Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Snack Swap

   The Chicago Park District has recently made the decision to exchange unhealthy foods in their vending machines with healthier alternatives as part of their “100% Healthier Snack Vending Initiative”. This program was put in place as an obesity reduction strategy. In America the obesity rate is currently at a high 35.7% for adults and 17% for adolescents (2-19 years old). With parks in Chicago being the second largest public feeder of children just behind schools, this is an ideal place to start fighting the obesity epidemic that is consuming Americans today. 

   The “100% Healthier Snack Vending Initiative” began in August of 2010. At that time 98 vending machines were placed in indoor field houses throughout the Chicago Park District System. The picture above shows one of the newly stocked vending machines that sits in Chicago Park District’s Humboldt Park Field House located on the West Side of Chicago.  As you can see, the classic candy bars and Cheetos you normally see in vending machines are absent and in their places sit snacks like granola bars. What you cannot see from this picture due to lack of clarity is that each snack in the vending machine may not exceed the cost of $1. This puts all snack options on the same level so that people do not have to compromise and buy the less nutritious food because it is cheaper. Additionally, each one of the vending machines has strict nutritional guidelines of what kinds of foods can be sold.

   You might expect consumers to steer away from the less healthy food given our current obesity situation in America, but it is actually the opposite. In fact, a study conducted by students at Northwestern University shows that the vast majority of patrons approved of the healthier snack vending machine items. 88% of people surveyed reported enjoying the healthier vending items. Additionally, sales had improved by $287.00 within the first year of implementing these machines. I think it is refreshing to see positive nutritional initiatives taking place beyond school cafeterias where we traditionally see them. With Chicago being one of the first cities to adopt this initiative I would hope that other's follow the same path. 

   Although this program sounds completely beneficial at face value, it is important to acknowledge the fact that Chicago's Park District is controlling and limiting the choices that the consumer has. This policy clashes with American culture because American's value their freedom above all. Having the park district and government regulate what citizens can and cannot eat may frustrate many.  American's take pride in their ability to have choices and this kind of control may turn away consumers. As a result, the consumers will lose out on the opportunity to purchase low-cost nutritious food and instead may take their $1 and spend it on fast food or another unhealthy, yet cost effective alternative. This could potentially lead to a further increased amount of obesity and completely reverse the effect the Chicago Park District wants to have on the people of Chicago. 

Do you think that this policy will help combat obesity or will it instead drive people away from spending their money in these machines? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

(s)NO(w) More Days Off in the Future?

The phone rang this past Tuesday night announcing the anticipated, yet exciting cancellation of school for the following day. New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois was closed January 7th due to the sub zero climate that was deemed “dangerously low” by the Superintendent Dr. Linda Yonke. Students all across the district celebrated because for many snow days signify the opportunity to sleep in, catch up on work, and maybe even indulge in a marathon of their favorite Netflix shows.

Although snow days are a welcomed break for students, the majority of teachers and educators do not feel the same way because these days interrupt their schedules and teaching. Additionally it is a nuisance to have to rearrange the calendar and find day’s to make-up the school missed in order to fulfill the state's required school days.

It appears that missing school due to inclement weather will not be as big of a burden in the near future due to the increased usage of technology in the classroom.  K-12 spending on tablets has increased 60 percent over last year, making these devices readily available to many students. A large number of schools residing in areas that are infamous for receiving large quantities of snow have begun to implement a new idea. The new idea is converting these days off into “e-learning days” where students are expected to attend school and complete work via their Ipad, tablet, or other device. About one third of affected school districts and various private schools (in the Eastern and Midwestern regions of the US) already have programs in place. States like Indiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania have had test runs of this system and the response from educators was mainly positive.

In Pennsylvania during the 2013-2014 school year they struggled to complete all 180 days required due to the mass amounts of snow. As a result, this year they introduced an e-learning program open to all 500 school districts that allows up to 5 days of “non-traditional educational delivery methods”. If a school wanted to take part in this program they had to submit a program they designed.
While these programs sound great in theory I believe that they cannot replicate an actual school day because there is obviously no teacher present to instruct the student which makes a monumental difference. Additionally, I wonder if these programs are a burden for teachers because they are unable to pre-plan the e-lesson because snow days are so sporadic throughout the winter months.

 How would you feel about snow days being replaced with “e-learning days”? Do you think this concept could ever work at New Trier High School?

Are the Dog Days Over?

This past week in Winnetka, Illinois we have experienced temperatures plummeting to record lows. On Wednesday it was about -4 degrees when I went to run an errand with my mom and before we left we made sure our back door, popularly used by our dog was shut so she wouldn’t venture out into the sub zero conditions. This had me thinking about the dogs I saw regularly on my walks home from school that would be left outside, was there a law against leaving your dog outside for too long?

After conducting research I found out that just three days ago Dane County, the second most populous county residing outside of Madison, Wisconsin, had passed an ordinance making it illegal for dogs to be left outside in inclement conditions for more than 15 minutes. Inclement weather includes extremely cold and warm conditions.

This could not have come at a better time especially in a place like Wisconsin infamous for bitterly cold winters. "Especially in these cold months, it is important for people to bring their pets inside and for others to report neglected animals to law enforcement,” says Ashley Mauceri, HSUS manager for cruelty response, who fields these calls. Ashley Mauceri is absolutely right as it only takes is 15 minutes for an animal to sustain brain damage from extreme weather conditions or even die of heatstroke or frost bite. Maintaining body temperature is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves off by panting and sweating through their paw pads. Additionally, extremely cold weather can lower an animal's resistance to disease and bring on ailments like pneumonia and arthritis, therefore causing health issues for the dog in the future.

It shocked me to find out that Dane County was only one of the county’s to outlaw this kind of cruelty despite how detrimental leaving dogs out in these conditions can be. Given that the number of animals in the U.S. that die each year from cruelty, neglect, and exploitation is 30 million more ordinances similar to this one need to be adopted by communities to ensure that the number of animals that die due to neglect each year can be dramatically lowered.

The picture above shows Barbie, a local dog, who had been left out in the cold as she desperately tried to tend to her puppies. Concerned neighbors in Dane County rescued the dog by calling the humane society.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Toddlers Tantalized by Tablets

 Today while I was sitting at lunch I looked over at the table next to me and saw a little boy who was probably around two years old. He was holding an Ipad and touching the screen that was on an educational game. I was mesmerized by the fact that this little kid could manage a tablet so well and it made me wonder what the effects of Ipads and other tablets are on little kids these days.

  After doing some research I found that there is little to no data out as of right now regarding the effects the device may have on the development of a child because the Ipad came out about 5 years ago.
  Despite the lack of data some mom's have taken it on themselves to post videos on YouTube of their toddler navigating the touch screen of the Ipad. The scary part is that when the device is taken away and turned off some toddlers went into tantrums, yelling and crying because they wanted the tablet back.

  Tovah Klein, the director of a toddler center who specializes in toddler social and emotional development, said her kids were much more active when the iPads were taken away. When the Ipads were gone she believed the toddlers transformed into more verbal, more social and more creative creatures.

  Young children should have very limited use of Ipads to ensure healthy development and so that they do not become addicted or rely on the tablet. 

  I think that beyond the effect that Ipads may have on the development of children, the scariest part of all this is the lack of interaction parents are having with their children. Countless times I have seen families out at restaurants and everyone is completely consumed by their electronics and screen time is overriding face time. It is alarming that parents are sticking their kids in front of these tablets for entertainment instead of communicating and just talking to them.

Lilly Pulitzer "Targets" New Clientele

  Preppy pattern-loving clothing shoppers have been buzzing the last few days following Target's announcement that they will be collaborating with Lilly Pulitzer in early April of this year. 
  The brand Lilly Pulitzer is known for it's traditional, preppy, vibrant, and well-made clothing that does come with quite the price tag. They plan on maintaining similar quality and style of their clothing but adjusting their prices to make it more accessible to a larger scale of clients. 

 This collaboration could not have come at a better time in my opinion. Lilly Pulitzer was incredibly smart to make this decision now especially because the market is right. Industry watchers claim that preppy clothing (what Lilly Pulitzer is famous for) is coming back in style more than ever right now especially amongst teens. According to Marshal Cohen, a senior industry analyst at NPD Group Inc., a market research company, "These styles are part of an overall trend toward a return to more subdued fashions after an abundance of revealing clothes such as low-rise pants and midriff tops." After studying the overall trends of teenagers currently Marshal Cohen and many other's in the fashion industry such as Abercrombie, American Eagle, Jcrew and more have discovered that revealing clothing is making an exit as preppy and more modest clothing begins to take the stage.

 Lilly Pulitzer is appealing to the general population with her affordable yet preppy and modest clothing. The new mood in the industry is playing right into the brand's strength and I am sure a lot of success will come from this line that they are developing for Target. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Don't Hate the Player, Hate (the nature of) the Game?

As the clock hit zero at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California this past Thursday reality set in for the number 2 team, Florida State University. The Seminoles were crushed by the number 3 Oregon Ducks, ending with a score of 59-20. 

In case you missed it, it may be helpful to watch the video here before continuing: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/02/florida-state-players-oregon-hand-shake_n_6406802.html

        In the video above you can see how disappointed and frustrated many players on Florida State were and as a result over 70% of the team did not walk across the field and shake the hands of their opponents but instead walked straight to the locker room. 

The vast majority of FSU players walk off the field before shaking the hands of their opponents

       I feel that players of such a prestigious and highly ranked program should have demonstrated more respect for their opponents, regardless of the outcome of the game. The Seminoles were in the spotlight with millions of people watching them and they proved to be a team that lacked manners as mentioned by announcer Kirk Herbstreit: "You lose a game after 29 games and you can't come over and shake a hand of an Oregon player and tell him, 'Congratulations?'" Florida State had won 29 consecutive games prior to the playoffs so they know what it feels like to be on the winning end. In my opinion it is selfish to not reciprocate the same respect other teams had for you in season. Many of these players should be ashamed by their attitudes that lack common manners. 

         Should the FSU players be looked down on for their abrupt and unsportsmanlike behavior? Was this a result of FSU's poor sportsmanship or perhaps is it the nature of the game after a shocking loss?