Category Archives: Health

New School Lunch Guidelines, & Fruits/Vegetables

This article is from the October 20th issue of the national produce newspaper The Packer.

Schools told to add produce despite the cost

By Tom Karst
National Editor

School meals should include more fruits and vegetables in addition to a new set of nutrition targets and standards for menu planning, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

Called “School meals: building blocks for healthy children,” the report recommends bringing school meals in line with the latest Dietary Guidelines, according to a news release from the National Academy of Sciences. The report’s findings were announced at a news conference Oct. 20 in Washington, D.C.

The IOM recommends limits on sodium in school meals, establishing a maximum number of calories and encouraging
children to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, the news
release said.

The amount of fruit offered in breakfasts should increase to one cup per day for all grades and in lunches should increase to one cup per day for students in grades nine through twelve, and the report said that no more than half of the fruit schools provide should be in the form of juice.

The IOM said the amount of vegetables offered should increase to three-quarters of a cup per day for kindergarten through eighth grade and one cup per day for grades    nine through twelve.

“Schools should offer starchy vegetables such as potatoes less often and provide at least one half cup each of green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables and legumes per week,” the report said.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington D.C., said Oct. 19 that United Fresh and other advocates hope the U.S. Department of
Agriculture will begin formal rulemaking on adopting the Institute’s recommendations by next fall and have a formal plan in place in about two years.

“This should really start the clock ticking on USDA issuing a proposed rule,” DiSogra said.
The nutrition standards for school lunches haven’t been updated in 14 years, but the USDA has not been successful in beginning rulemaking on the issue, DiSogra said. Similar to when changes were made to the Women, Infant and Children food packages to reflect the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, the USDA asked the institute to make the politically sensitive recommendations.

“The time is long overdue to bring (school meals) in compliance with the guidelines,” DiSogra said. Read the rest here.

This is good news for both the students and our local farmers.

Here are some comparisons between the current and the new recommendations:

Fruits and Vegetables

Current: ½ to 1 cup of fruits and vegetables combined.

New recommendation: ½ to 1 cup of vegetables plus ½ to 1 cup of fruit.


Current: No specifications as to type of vegetables.

New recommendations: Weekly requirements for dark green and orange vegetables, and limits on starchy vegetables.


The Five Pound Challenge, Day 1

Okay, I did tell Leslie that I was thinking about working out again. About a month ago I started thinking seriously about making a lifestyle change after the TMT decision. So I called up Jimmy yesterday, my friend who told me he would work with me if I wanted to work out. Jimmy knows everything about cardio training and nutrition. He said, put on your walking shoes and come down to the house.

During a 40-minute walk we discussed philosophy, motivation, strategy, nutrition, aerobic cardioovascular pathways, protein synthesis, bmi index, VO2 max, lactic acid, fat burning, liver, adrenal gland, antioxidants, juicers, etc. I understand all those terms.

Then he came to my house to check out my setup and he wrote me a 40-minute program.  I has to demonstrate that I understood the movements and got 20 more minutes of work out in. Then we went out back and went over everything for another 30 minutes.

Jimmy’s advice: Slow food and slow progress. He said to measure inches not pounds; the idea is that you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment. I’ll check my weight once per week to see how I am doing against Leslie. But I’m settling in for the long haul.

Today I’ll go with him to GNC to see what I will be using in smoothies.


I don’t enjoy exercising. Never have, never will. Also, my life is really busy right now and I don’t have any obvious time available for such a thing. But about five unwanted pounds have crept on, and I’d like to lose them, so somehow I’ll find the time. I know that exercise will be good for me for myriad other reasons, too.

I have an elliptical trainer, and my plan is to put on a movie and watch it while I make myself climb up on it and use it. I know I’ll never do it unless there’s something to look forward to while doing it. I love this idea and hope it works nicely.

As for food, I’m going to pay attention to what I’m eating — three reasonable meals a day and two small snacks in between. My biggest personal challenge: not eating after dinner. I work in my home office late and eat late. Bad, bad. It’s gotta go.

I’m glad to read that Richard is going for slow progress, both because that’s a healthy approach and also because that gives me a better chance to win the challenge! (I told you I’m sort of competitive.)


The Five Pound Challenge

If you’ve been reading along recently, you know we’ve been discussing the TMT quite a bit.

Now for something completely different.

So Richard mentioned to me the other day that he was thinking about starting to work out again.

Richard and I are polar opposites on this subject. He likes to lift weights, knows what his resting heart rate is, and has used phrases here on the blog like “power lifting,” “cardiovascular workout,” “reps” and “crunches.”

I have never, ever used any of those phrases. I am not an exercise junkie by any stretch of the imagination.

I have been thin, I think, mostly because I was lucky in my genes. Now I guess I’m getting older, though, because suddenly my body would like to be about five pounds heavier than it has been. I would like to lose those pounds before they settle in for the long haul.

So when Richard mentioned in passing he wanted to lose some weight and might start working out again, I blurted out, “Let’s see who can lose five pounds first! I CHALLENGE YOU. We can write about it on the blog!”

He immediately accepted my challenge. And then I instantly regretted my impulsiveness, because I’m lazy about stuff like this and now I will have to do it.

And now, of course, I will absolutely have to lose these five pounds, because we are going to keep track of our progress here on the blog and I don’t want to be publicly humiliated. And possibly I might even need to lose my five pounds first, because I am competitive. Oh my.

We will do our official weigh-ins on Monday. Stay tuned.

And you can accept the challenge along with us if you’d like, by letting us know in comments (or just privately inside your head). If you want to accept the challenge publicly, by letting us know here in comments at the end of this post, then you can post your updates in comments when we do, and we will all cheer each other on.

See you Monday.


Optimism and Good Cheer

The first day of the year always fills one with optimism and good cheer. For farmers, the shortest day is behind us (December 21st) and although it is still winter one can start to plan now for longer warmer days.

This past year was a challenge, because of the realization that the world has fundamentally changed and business-as-usual will not do. Accepting that future energy and agricultural supply costs will inevitably rise, we feel that we are now heading in the right direction. That, and preserving the ability to make quick changes in direction, will serve us best.

We have always welcomed change and we must resist the tendency to feel that the future can be predicted based on past behavior. The most important thing we know is that if we stay relevant to our workers and to our community we will be moving in the right direction. Although the future is not clear, the fact that we are expecting an unpredictable future and have prepared ourselves to adapt is very comforting!

And that reminds me; I’ve been off my exercise program for a year now. I’ve started testing the exercise equipment and I’m looking forward to getting back on track. Nothing like being in a good frame of mind.


Mainland Salmonella Outbreak

There was an article in the Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald Wednesday about a salmonella outbreak on the mainland.

Hamakua Springs is food safety-certified, so we avoid such problems.

What that means is that we have annual inspections and keep detailed records on 60-odd specific points that address issues of food safety.

Salmonella most commonly spreads through contaminated wash water. We have heard of places in foreign countries that use field irrigation water for wash water, after it is used for irrigation and then run down to the ends of the rows. Clearly that should not be allowed.

We never wash our tomatoes in a tank, because there is just too much risk of contamination. What we do instead is use a spray rinse of county drinking water, in order to ensure sanitation. We never reuse wash water.

An email we received from the Produce Marketing Association

DATE: June 1, 2008
TO: All PMA Members
FROM: Kathy Means, PMA VP of Government Relations and Public Affairs
RE: Tomatoes linked to illness outbreak in the Western U.S. (Salmonella)

Today the New Mexico Department of Health announced that an outbreak of illness caused by Salmonella St. Paul is likely caused by eating uncooked tomatoes purchased from specific stores (Wal-Mart in Las Cruces or Farmington, Lowe’s in Las Cruces, or Bashas’ in Crownpoint). So far, 31 people in New Mexico have been sick. Several people have been hospitalized, and no one has died, according to the department. The agency is advising consumers and restaurants that bought tomatoes from those stores since May 3 not to eat them uncooked.

No other action is being requested by health authorities at this time.  PMA has learned that this outbreak linked to tomatoes likely extends to several states, mainly in the Western United States, and may have begun as early as late April. We expect information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration soon, as FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working on this issue, and we are working with them. We are seeking more information on the type(s) of tomatoes, source of tomatoes, numbers of illnesses, duration of the outbreak, and distribution channels.

The New Mexico information indicates exposures at both foodservice and retail are involved, but named only the four stores above.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most recover without treatment. Some people may need hospitalization due to severe diarrhea. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

PMA members should know that they have resources – issue briefings on produce and pathogens, produce handling information for consumers, as well as a crisis management manual and recall manual.

PMA will continue to monitor this situation and will share with members any new developments as they become available. If you have questions, please contact Kathy Means or Dr. Bob Whitaker. If you need assistance with media inquiries, contact Julia Stewart.

This alert is a PMA member benefit; if it was forwarded to you, you can contact the PMA Solution Center at or +1 (302) 738-7100 to be added to the list of people at member companies who receive these alerts. You are receiving this message because PMA believes you will benefit from this information. If you have any concerns about mailings of this type, please contact PMA’s Solution Center.

About salmonella

Salmonella is a family of bacteria that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have severe illness. Salmonellosis is more common in summer than winter. Children are the most likely to get salmonellosis.

Salmonella bacteria are usually transmitted by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and most recover without treatment. However, sometimes the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Rarely, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites; it can cause serious illness or death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.


Me & T. Boone Pickens

While I was doing my exercises this evening, I thought about listening to T. Boone Pickens at the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (ASPO) conference I attended in Houston last month.

Peak Oil refers to the point where the total amount of oil extracted in the world starts to decline, for geological reasons. At that point there are still lots of reserves left, but it has become increasingly difficult to retrieve it. Here’s an up-to-date and unbiased overview of where things stand right now.

Pickens said the world cannot produce more than 85 million barrels per day (which was reached in 2005) yet present world demand is 87 – 88 million barrels of oil per day. By 2030, 22 years from now, total oil supplies will decline to 50 million barrels per day. That’s 35 million barrels less than is produced now.

Supply and demand being what it is, we can expect higher prices. How high? No one really knows. That whole subject is difficult to wrap one’s brain around.

T. Boone Pickens also said he was a great believer in exercise. I liked him right off. He related that many years ago his company (Mesa Oil) was one of the first companies to require that its employees take an exercise break.

He told us that even now, at 79 years of age, he still walks 40 minutes at 4 mph several times per week. I considered interrupting his talk and asking him at what heart rate, but decided not to. Now I regret that I didn’t. He was obviously the kind of guy who would know the answer. And I was truly curious.

Back in the Feeling Good post of April 23rd, I related the results of the treadmill test I’d taken a few days earlier. The test consisted of four three-minute intervals. By the last three minutes, which were set at 4.4 mph, I had reached a heart rate of 172-174 and had stabilized. I stopped at 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

I use that three minutes at 4.4 mph as a goal. I did 2 minutes 30 seconds yesterday. But I am also doing short bursts at 6 and 7 mph.

Although T. Boone Pickens is 6’2” or so and maybe he is just walking fast, still, 40 minutes at 4 mph is pretty good for someone who is 79 years old. I have to step it up.


Safe Salad

An article in yesterday’s Honolulu Advertiser caught my eye. The headline was Produce We Eat May Not Be Safer. Its subheading: “Government has failed to increase inspections after deadly outbreak.”

Coincidentally, we just had our Food Safety inspection two weeks ago by Craig Bowden of Davis Fresh. We passed the inspection and Craig told us he is pleased that we continue to show constant improvement. Nearly five years ago we were one of the first producers in the state to voluntarily participate in an independent, third-party Food Safety Certification program.

A few months back, when CNN ran a special about the deadly E. coli outbreak in spinach, we wrote a post explaining what we do to prevent disease at Hamakua Springs. We planned our production systems from the beginning to prevent these problems from happening. We feel confident that we are on the right track.

Leafy greens are especially vulnerable to disease because, unlike with some other vegetables, people actually eat the leaves. The plant grows low to the ground and is vulnerable to contamination from rain splattering off contaminated soil, flooding, or improperly treated compost. It is also vulnerable to contaminated spray water, employee sanitation problems, sickness, rodents and more.

Large bagged salad processors “mow” the lettuce, catch leaves and move them along conveyors in the packing house, where the product tumbles through a sanitation process—but there is no way to decontaminate leafy green in the packing house once they’ve been contaminated in the field. Worse, the packing house process actually serves to mix and spread the contamination. So it is most important to have safe field operations.

At Hamakua Springs, our hydroponic operations always begin with chlorine-treated water. After we treat the water, we measure it for E. coli colony forming units (CFU), and we have always found it to be zero.

After that we plant. The plants get their nutrients from this treated water. Since we grow our produce hydroponically (without soil) in covered houses, there is no risk from rain splattering the plants or contaminated spray water. We address other possible contamination issues as a part of our food safety program. We are very comfortable with our safety methods and you can be, too.

Although we hope we don’t hear about any more E. coli-contaminated lettuce on the Mainland, we will not be surprised if it happens again.


Bright and Healthy

This article is reason #87923829 to eat your vegetables.

It made me want to go and gnaw a bright, ruby red heirloom tomato right off the vine over at Hamakua Springs Country Farms. Here’s what the article is about:

Understanding the molecular structures of compounds that give certain fruits and vegetables their rich colors may help researchers find even more powerful cancer fighters, a new study suggests.

We might as well just ingest some of those rich colors straight up, don’t you think?

Remember, think “bright colors” next time you’re in the produce section.


Behind Me

This morning my resting heart rate was 54 beats per minute. The GreenLight laser procedure that I did a couple of months ago is now completely behind me.

June and I just finished loading up the Kona delivery van with a couple hundred boxes of bananas and tomatoes, and it was no problem at all. In fact, now I’m considering getting on the elliptical trainer for a half hour or so.

I’ve been exercising consistently for the last month or so and I’m feeling like it’s time to increase intensity. My goal is to get my resting heart rate below 50 beats per minute. It will take intervals of fairly high heart rate exercising several times per week.

I’ll do this by alternating weight lifting and aerobics in the same session. Twice a week, I’ll try to get my heart rate up to 150-160 beats per minute two or three times for a few minutes.

In a couple of weeks I’ll start making an effort to lose a few pounds.


Fitness vs. Fatness

It’s been more than a year since I started writing about my attempt to lose weight and become more fit.

I have since learned that fitness and weight loss are two different things.

Which one is more important? Fitness is more important than fatness.


Steven Blair, Ed.D., of the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, agrees. “Fitness, not fatness, is the more important issue.” He bases his conclusions on years of research, conducted at the Cooper Institute, studying the relationship of cardiorespiratory fitness to mortality in men grouped by Body Mass Index (BMI).

That work has shown similar death rates among men of all BMI levels who were moderately or very fit. But the death rates were significantly higher among men with low fitness levels, regardless of their BMI. (Women were not included in this study due to a limited sample size, Blair says, but “we would expect to see similar results.”)

The most important thing I have learned: Don’t get discouraged if you do not achieve your weight loss goals. Just keep on working on your fitness goals. Then revisit your weight loss goals.

I have used resting heart rate as an indicator of my fitness status. I know from past experience that my resting heart rate is around 75 beats per minute when I am out of shape, in the mid-60s when I’m in moderate physical shape, and in the high- to mid-50s when I’m in very good shape.

My goal is to maintain my resting heart rate in the 50s. With imaginative exercise I can achieve this regardless of my body weight. It does take exercising at a high heart rate for short periods of time. Long slow walking does very little to achieve a low resting heart rate.

My resting heart rate this morning was 61. This is not bad considering my doctor has instructed me to take it easy for six weeks following a GreenLight Laser Procedure.

I’m slowly beginning to exercise again. So far, so good.