesity.
There is no easy way to get the results of Champaign County restaurant inspection reports.
Story by CU-CitizenAccess reporter Dan Petrella and University of Illinois journalism alumna Jennifer Wheeler. CU-CitizenAccess reporter Pam Dempsey and UI journalism alumnus Steve Contorno contributed.
About one in 10 restaurants in Champaign County failed a health inspection from April 2007 through April 2011, according to a review of inspection records by CU-CitizenAccess.org.
But customers have no easy way of knowing just how sanitary the places at which they eat really are.
Take, for example, Geovanti's Bar & Grill, which failed public health inspections five times from September 2008 through February of this year.
But no one who eats there would ever know, unless they requested copies of the Campustown restaurant's inspection reports from the local public health district.
That's because - unlike many other counties and cities in central Illinois and across the country - the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District currently doesn't publicize the results of its restaurant inspections in any form. Not online, not on placards at restaurants and not in local newspapers.
This means the public has no way way of knowing about health-code violations, such as the live and dead cockroaches found during a November 2009 inspection at Geovanti's.
Owner Anthony Donato said the restaurant works closely with the district to make sure it meets health codes. Geovanti's recently had a voluntary health inspection and passed with flying colors, he said.
Julie Pryde, the district's public health administrator, said the fact that a restaurant is open for business shows eating there is safe.
"If you go into a restaurant and it's open, we've been in there, and they've passed," Pryde said. "And there are times where you'll go to a restaurant, and it will not be open. It may not say, 'Closed by the health department' on the front door, but if it's not open, that's because there's an immediate health risk."
Pryde and other public health officials have long said they want to make information about inspections of the county's more than 1,000 eating establishments more available to the public. They believe providing diners with access to complete restaurant inspection reports will give them the information they need to make the best decisions for their health.
But, after years of talk, they still have not done so.
Since getting new software to manage inspection reports in 2007, they have spoken about plans for a website that would allow consumers to look up the records online.
In 2008, environmental health director Jim Roberts said he hoped to have the site up the following year.
This spring, he said they were shooting for September. In late August, he revised the time line once again.
"I would hope by January 2012," Roberts said.
He said there are several reasons for the delays.
"First, we had to make sure the system was working as we wanted it to," Roberts said. "The second thing is that I don't have a project manager to do this, so I do this as time permits me to do so."
Meanwhile, since 2003, neighboring Vermilion County has taken the low-tech route of requiring restaurant owners to post letter grades from their most recent inspections in their establishments alongside their health permits.
Douglas Toole is the environmental health director in Vermilion County.
"It's a lot about informing the public," Toole said. "When they go into a restaurant, the public can see the dining area, certainly, and they can see what the restrooms look like and they can see, depending on the place, a small amount of the food-preparation or food-storage area. But a lot of it takes place behind the scenes."
While Vermilion County officials see this as a way of providing the public with information they're entitled to see under the state's Freedom of Information Act, Champaign-Urbana's Julie Pryde see the letter grades differently.
"It's completely worthless," Pryde said.
She said when people see a letter grade, they don't bother to find out what went into earning that grade.
"If you only are looking at one thing, A, I think it will give people a false sense of security, and, B, it might negatively impact a restaurant's business when there's no point in it," Pryde said."Give them all the information or no information at all."
Illinois law doesn't require health departments to publish inspection results online or in hardcopy. But Vermillion isn't the only area county the takes the initiative to make its scores public.
McLean, Macon and Sangamon counties all post inspections scores on their websites.
Manny Martinez is executive chef of Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works, which has locations in Champaign and Normal. Inspection scores for the Normal restaurant are posted on the McLean County Health Department website.
The scores can be deceiving because they don't tell customers whether a restaurant lost points for major violations or for several minor violations that might have little to do with sanitation, Martinez said.
But overall, he doesn't mind the information being available to the public.
"For a restaurant, it doesn't really matter to us, as long as we know we're doing a good job, and we get inspected and we're doing a great job," he said.
For now, if diners in Champaign County want to know how clean and sanitary a restaurant is, they'll have to call the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department themselves.
Cherry Orchard landlords to stand trial for code violations
The Cherry Orchard Village apartments lie just south of the abandoned Chanute Air Force Base near Rantoul - and like the base itself, Cherry Orchard has seen better days. Now the two landlords who manage the eight-building complex are charged with failing to maintain it - to the detriment of its tenants, mainly migrant worker families. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers has been collaborating with the investigative journalism group CU-Citizen Access, he reports on the legal battle to bring Cherry Orchard up to code.
Positive communication critical between parents and children
Illinois Public Media's David Inge talks to Laurie Kramer, a professor of Applied Family Studies at the University of Illinois, about what she thinks parents can do to prevent sibling rivalries. Kramer says positive communication is key between parents and children.
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