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A homegrown solution PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editorial Board   
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 17:38

A summer school garden that has demonstrated children can be taught to eat healthily could grow into an effective way to combat childhood obesity

Ozaukee County schools do a good job teaching reading, writing, math, science, art and music. But like schools throughout the nation, they have yet to develop a curriculum that adequately addresses what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the epidemic of obesity in this county.

Obesity is a societal problem, but one that falls largely on the shoulders of schools because of the scary realization that this country is raising generations of children to become overweight and unhealthy adults.

According to the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, the number of overweight American children ages 6 to 11 has more than doubled over the last 20 years. In 2000, 15% of the children in this country were overweight.

Wisconsin, of course, is not immune to the problem. More than 10% of our high school students are overweight.

The news gets worse. An American Heart Association study found that 10% of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight, a 7% increase over the last decade.

Researchers say there is a 30% chance that overweight preschool-aged children will grow up to become overweight adults plagued by health problems that include diabetes, heart disease and depression. What this suggests is our society and our schools aren’t doing enough to teach children how to live healthy lives.

It’s not that schools haven’t responded to the epidemic of obesity. Health classes have become a standard part of the curriculum and today’s phy-ed courses teach children how to exercise. Schools also encourage children to remain active by offering a wide variety of sports and promoting activities such as bicycling and running.

When it comes to nutrition, however, students are receiving a mixed message. In the classroom, they are taught to eat healthily, but in the school cafeteria they are fed chicken nuggets, French fries, nachos and foot-long hot dogs based in part on the assumption that children won’t eat healthy food.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope growing in a small, city-lot garden not far from Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Washington. Here, students in the Port Washington-Saukville School District summer school gardening class are growing a cornucopia of produce — squash, watermelons, beans, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, artichokes and herbs.

They are learning how to grow vegetables, but more important, they are learning to eat vegetables.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it because the food is delicious,” 12-year-old Lexi Wiebelhaus told Ozaukee Press.

Eleven-year-old Luke Chatfield asked a reporter, “Have you ever tasted raw broccoli? It’s great.”

The garden was the brainchild of Sandy and Steve Sandlin, old hands at gardening who for years operated the successful community supported agriculture (CSA) program at Afterglow Farm in the Town of Port Washington.

The couple approached the school district with their idea for an educational garden, then found a generous partner in the Harbor Campus senior living complex not far from the middle school, which donated land for the garden and use of its greenhouse.

“Eight of the 25 kids in my class had never eaten broccoli before this,” Mrs. Sandlin said. “If we are going to change the way this country eats, we’re going to have to start with the children.”

The Sandlins envision forming a nonprofit organization to help fund a garden that could be incorporated into the school curriculum.

Their idea is not so far-fetched and is exactly what is being promoted by programs like the Wisconsin Department of Heath Services’ Got Dirt? Gardening initiative, which promotes healthy eating by teaching kids how to grow their own food.

The Sandlins’ dream is a reality at the Troy Kids’ Garden in central Wisconsin. Every year, the program teaches more than 1,000 Madison-area children how to grow their own vegetables, many of which they prepare and eat in cooking classes or take home for their families.

There are challenges involved in expanding the garden program into the regular school year, not the least of which is our short growing season, but they are manageable. Classes are in session for the beginning and end of the growing season. Donated greenhouse space could be used by students to start plants. Instead of trying to squeeze a new class into an already busy school day, the garden could become part of the science, math and, in particular, health curriculums.

A school garden is worth serious consideration because of the many lessons it can teach students. The most important benefit for children is that it could be the seed of a homegrown solution to the national epidemic of childhood obesity.

Dog days PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editorial Board   
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 14:33

Port is right to try to accommodate dog owners, but it should be understood that it is not the city’s responsibility to provide for the exercising of pets

An unleashed dog jumped on the writer of this editorial as he was running on the Port Washington public beach a few Sundays ago. It was a rather small dog and its leap against the legs of the runner was an act of exuberance rather than hostility. Nonetheless, the dog’s sharp claws scratched the runner’s leg and drew a bit of blood.

The man and woman who owned the dog apologized. The jumped-upon man replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, but I have to say this is a classic example of why the city is trying to enforce its leash law on the beach. I don’t mind you walking your dog, but I have a right to use the beach without being harassed by uncontrolled pets.”

The woman became quite indignant, and said, “I’m a taxpayer and I have rights too.”

Her comment pretty much sums up why the Common Council has been under pressure from dog owners for weeks to relax the ordinance requiring their pets to be leashed on the beach and other public places: Some dog owners feel that allowing the animals to run freely on public property is an entitlement.

It isn’t. The city has no responsibility to provide opportunities for pets to get the exercise they and their owners might want.

The council has been lectured chapter and verse on the benefits to dogs of vigorous exercise, the kind they get running on the beach and retrieving objects thrown in the water. No one disputes that’s great for the dogs, but it is simply not the city’s responsibility to provide for the fitness of pets.

On the other hand, it is evident that a great many Port Washington residents derive great joy from the companionship of dogs and that they consider walking with them a rewarding way to enjoy this beautiful city.

Their feelings matter. Which is why the Common Council has been considering various compromises intended to give dog owners and their pets some of the freedom they crave.

Of the two possibilities now on the table, one has no merit. That is the proposal that dogs be allowed unleashed on the south public beach, but not on the north beach. If free-running dogs are unacceptable on one beach, the same applies to the other. The effect of making the south beach the “dog beach” would likely be to discourage non-dog owners from using what will soon be one of the city’s prime recreational amenities, with better access than the north beach.

A second option is Ald. Jim Vollmar’s proposal to let dogs on the north beach, but for just two hours a day. Something along these lines—limited use of the beach by pets—might be the best that can come out of this dispute.

It has been frequently been said by dog owners during this summer of their discontent that Port Washington should be a “dog-friendly” city. We agree. And that’s always how we’ve thought of Port Washington, whose sidewalks on any given day are well populated by dogs—most of them well behaved—and their proud owners. It’s a nice to see—a sign of folks enjoying a very nice small town.

But police did not decide on a whim to suddenly begin enforcing the leash law. They acted in response to numerous complaints about uncontrolled dogs, especially on the beach. Being dog-friendly does not mean the city has to cede the public’s right to enjoy public spaces to misbehaving dogs. And it doesn’t give dog owners some sort of taxpayer’s right, as the woman on beach claimed, to flout a law that has been part of the municipal code for many years.

If everyone could agree on that, Port Washington’s lingering dog days might finally end.

No need for Big Brother to watch PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press Editorial Board   
Wednesday, 21 July 2010 16:09

Downtown Port Washington doesn’t need 24/7 closed-circuit TV monitoring; it needs more police boots on the ground

The knuckleheads who broke down two trees in downtown Port Washington last week managed to accomplish quite a bit with a few seconds of mindless vandalism: They destroyed two growing things intended to provide beauty and shade; they picked the taxpayers’ pockets for $550, the cost of replacing the trees; and they restarted the discussion about installing TV cameras to provide round-the-clock surveillance of the downtown.

The vandals are creeps, but the notion of trying to keep them and their ilk in check with electronic surveillance of everyone who happens to be downtown is a creepy idea.

Is this what we’ve come to: Welcome to Port Washington, a beautiful small town, where life is good, small-town family values abide, there is a first-rate police force and crime is rare but, by the way, our downtown is so lawless we have to monitor the streets with TV cameras 24/7?

Yes, it’s true that millions of people in the world are watched surreptitiously by security cameras everyday. Nearly every square inch of London is surveilled. There was enough  TV surveillance of New York’s Time Square to help catch a would-be terrorist last spring. Anyone who watches local television news knows that convenience stores in high-crime areas of Milwaukee are monitored by closed-circuit TV cameras. (This provides plenty of broadcast footage of criminals at work, but seems to have little effect on the crime rate.)

But Port Washington isn’t like any of these places, which is one of the best things it has going for it. People don’t have to surrender their privacy to live here safely.

Let’s face it: Downtown vandalism, while wholly unacceptable and the cause of justified rage, amounts to something less than a crime wave. Four or five trees have been destroyed over two years, plants have been uprooted from planters a number of times.

The vandalism takes place in a four-block stretch of Franklin Street late at night. It doesn’t take a crack detective to deduce that it’s being done by customers of downtown taverns. (Which means the vandals are adults, a demoralizing thought—they’re old enough to vote. With luck, they won’t exercise the right.)

Protecting the trees and plants and other downtown property, public and private, boils down to scaring off or arresting a few drunks during a relatively short period of time in a fairly small area. That’s not a job for electronic eavesdropping; it a job for the police.

A police officer on foot or on a bike, maybe a squad car parked prominently on the street near bar closing time, would go a long way toward keeping trees and flowers safe, and perhaps help keep the public safe too if a few drunken drivers were nabbed in the process.

The effectiveness of Port police officers when they are on a downtown beat has been proven time and again. In fact, officers saved trees twice in the last week, once on Fish Day when they encountered an inebriated woman trying to climb a spindly, young tree, and another time when unruly tavern patrons were found violently shaking a tree.

Tavern owners should offer to help. How about a reward, advertised on posters in bars, for information leading to apprehension of vandals? Besides discouraging bad behavior, this would polish the image of these downtown businesses. Thanks to the recent vandalism, they’re getting some bad PR at the moment.

Police Chief Richard Thomas told Ozaukee Press he is planning to try out the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department’s newly-acquired mobile TV surveillance system downtown. That would apparently be occasional monitoring, and maybe something good will come of it, but we’re guessing that when it comes to downtown vandalism, police time will prove to be better spent walking the streets than looking at them on TV screen.

Let’s not let a few drunks label Port Washington a town that can’t control its main street without electronic eavesdropping.

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