Editorial: A closer look at the obesity epidemic

The statistics presented by the district health department Saturday are alarming.  Seventy-five percent of the people in Orleans and northern Essex counties are overweight or obese, they say.

What might be even more alarming is the assertion made by the film Weight of the Nation that it’s not entirely an accident.  If you believe the documentary, done by HBO with the Institute of Medicine among others, the two-thirds of Americans who are now overweight or obese have had a lot of help putting on the pounds.

For one thing, federal farm policy encourages monoculture farming and subsidizes soy and corn, ingredients commonly used in snack and processed food.

For another, the U.S. food industry — since it’s in the business of making money — most heavily markets its most profitable products, which tend to be foods made with artificially inexpensive, government subsidized ingredients.  Those so-called foods are full of calories rather than nutrition, but they’re cheap, quick, and generally appealing, to young people in particular.

When was the last time you saw a television commercial pushing string beans?  The profit on string beans is about 10 percent.  The profit on soda is 90 percent, according to Weight of the Nation.

Any parent knows that grocery shopping these days with a young child is a nightmare.  The collection of junk foods aimed at children is daunting.

As a parent, I’ve long resented the food industry and how it’s made my life more difficult.  The snack cracker aisle alone is like running a gauntlet.

No, we are not getting Sponge Bob crackers.  No, we are not getting Lunchables; I don’t care if Johnny has Lunchables.  No, we are not getting this substance that pretends it’s related to yogurt….

At some point, grocery shopping with a child turned into a battle against marketers who want my kid to want things that are bad for him.

It wasn’t this way even 20 years ago.  When my daughter was young the battle was over SpaghettiOs, which I refused to buy.  That’s laughable now.  SpagettiOs have come to seem pretty benign in the face of the explosion of other, far worse and voluminous, possibilities.

Twenty years ago, avoiding sedentary screen time was also easy enough:  I disconnected the TV.  Today, it doesn’t even matter that the satellite dish is disconnected six months a year.  There’s the computer, Netflix, Hulu, iPads, iPhones, Wii, Xbox, so many ways for kids to engage with a screen rather than the great outdoors.

Yes, there are lots of reasons for being overweight, and lifestyle choices are among them.  But it’s not likely that about 30 years ago two-thirds of Americans got up in the morning and decided they’d get fat.

Nationally, there are good reasons why people add pounds:  No close place to buy good food, no safe place to exercise.

Those reasons don’t hold true here.  It is true, however, that obesity is linked to poverty, and we are poor.  It takes time and money to come up with lean and nutritious meals, and a poor population may not have much of either.

To understand what some call an obesity epidemic, we should look at the cheap and time saving choices people are offered today.  Many fast food restaurants have a dollar menu.  Salads aren’t on it.  Yes, it’s good that fast food places offer healthier choices, but let’s be real here.  No one is going to McDonald’s to get a great salad.

Frozen fruits and vegetables don’t take up much room in the grocery store freezers.  They’re more likely to be filled with pizzas and highly processed microwavable meals.

The cereal section is no place to look for healthy breakfast food.  Chocolate, marshmallow, and frosting are among the choices.

A time and money stressed family may have enough trouble buying and cooking healthy food without also battling a food industry that’s making the job harder.

Weight of the Nation notes there was a time when people thought it was impossible to take on the powerful tobacco industry.  That turned out to be untrue.

The food industry can also be successfully taken on, the film suggests.  It’s possible, at least, to cease marketing bad food to kids, as cigarettes are no longer advertised on TV.

Parents have to step up, as well.  But it would help if the playing field were level.  As it is, a meal of fresh fish and vegetables costs considerably more than a pound of burger and a box of Hamburger Helper, which contains soybean oil and, surprise, corn syrup, that most ubiquitous U.S. ingredient.

You can’t blame a farmer for wanting to make a living.  You can blame a farm policy that uses our own tax dollars to encourage overproduction of the cheap, unhealthy food that’s helped make two-thirds of us fat. – T.S.

To read the Chronicle’s full story on this subject, click here.

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Opinion: Do the math on wind power

by Vermont Senator John S. Rodgers

If 66 percent of Vermonters favor industrial wind on our mountains, then pro-wind groups have nothing to worry about in Senate Bill S-30.  S-30 lays out a process to answer many unanswered questions about industrial wind.  It also gives regional and town plans a determinative roll in the PSB permit process.

An in-depth study by the prestigious Pacific Research Institute found that a wind project needed to have a capacity factor of 35 percent before it could erase its carbon footprint within its life expectancy of 20 years.  In New York State and Maine the capacity factor has been around 23 percent.  Also in the news is the fact that all over the world industrial wind turbines have been failing prematurely and not coming close to that 20-year mark.

FYI:  Lowell cost about $170-million and Sheffield about $120-million, between the two of them they will receive about $80-million in federal tax dollars (our money).  If that  same $80-million had been spent to insulate Vermonters homes we could have insulated about 23,000 homes, saved Vermonters around $23,000,000 a year in fuel costs and reduced carbon more than twice what Sheffield and Lowell combined will.  (CO2 reduction in Lowell — 70,000 tons a year; in Sheffield —  44,000 tons a year.  While $80-million in insulation which would reduce carbon 260,000 tons a year)  Local contractors would be doing the work insulating homes and we know that means that the money would have a multiplier effect in the community.  All of this with no adverse environmental impacts.  Remember that is just the public money ($80-million) not the full $290,000,000 that was spent on the two projects. That $290-million will all be paid for by the ratepayers and taxpayers.

S-30 is the product of more information and testimony than has ever been compiled on this subject in the VT Legislature.  It will not stop communities that want industrial wind.  It is  a work in progress as we wait for many unanswered questions to be answered and the results of the Siting Commission so that next year we can continue to improve the way that we site electric generation in Vermont.  What it will do is give communities that do not want industrial wind a much-needed voice against a well-funded industry that does not care about our heritage or our environment.  Call your legislators and the Governor and ask them to support S-30.  Tell them that the 65 to 70 percent of Vermonters that supposedly want it can still have industrial wind and those who do not want it can pursue other more productive methods to address climate change.

Senator John S Rodgers of Glover represents the Essex-Orleans Senate District.

To read the text of S.30, click here.

 

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Protest tar sands on a bridge over the Connecticut River January 23

To the editor and North Country Citizens:

Just go to Google Images and type in “Alberta Tar Sands” and you will see what it’s all about. It’s the dirtiest oil on the planet and there’s lots of it.  Mining it is literally destroying the boreal forest in the Northern HALF of Alberta Canada. James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist, says it’s “game over” for global warming if the tar sands oil is burned.

The largest oil spill in US history that you probably never heard about occurred just 2 years ago on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.  To no one’s surprise it was tar sands oil. Tar sands crude oil contains sand making it more abrasive; and its pumped at higher pressure and higher temperature than regular crude oil. The result is increased odds of a pipeline spill. Its like hot liquid sandpaper.

Not to be deterred, the Canadian government and its corporate partners are hell bent on developing tar sands oil and exporting it to the world. Major corporate partners include Enbridge and the largest corporation in the history of the world Exxon Mobile.

You may have heard about the XL pipeline in the Midwest and the massive civil disobedience over it lead by Vermont’s own Bill McKibben. You may have heard about the tree sitter’s blockaide in Texas to stop another tar sands pipeline there. You probably did not hear about the arrest of news reporters trying to cover the Texas protesters – ala Chris Braithwaite from the Barton Chronicle.

You probably did not hear about the so far successful resistance to the tar sands pipeline in British Columbia; lead largely by First Nations tribes.

Not to be deterred, Enbridge and Exxon Mobile are pressing on:  to Vermont.

Despite denials there is no doubt they are quietly moving forward with a  previous plan called ”Trailbreaker” which would pump tar sands oil all the way from Alberta to Montreal to Portland Maine. Enbridge recently made formal application to reverse the flow of its line 9 pipeline in Ontario in order to pump tar sands oil to Montreal. Enbridge is also trying to get permission to build a pumping station near the US border. From Montreal to Portland the tar sands oil would flow through an existing oil pipeline through the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and the North Country of New Hampshire and past Sebago Lake in Maine.

An “existing oil pipeline” – in Vermont? Who knew?! Wait, it’s worse. The pipeline crosses numerous rivers and streams, goes by Victory Bog and – and – it’s 60 years old! The owners of the pipeline (the parent company is Exxon Mobile) were recently cited by federal regulators for failure to properly maintain the pipeline.  . . . So . . .

On Wednesday, January 23, at High Noon on the bridge over the Connecticut River on Route 2 near Lancaster, New Hampshire, delegations from Vermont and New Hampshire will join hands over the river  for a peaceful protest against tar sands oil.  The pipeline is 100 yards downstream from the bridge; and upstream from half of New England!

Will you join us?

For more info see www.tarsandsfreene.org 

or Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/466059446791428/

See you on the bridge!

Peter Blose

Barnet

 

 

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Grandfather’s notebook: Moving sideways

by Chris Braithwaite

copyright the Chronicle 12-26-2012

Part of my DNA is walking around West Glover in African-American skin.

Part of my DNA is in first grade in Ridgefield, Washington, dealing with Down syndrome.

Part of my DNA is in two children in Leeds, England, who talk to me, when I can get anywhere near them, in broad Yorkshire accents.

Part of my liver is in a woman in Ontario who is doing valiant battle with ovarian cancer.

Who knew?

A dozen years ago, before I had any grandchildren, I thought being a grandfather would be a calming experience.  Mostly a matter of doting.

I guess I pictured an assortment of blond, blue-eyed kids who would be parented much better than their parents were parented and not go to Harvard or Yale but to the sort of schools their parents — my kids — went to which were, in no particular order, the University of Chicago; Lewis and Clark in Portland, Oregon; Colby in Maine; Tulane in New Orleans; Sheldon Jackson in Sitka, Alaska; Reed in Portland; Brooklyn University; Mills in Oakland, California; New York University; Northeastern Law School in Boston; and the Banks Street College of Education in New York City.  Not a bad list for four kids, but they did tend to wander.

I hasten to add that it is far from beyond the realm of impossibility that any and all of my grandchildren will end up at any or all of these fine institutions, not to mention Harvard and Yale and Oxford and Cambridge.  Life is all about possibilities, and my granddaughter Adara, who lives in Ridgefield, is already pressing the envelope and, I believe, will continue to do so throughout her happy and already very useful life.

Her brother Corwin, who is about to turn three, faces the prospect of developing abilities that may be beyond the reach of someone who is now, and will always be, his only big sister.

And my grandson Isaiah has the courage to deal with what one very articulate Vermonter, Robert Walsh, called “unaware-unintentional racism.”  That’s not the stuff of deeply imbedded racial hatred.  It’s the stuff of “I thought you people couldn’t survive in this climate.”

And I hasten to add — I’ll be hastening to add a lot of things in this piece — that there seems to be a critical mass of Black children in our schools now, and they have collectively put some of this kind of prejudice quietly to rest.

I  don’t know if Phoebe and George in Leeds will have to clean up their North Country accents before they go to Oxford.  I don’t really know a damn thing about what remains of the class structure over there.

And as for Clara in New York, maybe it will be tough to deal with being a native of Brooklyn.  So far, she’s just a month-old bundle of promises.

Anyway I didn’t set out to write about my grandchildren, but about myself.

What I wanted to say is that grandchildren have a way of backing you in to groups of people you know nothing about and never thought, at this advanced stage in life, that you would have much to do with.

And the important thing to say about that is that it’s a remarkable experience.  In fact it’s a gift of considerable value.

My sister Shari, the person walking around Canada with half my liver, raised this point when I visited her last week.  She said there must be an odd sense of inclusion in another group, when you have a grandchild who is a full-fledged member.

I agreed, but it occurs to me now that I have an odd sense of inclusion in the group of women with cancer of a female nature.  Shari mostly startled me by coming down her stairs with straight hair, something she told me she has always wanted to have.

I hasten to say that she looked very good in her new wig.  But I must confess that it startled me, who has known her as my curly-haired sister for 68 years, even more than her loss of so much weight.

I have no ovaries and have never undergone chemotherapy.  But there it is.  Part of me has, in fact, undergone chemotherapy.  And that part of me sustains a woman of enormous courage.

That doesn’t make me courageous, any more than it makes my skin black or my brain and body subject to the effects of Down syndrome.

So why do I feel like I’m in the club?

A writer named Andre Solomon has recently gained a lot of attention for his book, Far From the Tree.

I bought the book as soon as I heard about it on the radio, but so far have only worked through his first chapter.

I know from his table of contents that he writes about parents who give birth to children who are deaf, children who are dwarfs, children with Down syndrome, children with autism, children with schizophrenia, and children who are the result of rape, among others.

The structure he introduces in the first chapter is about direction.  What parents look forward to is passing on the best in themselves vertically.

What fate may have in store for parents is a child who introduces something entirely unexpected, something that comes at them sideways, something horizontal.

He says it better than I can:

“Having anticipated the onward march of our selfish genes, many of us are unprepared for children who present unfamiliar needs.  Parenthood abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger, and the more alien the stranger, the stronger the whiff of negativity.  We depend on the guarantee in our children’s faces that we will not die.  Children whose defining quality annihilates that fantasy of immortality are a particular insult, we must love them for themselves, and not for the best of ourselves in them, and that is a great deal harder to do.”

Perhaps Mr. Solomon writes so well about this because he is gay, and so has put his own parents to this test.

I would hasten to add that none of my grandchildren are gay, but that would be politically incorrect.  I would then attempt to redeem myself by saying that, should I have a gay grandchild, I would expect that same, odd sense of inclusion that I have already mentioned.  And I believe I would welcome it.

Mr. Solomon’s powerful prose makes one thing obvious:  Grand-parenting is far, far easier than parenting.  Every grandparent knows that, and every parent looks forward to it.  The horizontal gifts my children have been given are challenging.  They require a level of courage that, as a parent, was not required of me.  My children have inspired in me a respect that, in turn, arouses great and quite undeserved parental pride.

Meanwhile, as a doting grandfather, I get to go along for the ride.

And maybe, after all, this loss of vertical integrity is really a matter of branching out, of stumbling toward that distant place where our common humanity lies.

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Put People First movement encourages participation in budget

To the Editor,

After advocating for meaningful public participation in the state’s budget development process, the People’s Budget Campaign today cautiously welcomed the Administration’s announcement of two public participation hearings via Vermont Interactive Technologies (VIT) sites.
The Campaign, which is part of the Put People First movement spearheaded by the Vermont Workers’ Center, stressed that a public participation process is now a legal requirement, resulting from a new provision in Vermont law. The new law, a key Campaign achievement in the 2012 legislative session, set an October 1 deadline for the Administration to design and implement a public participation process for developing the state’s spending and revenue policies.
Participation from the people is crucial to ensure that people’s needs are put first, rather than neglected in the drive to cut our budget. We demand a meaningful process of participation, which includes a review of unmet needs. The new legal provision requiring public participation in the budget process was passed as a budget bill amendment pushed by the People’s Budget Campaign. Another provision was also added requiring the state budget to address the people’s needs and advance equity and dignity among Vermont residents (Section E.100.1 of Act 162).
The two sessions will be on November 13 from 5:15-7:30 pm and November 19, from 4:45-6:45 pm. The session on the 13th will be at the following VIT Site:

Vermont Interactive Technologies
1001 College Road
Lyndon State College
PO Box 7954
Lyndonville, VT 05851-7954

Now, more than anytime in recent history, Vermonters, like most Americans, are struggling to achieve a decent standard for the quality
of their lives. With high unemployment, lack rights for the employed, difficulties with housing, child care and health care, Vermonters seem
to have nowhere to turn. However, we at the Vermont Workers Center are here to assist all Vermonters through this difficult time.
The Vermont Workers Center is a grass roots organization designed to unite all Vermonters to speak with one voice and one purpose to the powers that be. We are here to tell them what we need and what we feel is in our best interests as citizens of the Green Mountain State. As such, we have already achieved a major victory by pushing the new health care bill to getting passed into law and the new provisions in the budgeting process. However, we cannot effect such changes alone. The struggle to address the other issues that beat down society still need to be addressed. As such, we are asking every Vermonter, regardless of political and religious affiliation, to band together as Vermonters and join us in the fight to put people first. With that said, We would like you to join us at the State Budget Hearings at Vermont Interactive Technologies, So that you too may voice what your concerns about our state meeting your fundamental needs.
In 2011, the launch of the Put People First! Campaign was meant to begin to get our communities organized across issue areas so that together we will be able to fashion structural solutions to the problems in our communities. Many folks in Vermont are struggling to be able to meet their fundamental needs in order to live a life with dignity. It is often a struggle to access the healthcare one needs, find decent housing, receive affordable childcare, find a meaningful job that pays the bills, or be able to organize at the workplace, all the while our communities are working in the face of climate change for a healthy environment and livable planet.
The more and more conditions worsen, Vermont residents are beginning to realize that these are not problems that exist in isolation to one another. The common root causes of these crises are becoming quite clear to our communities. We are beginning to understand that so long as we struggle in isolation from one another we may experience victories but ultimately fall short of our goal. We must build power as a movement to fashion solutions that make our visions a reality.
The Budget Hearings are an opportunity for members of our community can assess the legislature, directly. We will be able to let them know about the issues that affect us and how we feel the budget should meet our needs on these issues. However, more importantly, we will have the opportunity to express to them what we, as citizens of Vermont, need for the betterment of our society. It is a place where we can speak with one voice and let them know directly that we want them to Put People First, above all other concerns.
Now is the time to show them that the Vermont Workers’ Center, and many other social organizations are creating a space for our communities to discuss the issues we struggle to change and work together to create an inclusive vision and make action steps toward the realization of that common vision. Please join us at the Budget Hearings November 13 from 5:15-7:30 pm and November 19, from 4:45-6:45 pm.
Remember, we cannot fight inequities and injustice alone. There is great truth in the phrase “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” We look forward to seeing you there. Thank you.

Marc McCullock
Representative of the Vermont Workers Center
St. Johnsbury, VT

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Sims has the right kind of experience

I have worked with Katherine Sims for 5 years as she has developed a program that is affecting the northern Vermont community in a very positive way.

Katherine designed, energized and directed our effort to benefit farmers, bring wholesome local food to school food services and to educate kids and their families to the importance of nutrition in a healthy productive life style. This effort is more than a program; it is a business and has to be run as such. Katherine has done this and done it well. She is a successful business woman as well as a community leader. Katherine understands by experience the northern economy and challenges it presents.

Katherine has had lots of experience in what it takes to bring people together to achieve a common benefit.

She has the kind of experience that a representative for Eden, Lowell, Westfield, Jay, and Troy needs to do the job for these communities she will serve. I hope you will give her your vote.

David B. Stackpole
Lowell, VT

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When “NO” means “YES”

Editors,

While some are critical of our Representatives for their “NO” votes, I personally think we should be thanking them for their “NO” votes.
The current Legislature under the guidance of Governor Peter Shumlin introduced numerous bills that raised taxes, such as H.754 that increased property taxes approximately 10%; other bills added costs to individuals and businesses as in H.468 that mandates increasing percentages of renewable electricity over the next two decades.  Several bills associated with Green Mountain Health Care attempting to bring the cost down; H.436, H.202, H.558 and H.559.   And H.718 that would compel the Public Service Board to refund to ratepayers their money as originally promised.  And H.41 that required mandatory work breaks. All of these bills originated with the Administration except H.41, and not with the House or with Speaker Shap Smith.
We should be thankful for Orleans County Representatives Marcotte, Kilmartin, Lewis, Batchelor, Strong and Higley for voting NO to increase your taxes, NO to increasing your cost of living or cost of doing business, NO to Green Mountain Health Care, until we know the cost, NO to bigger State Government and NO to increasing your electric rates.  Your Representatives are looking out for you and we definitely want them back in Montpelier.  Representative Young voted YES on all the above.

Chet Greenwood
Derby

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Supporting John Rodgers

Dear Editor,
We are writing in support of John S Rodgers’ run for Vermont State Senate. Many know that John is a  hard working man born and raised in the hills of the Northeast Kingdom. He is a proud father and loving husband and an contributing member of his community. He is honest, and is a man of strong conviction who is dedicated to representing the diverse voices of his constituents. What you may not know is the work John has done for people in the area even while out of office. John reached out to our family, during a time of great need, purely out of the kindness of his heart. He provided an invaluable amount of support completely unsolicited and expected nothing in return. It is the strength of this character that will represent the needs of the people of Vermont and be the best choice for Senate in the Essex/Orleans district.
Thank you,
Jeb & Amalia Harris
East Albany, Vermont

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Editorial the Chronicle endorses…

copyright the Chronicle 10-31-2012

What follows is the least important part of the Chronicle’s election coverage.  We have tried, in the course of this election season, to give the candidates a fair opportunity to speak for themselves, and our readers an opportunity to speak for the candidates of their choice.

But political endorsements are an old journalistic tradition, and one that in a few races we feel compelled to follow.

 For state senator:  Starr and Rodgers

 With the departure of Vince Illuzzi from the state Senate, Orleans County is left with one legislator with an honest claim to deep experience and long seniority, and the influence that comes with them.  Bobby Starr has served in both houses in Montpelier.

He served a highly effective stint as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and has a reasonable chance of taking over the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee if he is returned to Montpelier.  To fail to give him that opportunity would be to squander what little influence the Northeast Kingdom has over the conduct of the state’s business.

For the second choice for the two Senate seats in the Orleans-Essex district we endorse John Rodgers.  He and Representative Bob Lewis both have experience in the House.  Our review of their records indicates that Mr. Rodgers’ is stronger — that he has dealt effectively with issues that are closer to the heartbeat of our corner of the state.

Mr. Rodgers lost his House seat two years ago because he felt he was too busy with his small construction business to campaign.  He has clearly learned his lesson.  And as we watch his continuing struggle to juggle the demands of his own and the public’s business, we are reminded of an old adage:  If you want to get something done, hire a busy man.

 For lieutenant governor, Phil Scott

 For lieutenant governor we like the incumbent, Phil Scott.  As a Republican who presides over a Senate dominated by Democrats, Mr. Scott has proven to be an agile leader as well as an extremely bipartisan one.

In a State House where party bickering often gets in the way of conducting the state’s business, Mr. Scott has kept his mind on the job.  From his place behind the podium, he neither scolded his colleagues nor blamed members of the opposition when a piece of legislation went begging for action.

As a lieutenant governor Mr. Scott has also been an active one outside the State House.  He has traveled throughout the state talking to workers about the jobs they do, and often showing a willingness to roll up his sleeves and pitch in.

Perhaps his love for racing at Thunder Road has instilled in him a respect for people who work with their hands.  Whatever the reason, it’s a commendable trait to see in any politician — especially one from a party that often seems aligned with power and wealth.

 For state treasurer, Beth Pearce

 In the treasurer’s race we recommend the election of Beth Pearce.  She has ably performed the duties of the position over the past two years in a nonpartisan fashion.  We believe that as the state moves toward taking a greater role in Vermont’s health care system, it will be important to have a treasurer who can work in a cooperative fashion to oversee major changes in a responsible fashion.  Ms. Pearce, in our judgment, fits that bill.

Editors’ note:  The Chronicle’s endorsements are based on a consensus of the editorial staff.  Opinions are the writer’s own.  This is the last edition before the election, which means we have edited out negative comments that might lead a candidate to wish to reply. This website, www.bartonchronicle.com, will be open for endorsements or other comments through November 2.  You may leave a reply here or send a letter to: bethany@bartonchronicle.com

 

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Opinion: Sims is the right choice

by Bethany M. Dunbar

Katherine Sims of Lowell is the right choice for voters in the new Orleans-Lamoille House district.

Green Mountain Farm to School started as a small project at the Jay-Westfield school in 2005.  Ms. Sims and the former principal, Dean Vervoort, put together a plan to get the kids involved in planting a garden and taste-testing some recipes made with produce from that garden.  Connections were made with local farmers to provide fresh food and opportunities for children to learn about how their food is produced.

To say it was a giant success is an understatement.  Today Green Mountain Farm to School has spread to schools all over northern Vermont and is a national model.  It’s an idea whose roots are deep around here.  The local food movement is sometimes about consulting one’s grandparents about gardening and cooking in old-fashioned ways.  Ms. Sims provided the spark to make it happen.

Her work with Green Mountain Farm to School has put her in close contact with the area’s farmers and schools.  In her door-to-door campaign, she has been hearing a lot about issues of the economy and health care.

If elected, she would be an energetic and effective advocate in Montpelier for the farmers, teachers, and working people.  I hope she gets the opportunity and believe the voters would be well-served by Katherine Sims.

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