Category: View Point

ViewPoint: National Farm to School Month: Supporting Local Economies

By Sandra Renner
sandrar@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs
October is National Farm to School Month, a time to recognize the importance of improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and educating communities about the origins of their food.
In 2016, the Center for Rural Affairs joined more than 220 organizations nationwide to promote farm to school throughout October. This year marks the seventh year for National Farm to School Month, designated by Congress to bring awareness to the growing importance of these programs in child nutrition, local economies, and education.
What makes farm to school special? The program helps students learn where their food comes from and provides healthy access to more fruits and vegetables. It is an avenue for rural schools to keep spending in their communities with purchases made from local farms and food businesses.
Educators can also weave farm to school into math and science curriculum. The program is a great addition to business and entrepreneurship classes, as well as cooking classes. Imagine learning culinary skills using seasonal, local ingredients and how to buy them.
According to the 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census, farm to school programs have invested more than $789 million in local communities; offered 17,089 salad bars with healthy options to students and staff; and grown 7,101 school gardens. Approximately 1,039 school districts serve local foods during the peak season in the summer months and 1,516 school districts start farm to school early in their pre-K programs.
The numbers don’t lie. Farm to school is a win for students, farm, food businesses, and communities. For more information on National Farm to School Month, visit our online toolkit at www.cfra.org/f2smonth.

ViewPoint: School is Back in Session: Practice School Bus Safety

Today marks the first day of school for students in the Union Community School District. As families settle into the new routine that includes getting youngsters to and from school, an important part of the daily commute will involve transportation by way of a school bus.
Each day thousands upon thousands of children board school buses to take them to and from school. Parents and caregivers entrust their children’s well-being to the care of school bus drivers and aides. Although parents may worry about school bus accidents, such accidents are few and far between.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises that school buses are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in avoiding crashes and protecting against injury. Buses are arguably the safest mode of transportation for getting kids to and from school. By keeping millions of cars off the roads surrounding schools, school buses contribute to less crowded roadways, which are less conducive to accidents.
Danger Zone
Though parents may feel buses are most likely to be in accidents while in transit, experts advise that children are more likely to get hurt during pickups and drop-offs when they’re in the “danger zone” of the bus. The danger zone is a 10-foot radius around the outside of the bus. Bus drivers and other motorists find kids in the danger zone are more difficult to see, and children can get struck by either the bus or oncoming cars that fail to stop when the bus is picking kids up or dropping them off.
Knowing the Safety Rules
While a large part of protecting children is on the shoulders of the school bus driver, it is also vital for passengers to learn the basics of school bus safety. Parents can help educate their children about using caution in and around the bus by following these guidelines:
Get to the bus stop 5 to 10 minutes prior to the assigned pickup time. Rushing last-minute can lead to injury, especially if you’re chasing down the bus.
Remain on the sidewalk or grass at the bus stop. Do not step off the curb into the street until the bus has arrived and is completely stopped.
When boarding the bus, go directly to a seat and sit down. Remain seated while the bus is in motion.
Keep voices low so as not to distract the driver.
Keep your head and hands inside of the bus, and never hang out of the window.
Do not throw things on the bus or play rough with friends or classmates.
Keep the aisle clear at all times.
Be careful when boarding and getting off the bus. Only get off at your designated stop unless you have permission to get off elsewhere.
When exiting the bus, walk at least 10 steps past the front of the bus and cross in front where the driver can see you. Do not cross behind the bus.
Wait for the driver to give you a signal that it is safe to cross. Be sure to check that all cars on the road have come to a complete stop.
Get to the sidewalk or off the street as quickly as possible.
Do not get into the cars of strangers waiting around bus stops, even if they offer to take you home.
Safety guidelines are not limited to students only. Each year, bus drivers in our community have the unpleasant task of reporting drivers who fail to obey the flashing lights and the extended stop sign of a school bus. Drivers should never roll past a school bus when its yellow lights are flashing.

ViewPoint: Seven Ways to Make Mornings Less Hectic

Make school and work mornings less harried with some easy tips to add to routines.
Many families find the rush is on to make it to school and work on time each morning. Feeling rushed in the morning is a recipe for added stress. Rushing through things is a poor way to begin a day, and those feelings of uneasiness can put a damper on the rest of the day ahead.
Making mornings less hectic involves a few different strategies that parents and kids can easily incorporate into their daily routines.
1. Wake up slightly earlier. Getting up earlier than normal, even if it’s just 15 to 20 minutes before you’re accustomed to getting out of bed, can help reduce morning stress. Resist the temptation to hit the snooze button over and over again. A few extra minutes each morning can make you feel more relaxed and make for a smooth, stress-free start to the day.
2. Get some work done the night before. Prepare lunches the night before and have them ready in the refrigerator. In addition, lay your clothes for the following day out each night. This saves time and takes a couple more things off your morning to-do list.
3. Ease back into a routine. As a new school year dawns or a long vacation comes to an end, begin going to bed earlier and start waking up earlier as well. This can make the transition from carefree mornings to busy mornings go more smoothly.
4. Prep backpacks in the evening. Look through folders, sign paperwork, check assignments, and do whatever is you need to do the night before to save your family from having to scramble in the morning. This ensures those permission slips get signed and items make it back into school bags.
5. Opt for school lunch a few times. Look ahead on the school lunch menu and speak with children about which meals they enjoy. Let kids purchase school lunch on those days to give yourself a day off from lunch detail.
6. Have quick breakfast foods available. Smoothies, cereal bars, oatmeal, and whole-grain cereals are fast and nutritious ways to start the day.
7. Carpool whenever possible. Busy families can save themselves extra work by proposing a neighborhood carpool. Sharing school drop off detail frees time up for parents once or twice a week, and kids may enjoy traveling to school with their friends. Mornings can be tricky when family members are getting ready for school and work at the same time. By practicing a few daily rituals, it’s possible to curb the rush and start the day happier and more relaxed.

ViewPoint: Two Things You Need to Know Before Enrolling in Medicare

The Iowa Insurance Division’s Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) talks to thousands of Iowans every year about enrolling in Medicare.
“There is a lot of information for Iowans to digest when they are deciding whether to enroll in Medicare,” Kris Gross, director of SHIIP said. “The top two misconceptions we hear from Iowans are that there is a requirement to sign up for Medicare Part A at age 65 and to enroll in Medicare Part B even if the person is continuing to work and has employer health insurance. Neither is true.”
Iowans with questions about Medicare may call SHIIP at 800-351-4664 (TTY 800-735-2942) or visit www.therightcalliowa.gov. SHIIP counselors are available in communities across Iowa and are available to help answer your questions and assist with problems you have concerning Medicare and related health insurance. SHIIP is a service of the State of Iowa Insurance Division. All services are free, confidential and objective.
Correct information about the top two misconceptions that SHIIP hears from Iowans are below.
First Misconception: You’re required to sign up for Medicare Part A at age 65. (This is not true.)
If you or your spouse continue to work and have insurance from this work, you are not required to enroll in Medicare. Medicare Part A is free for most people because of their FICA contributions while employed. For this reason, people usually sign up for Part A when they become eligible.
However, since Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) with high deductible health plans have become more popular as an employee health benefit, automatically signing up for Part A needs to be reconsidered and may not be in your best interest. If you continue to work and enroll in Medicare Part A and/or B, you and your employer can no longer make contributions to the HSA. There may be a tax penalty if you do. You can use the money in your HSA but you cannot make new contributions.
Even if your current employer does not offer a HSA, delaying Part A keeps this option open for potential future employment. Keep in mind, those entitled to free Part A will automatically be enrolled once you start receiving your Social Security benefit.
Remember, if you delay enrollment, when you finally do apply for Medicare the effective date of Part A may be back dated up to six months from the date you apply. To avoid a tax penalty, you should stop contributing to your HSA the month to which your Part A is back dated.
Second Misconception: I need to enroll in Medicare Part B even if I continue to work and have employer health insurance. (This is not true.)
A person who is actively employed with health insurance from that employer, can delay enrolling in Medicare Part B without a penalty until they quit working—no matter the employer size. Large employers must pay primary (first) while the person is working and Medicare pays secondary. Small employers do not have to pay primary.
Often workers are told the small employer insurance will continue to cover them, not understanding that the language in their employer health insurance may require they enroll in Medicare. If they don’t, the policy will pay secondary to Medicare even if they don’t enroll. It is very important to talk to the insurance company providing your employer coverage to verify if Medicare enrollment is necessary because the plan will only pay after Medicare pays.

ViewPoint: Small Businesses are the Backbone of Rural Communities

By Rhea Landholm, Center for Rural Affairs
Small scale entrepreneurship is a proven strategy to revitalize rural communities. Owning one’s own business can create genuine opportunity across rural America with the support of a modest public investment.
The importance of entrepreneurship is particularly profound in the most rural areas. Our analysis of economic conditions in the farm and ranch counties of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas found that nearly 60 percent of job growth in the 1990s came from people creating their own job by starting a small non farm business.
Small entrepreneurship is the one development strategy that consistently works in these communities. This strategy also has the capacity to bring back young people – including those who earn a college degree. Our surveys of rural youth in northeast Nebraska found that half would like to someday own their own farm or business. That opportunity has the potential to draw them back to rural America.
Small business development helps rural people acquire assets and create wealth. That is essential. Asset and wealth-building through home ownership, business ownership and enhanced education lead to important long-term psychological and social effects that cannot be achieved by simply increasing income.
Businesses and houses bond one to a place and help to build sustainable communities. A commitment to rural asset- and wealth-building strategies can lead to stronger individuals, families and communities.
Small business are also very philanthropic. In a 2015 survey, an estimate of nearly half of all small businesses gave to charity with 90 percent of donations supporting local causes.
As part of National Small Business Week, April 30 to May 6, the Small Business Administration will offer free webinars. Find out more at https://www.sba.gov/nsbw/webinars.
You can find more information and resources at http://www.cfra.org.

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