K-State Research and Extension News
SOUND LIVING is a weekly public affairs program distributed to radio stations throughout the area, addressing issues related to families and consumers.
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According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the average retail costs of such staples like fish, poultry and eggs have climbed by double digits over the last 12 months and items like beef have skyrocketed. With punishing droughts and rising global demand, there’s no way to know if and when prices will begin to fall. As a result, it may be time to make some adjustments to our eating and shopping habits. K-State Research and Extension nutrition specialist Mary Meck Higgins outlines five strategies to reduce food costs.

According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, 86-percent of households own an outdoor barbecue, grill or smoker and 62-percent of grill owners use them year-round. A gas grill is the most popular, followed by charcoal and electric. The Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day top the list of the most popular grilling holidays, but there has been an increase in grilling Thanksgiving meals outdoors. On today’s Sound Living: Kansas State University food scientist Karen Blakeslee discusses grilling safety and food safety concerns associated with outdoor cooking.

Making the most of your money starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money. Those building blocks, according to MyMoney.gov, include five principles: earn, save and invest, protect, spend and borrow. The goal of the program, known as My Money Five, is for people to keep these principles in mind as they make day-to-day decisions and plan their financial goals. April is Money Smart Month across Kansas and K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss (kish) discusses how these building blocks can help everyone improve their financial situation – especially if they start saving when they’re young.

In an effort to reduce obesity in four-year-old children, Kansas State University Research and Extension is leading a seven-state research effort to improve children’s food choices and their health. Funding for the five-year, 4-point-5 million dollar project was awarded in 2011 by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. K-State has teamed up with land grant institutions in North and South Dakota, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin to determine the impact of community coaching as a way to reduce obesity in young children. K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences assistant director Paula Peters and nutrition educator and Extension specialist Sandy Procter have lead roles in the project.

Researchers from Boston University Medical Center spent about a month last year camped out in Boston-area fast food places to observe interaction between parents and caregivers using smartphones and the children who were with them. The findings showed that when parents or babysitters are glued to their smartphones in public places, they may not be paying close attention to their kids and are more likely to respond harshly to their child’s behavior. K-State Research and Extension child development specialist Bradford Wiles discusses what can be learned from this study.

Last year, there were 56 tornadoes reported in Kansas – making it the quietest year for the violent storms since 1994. According to the National Weather Service, only five of the tornadoes ranked as strong, violent tornadoes. There was only one injury and no deaths. Chad Omitt, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Topeka, says having a plan is one step we can all take to protect ourselves in the event of a violent storm or tornado.

With spring still weeks away, it’s a good time to take inventory of all the things crammed into the pantry, kitchen cabinets, refrigerator and freezer. What you’ll most likely discover is that the things creating the clutter don’t get used anymore, you have too many similar items, and that some food is well beyond its expiration date. Karen Blakeslee, a K-State Research and Extension food scientist and coordinator of the Rapid Response Center, says organizing a kitchen will save time and money.

Walk Kansas, an annual K-State Research and Extension health initiative to move more and eat better, begins March 16th and runs through May 10th. The minimum goal for each six-member team is to be physically active enough to cover 423 miles – equivalent to walking across Kansas. State coordinator of the Walk Kansas program, Sharolyn Jackson, discusses the benefits of Walk Kansas and some of the changes being implemented for this year’s event.

According to the 2013 Annual National Survey Assessing Household Savings, released as part of America Saves Week, only about half of Americans reported good savings habits. Kansas Saves, which mirrors the America Saves initiative, encourages people to commit to saving, to reduce debt, to invest and build personal wealth. On today’s Sound Living: K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss (kish) discusses how to set financial goals and how to make a plan for attaining those goals.

SNAP… Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…formerly known as Food Stamps, provides food-purchasing assistance for low and no-income people in the U.S. Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program and is estimated to have served more than 47 million low-income Americans in Fiscal Year 2013. Continued funding for the program was included in the Farm Bill. On today’s Sound Living: K-State Research and Extension’s role in providing nutrition education to families with limited resources through the Family Nutrition Program – Kansas’ version of SNAP-Education.

According to a recent USA Today online article, millennials have been described as enthusiastic, adaptable, entrepreneurial and skilled multi-taskers – and as lazy, entitled and unmanageable job hoppers. The article, based on the findings in the Cornerstone study, shows millennials prefer team work, are still pro-gadget, and may be hitting their tech limit – with 38% saying they’ve been subjected to “technology overload” on the job, and 41% saying they’ve encountered an “information overload” – which is significantly higher than for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. On today’s Sound Living: generational differences in the workplace.

An estimated 34 million Americans are caregivers for an older parent – and of that number – 15% live one or more hours away. In many instances, the caregiving is being arranged for parents who live in other states. Fortunately, K-State Research and Extension adult development and aging specialist Bradford Wiles says there are strategies long-distance caregivers can follow to make the process easier. On today’s Sound Living: managing long-distance caregiving.

A report by the European Food Safety Authority re-evaluated aspartame as a food additive and concluded that aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for the general population to consume at the level previously established. K-State Research and Extension human nutrition specialist Mary Meck Higgins looks at the study and the importance of its findings.

W-2’s are starting to arrive, marking the start of the tax season. In addition to collecting all the necessary financial information to file a return, many are already planning how to spend their anticipated refund. K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss (kish) suggests using the “30-40-30” tax refund plan to pay for your past, present and future. On today’s Sound Living: making plans for your tax refund.

At the beginning of a new year, it’s almost impossible to watch TV without being inundated by weight loss commercials. However, these diets typically only produce short-term results. Lifestyle changes, such as being more physically active and learning how to control portion size, are needed to produce long-term results. K-State Research and Extension nutrition educator Sandy Procter says eating more family meals is an effective way to control weight because we feel less pressure to overeat when dining at home.

pace heaters are generally used to warm a small space for a short period of time. However, the latest space heater to hit the market is one that uses infrared heat and claims to heat a whole house while significantly reducing energy costs. But, is that accurate? Bruce Snead, director of Extension Engineering at Kansas State University and an Extension specialist in residential energy, says any space heater can warm a small space, but no space heater will effectively heat a large area.

New Year’s resolutions, the attempt to break bad habits and make improvements in all areas of life, are often abandoned before the end of January. But, why do so many people struggle to accomplish their goals? When it comes to eating healthy and being more physically active, K-State Research and Extension nutrition specialist Sandy Procter says that making small changes helps make goals more attainable.

Candy is probably as much of a holiday tradition as exchanging gifts. In fact, Christmas is the third biggest holiday for candy sales – only trailing Halloween and Easter. In addition to buying candy, many people like to make their own. However, some holiday treats, such as fudge, peanut brittle, toffee and peanut butter balls can be a challenge. K-State food scientist Karen Blakeslee has some tips to make the candy-making process a little easier.

If the recent cold snap has left you thinking about ways to reduce energy costs without sacrificing personal comfort, Bruce Snead, director of Extension engineering at Kansas State University and an Extension specialist in residential energy, says there are a number of cost-effective things that can be done to winterize your home. This includes blocking leaks, making sure the furnace is in optimum working condition and using a programmable thermostat to allow the heat to be regulated according to your family’s lifestyle.

Winter officially arrives December 21st, but as we’ve already seen, winter can arrive much earlier. Many people are caught unprepared for the snow, ice and cold weather that typically occur during a typical Kansas winter. K-State climatologist Mary Knapp, director of the Weather Data Library at Kansas State University, says knowledge and preparation are both essential to minimizing potential weather-related problems this winter.

As holiday parties get into full swing, we’ll be inundated with a variety of food that tastes great, but isn’t necessarily good for us. How we deal with all those tasty temptations will most likely determine whether we gain weight over the next four or five weeks. According to K-State Research and Extension nutrition and physical activity specialist Tanda Kidd, managing stress, making healthy food choices, eating in moderation and being physically are some of the keys to a healthier holiday.

Holiday gatherings can bring people of all ages together for several hours or several days. As children go through different developmental and life stages, holiday gatherings can become a challenge for the entire family. Children typically want to spend time with friends and social media, while parents and other relatives often want their undivided attention. K-State Research and Extension youth development specialist Elaine Johannes says the job of children is to grow up, and they do that somewhat by pushing against the tradition of what the family has laid out.

Thanksgiving sales and Cyber Monday may have resulted in Black Friday losing some of its popularity, but millions of consumers will still be out looking for bargains over the four-day holiday. Why do so many people want to go shopping when they know the stores are going to be crowded and there’s no guarantee the items they want will be in stock? A K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist says it allows them to get out of the house, socialize, and actively participate in what many consider to be a tradition. On today’s Sound Living: the psychology behind holiday shopping.

More than 45 million turkeys are bought, cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving...that’s about one-sixth of the turkeys sold in the U.S. each year. Although the turkey is the star of the show, other traditional foods are also served. But, how much does it cost? On today’s Sound Living: K-State Research and Extension human nutrition specialist Mary Meck Higgins discusses the cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal and K-State Research and Extension food scientist Karen Blakeslee offers some food safety tips for preparing the meal and storing the leftovers.

The start of the Christmas shopping season seems to arrive earlier each year. That’s probably because retailers have so much riding on how much consumers spend. While retailers want us to spend, spend and spend some more, K-State Research and Extension family resource specialist Elizabeth Kiss (kish) and Extension child development specialist Bradford Wiles think we should have a plan for spending money wisely before the holidays and for spending time together during the holidays.

When it comes to personal financial management, the decisions we make will have an impact on our overall financial health. This includes credit scores, contingency funds for emergencies, adequate insurance coverage and choosing a bank that meets your needs. On today’s Sound Living: K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss offers some tips for making sound financial decisions.

World Food Day, celebrated annually on October 16th, serves as a reminder of the societal need to invest in more research, educate people about the origin of their food and prevent food loss. John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University and director of K-State Research and Extension, discusses the challenges of feeding a growing global population.

More than one-third of the food purchased in the United States is discarded. And, on average, households in the U.S. throw away 14 percent of food purchases.  However, K-State Research and Extension human nutrition specialist Mary Meck Higgins says there are several ways to reduce – and even eliminate – food waste in the home.

Many people think the bathroom is the one room that’s filled with the most bacteria, but it’s actually the kitchen. These household germs, the same ones that can cause a cold or flu to spread through the house like a wild fire, lurk everywhere. K-State Research and Extension human nutrition specialist Mary Meck Higgins says a little…and in some cases…a lot of cleaning can help prevent bacteria from spreading.

While most of the attention surrounding healthcare has been focused on open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the decisions made during open enrollment for employer-sponsored health insurance plans are also significant because they not only affect your pocket book, they also determine healthcare choices for an entire year. A study shows that employees typically spend about 30 minutes considering their options during open enrollment before selecting a health plan. K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss (kish) says that’s really not enough time to make an informed decision.

New federal standards established through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 were put in place last year for the national school lunch program – initially sparking outrage from students and parents. This year, the new standards for the school breakfast program went into effect, and so far, there’ve been no widespread complaints. A K-State Research and Extension nutrition specialist says the changes to the lunch program may be making a difference in the battle against childhood obesity. On today’s Sound Living: how changes to the school lunch program are viewed a year later and the changes being made to the school breakfast program.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the prevalence of food allergy in the United States increased 18% from 1997-2007…and it continues to rise, now affecting more than 15 million Americans. September is National Food Safety Month and this year’s theme, Avoid a Reaction by Taking Action, spotlights the importance of food allergy awareness. K-State Research and Extension food scientist Karen Blakeslee offers food safety tips to minimize the risk of causing an allergic reaction.

Norms are cultural standards for expected and accepted behavior. When our lifestyle goals are also normal practice within the culture, we have a greater chance of maintaining healthy behaviors. Walk Kansas, a K-State Research and Extension health initiative that encourages people to form teams and log enough minutes to walk across the state, is providing support for Dr. Judd Allen to help create a wellness culture that supports healthy lifestyles through peer support.

Walk Kansas, an eight-week healthy lifestyle challenge, began March 17th and ran through May 11th. K-State Research and Extension state coordinator for Walk Kansas and the family and consumer sciences specialist for Northeast Kansas, Sharolyn Jackson, says the transition from summer to fall provides an opportunity to be outside and to be active. On today’s Sound Living: tips for staying active year-round and a look ahead to what’s being planned for next year’s Walk Kansas.

Emergent literacy is a term used to explain a child’s knowledge of reading and writing skills before they learn how to read and write words. Through the support of parents, caregivers and educators, K-State Research and Extension child development specialist Bradford Wiles says a child can successfully progress from emergent to conventional reading – opening up a world of possibilities for that child.

As a new school year starts, there is typically a mix of anxiety, excitement and stress for students and parents as they consider all the opportunities available for outside activities. It’s natural for parents to want to provide opportunities for their children, while at the same time, protecting time for family activities. However, maintaining that balance is often difficult. On today’s Sound Living: balancing the time children spend on outside activities and the time they spend with family.

A federal grant is going to allow several Kansas communities to increase awareness, marketing and community support to reduce the growing number of youth suicides, especially in rural areas. K-State Research and Extension youth development specialist Elaine Johannes recently attended a workshop on youth suicide prevention to learn more about the grant and to explain how Extension can be a partner in the effort to reduce the rate of youth suicides in Kansas.

Current food choices in the United States create a carbon footprint that is one-fourth larger than that created by Americans’ driving habits. But, how can we reduce the energy and waste created by the food we eat? A K-State Research and Extension publication offers dozens of ways to eat healthy while helping preserve the planet for future generations. Last week, we explored the meaning of a sustainable diet and some of the foods that promote sustainability. On this week’s Sound Living: small changes we can all make to address the world’s sustainability problems.

Sustainability is often associated with saving the planet by using less energy and reducing our overall carbon footprint. But, how difficult is it to live more sustainably? A publication from K-State Research and Extension offers dozens of ways to have a tasty, healthful and sustainable – and at the same time have a positive impact on the environment. On today’s Sound Living: the first in a two-part series with K-State Research and Extension human nutrition specialist, registered dietitian and author of the publication: Making Everyday Choices for a Healthy, Sustainable Diet, Mary Meck Higgins.

Kansas State University is the lead university on a five-year, 2-point-5 million dollar research grant that also includes Ohio State University and South Dakota State University to assist two communities in each of those states that are similar in size and demographics to identify behavioral and environmental factors that influence overweight and obesity in low income, minority students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade. Research grant project director Tanda Kidd and project coordinator Erika Bono  discuss how the project will benefit these six communities and hopefully serve as a model for similar communities.