Interviewing Joe Biden was only one reason I found myself in Washington, D.C., at the White House last week. Earlier that same day, I was among a group of digital editors there to discuss healthy eating and how people use the internet to find recipes for their families. We met with officials from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), the Let’s Move! initiative that the First Lady launched, and other White House staffers who are involved in the effort to promote healthy eating habits (and feed the First Family).
The meeting marked the beginning of a partnership between Let’s Move!, PHA, and major magazine and web brands, including Parents and several of our sister brands at Meredith, such as Family Circle, Recipe.com, and AllRecipes.com. The aim is to grow awareness and use of the USDA’s MyPlate nutritional guidelines, and of course, to encourage families to eat healthier. As you may know, MyPlate replaced the classic Food Pyramid and offers a simple-to-use graphic depicting in clear terms the relative proportions of different food types that we should aim to eat. The message it–and this partnership–intends to send is that healthy eating doesn’t need to be more difficult, more expensive, or less delicious than eating unhealthily.
Through this collaboration, you’ll find many delicious, healthy Parents recipes pinned on MyPlate’s Pinterest boards, and you’ll soon see the MyPlate logo on some Parents.com slideshows, offering you an at-a-glance way to know that those recipes conform to these important guidelines for healthy eating.
While a handful of editors at the meeting got to continue the discussion directly with Michelle Obama afterward, the highlight of the event for the rest of us was a tour of the White House garden, conducted by the White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses. In the garden in back of the White House, the staff grows vegetables year-round, and in the middle of February it was amazing to see broccoli and spinach and other greens still growing.
Personally, I was most interested in the White House beehive–yep, their own natural honey machine. Yosses explained how eating locally produced honey can reduce allergies through its trace amounts of local pollen, which get your body accustomed to the allergens it faces in your area. It was also fun to pass by the Obama girls’ swing set!
See some photos from the day:
A shot of the White House garden
Bill Yosses, White House pastry chef, brings us on a tour of the White House garden.
A sign embedded in the garden, with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “…the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another; and instead of one harvest, a continued one throughout the year.”
The site offers “20 things kids need to know to live financially smart lives,” which are 20 money milestones kids should learn; there are four milestones divided in five age groups (3-5, 6-10, 11-13, 14-18, and 18+) with age-appropriate activities. For example, one money milestone for preschoolers is to learn the “difference between things you want and things you need.” To help with this money lesson, a suggested activity is to go shopping with kids and point out basic essentials such as food and clothing compared to optional wish-list items.
Parents can visit each section “to start a dialogue about money and teach kids important lessons about saving, making choices, and avoiding debt.” There are also posters with milestones and activities that can help parents track their kids’ knowledge of money and finances.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced the first White House Online Summit on Education yesterday morning, to talk about the current state of America’s education and the improvements the Obama Administration is making.
The summit took place on White House grounds, and I had the opportunity to be part of a diverse group of online media outlets that focused parenting, education, financial, and current news.
Secretary Duncan kicked off his speech with some sobering statistics: The U.S. currently ranks #16 in college education rates around the world (down from #1), and our country has a 25% college drop-out rate, with more than 1 million kids leaving school with no employable skills to find a job. And these lack of skills is increasingly a bigger crisis than our job crisis, impeding young adults from finding and keeping good jobs.
To help with the skills crisis, there is increased investment in long-term early childhood education, especially on K-12 reform for the next 15-20 years. Launching and investing $600 million behind the Race to the Top initiative has been one solution to help a future generation learn basic skills, such as reading, before reaching kindergarten. Also, 46 states have chosen to raise their educational standards, and more support been given to the bottom 5% of schools in the U.S., which has increased reading and math skills and decreased violence and discipline problems.
The Secretary also acknowledged that the No Child Left Behind Act is essentially “broken” and has caused states to “dumb down” academic standards during the past few years. The the White House is now partnering with 20 states to provide waivers and “empower” them to be more innovative with educational plans. Another goal is to train and retain talented teachers, to “elevate and strengthen” 1 million new professionals in the next 4-6 years. All this will work toward a challenge President Obama has set: to have the U.S. be the world leader in higher education by 2020.
We received this fun video from the White House Office that gives a brief, behind-the-scenes look into how the staff prepared for Halloween. Expect orange-colored frosted cookies in the shape of the White House, marshmallow ghosts, and spectacular carved pumpkins.
Update Urged on Children’s Online Privacy
Aiming to catch up with fast-churning technology that touches children’s lives every day, the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday proposed long-awaited changes to regulations covering online privacy for children.
White House Details Plans for More Digital Learning
The White House will unveil plans Friday for a research center that aims to infuse more digital learning into the nation’s classrooms. The center, dubbed “Digital Promise,” will aid the rapid development of new learning software, educational games and other technologies, in part through helping educators vet what works and what doesn’t.
Colleges Moving Away from Plastic Water Bottles
According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), 14 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have campus-wide bans on the sale of plain bottled water, while another dozen or so have bans that cover a portion of campus.
Conjoined Twins Successfully Separated
Joshua and Jacob Spates, who spent their first seven months outside the womb as conjoined twins, are recovering in the pediatric intensive care unit of a Memphis hospital after a successful 13-hour surgery to separate them.
Just in time for Father’s Day, the White House has announced a year of “Strong Fathers, Strong Families” as part of President Obama’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. The new initiative has five key components. First, the White House coupled with various organizations to create opportunities with dads to connect with kids. In August there will be a day when fathers can bowl free with kids. Group discount websites Living Social and Groupon will also provide ways for fathers to connect with kids in a very simple and meaningful way. Second, for fathers who are out of work or need extra help, the White House program will organize community programs. Third, dads who have overcome financial, personal, and physical obstacles while still being active in the family will be highlighted on Fatherhood.gov. Next, the Department of Education will host “Watch Dog” days when dads of outstanding students can spend a day volunteering their time by reading books, being a hall monitor, etc. Finally, the “Dad Talk” blog on Fatherhood.gov has been revamped as a source for parenting news and tips.
The White House announced today that StopBullying.gov has been launched, a new government-funded website that will be an online resource for kids, parents, and educators that will explain bullying and cyberbullying and provide information on how to prevent and protect against bullying.
As part of the all-day White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, U.S. Secretary of Eduation Arne Duncan and Assistant Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools Kevin Jennings, shared some of the initiatives that have been implemented to support schools across the nation dealing with bullying.
Since 2010, federal funds and grants have been provided to 11 schools with deep-rooted bullying problems, and the grants also include a survey for students give them a voice to address bullying openly. A “Dear Colleague” letter was also sent to schools to address how bullying violates civil rights and a memo was distributed to revise state policies on bullying.
With the launch of StopBullying.gov, the White House encourages parents to be vigilant about having open conversations and giving them guidance on bullying.
Toddler Landon Schultz Eats Only 5 Foods or Goes Into Shock Fallon Schultz, a 28-year-old clinical social worker from Howell, N.J., has known since her son Landon was two weeks old that something was wrong. He had horrible eczema and would scream day and night, projectile vomiting after feeding as if he were allergic to her own breast milk. [ABC News]
Bullying Issue Reaches White House Stage In the wake of increased national attention to the problem of bullying President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are hosting the first ever White House conference on the issue Thursday. [Field Notes-MSNBC]
Happiest in Hawaii: Aloha State Tops Well-Being List Sun and waves might be good for the soul, according to a new national survey naming Hawaii as tops in well-being among U.S. states — but the sunshine doesn’t necessarily elbow out Northern Lights and snow, as Alaska also made the top 10 happiest states list. [Yahoo News]