Three cheers for Missoula’s grocery stores!

My kids know they can score a free cookie at the bakery counter when we shop at Rosauers. At 8 and 11 years old now, they’re too big to fit in those car shopping carts anymore, but they still have fond memories of tooling around the aisles, spinning the steering wheel, munching cookies.

Now, prompted by a social media storm about a grocery store that gives out free fruit to kids 12 and younger, three Missoula grocery stores are doing the same, only instead of cookies they’re offering fruit. My kids love fruit of all kinds, so they’ll be thrilled.

But maybe not as thrilled as they are to get free cookies.

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Plan ahead, sign up to help feed hungry children this summer

Thanks to Missoula’s breakfast and lunch programs, school-age children in low-income families don’t have to worry about going hungry during the school year.

It’s a different story in the summer months – unless people step up to help out with programs like the Summer Food Service Program. The program is actively looking for sponsors to help it get its ducks all lined up before the end of the school year.

Check it out, below:

Sponsors Needed for Summer Food Service Program

Help End Childhood Summer Hunger

Helena, MT— Now is the time for communities to start making plans to sponsor a Summer Food Service Program. The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is accepting applications for the 2014 Summer Food Service Program from public and private nonprofit schools as well as local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations that are interested in sponsoring a Summer Food Service Program.

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Halloween can be hell – on orthodontia

I really do love Halloween. Swear.

I don’t intend to be the Debbie Downer of Halloween – although that would make a pretty sweet costume.

See, my inbox is just overflowing with Halloween warnings from various groups. Here’s one subject line that caught my eye: “It’s scary what Halloween candy can do to orthodontic treatment.”

My kids don’t have braces (yet). But they are sporting roughly five loose teeth between the two of them. As awesome as it would be to have some of those teeth pulled out by candy, a visit from the Tooth Fairy on Halloween night is more than this momma wants to take on.

In any case, I was also intrigued by the list of orthodontia-friendly Halloween recipes. Aren’t Halloween-themed foods fun? The Missoulian ran an interesting Foods page feature yesterday on making “noir-hued” treats for grownups.

Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune

That right there is a picture of sauteed octopus over squid-ink pasta. I wouldn’t eat it, but hey.

Here’s the press release from the American Association of Orthodontists in full. Click on the link I included to see the recipes and photos (my favorite is probably the Spider Bites):

It’s scary what Halloween candy can do to orthodontics treatment.

With October 31 just around the corner, kids with braces will be tempted to chew on sticky candy that could tear off brackets and delay treatment.

But parents- don’t fear! For those of you hosting Halloween parties for adolescents with braces, try out these recipes for orthodontist-approved treats!

Frightful Finger Cookies

Goblin’s Gooey Apples

Halloween Parfait

Spider Bites

Goblin Goodies

Graveyard Shakes

Mounds of Brains Cookies

Witch’s Crystal Ball

Happy Halloween!


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Baby formula a top target for shoplifters

Last week ABC News carried an in-depth story about the dramatic numbers of thefts involving formula for infants.

It’s on a scale that suggests this formula is not being stolen by desperate parents; rather, it’s become a hot item for organized retail thieves.

In response, the International Formula Council and others are asking U.S. Congress members to make baby formula theft an offense subject to federal racketeering laws.

These groups want to crack down on the formula thefts not only because it’s a growing crime, but also because it presents a potential hazard to infants who are fed stolen formula:

“Improper storage conditions can potentially affect the nutrient content or physical appearance of infant formula, which could impact the product’s nutritional value and safety as well as potentially threaten an infant’s health,” says the International Formula Council’s Robert Rankin, as quoted in the article.

It’s worth reading to the end of this news story for the account of a recent bust named “Operation Milk Money” by the feds. It gives a sense of where this formula is ending up – and how much money the thieves are making off their crime.


Plains schools provide meals with panache; Stevensville school is torn down

Except for the chocolate milk, the Plains School District lunch menu sounds like something you’d order off the menu of a sit-down restaurant: honeydew, tossed green salad, chicken Alfredo, warm homemade whole-wheat bread, steamed vegetables.


The new healthy school lunch fare is the work of the new Plains School District cook, Larri-Jo Ovitt, “a Plains native who graduated from the high school in 1993, had worked at restaurants in California … (and) recently returned to Plains, where her weekly grilled cheese sandwich and chicken soup with homemade noodles combo won raves at The Circle restaurant in town.”

Grilled cheese and chicken soup with homemade noodles sounds like a sure-fire winner with my 6-year-old. And it sounds like Ovitt is winning over the kids in Plains, if these comments from the story are any indication:

“She makes new foods like we never had before,” said fourth-grader Rachel Huenink, 10.

“She has a special touch,” added fellow fourth-grader Haley Josephson, also 10.

Bryce Hening, 12, in sixth grade, said he knew what that was:

“I think it’s got some secret ingredient.”

The emphasis on more fruits, vegetables and variety ties in nicely with the recent update to the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. A nice roundup of the revisions and some of the nation-wide reactions to the changes is available thanks to Courtney Lowery Cowgill, a Montana writer, editor and farmer, via New West.

Meanwhile, the Billings Gazette provides a nice run-down of some other Montana communities’ efforts to encourage students to lead healthier lives. Here’s the editorial take-home line:  “Building healthy kids isn’t one big project; it’s many small daily decisions that parents, caregivers and educators make.”

And in other school news, students got to watch the old Stevensville junior high school building come down yesterday. And you can watch it too, by clicking here. The video is less than 3 minutes long, and I recommend watching it with the volume turned way up to get the full effect.



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Debate over McDonald’s Happy Meal toys hits home

I promise not to turn this blog into my own personal confessional. Just bear with me while I post my second confession of the day.

Here it is: I sometimes take my daughter to McDonald’s and buy her a happy meal. I don’t even get the optional apple slices and milk; she gets chicken nuggets, french fries and a soda every time. And, of course, one of those toys that comes included with every meal. Since it usually relates to whatever children’s movie is currently playing in theaters, she usually has no idea what it’s about. But it’s a toy, so she wants it.

And me? I want her to burn off some energy on a crummy day, weather-wise. Thanks to McDonald’s Play Places and R Gyms, she gets to climb around and shriek at other children for an hour or so on days when it’s not possible to play outside without drowning or losing a finger to frostbite.

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There’s kale in the potatoes

Somers/Lakeside food service director Robin Vogler, who helped the Somers Lakeside school district meet the Healthier Montana Menu Challenge, gets a big shout-out in this letter to the editor that came in today.

Re: Creative Cafeteria,

What an inspiration Robin Vogler is.  If you see this letter, Robin, would you consider sharing your recipes, or, as a fundraiser, publish a cookbook with menu suggestions from your soup and salad bar and grab-and-go table?  Both of my daughters and probably other young mothers would love to have information about how to add vegetables to the menu.

When my children were young, I tried to feed them healthy meals and have them look forward to holidays when they could have some traditional family treats only to have the schools ruin Halloween and other holidays by having their own holiday celebrations so the children were stuffed with sugary treats by the time they got home.  If that makes me a curmudgeon, so be it.

I do grind my own hamburger and pork, but use fresh carrots instead of fat, and you can add kale to potato soup or scalloped potatoes.  Kale is packed with vitamins, is very easy to grow, and will last through the winter if protected from snow.

Pat Redler,

I’ve never heard of using carrots instead of fat – but you can bet I’ll be giving it a try. Thanks to Vogler and Redler, I’m rolling in tips on how to make healthier food for the whole family.

– MM

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Statewide summit on ending child hunger today

Montana education leaders are meeting with folks from the Montana Food Security Council today in Helena as part of the first statewide “Hunger Summit,” which tackles the problem of hungry children.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that one in 10 Montanans live daily lives of “food insecurity,” meaning there is not always enough food to go around – and more than 85,000 Montana children live in such households.

According to the summit news announcement, “The short and long-term outcomes of poor nutrition and inconsistent access to healthy food lead to health, social, and economic problems for Montana communities. Children growing up with hunger are less likely to become employed, financially secure adults. Montana communities will benefit from increased information about child hunger and be able to seize opportunities to end the problem.”

The one-day summit, jointly hosted by the Council and by the Montana Office of Public Instruction, is also bringing people from private business, foundations, service organizations and public health agencies as well as health care professionals, elected officials and members of the faith community.

“The problem of children without adequate and healthy food is serious, and this summit creates an opportunity for a diverse group of people to come and share their ideas on planning future actions to solve the problem in a sustainable way,” Minkie Medora of the Food Security Council said in a prepared statement.

“Hungry children have difficulty learning,” added Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau. “We look forward to hearing from community leaders from across the state to help find better ways to decrease hunger for Montana’s children.”

And Missoula Mom looks forward to hearing the solutions they come up with.

– MM

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What shape should a hot dog be?

When my daughter first started eating solid food (really solid food that required chewing, not that baby food mush), I started her out on “circle cereal,” popularly known as Cheerios. My hazy, sleep-deprived mom mind reasoned that, should one of the little o’s get lodged in her throat, she would still be able to breathe through the little hole, thus preventing choking.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and I are apparently on the same wave length, though separated by a few years. In its Feb. 22 policy statement on choking prevention in children, the academy suggests, among other measures, that food and toy manufacturers redesign products with high choking potential.

Apparently, the hot dog makers of the nation felt this targeted them, as the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council has been making the media rounds in defense of the iconic wiener shape.

In a USA Today story, council president Janet Riley said, “As a mother who has fed toddlers cylindrical foods like grapes, bananas, hot dogs and carrots, I ‘redesigned’ them in my kitchen by cutting them with a paring knife until my children were old enough to manage on their own.”

Ah, how I remember dicing up all those little choking hazards myself, wishing all food came in the same form as that blessed circle cereal.

– MM

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