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The Parent ‘Hood: You found out about teen’s Halloween prank

(Editor's Note: This week's WNY Refresh Parent 'Hood column was more timely for the Refresh Buffalo Blog alone; see a column by Heidi Stevens that parents, particular moms, will appreciate instead in Saturday's Refresh print edition and at

 By Heidi Stevens – Chicago Tribune

You heard your teen plotting a Halloween prank. Should you make him stay home?

Parent advice:

By all means let your teen know you have heard of the plan and you expect him to not participate and to tell others to call it off. And let him know that you will be monitoring the situation.

Dodie Hofstetter

I suppose it would depend on the prank, but I imagine I’d come down hard on the idea of vandalism as harmless fun. I’d assure him that he’d be repairing or replacing anything that he and his friends damaged, and I’d be sure to alert his friends’ parents. I might also give him an idea of what it costs to restore the paint job on an egged car.

Phil Vettel

Expert advice:

“This is a great opportunity to build trust with your teen and really confront an issue head-on,” says clinical psychologist Jennifer Powell-Lunder, co-author of “Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual” (Adams Media).

Open an honest dialogue with your son and ask him to step in with some honest answers of his own.

“Sit him down and say, ‘Look, I know you have this plan, and I’m sitting here grappling with what I should do. Part of me says we should talk this through and you’ll reassure me that you’re not going to go through with this prank. The other part of me is saying I need to keep you home to prevent you from doing something that you might not think is a stupid thing to do, but I know that it is.’”

She suggests asking your son what he thinks you should do.

“You’re doing this to secure his commitment,” she says. “This is a teenager. You’ve expressed your concern and let him know you’re not OK with it, but you also need to have a talk that reflects his independence.”

You also have to be prepared for his answer.

“Nine times out of 10, the kid is going to say, ‘Fine. I’m not going to do it,’” Powell-Lunder says. “And you tell him, ‘OK, but you need to know I’m going to be monitoring the situation and I’m going to check up on you, and this is an opportunity for you to prove yourself and rebuild my trust.”

On the other hand …

“He could say, ‘We’re doing it anyway. All my friends are doing it, and none of their parents have an issue with it,’” Powell-Lunder says. “In which case you say, ‘I’m your parent, and if you’re honestly sitting here saying you’re going to disregard my word, you’re telling me you need to stay home. And that’s what you’ll do.’

“It’s possible your kid feels so peer-pressured to participate that you’re actually giving them an out by keeping them home,” she adds. “Or it could just be bold defiance, in which case you need to let them know that won’t fly. Either way, our role as parents is to set limits.”


Tricks for a healthy Halloween

Don't let unhealthy eating run amok on Halloween, advises Jill Chiacchia, founder and director of the the beHealthy Institute in Hamburg. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

By Catherine Henry – Refresh Contributing Writer

Jill Chiacchia doesn’t want to be “that person”– the one who agonizes over the huge quantities of unhealthy candy during Halloween.

But when it comes to the treats being distributed to children, the owner of the beHealthy Institute in Hamburg has no problem exposing their toxicity: High-fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives load these confections.

And although it’s hard to imagine, these little bonbons handed out once a year contribute to the obesity epidemic in kids, potentially leading to a life of insulin shots, cholesterol medicine and beta blockers.

Talk about scary.

“Research links artificial colors with behavioral issues in children,” says Chiacchia. “Overconsumption of sugar leads to a long list of health concerns from tooth decay to diabetes, from obesity to weakened immune systems. I feel like if I give out Halloween candy, I’m not only supporting an industry that is counter to my mission in life but I’m contributing to a health epidemic in our country.”

Chiacchia asks parents to be proactive this Halloween. Instead of candy, she will give out glow sticks, pencils, notebooks, playing cards, stickers or mini crafts.

“If candy is a must, then go for the smaller sized treats and read the ingredients,” Chiacchia says. “Chocolate miniatures or dark chocolate bit size bars only contain around 4 grams of sugar each and have fewer scary ingredients. Natural fruit leathers, trail mixes and popcorn are also nice options.”

Most importantly, Chiacchia follows a few simple rules to keep her family healthy during Halloween:

1. Eat first: Have a complete and healthy meal before the family heads out on Halloween night – parents, too. Try to include a good source of protein, ample vegetables and a healthy fat source to help round out a satisfying meal.

2. H2OOOOOO: Ensure the children are well hydrated. Dehydration leads to cravings for sugar. To be fully hydrated, drink water throughout the day rather than chugging water just before heading out.

3. Sweet dreams: Try to make sure the kids have good night sleep the day leading up to Halloween. Sleep deprivation also leads to cravings for sugar and caffeine.

4. Plan ahead: Offer a homemade favorite alternative for the end of the evening. A baked pie, hot chocolate with “real milk” and chocolate syrup or homemade chai tea are much healthier than processed sugar.

5. Lay down the law: Be the candy police. Place a limit on how much candy the kids can indulge in on Halloween night and the days following. Throw out the rest. It’s so important to remove the temptation from your house.  As hard as it may be, don’t skip this tip! 

Best wishes for a healthy and safe Halloween night.

'Biggest Loser' trainer tells it like it is on Buffalo stop

"The Biggest Loser" trainer Dolvett Quince talked about exercise and healthy eating during a stop in Buffalo Monday night. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Dolvett Quince stirred groans Monday evening during a stop in Buffalo, when he talked about the foods he won’t eat.

“I have absolutes, things I would not touch during certain times of the day,” said Quince, one of four trainers on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”

“My absolutes are bread at dinner; corn, because of the way it breaks down in my body; and lastly, pasta, for as much as I love it, I don’t eat it.”

As he spoke during an interview in a suite at the Hyatt Regency, he watched the pained looks on the faces of several nearby Independent Health officials who had asked him to visit Western New York for a health and wellness expo.

“Can’t you pick three others?,” one of them implored.

“OK,” he said. “Water, brussels sprouts and rice cakes.”

Quince was joking, but part of the reason he was in town was to let folks know they need to practice healthy habits most of the time, but shouldn’t fall apart if they cheat every once in awhile.

In fact, they should plan on it, he said.

Quince gave a talk entitled “Changing Lives One Rep at a Time,” to a standing-room only crowd of about 1,200. Beforehand, he spent some time talking with me about what he eats – for a piece to run Saturday in WNY Refresh – and to tout his new book, “The 3-1-2-1 Diet,” which will be available in bookstores Nov. 12 and already can be ordered online.

The book is a recipe to help readers lose 20 pounds in three weeks, Quince said. It will take discipline, he said, but not every day.

That’s because there are two cheat meals built into his seven-day-a-week diet and exercise regimen.

“The book is me taking everything I’ve learned up to this point in my career, taking the workout and the diet that I’ve given people on ‘The Biggest Loser’ to lose weight,” said Quince, who once owned a fitness chain in Atlanta called Body Sculptor and now lives in Los Angeles as he works full-time on his network TV gig.

The plan in the book: For three days straight, “eat clean and make good choices,” Quince said. That means lean protein, plenty of veggies – “the greener the better” – and a smart carb that could include brown rice or a sweet potato. You also need to drink plenty of water and follow Quince’s exercise routines. If you’ve seen his TV workouts, you know you’ll have your work cut out for you.

Here’s your reward: “On the fourth day, you get to cheat,” said Quince, but not for the whole day. The idea isn’t to pig out. “You want that glass of wine? Have two,” he said, “because you earned it. You trained hard and ate clean for three days.”

Then you go back to eating clean two days, then next day, another cheat meal.

“You’re not depriving yourself of things you love,” the trainer said. “You actually have a very balanced lifestyle ... but you have to earn it.”

Along with his TV show work, Quince has been a trainer for pro athletes and celebrities, including Justin Beiber.

“The last time I saw him, he was in good shape,” Quince said of Beiber, whom he no longer trains.

Other excerpts from our interview:

You’re in Buffalo to talk about a healthy lifestyle that goes beyond appearance. What do you mean by that?

Healthy isn’t just about how you look. It’s a state of mind. Healthy is a spiritual thing as much as it is a physical thing. There’s four components, if you will: emotional, spiritual, physical and mental.

In my job on the show, I have to take the weight off someone’s mind before I take it off their body. That’s the source of where the weight comes from, and also where it stays.

Is everybody different when it comes to weight loss or do you see some patterns?

There’s more patterns than not. There’s more similarities. My approach may be different, because I may get someone who’s ADD, I may get someone who’s ‘ woe is me’ – all these different personalities – so how I approach them to be the most effective, that’s where the difference comes in.

Does everybody have something that holds them back when they first approach weight loss, getting in shape?

I think that everyone, to some degree, doesn’t like the pain that’s associated with training. Whether you’re obese or not, it’s exhausting. It’s the wear and tear on the body. But you have to push yourself to be great because it’s not going to be given to you.

What’s the single-most important piece of advice you think you give when it comes to weight loss?

How you do anything is how you do everything. Details. It’s all about the details. If you approach anything, any small thing, with care, anything with discipline, anything with passion, you need to approach everything that way.

If you say, ‘Oh, I’ll get to that later,’ if you have a very nonchalant approach to things, then you’ll apply that to a lot of things.

What are the secrets to maintaining weight loss?

Everyone who ends up losing weight is chasing a great amount of water. They’re taking in so much water, they have water weight that’s lost. .... people gain back because deprive themselves of carbs. “You have to find balance. No balance, no life.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

Wheat isn't a GMO, but still raises questions

Wheat has been cross-bred in a multitude of ways but does not contain genetically modified organisms. (

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Nowhere is it more clear to me that healthy eating is an individual choice than in my girlfriend’s kitchen.

I want to eat nutritious foods that can help me look and feel good.

She is downright religious about it.

When I became WNY Refresh editor earlier this year, Karen Gelia decided it was time to ramp up the pressure on me to eat better.

Extra doses of preaching started immediately.

I needed to eat more vegetables, fewer snacks, smaller portions.

“No more regular peanut butter, only natural,” I was told. Less beer, more wine. Ditch the margarine.

“Even Olivio?,” I asked. “Yes,” I heard. “Coconut oil is better.”

And did I mention I was ordered to eat more vegetables? Yuck, but more on that in a future blog.

I have stood my ground at wheat – and chosen to ignore Karen when I hear that virtually all wheat on the market these days is genetically modified.

I jettisoned white breads and most processed food years ago after a health scare, but whole wheat and pumpernickel remain staples of my diet. Was I to understand that wheat was now a GMO, a genetically modified organism?

That’s what I was hearing. What did it mean?

Understand, Karen is a nutrition book junkie, and the closest thing to her food bible is “Wheat Belly,” Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist who writes that he put 2,000 of his at-risk patients on a wheat-free diet and watched patient after patient free themselves from chronic health conditions that had dogged them for years.

Davis hates wheat.

Karen and several of her friends are among his nutritional disciples. They rarely, if ever, eat breads, baked goods, even wraps, of any kind, unless they’re made of Ezekiel bread from ancient times.

So I got excited while researching the GMO package today in WNY Refresh, when Jane Andrews, Wegmans nutrition and product labeling manager, told me that wheat is not a GMO.

An estimated 75 percent, or more, of foods in most grocery stores contain GMOs, but Andrews told me wheat is not among them.

Really? You mean Karen is wrong?

I left work with a smile, and a new confidence that I would finally win a food argument with my girlfriend of eight years.

Andrews told me wheat farmers tested GMO wheat about a dozen years ago, but decided they couldn’t afford to lose the lucrative European market, which had banned the organisms. Cross-breeding is different, she explained, and wheat has been changed in that way.

“Wheat was a whole different animal 4,000 years ago,” Andrews said. “Through human intervention, human manipulation and cross-breeding, it’s come to a modern, cultivated wheat, but not with a specific (GMO) trait being added.”

That could change, she said, “but not yet.”

She added that “more folks are finding that they can’t tolerate gluten” in wheat. Wegmans, Tops and other retailers have responded by adding more gluten-free products.

I came to Karen with this news several days ago.

She was unmoved, although I joyfully had been eating wheat products in front of her since.

Until Friday morning.

That’s when she grabbed her copy of “Wheat Belly” and showed me several excerpts, including this one from the cover jacket:

“No longer the sturdy staple our forebears ground into their daily bread, today’s wheat has been genetically altered to provide processed-food manufacturers the greatest yield at the lowest cost; consequently, this once benign grain has been transformed into a nutritionally bankrupt yet ubiquitous ingredient that causes blood sugar to spike more rapidly than eating pure table sugar and has addictive properties that cause us to ride a roller coaster of hunger, overeating, and fatigue.”

This struck me, as I currently am reading a book called “Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss, a reporter with the New York Times.

In it, Moss writes that big food companies began to hire legions of scientists starting in the 1960s to find chemicals and plant ingredients that could be combined in different combinations for all kinds of foods that could turn on the pleasure centers of our brains and turn off the switch that tells us we’re full.

Salt, sugar and fat are the most common ingredients, and this food manipulation, Moss reports, has driven corporate food profits, and U.S. obesity rates, to unparalleled heights.

A couple more excerpts from “Wheat Belly” sounded the same tone:

“Can you blame farmers for preferring high-yield dwarf hybrid strains? After all, many small farmers struggle financially,” Davis writes. “If they can increase yield-per-acre up to tenfold, with a shorter growing season and easier harvest, why wouldn’t they?”

Davis also writes of an international outcry when GMOs first were introduced in the mid-1990s, one that occurred with little fanfare in the U.S., but heightened concerns elsewhere. He continues:

“But no such outcry was raised years earlier as farmers and geneticists carried out tens of thousands of hybridization experiments. There is no question that unexpected genetic rearrangements that might generate some desirable property, such as greater drought resistance or better dough properties, can be accompanied by changes in proteins that are not evident to the eye, nose, or tongue, but little effort has focused on these side effects.

“Hybridization efforts continue, breeding new ‘synthetic’ wheat. While hybridization falls short of the precision of gene modification techniques, it still possesses the potential to inadvertently ‘turn on’ or ‘turn off’ genes unrelated to the intended effect, generating unique characteristics, not all of which are presently identifiable.”

So wheat does not contain GMOs. So what?, Davis maintains.

It’s also clear both these authors point out that something doesn’t have to be a GMO to raise concerns about food manufacturing, nutrition and health.

It also helps explain why those I spoke with for the GMO story say it’s up to all of us as individuals to educate ourselves when it comes proper nutrition, and make healthy choices we can live with – and afford, financially and wellness-wise.

Meanwhile, and don’t tell her I said this, I fear my girlfriend might be right about wheat.


Twitter: @BNrefresh

What WIC specialist learns at work applies to home

Danyel Brewer sees herself as a role model for her daughter, Kayleigh, 2, when it comes to nutrition. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Danyel Brewer got on-the-job training when it came to raising her daughter, Kayleigh, 2.

Brewer, a registered dietitian and certified lactation counselor in the Women Infant Children (WIC) office in Niagara Falls, is the subject of today’s What are you eating? column in WNY Refresh.

“It was very nice working with WIC because I was prepared and I knew what to expect” after Kayleigh was born, Brewer told me. “We breastfed for 18 months. This girl is so smart and healthy. I think it’s all from the breastfeeding.”

What foods does Brewer recommend moms eat when they’re breastfeeding?

“Load up on fruits and vegetables,” she said. “It’s basically the things that everybody knows but doesn’t always want to do. I just tell them, ‘When you’re hungry, if you have a favorite food, then go for it, but only once or twice a week. The rest of the time, sneak in an apples or grapes, something like that.”

Brewer, a Pendleton native who lives in North Tonawanda with her husband, Rich, and their daughter, is the latest healthy eater who has talked to me about not depriving herself of some of the foods she loves.

“I eat chocolate every single day,” she said. “I don’t feel bad about it because I eat well the rest of the time. I allow myself my one little piece of chocolate a day and it satisfies my cravings. I don’t feel bad about spoiling my daughter here and there, because I know most days of the week she’s a super eater.

Here are some other excerpts from our interview:

What do you and your daughter enjoy eating together most?

She’s really into chickpeas for some reason. That’s pretty cool. We grew a garden this year and we have these little cherry tomatoes. She likes that because she’ll pick them and eat them. I don’t think we really have a favorite food.

What are the staples of your diet?

This year, I was involved in getting a farm share, one of the CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture arrangements, in which farmers provide food all growing season for a set price up front). All summer, I loaded up on vegetables. Vegetables for me are hard to get in because of the preparation they require, so having the CSA for me has increased my intake. Lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains – I never buy any white breads – wheat pasta. Low-fat milk and yogurt.

With the CSA, did you have any vegetables this year that you never had before?

Yes, a lot. Beets. Bok choy. I made a vegetable soup with that, which I’ve been living off of this past week, with the potatoes and the carrots and onions that they give us. I don’t know what it is, I’m just loving that right now.

What are your daughter’s favorite foods?

She’s into cereal right now. I don’t buy the sugary stuff. The most sugary I get is frosted shredded wheat. Mostly just Chex or Multi-grain Cheerios. Those are good. Kix are always a fallback.

She’s not into casserole-type meals. She likes her food separate, so I just chop up cucumbers or bell peppers and have some dips for her. Peanut butter and jelly.

What would a fun family dinner be?

I like to make homemade pizza. We get the wheat dough from Wegmans and then I load it up with vegetables. I feel better about it that way because then you can control the cheese, the saturated fat. By doing it at home, you can also load it up with more veggies. Sometimes I use low-fat cheese and sometimes I don’t. I don’t really use too much of the low-fat because then you’re getting more additives, so for certain things, I do go full fat. Then I just don’t use as much.

I try to be natural, use less processed foods. The fewer ingredients and the less processed, the better.

So chocolate is your greatest temptation. What are the foods your daughter can’t resist?

Unfortunately, she was born into a sweet tooth family, both sides, so anything sweet, cookies, ice cream, she wants it. She’s a kid. It’s part of our society. I’m not going to tell her no, she can’t have it. I’m just going to tell her it’s occasional, not an everyday thing.

I’ll take her out for ice cream, too, on a hot summer day, but I don’t feel bad about it. Everything in moderation is good.


Twitter: @bnrefresh

Are you at risk of chronic disease because your dad was a drunk?

J. Mark Robinson, left, executive director and CEO of the Care Management Coalition of Western New York, works with Operations Manager Larry Congdon in an office at the Child & Family Services headquarters on Delaware Avenue. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Do you have diabetes, abuse drugs or alcohol, struggle with depression or other mental illness?

Ever wonder if part of the problem is the way you were brought up?

If so, you’re not alone. New research suggests that childhood trauma likely plays a role in all of these conditions, and more, including heart disease and cancer.

Key players in the Western New York health and human services field are taking notice of this research, which has caught fire after results of an Adverse Childhood Experiences Studylaunched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente. 

The CDC doesn’t mince words:

“The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States,” the organization says on its website. “Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation’s worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.”

This study started in 1995 and has led to ongoing research by others who have confirmed the findings. in the first study, more than 17,000 San Diego residents – mostly white and middle class – answered questions about whether they suffered under the weight of 10 childhood trauma situations.

The higher number of situations, the greater risk for suicide, drug use and several chronic and debilitating illnesses.

 You can take the test by clicking here

Get a better sense about what the numbers mean here.

 “The ACE Study results are disturbing to some because they imply that the basic causes of addictions are to be found in our personal histories, not in drug dealers or dangerous chemicals,” researchers say. “This finding is at odds with current concepts, including those of biological psychiatry, drug-treatment programs, and drug-eradication programs. The results of the ACE Study strongly suggest that billions of dollars are spent everywhere except on the solution.”

That solution involves plowing more money into child abuse treatment and prevention, says J. Mark Robinson, who is the subject of this week’s “"In the field" storyIn the field” story in WNY Refresh.

Robinson is executive director and CEO of the Care Management Coalition of Western New York, a think tank of the top leaders of the following agencies: Baker Victory Services, the Buffalo Urban League, Catholic Charities of Buffalo, Child & Family Services, Crisis Services, EPIC (Every Person Influences Children), the Family Help Center, Gateway-Longview, Gustavus Adolphus Family Services, New Directions Youth and Family Services, and the Sarah Minnie Badger Foster Care Agency,

“It took us a long time to understand the common thread was that we all deal with,”Robinson told me this week,”and we figured it out. It’s people who’ve been traumatized. Everybody puts their resources into kids and families that have been traumatized in some way.”

A conference that digs more deeply into the practical applications of the research will take place Nov. 6 at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. For more information or to register, call 335-7502 or click here

James J. Cassian, CEO of Baker Victory Services, and Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities, spearheaded a closer look into trauma-informed care in the region about seven years ago. It led to a conference about four years ago at Erie County Medical Center and now to next month’s conference.

In January, the Care Management Coalition and the UB School of Social Work became co-administrative homes for a new Trauma-Informed Care Initiative.

“We’ve identified four sectors,” Robinson said. “We want to make this inclusive. Before we just had silos. We’re all too used to that in Buffalo. So we have health care, and education, and law enforcement, and social and behavioral health.

"Our goal really is to have Western New York become a trama-informed community. It affects everything. How we do our daily jobs. How we look at people who need our services. And it’s got different applications based on the sectors.”

He called the ACES findings “staggering,” and said the data was too compelling to ignore.

At first blush, the concept sounds like the analytics that the Bills and Sabres are talking about – an analytical way of using statistics and mathematical equations, based on research, to try to determine best practices.

“That’s a huge part of it,” Robinson said. “There’s experts out there. It’s just a matter of incorporating these best practices, and it’s gotta be from the CEO right down to the janitor and the receptionist. It’s gotta be on the street, with the cops. It can’t just be the guy walking the streets. It’s gotta be the sergeant, the lieutenant. It’s a big shift, a huge shift, so obviously, we have an awful long way to go.

“I’ll mention Lt. David Mann. He’s the representative from the Buffalo Police Department, from law enforcement. He’s up against, ‘We’ve done it for 100 years like this.’

“I’m not just picking on the cops. Everybody can say this. But it requires a shift, so we’re going step-by-step here. ... I think this conference will be another big leap.”

Here are more excerpts from our interview:

It strikes me there might be a couple of different dynamics. The people who say, ‘We’ve been doing this for a long time, we don’t want to hear about it,’ and the people in these sectors who say, ‘My father was an alcoholic, I buy into this, I get this.’

Absolutely. One of the 10 ACES questions is ‘Was somebody in your home an alcoholic or substance abuser?’

How are you seeing this play out?

Many people in the human service field are there because of their background. Some of them won’t admit it, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just where you came from. A lot of it is just realizing why you do certain things, being aware there’s some warning flags here.

This ACE study was unbelievable, to see these physical diseases. We always talk about these resilient kids: Johnny’s been through so much, look at him, he’s doing great. He’s not in jail. He’s got his degree. Guess what? What these (researchers) have proven is that there’s going to be consequences (for failing to make a connection here).

You shouldn’t live in fear waiting for that cancer bomb to drop, but there are direct correlations, so be aware of that. There’s ways to ameliorate that. It’s not a hopeless thing.

Just because you got four or five of 10 ACES checked doesn’t mean your doomed. There’s help.

Can you talk specifically about some of the numbers?

If a person checks four out of the 10, the chances of them becoming an IV drug user are about 500 percent greater than somebody who checked 0 to 1. If you checked six or more, the chances that you’ll be an IV drug abuser are 4,000 percent more than somebody who’s checked one or two.

This is based on 17,000-plus people.

That doesn’t mean if you’ve checked six ACES, you’re going to be an IV drug abuser, but to be aware of that risk, especially at a young age, is important. It also means that our society better be ready to start helping these people in ways that we haven’t in the past. Now we have ways to identify people who truly need some support.

What are you hearing from the educational community?

The Buffalo schools counselors were like sponges at the last conference.

Is it enough for a teacher to understand that he or she could have a class filled with several students who have experienced some sort of trauma?

It’s absolutely critical to be aware of it, and to be aware of the resources that are available in the community that you can reach for, for these kids. They’re not on an island, though I imagine they feel like it sometimes. Putting your head in the sand doesn’t work.


Twitter: @bnrefresh

Students to play key role in Buffalo Food Policy Summit

High school senior Lamar Rice, 17, left, Margaret Wenger, center, youth enterprise educator, and student Tong Mawien, 18, cook at Pilgrim St. Luke's Church this summer during the Growing Green program as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Project. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News file photo)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Lamar Rice is among Buffalo Public Schools students concerned about the nutritional quality of food served in the sprawling district.

The high school senior has decided to do something about it.

“They make the food in a centralized location,” and most of it is processed, he said. Cafeterias across the district where food once was made have become little more than “warming stations.”

That’s why Rice and dozens of other students in the district have joined Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities – Youth Advisors Council, which is pushing for more farm-to-school ties, local foods, efficient cafeterias and healthier food options.

Council members aim to play a key part this week during the second annual Buffalo Food Policy Summit, a gathering of those interested in regional food availability from public health, regional planning and economic development perspectives.

Food justice is a key part of the summit, which takes place in the nation’s third poorest city and runs Wednesday and Thursday at sites on the University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State campuses.

For information on associated programs, click here.

“MAP and many organizations working on local food issues are excited to have finally established a food policy council for Buffalo and Erie County,” said Rebekah Williams, youth training director with the Massachusetts Avenue Project.

MAP tends to two urban farm plots on the West side and has developed a Growing Green Youth initiative that shows teens how to make a better life with help from local food.

Every summer, MAP uses city youth money to hire about 30 children ages 14 to 18 to work on their urban farmscape, help sell fresh fruits and veggies at their farmers’ market and try their hand at cooking, often with ingredients that are unfamiliar to the teens.

Rice participated in the program before the start of the school year.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities members will help lead a talk called “Just Lead ... the way to better school meals!,” at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center on the Buffalo State campus.

The public is welcome to the talk, which will be followed by a panel discussion focused on food-related businesses and advocacy groups in the region.

Both events are free and open to the public, as are:

• A talk entitled “Just Sustainabilities in Food Systems Research,” from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in 105 Harriman Hall on the UB South Campus.

• A screening of “A Place at the Table,” which will be followed by a panel discussion of the film that focuses on efforts to combat hunger in the U.S.; this event will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at 107 Capen Hall on the UB North Campus.

Two other events, including a policymaker summit, also are taking place.

“We are very enthusiastic about having students lead the charge in creating a healthier school community, creating healthier options and healthier meals in schools,” Assunta Ventresca, director of Buffalo Public Schools health-related services, said in an email. “We need students to be leaders in making change.”



Twitter: @bnrefresh

Dominique Wilkins on the greatest NBA player ever

Dominique Wilkins shoots baskets with Enjoli Walerot, a student at Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence, at Canisius College Wednesday. Wilkins. who serves as a Novo Nordisk diabetes ambassador, was in town for the Independent Health Foundation's Fitness for Kids Challenge. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Scott Scanlon - Refresh Editor

I got a chance to sit down with Dominique Wilkins Wednesday morning, mostly to talk about what he eats, because the NBA Hall-of-Famer was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about a year after his retirement in 1999 and was in Buffalo at the invitation of Independent Health, to talk about exercise and healthy eating.

Wilkins – 53 and vice president of the Atlanta Hawks, which retired his No. 21 in 2001 – is the subject of today’s What are you eating? in WNY Refresh. He also was the subject of a story by sports writer Rod McKissic.

He spent most of his two days in town talking with kids.

I’m glad he spent a few minutes talking with me.

We talked about the staples of his diet, and I asked him what eating was like in Italy and Greece. He spent time in basketball leagues in both those countries toward the tail end of his NBA career.

“I ate good, particularly Italy,” Wilkins said. “The food was outstanding.

“In Greece, they ate a lot of fish; a lot of fish and beef. The food was excellent. When I went to Greece, I (weighed) 245. By the time I left Greece, at the end of a year, I was 218. The food wasn’t very fattening and we practiced twice a day, every day, for nine months.”

He weighed 273 pounds when he was diagnosed with diabetes, and stressed that the extra weight was the biggest factor in his diagnosis. He lost almost 40 pounds in the months thereafter, and has kept it off.

It might be my job to write about health, fitness, nutrition and family matters, but I couldn’t sit down with the 11th leading scorer in NBA history (26,668 points) and not ask him this question:

Who’s the greatest player ever to play pro basketball?

“Besides myself?,” he asked with a smile.


“I know who everybody would like to pick as the greatest player to ever play, but I’ll tell you the greatest player for me is Wilt Chamberlain. ... He averaged 50 points a game, 30 rebounds. Average. That is truly amazing. And then they said, ‘You know, he shoots a lot.’ Next year, at the center position, he led the league in assists. That’s never been done before.”

I have the benefit of having the NBA stats to check over. Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1961-62, leading the league in that category and scoring a record 100 points in a game, versus the New York Knicks. He also led the league that year in rebounds, a feat he accomplished in 11 of his 14 NBA seasons. He led the league in assists once, in ‘67-68, with 702, and averaged 24.3 points per game that year.

“A man that big, that strong, to do what he’d done, that’s truly incredible,” Wilkins said. “When you talk about the greatest, you gotta put Jordan, you gotta put Oscar Robinson in there. Magic. Bird. There’s just too many guys who say, ‘This one guy dominates ‘em all.’ But if I had to pick one, it’d be Wilt Chamberlain.”



Taking their shot at soccer for kids

Soccer Shots leaders include, from left, Eli George, office manager; Yuri Polychenko, program ambassador; Mark Miller, executive director; and Justin Sims, director of coaching, (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Soccer Shots will host a one-hour clinic and 100th birthday party for the U.S. Soccer Federation at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Delaware Park. A $10 donation is requested. All proceeds will benefit the federation and Global Goals.

Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Mark Miller never believed, while working as a financial planner at HSBC branches in Niagara County a few years back, that he’d be able to pursue a passion and end up with office space on the 28th floor of the HSBC Tower.

That’s what can happen when your company sells off its bank branches, you have to recalculate your future, and you follow a dream, says Miller, a Town of Tonawanda dad who for the last two years, with help from his wife, Maureen, has owned and operated the Western New York Soccer Shots program for children ages 2 to 8.

“We wanted to give kids in the area a truly unique and fun-based program,” he says. “In many cases, we’re a child’s first experience in sports, not just in soccer.”

Miller, 41, holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from Brockport State College and has three children: Max, 11 months, Owen, 2, and Logan, 11. The Hamburg native, several part-time coaches, a soccer ambassador and an office manager run dozens of soccer programs a year, most of which cost $88 to $110 for an eight- to 10-week season.

“We’re focused on building fun, character and skills,” he says. The competition, and scoring, can wait till the kids get older.

The Soccer Shots office is a former supply room space on a floor at the HSBC Tower that includes several Phillips Lytle law firm offices and the main digs of Seneca One Realty, the company that owns the region’s tallest building and gave Miller an affordable lease as the building empties of two major tenants and redefines itself. The view allows Miller to look out over his service territory as he contemplates how to help shape youth soccer in the region.

Talk about your programs.

There’s a 2-year-old program, there’s a program for 3- to 5-year-olds and a separate program for 6- to 8-year-olds. … We go to day cares, nursery schools, we run after-school programs and we also run park programs. We expanded in Delaware Park and we’ve partnered at Sportsplex in North Tonawanda …

We have a curriculum. There’s a real consistency, and kids thrive on consistency. Everybody gets to use a soccer ball the entire session. We focus on individual skills, gross motor movements – like coordinating skills – and listening skills. But I think the two things that make us unique is that we have a character development session. Each week there is a word of the day, so if we’re talking about sharing, we’re passing the ball and sharing about soccer, but we’ll also talk about how you share at home with your family members, how you share with your friends, so we kind of make soccer that transition between sports and real life. Really, 3- and 4-year-olds, they get it.

Why soccer?

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. I played soccer in (Frontier) high school. I dabbled with it in college. I do not have a super rich, semiprofessional, professional interest, but I always had a ton of fun playing soccer. I think the U.S. is on the cusp of becoming a real world power, and if we could get someone at 4 years old, and that’s their first experience with soccer, and 15 years later they get a scholarship to go to college for free, what an amazing thing. You can potentially change the direction for a family or a kid’s life.

Has doing this changed your view of soccer?

One-hundred percent. I’ve always enjoyed the sport. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it. Luckily, it’s on TV more. The U.S. men’s and women’s teams are broadcast more, so on our parent page we’ll always say, ‘Hey, come on out and watch the men’s team and women’s team.’ … We’re going to try to get some of our families out to the University at Buffalo and our FC professional team games.

You’re looking to help disadvantaged kids?

After the first of the year, we’re hopefully going to be offering partial or full scholarships. We are also working with PUSH Buffalo on the West Side. Hopefully that is the first step in a citywide program. We’re a for-profit … so working with PUSH we can get down to our bare-bones costs and they are the organization that can apply for grants to cover it. There’s two sides of profitability in our minds. The one side is paying our bills. We have kids, we need to pay the mortgage. The second side of profitability is being profitable in a community. In our minds, that means making a difference, giving back. We know we’re not going to be millionaires doing this … but our goal is for our kids to see us running a program in our community that’s helping the most important segment of the community, which is kids.

How important is it for parents to be good role models in sports?

It’s probably a parent’s most important job. Before kids can speak, they can look, and that’s how children probably learn the most. That’s something we remind our coaches of on a weekly basis. What do I say to these highly competitive parents? I try to explain the value of letting kids be kids and having fun and using their imaginations, because they have their whole lives to be ultra-competitive: Getting into college, getting a pay raise. Let’s let them worry about that 20 years from now. First, let ’em be kids. Let ’em have fun.


NBA legend bounces into Buffalo to chat up healthy eating, exercise

NBA legend Dominique Wilkins shoots hoops with Buffalo school children this morning at Canisius College. Wilkins is in the city to help kick off year six of the Independent Health Foundation's Fitness for Kids Challenge. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

NBA Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins is in Buffalo this week, not so much to talk about basketball, but about health.

The message he is sharing is designed specifically to make points with two groups – kids and those like him who have Type 2 diabetes – but his words hold true for everybody.

A proper diet and exercise are vital, Wilkins told reporters before meeting with students from several Buffalo public schools this morning during the Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge 2013-14 kick-off event at the Canisius College Koessler Athletic Center.

Why does he think diabetes has become a growing disease among children?

“We’ve gotten lazy,” he told me, “but that’s not the kids’ fault, it’s the parents’ fault. We let our kids sit in the house and play videos all day, get on social media, and they don’t get enough physical activity outside.”

Wilkins, 53, vice president of the Atlanta Hawks, the team he led through much of his NBA career, understands the temptation of a sedentary life. He weighed 273 pounds when he learned he had diabetes about 14 years ago, about a year after he retired.

He lost nearly 40 pounds, and closed in on his average playing weight, in the months after changing his diet.

“I’m close to my playing weight now,” he said, but “I’m not saying I’m coming back.”

Obesity has become the top health concern across the country, according to a report from the National Institute of Health.

“During the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents,” Independent Health officials said in a news release. “The rates for childhood obesity in Western New York are also alarming.”

Here are statistics the regional health insurer shared from the state of Department of Health from 2008-2010 breaking down the percentage of students in pre-K through 10th grade in the region who are considered overweight and obese:

• Allegany County – 21.7 percent

• Cattaraugus County – 33.6 percent

• Chautauqua County – 29.2 percent

• Erie County – 27.7 percent

• Genesee County – 29.1 percent

• Niagara County – 33.6 percent

• Orleans County – 33 percent

• Wyoming County – 34.6 percent

These children and adolescents likely will be obese as adults, too, and more at risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis, Independent Health officials said.

They also are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, a condition almost unheard of in children a generation ago.

“The Fitness for Kids Challenge kick-off really emphasized to the children the importance of fitness and nutrition in preventing illness and diseases like diabetes,” Dr. Michael W. Cropp, Independent Health president and chief executive officer, said in a news release. “We’re very appreciative of Dominique coming to Buffalo for this event and supporting our efforts in instilling healthy habits and behaviors in our area’s youth.”

Go to or call the Independent Health Foundation at 635-4959 to learn ways to stay active, eat right, find healthy recipes and register a school.

Read more about Wilkins and his healthier diet this weekend at the Refresh Buffalo Blog and in WNY Refresh on Saturday in the Buffalo News.


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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

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