Farmers & Families

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Summer in Maine means Farmers’ Market extravaganzas! This year Healthy Peninsula wanted to help celebrate the bounty from our dedicated local farmers and the healthy benefits to our peninsula families by launching a pilot program, “Farmers & Families”. With generous support from the Virginia Welllington Cabot Foundation and the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, the program began this spring by introducing three local schools to their neighborhood farmers.  The farmers took time from their harried days of spring planting to show the students what they farm, why they farm, and how their livelihood can directly affect families’ healthy eating habits.  Both children and teachers were impressed by the beautiful farm pictures of well-tended livestock and vibrant rows of vegetables, and are eager for the fall-scheduled farm tour when they might get to taste for themselves the difference between a carrot pulled right from the ground opposed to one that has traveled across the country to reach them.

The second part of the program begins July 5th right at the Blue Hill fairgrounds Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, 9:00-11:30.  Any family with school-aged children is welcome to stop by the Healthy Peninsula welcome area and receive a $10 coupon to shop at participating farmers’ booths.  Families can use these coupons up to three separate Saturdays throughout the whole season.  We would especially love to see new faces venturing out to connect with their local farmers, many of whom have year round farm stores and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture: a system of paying upfront for weekly fresh vegetables provided directly at the farm).

When you come to the Healthy Peninsula welcome booth to get your coupon, there will also be a sample of fun ways to prepare the “star” vegetable of the week, some delicious recipe ideas, and a friendly face to help direct you to the best deals that week at the market.  That same friendly face will also help SNAP card-holders to “Double Your Benefit” when you purchase goods at the Farmer’s Market. The Blue Hill Memorial Hospital is sponsoring this dollar-for-dollar match fund, a great incentive to help encourage and support the health and wellness of its community members by doubling the value of SNAP benefits for fresh, healthy food.  It’s exciting to see the collaboration of many organizations rallying around healthy food options for our community members and supporting the farmers who make it more possible.

Although the Healthy Peninsula “Farmers and Families” program is only in Blue Hill this season, there are many other farmers’ markets in our area: Brooklin, Thursdays, 3-5 pm; Brooksville, Tuesdays 9:30-noon; Castine, Thursdays 9-11:30am; Deer Isle, Wednesdays, 9:30-11:30 am; Stonington, Fridays, 10-noon. Blue Hill also has a second farmers’ market held at the Congregational Church on Wednesdays, 3-5 pm. Go to the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA) website to get more details about exact locations. http://www.mofga.net/Directories/FarmersMarkets/tabid/352/.

So many opportunities to buy local fresh food, eat healthier, and support farmers. See you by the kale!

What you can do! Visit the Blue Hill Farmer’s Market on Saturdays 9:00-11:30, and especially the HP welcome booth. Tell your friends and neighbors too.

Jill Day is Program Coordinator for Healthy Peninsula and has special interests in early childhood and healthy eating.

Teens and Alcohol: What’s a Parent to Do?

June is just around the corner. School and family graduation celebrations are already being planned. But what kind of parties are your teens planning to attend, perhaps without your knowledge?

We tend to think that all teens who drink alcohol are troubled or live in stressed environments. Experts connect “adverse childhood experiences” (ACES), such as abuse, neglect, and parent discord, as risk factors for long-term substance abuse and other risky behaviors.

Dr. Robert Holmberg, pediatric consultant at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, explains, “We know from research that supporting social and emotional childhood experiences with positive parent interactive relationships relates directly to healthier mental and physical health outcomes for teens and adults.  Although ACES can lead to poor adult outcomes such as substance abuse and incarceration, positive parenting can lead to resiliency and prevention of adverse outcomes.”

Many teens experiment with alcohol use. The National Institutes of Health report that alcohol is the drug of choice among youth. The Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Survey (MYDAUS 2008) shows that 5% of 12 year olds in Hancock County and 45% of 18 year olds reported using alcohol in the previous 30 days. Although most may not develop long-term abuse patterns, all are at risk for injury or death due to accidents, falls, blackouts, or drownings.

Helen Deuschle, LCSW, family counselor at Island Family Medicine, has learned that “new studies in the field of neuroscience reinforce how alcohol effects the brain – impairing thinking, regulation of emotions, and judgment – leading to risky behaviors and lack of understanding of consequences. Teenage alcohol use is not a moral issue, but a health issue, and we need to help our teens learn skills that will keep them healthy and safe.”

Educating our children and ourselves is the best defense against alcohol use. School health programs in the past were primarily informational, often used scare tactics and were not effective. Today’s substance prevention programs include social influence models, setting norms, addressing social pressures to drink, and teaching resistance skills.

Parents have a very real influence on whether their child drinks or not. Research shows that friends, media, TV ads, and teachers all take a back seat to the positive influence of parents. Setting clear rules against drinking, consistently enforc­ing those rules, and monitoring your teen’s behavior all help to reduce the likelihood of underage drinking.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offers these steps to help your son or daughter steer clear of the dangers of underage drinking: Think of yourself as a coach: share information, discuss choices, and help your teen anticipate and handle challenging situations. Keep track of your teen: agree on rules, limits, and consequences; talk to parents of kids with whom your teen spends time; enforce consequences consistently. Show respect and caring: listen respectfully to his or her ideas and concerns; help your teen think logically and make smart choices;  remind your teen of how much you love and care about them. Be a positive role model: your teen will be most receptive to your guidance if you lead by example and act responsibly.

Here are some tips from the experts when talking to your kids about alcohol: Tell them what you think, say it often, but don’t talk too long. Make it short and simple, and then hear what they have to say. When they talk, listen and don’t correct. Be honest and tell them what troubles you the most about the very real risks of underage drinking. The most important point is to convey your genuine fears and concerns.

Being a good role model for family members, especially teens and young adults, means making sure alcohol is only available to those of legal age. At family celebrations, offer plenty of food and non-alcohol alternatives. Having fun together doesn’t have to involve substance use, and make sure everyone gets home safely.

Here’s what you can do! Talk to your health care provider, mental health counselors, and school guidance counselors about any concerns. Join a parents support group in your school or community. Learn more about how alcohol can affect your child and visit http://www.AlcoholScreening.org as a resource.

Your Health Matters is a monthly health column by Healthy Peninsula and the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital. Sandra Phoenix is a family nurse practitioner and a member of the HP Advisory Board.

Healthy Peninsula Awarded Grant to Promote Healthy Aging

The Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) has announced the award of eight ‘Thriving in Place’ (TiP) grants across the state, with Healthy Peninsula one of two grantees in Hancock County. The grants aim to promote better patient-centered care that will help people with chronic conditions to be healthier and safer in their homes.

“The successful project proposals were ones that will use a variety of tested and creative strategies to tackle the expensive over-reliance on hospitals and assisted living facilities to care for older and disabled people with chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Becky Hayes Boober, the MeHAF Senior Program Officer who is overseeing the TiP program.

Healthy Peninsula’s proposal, ‘Thriving Downeast’, is centered around a partnership of ten local and regional organizations that already provide a broad cross-section of health and social services: Blue Hill Memorial Hospital (BHMH), Eastern Maine Health Systems (EMHS), Hancock County HomeCare and Hospice, Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County, Coastal Care Team, Atlantic Mental Health Center, Eastern Area Agency on Aging, Penobscot Bay Press, Washington Hancock Community Agency (WHCA) and its programs At Home Down East and Friendship Cottage.

Healthy Peninsula’s role within Thriving Downeast will be to assess the needs of individuals living on the Blue Hill peninsula, Deer Isle and Stonington and help to ‘knit together’ available medical, behavioral, social, and community services to strengthen support and care for those at highest risk. Critical to the success of this project is to hear from the people who will benefit most: their voices are often not heard in discussions about the challenges they face and the services they need.

“As the state with the oldest population and one of the highest rates of disability in the nation, there’s a pressing need to plan now for strategies that can help people, particularly those who are older, stay healthy and receive needed care and support at home,” said Dr. Wendy Wolf, President and CEO of MeHAF. “It’s no surprise that older and disabled Mainers overwhelmingly say that they want to remain in their homes and communities; yet our current resources are not up to the task of meeting their expectations,” explained Dr. Wolf. “Through the Thriving in Place initiative, organizations will work together with local residents to determine how we can keep people out of the hospital or nursing home so they can stay in their community.”

The current MeHAF award is a one-year planning grant with the possibility of a second award to implement the partnership work plan over three years. The TiP grant is a kickstart to Healthy Peninsula’s new Healthy Aging Initiative and an exciting opportunity to partner with dedicated and experienced organizations across the region. Healthy Peninsula is a program of Child and Family Opportunities, Inc., and partners with BHMH and EMHS to promote health in western Hancock County.

For additional information, please contact Healthy Peninsula at 374-3257 or info@healthypeninsula.org.

Preschool – The Most Important Grade?

On Saturday, April 5th, Blue Hill residents will have the opportunity to vote to provide the financial support for a public preschool program at the Consolidated School. Although three quarters of all children participate in preschool programs nationwide, many people are unsure about how to measure the cost and benefits, particularly of public preschool programs that are funded by taxpayer dollars.

According to the Maine Department of Education, there are currently more than 200 approved public preschool programs serving thousands of four year-old children, between 30-40 percent, throughout the state. Several neighboring schools already have preschool programs; Brooklin, Penobscot, and Castine offer public preschool programs in coordination with Kindergarten classes, while Sedgwick hosts the Peninsula Early Childhood Education Center in collaboration with Child and Family Opportunities (Head Start). Brooksville has offered a preschool program for twenty years, transitioning to a public preschool program five years ago.

Experienced Brooksville teacher Corinne Pert states, “We’ve had that program, which is three full days per week, transportation provided, meals available through school lunch, for five years. We use the standards of the Maine Early Childhood Learning Guidelines as a basis for curriculum. It is a great opportunity to introduce school as a place to love learning together as a community, and help children learn the skills they will need to fully access learning in the public school setting. I call us the Executive Functioning experts!”
What are Executive Functions? In his new book, ‘How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character’, Paul Tough writes that recent research is focusing on Executive Functions, the ‘air traffic control center of the brain’. Executive Function qualities include creativity, perseverance, and perhaps most important, flexibility and self-control. Children need flexibility to think creatively to find new solutions to problems. Self-control helps them to regulate their emotional responses and behaviors, and to help them avoid making bad choices. Other researchers add the ability to direct attention (focus) as a key skill in the Executive Functions toolkit in our brains. It is now believed that Executive Functions are more important for school readiness than Intelligence Quotient (IQ).
Della Martin, BHCS principal, agrees. “The BHCS program will holistically address the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development of the children to prepare them for success in kindergarten and in their future school years. The greatest focus will be on the integration of developmentally appropriate play, discovery, music, early literacy and numeracy skills, and social skills.”

Recent research has shown that preschool education is a sound investment—academically, socially, and economically. Several studies provide comprehensive evidence that academic and other advantages from preschool education show economic benefits that far outweigh the costs of high-quality preschool programs. By fifth grade, students who received one year of high-quality public preschool were less likely to be held back or placed in special education, and, as they aged, had higher graduation rates and reduced arrest rates.

Contrary to popular belief, school readiness is not just a problem of the poor. Young middle-income children can also lag behind in social and cognitive skills. High-quality preschool has been found to benefit both low-income and middle-income children, and these added benefits could far exceed costs. Public preschool programs, like the one proposed at BHCS, are open to all children regardless of family income, and therefore benefit all children who attend.

Preschool works. But is it worth the cost? Studies of the savings from high-quality early learning demonstrate that the answer is yes. Graduates of such programs are less likely to commit crimes or rely on food stamps and cash assistance; they have greater lifetime earnings, creating increased tax revenue. Although the range of savings varies across studies, the studies consistently find robust returns to taxpayers.

Here’s what you can do! Attend the next Pre-K meeting on Monday, March 31st at the BHCS Library, educate yourself about these important issues, attend the Blue Hill Town Meeting on April 5th and support early education in your community.
Your Health Matters is a monthly health column by Healthy Peninsula and the Blue Hill Memorial Hospital. Sandra Phoenix is a family nurse practitioner, a member of the HP Advisory Board, and co-chair of the Early Childhood Initiative.