Announcer: [00:01] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything. Johnson County, here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Theresa Freed: [00:14] Thanks for joining us for Joco On the Go today we're talking about a very timely topic, how to keep our little ones and the older kids mentally and physically healthy during the school year. Of course timely because we've got kids going back to school this week. So an exciting time for them and maybe some parents a little bit nervous about that too. But um, what we want to focus on right now is just how to keep the kids healthy and an important part of that is giving them good nutritious foods. So I'm joined by Laura Grimmett who is the Department of Health and Environment's WIC program manager. Thanks for joining us, Laura.
Laura Grimmett: [00:48] Thank you.
Theresa Freed: [00:49] All right. Laura, can you start off by just telling us a little bit about what the WIC program is?
Laura Grimmett: [00:53] The WIC program is a food supplemental program. Uh, it's also nutrition education program for low income families. We provide foods that are healthy for the clients. Um, such as cereals, milk, uh, cheese, yogurt, juice. We provide whole grain breads and cereals. Um, and um, eggs. Those are some of the foods that we offer.
Theresa Freed: [01:15] All right. Um, kind of want to talk a little bit about what every family probably deals with, which is just how do I get healthy foods into my children? Um, you know, you go to the grocery stores and it always seems like the cheapest stuff out there is also the least nutritious. What are some, some good tips that we can, we can look at for helping families on that path?
Laura Grimmett: [01:38] One of the most important things is planning. Um, so if you can plan ahead of time your meals for the week, it helps, uh, to determine, um, kind of the, the proportion of nutrients and stuff that will be offered in the meals. So one of the things that we encourage is looking for produce that's in season. Um buying those things that are in season. A lot of times when you go into the grocery store, those, uh, fruits and vegetables that are in season are in the front of the produce section. And sometimes on sale. So that's a good time to incorporate those into the meals. Another thing is, um, just instead of buying some of the precut options that are out there, um, it's good to go ahead and slice up some your own fruit, vegetables, those things, have them in little bags handy in the refrigerator or reusable containers, um, that the kids can pull out for snacks and stuff. Um, that will help you save a little bit on money there.
Theresa Freed: [02:33] All right. I've also heard that, um, if you buy the frozen vegetables and fruits, that that's a great way to, to have that stuff accessible and then also keep it fresh for sure for quite a long time.
Laura Grimmett: [02:45] Sure. Um, the frozen fruits and vegetables also can, can be an option as well. Um, the frozen fruits and vegetables, um, are a good, uh, way to incorporate those vitamins and minerals into the kids' diets. A lot of people use frozen fruits and stuff for smoothies. They blend those things up with some yogurt or some milk and offer those for breakfast. That's a good healthy, um, start for a kids day, uh, with the canned fruits and vegetables are the vegetables especially we do recommend like rinsing those off with water because they are, uh, have salt in there to help preserve those things. So if you rinse those off with water, that's certainly a healthy option as well.
Theresa Freed: [03:22] Okay. So another obstacle that families often face is just again, how to get the, the vitamins into their kids, but doing it kind of in a sneaky way, right? Because if a child sees a plate full of vegetables, you know, obviously we want them to appreciate those. But you know, when you're dealing with a toddler or a young child, you can't really compel them with the evidence. You know, you've got to, you've got to do things a little bit different. So, um, do you guys have any, any good tips for how to get some nutritious foods in children without them knowing what's there?
Laura Grimmett: [03:52] Um, well, there's always try mixing it in with other things that they, that you knew that they like. Um, sometimes that works. Um, one of the options that I tell a lot of my families is to mix it in with spaghetti sauce. If they'll eat spaghetti sauce. A lot of kids like spaghetti or put it under the cheese in pizza. Um, those types of things to try to get them to eat some of those things. Um, smoothies are a good way to incorporate, for example, Vitamin A from spinach. Um, it will make a smoothie green, but if you can get them to try it, you really don't taste it. And so that's another way to hide those things. One of the, one of the things that I encourage with my families, um, if they have kids that are picky eaters is go ahead and offer them something in their meal that you know that they will probably eat. And so you're not worried about them not getting anything to eat at that meal, but then also offer something new that you want them to try. Um, offer very, very small portion sizes so that they don't feel, feel overwhelmed by everything that's on their plate. Allow them to let you know if you, if they want more food, um, after they've finished that.
Theresa Freed: [04:57] Okay. Some great advice there. And another thing is the, the fluids that we get. Obviously we want people to be drinking lots of water. That too can be a challenge for, for young kids. They want, you know, the sugary drinks. So what are the best things for, for kids in both, you know, infants and toddlers, but also our older kids. What are the things that we want them to drink and the things that we want them to avoid?
Laura Grimmett: [05:21] Well, we, we usually recommend, um, because we want kids to get enough calcium. Um, in WIC, a lot of times we'll recommend milk with their meals. Uh, we recommend water in between meals because that'll help flush off some of the, um, carbohydrates, sugars and stuff that they have on their teeth between meals. Um, if kids have a hard time drinking water, flavoring it with fruit or putting it in a special, um, cup or something that attracts them to want to drink, that is a good idea.
Theresa Freed: [05:49] Okay. That's some good advice too. I guess, you know, a lot of people wonder why is it so important that kids especially get all those, those nutrients and vitamins when they're, when they're growing up?
Laura Grimmett: [05:59] Well, of course kids have growing bodies and so some of those things are that they're storing in their body. Um, they are, they're gonna stop storing it later on. Uh, calcium is one they need to get the calcium in, um, while they're younger. And so those types of things they, they do need and to, um, help promote, um, good growth.
Theresa Freed: [06:20] Okay. That's great information. And we might add, um, the K-State extension office is another great resource here in Johnson County. I know you guys do a lot of work with them to encourage nutritious eating on a budget especially. So, um, how is that helpful to some of our residents?
Laura Grimmett: [06:35] We work with the extension at times? Um, a lot of times they will do cooking demonstrations for us and so we also have a WIC garden in our Olathe location, um, that we use to show families how to make healthy meals with the produce that's offered. So extension has helped us out a lot with that.
Theresa Freed: [06:54] All right. Some great programs here in Johnson County. You mentioned the phone number, if people need more information about the program. I understand we also have some information online, is that right?
Laura Grimmett: [07:03] Yes, that's correct. They can go to Johnson county government website. Um, it's under Health and Environment and under WIC and you can find out how to, um, or if you might qualify for the program. The income guidelines are on there.
Theresa Freed: [07:17] All right. Just one last thing, some final words of encouragement to families as we entered the school year and are trying to eat nutritiously.
Laura Grimmett: [07:25] I would say just make sure that you offer a variety of foods to your kids. Um, children need to eat like four to five times a day and so don't forget about those snacks in between meals. Um, have some healthy options available after the kids get home from school and also make sure to feed them breakfast in the mornings. It helps them concentrate, be read or be ready for school and be more prepared.
Theresa Freed: [07:47] All right. Thanks so much. That's Laura Grimmett with the Department of Health and Environment WIC program manager. Thanks for joining us today. All right, thank you. We're continuing our conversation about how to keep our families healthy, especially during the school year. Everybody's really busy with getting back to school. And one aspect of that is making sure that you're up to date on your immunizations. And so I'm joined now with Nancy Tausz. Did I get that right?
Nancy Tausz: [08:09] Yes, perfect. You did it perfect.
Theresa Freed: [08:11] Okay. Uh, our Health Services Division Director for the Department of Health and Environment. I got all the title in there, right?
Nancy Tausz: [08:17] There you go. Yes, you did.
Theresa Freed: [08:19] So the first thing we're going to talk about, um, we recently learned there are some new requirements that came out of the states, um, as far as immunizations are concerned. And can you tell us what those are?
Nancy Tausz: [08:30] Sure. Uh, this year, uh, the state came out with two new vaccines that are required for Kansas, a Hepatitis, A vaccine, and meningitis vaccine.
Theresa Freed: [08:38] Okay. And those are vaccines that were optional before or there? I mean, what was the...
Nancy Tausz: [08:44] Yes, they were, uh, we've been, uh, they've been around for awhile. Uh, but they were recommended, highly recommended, but they were not required.
Theresa Freed: [08:50] Okay. And so this is for children entering school? Would it be any age or...
Nancy Tausz: [08:56] It's it's different. It's different. Uh, what they've done with the state did was pretty smart. They've kind of phased in. So not everybody in Johnson County or Kansas needed these vaccines this year right away, which would have been, uh, quite a quite a feat. So this year for kindergarten, first grade Hepatitis A is required. You need two doses and seventh grade you need one dose of meningitis. And the Tdap is also requirements for 7th grade. And then 11th grade you need a dose of meningitis. And that's if you have not been vaccinated previously with that vaccine.
Theresa Freed: [09:27] Okay. And I don't know if you, you know, the answer to this, but why is, why is this happening now?
Nancy Tausz: [09:33] It's been on the radar, uh, for the Department of Health and Environment for a while. I mean, these vaccines are very important. Other states have them as requirements and we just thought it was, it was time to go ahead with, with both of them at the same time.
Theresa Freed: [09:48] Okay. So for example, tomorrow my son is going to the doctor to, to get his, um, his checkup before the school year starts. So do I need to ask the doctor? You know, what are the things I need to, to send my son off to school.
Nancy Tausz: [10:01] Right, right. Well, first of all, how old is your son?
Theresa Freed: [10:04] Seven.
Nancy Tausz: [10:04] Seven, okay. And what grade?
Theresa Freed: [10:06] Going into second.
Nancy Tausz: [10:07] Okay. Second Grade. So, uh, yeah, I would for sure ask the doctor what else does he need? Has he had all the vaccines that are required and recommended also? Uh, he probably has, but he would miss that requirement this year if he's going into second grade. But being as young as he is in his age, he's probably had a Hepatitis A vaccine already. It's been a, a requirement for daycares and childcare facilities for a while. So, but yes, be sure to ask your healthcare provider, what is the status of my child's vaccines?
Theresa Freed: [10:37] Okay. In our health departments are offering these vaccines as well.
Nancy Tausz: [10:40] Yes. Yes we are. Yes we are. So please call us if you have questions too. We have you two sites, Olathe and Mission, but you can also get these vaccines, as I said, from your healthcare provider or some of the pharmacies also offer the vaccine.
Theresa Freed: [10:52] Okay. That's great information. So along those lines, we've got additional vaccines that may be required, especially for our older children. Right?
Nancy Tausz: [11:01] Right, right, right. Again, like I said, the older you can look at the seventh graders or the [11th graders, there's vaccines that are highly recommended for adolescents and that would be the Tdap vaccine, which is the adult pertussis vaccine, an HPV vaccine. And again, that meningitis. That's what we look at when an adolescent comes in, say, you know, an 11 to 18 year old and say these are recommended. And again, you'll get some of the required in there, but you also get the recommended.
Theresa Freed: [11:30] Okay. And so, uh, the other thing we want to talk about is we heard a lot in the news about a measles outbreak. Um, so how has that impacted Johnson County and what's come of that?
Nancy Tausz: [11:41] Well, thank goodness that we haven't had a cases of measles, measles this year. We had a, last year we did, we had the outbreak in the daycare. Uh, measles. We've had a lot of, of people, both young infants up to seniors ask us about MMR. Am I protected? Do I have the right vaccines? Do I need another vaccine? Especially people that are traveling. Uh, yes. So we've seen a lot, a lot of people requesting MMR vaccine. A lot of people maybe that were reluctant to be vaccinated before have come in and specifically asked for MMR vaccine. We've tried to stress that when you travel, if you have an infant under a year to go ahead and get a dose of MMR, even though that's earlier than the requirement, if they're over six months of age to go ahead and get that vaccine when they travel.
Theresa Freed: [12:30] And speaking of infants, I know a lot of new parents worry because there's so many vaccines that are just back to back to back early on. Are there, I guess good tips for parents to kind of ease their mind in terms of, um, any kind of side effects or, or anything like that?
Nancy Tausz: [12:46] I think it's just important to remember that vaccine preventable diseases are still out there. Again, look at the measles. We see mumps all the time. We see chickenpox. It's just very important to vaccinate your children against vaccine preventable disease. Uh, I think we forget the diseases are as horrible and have as many, um, uh, side effects or, uh, just bad, bad things would happen, you know, death. Uh, deafness. Uh, it's just, it's just very important to vaccinate your children.
Theresa Freed: [13:17] All right. That's some great advice. Um, so just the last section we want to talk about is flu shots. Everybody always wonders are they effective? When do I get them?
Nancy Tausz: [13:25] Yes. Flu Vaccine. It's very important for anybody six months and up to get a, get a flu shot. Uh, yes, they, they are effective. You, you see both though. It's only 20% or 30%. If you remember, there's three viruses in the flu vaccine. Um, you can still get the flu, but you might not get as sick or you might get one of the, the strains and the flu vaccine and not the other ones had the vaccine protected you against the other ones. Um, once you have the flu, you'll remember because you're very sick. Uh, it's just, especially, especially adults, older adults, children, and again, we hear, you know, people die from the flu, but it's just very, very important because again, it gives you some protection, uh, with older people too. You might get pneumonia as, as a, as a secondary, a disease from that, which is extremely dangerous. And again, it can keep people from dying or keep them from going into the hospital.
Theresa Freed: [14:18] Okay. And the flu season, when, when does that hit?
Nancy Tausz: [14:20] A flu season really is, I, you know, normal flu season as say, from October to March, uh, at, but again, uh, some, some vaccines ships as early as August. Uh, it's, it's certainly okay to get it. Uh, and we, if you have infants again check with your physician or the health department, there's different schedules for infants, different vaccines that should be given to infants. Uh, and there's uh, for older, uh, people, there's the high risk vaccine or there's another vaccine that's for 50 and up that, uh, we offered last year, we ran out at the health department last year that that's another, um, uh, well may, maybe four. It's a four strain. It's maybe works a little more beneficial than the regular regular vaccine strain. You don't have to make an appointment, just, just come in and check our uh, hours on the website because our Mission site is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But uh, Olathe is open five days a week and there are late hours on a Wednesday night, uh, till 6:30.
Theresa Freed: [15:16] All right. That's some great information and thank you for all the details. Nancy. Again, Nancy with the Department of Health and Environment, talking about vaccinations.
Nancy Tausz: [15:23] Thank you.
Theresa Freed: [15:25] All right. Our focus is on how to keep our kids physically and mentally healthy and for more on the mental health aspect of that. I'm joined now by Renee Van Meter. She's a team leader with Johnson County Mental Health and I also have with me Rory Swanson. He's a student at Blue Valley North High School and he's also an executive board member for the Zero Reasons Why campaign. Thank you guys for joining us today.
Renee Van Meter: [15:48] You're welcome. And thank you.
Rory Swanson: [15:50] Yeah, thank you for having us.
Theresa Freed: [15:51] All right, the start of the school year of course can create some anxiety for you know, any child, but what are some of the common concerns, Renee, that you're hearing?
Renee Van Meter: [15:59] Absolutely. I just want to say that, um, all children of all ages are going to experience fear of the unknown. So if you've got a kiddo transitioning into a new school that they've never been into, um, right that the new grade, that's a new school, the elementary to middle, the middle to high school, um, that's tough. That's a different world. Um, it's also the hard transition between summer and the school year and just having that abrupt stop. There's a lot of concerns about how can I, will I wake up on time? Will I get there on time? Will I know what I'm doing? Overwhelming.
Theresa Freed: [16:33] That makes sense. So what are the things that parents can maybe do to help with that transition?
Renee Van Meter: [16:39] Absolutely. I have got a really long list that I will just highlight a few from. Um, the first day is any encouragement, um, from parents, your peers, yourself to have that positive mindset and that positive mantra. It's going to get you really far. Um, so I wanna include, think and speak positively about yourself. Um, if you can visit your school, right? We love that. Get yourself familiar with nurse's office, with maybe the school counselor's office, the front office, and if you've got a locker practice, that combination. That can be really anxiety provoking when you've got a couple of minutes between classes like that. That's scary. The other one I'm going to highlight is routine and routines. Gotta exist in the morning before school. It's gotta be inclusive of afterschool, evening and bedtime.
Theresa Freed: [17:22] Okay. That's some great advice. And on the locker, um, issue. I remember walking my little brother on his first day of high school to his locker to make sure he could get his, his locker open. So that is really important. I totally agree. All right, so is there a point where parents really need to worry that this is more than just a general, like one time issue that there's a concern that maybe we need to do something more?
Renee Van Meter: [17:44] Yeah, great question. I appreciate you asking it. Um, the message that I always like to send is parents, you have got your eyes and your ears on your kiddos, um, a lot and you know them better than anyone. So when you see something change dramatically, uh, my advice is, right, talk, listen, look. And you've gotta be willing to do that with your kiddos and you've gotta be as awkward as it might feel or sound, uh, to approach your kid and just ask them, hey, what's going on? I've noticed, um, and we're going to say, notice sleep patterns dramatically change. Notice social patterns dramatically change, um, like isolation or a complete change in a peer group. Um, ask questions and um, if, if you're not able to, to do that, uh, reach out for help.
Theresa Freed: [18:32] Okay. And there were of course, resources available at our mental health facilities.
Nancy Tausz: [18:35] Absolutely.
Rory Swanson: [18:36] Okay, perfect. All Right, Rory, you come from a slightly different perspective because you're kind of in the thick of this, right? You're in the classrooms, you're surrounded by peers, some of them um kind of dealing with some of that anxiety. And so can you talk about, um, the importance of having a strong peer support system at school and then kind of how do you develop that?
Rory Swanson: [18:54] Right. So having a strong peer support system is something that you need to have as a goal. Going into high school and continuing over from Middle School, uh, switching over from eighth grade to freshman year as Renee showed his con can be extremely stressful. But, uh, something that I did for example, is I joined cross country. I'm a horrible runner. It's not in my blood at all, but I knew that I'd make lots of friends if I did it. And I think if as long as you can dedicate yourself to something and find other students who share an interest that you do, even if you're not good at it, you can make some friends and then grow that support system from there. Cause they'll have friends as well. You'll hang out together and it'll just create a strong support system for you as well as clubs in the school. So I actually started a club and that is focused on connecting peers from freshmen to seniors cause it's good to have role models across grades and peer support systems can be developed, you know, all throughout high school. It doesn't have to be freshman freshmen.
Theresa Freed: [19:44] Okay. That's some great advice. And then can you tell us a little bit about the zero reasons why campaign? How did that get started in, in what is that exactly.
Rory Swanson: [19:51] Right. So the Zero Reasons Why campaign is a campaign started by the superintendents of the Johnson County school districts. All the public schools came together and they had these monthly meetings and they decided that they wanted to focus on one important issue and they decided that to be mental health. And so the Zero Reasons Why campaign was created as a focus of, uh, mobilizing students to help address the problems. Cause normally they approach it as the top down system where it's a parents telling the kids, this is how you can deal stress issues. But the, the idea here was to mobilize kids so they, they themselves can tell their peers this is how you can handle these issues and then maybe a shoulder, there for you, it's really focused more on helping kids help other kids and starting and flipping their system where, you know, as an executive board member, I'm teaching the superintendents how to teach the kids, right? So it, it's a lot more involving the younger kids and getting, uh, the important perspectives that they can provide.
Theresa Freed: [20:46] And how do kids get involved in that?
Rory Swanson: [20:48] Right? So, uh, on it. So it's, there's representatives in every school and as long as you can just reach out to them, email your principal, they all have the contact information. Uh, there's tons of different banners and actually every single school has a banner there like 20 feet wide. Uh, and so there's 20 of them and it's amazing cause you can all go up and put a sticky note on. So, uh, when the banner postings happen, uh, kids came up and asked, how can I join, how can I become a member? So we have tons of student ambassadors, multiple in every school that come and volunteer at our events and attend the rallies.
Theresa Freed: [21:19] Okay. That's awesome. And a great, a great way to get started in building that peer support group if you wanna get involved in that. Yeah. Program. So, uh, we also want to mention that Johnson County Mental Health is launching its own podcast and that's happening the first week of September and it's called "It's Okay If You're Not Ok." And that is a conversation style podcast that brings mental health to your everyday life. So, of course, look for that soon. Well, thank you both for joining us today.
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