Fighting Hunger Through Food

Long View: Solving Hunger One Bite at a Time

It seems I might be a little fixated on food. A number of friends and family members seem to think I live mealtime to mealtime, which may explain my recent weight gain. As many of us enjoy Central Illinois’ bounty, it’s important to remember many of our neighbors are not so lucky.

In Illinois, we are fortunate to have access to food banks across the state. Julie Melton is the director of Marketing and Development at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank (EIF). They distribute millions of pounds of food to over 100,000 individuals across their network of more than 220 sites. She told me, “Based on our Hunger in America Study, a full third of the seniors in the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s service area experience food insecurity rates of 15 percent to 41 percent. In some areas, more than 42 percent of seniors are food insecure, which is among the highest rates of senior hunger in Illinois.”

You can help fight food insecurity, which means someone doesn’t have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food.

“Every $1 donation can buy $10 worth of food or provide 6 meals for neighbors in our community,” Melton said.

Jim Hires, executive director at the EIF, said, “Older American food insecurity is a growing problem. Addressing senior hunger has become an increasingly major concern and focus across the nation, and especially in our 14-county region. The Eastern Illinois Foodbank and our agency partners are committing more of our resources to this issue in the coming months and long term.”

Donating and volunteering at your local food pantry or soup kitchen are better ways to give. Your nearest food bank will be thankful for any support you offer. Search for one nearby at FeedingIllinois.org.

Solving hunger won’t happen overnight. But we can all help one small bite at a time. There are people in all of our communities who don’t have enough to eat. After seeing these statistics, I am more thankful for my food. I bet you will be, too.

Washington Beauty

Wowed by Washington: Illinois Native Trades Cornfields for Orchards

Emily Beach, a Health Alliance employee in the Communications Department, visited Washington to learn more about the members we serve and what it’s like to live in North Central Washington.

I was overjoyed at the chance to visit North Central Washington and learn more about the area and the Health Alliance Medicare members we serve.

I had been to the Olympic Peninsula, but knew the other side of the mountain held experiences untapped. My 3-day tour featured a first-time health fair, tours of everything from hockey rinks to senior centers, and a run along the Columbia River.

It was important for me to visit Washington because I knew the population was as diverse as the geography. Health care and coverage isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it’s so important for us to know our members. My goal wasn’t just to see the beautiful sights, but to see what is important to the people living in North Central Washington.

And my goal now that I’m back in Illinois is to translate those hopes, joys and lessons into our communications with Health Alliance Medicare members to support our employees who live and work there, too.

My first day in Washington was cut short. Travel woes struck me and my travel partner, Ericka Williams, who leads the Health Alliance Medicare sales team. A couple flight delays and a missed connection put us in Wenatchee after midnight. The next morning, with the help of some coffee, we headed to the Wenatchee YMCA for the first local National Senior Health & Fitness Day event.

We were both thrilled with how well the Health Alliance Medicare event came together. More than 100 visitors tried new fitness classes, got a health screening and talked with a variety of vendors. Shannon Sims, our community liaison, worked so hard to make the event a success. And we couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wenatchee YMCA.

SS Class

Event participants enjoy a SilverSneakers class at the Wenatchee YMCA.

Emily and Shannon

Shannon and I representing Health Alliance Medicare at the first local National Senior Health and Fitness Day.

HA Booth

 

After the event, we walked to McGlinn’s for lunch. I tried the famous beer bread and enjoyed a white garlic pizza. The pub was inviting and fun, and the food delicious! We were also excited to hear our waitress was a Health Alliance Medicare member. I love hearing what our members have to say about how much they like their plans from us. I’m glad she spoke up on seeing our Health Alliance shirts and badges!

McGlinn's

 

Shannon was the “hostess with the mostess” for the whole trip.

Her passion for the community is truly infectious. She inspired me to kick my jet lag after lunch and head over to Quincy. I loved seeing the orchards along the way. Shannon explained how to tell the difference between cherry and apple orchards and pointed out the signs labeling the different types of apples. I was also surprised at how quickly the landscape changed from the desert cliffs in Wenatchee to the fields of Grant County.

And there were tumbleweeds! My previous trip did not prepare me for that.

After our drive through Grant County, Shannon got me back to Wenatchee, where Ericka and I grabbed some grub at Pybus Public Market. Public markets are not common in Illinois, and I loved the fresh air and atmosphere. I truly think spaces like that bring communities together. We ate at South, where I enjoyed a shrimp burrito with a kick!

Pybus

I loved visiting Pybus Public Market. The open space with local roots is perfect for building community.

Though fatigue was definitely knocking, I knew I had to squeeze in a run on the Loop Trail along the Columbia River. I didn’t brave the full 13 miles, but I enjoyed a nice three-mile jog and sunset on the river. What a beautiful place!

Columbia

How could I not enjoy a run with a view like this?!

This was just day one! Check back early next week for more stories from my trip!

Save

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Air Quality Index

Keeping Track of Air Quality

Just like a stoplight tells you when to go, the Air Quality Index (AQI) tells you when it’s safe to go outside and how clean the air is to breathe.

Across America, the AQI tracks smog, pollution from cars, soil dust, pollen, and ash. Every day, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) gives the air quality a color.

Green is the best, and as it goes from green to yellow to orange, the air gets less clean.

Poor air quality is a threat to everyone’s health, but children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems need to be even more careful. The worse the air, the more likely it will trigger an asthma flare-up.

Green is when it’s perfect to play outside, but as it changes colors, slow down or maybe even stay in.

AQI Color

AQI Status

Advice

Green

Good

Enjoy the outdoors.

Yellow

Moderate

Enjoy the outdoors, but maybe limit how long you’re outside.

Orange

Unhealthy for elderly, kids, and those with breathing problems

Take it easy, and if you’re at risk, think about staying inside.

Red

Unhealthy

Stay inside.

Purple

Very unhealthy

Stay inside.

Maroon

Hazardous

Definitely stay inside.

 

Before you head out, you can check the day’s color at AirNow, and protect yourself from the start.

Planning for All Stages of Life

Vantage Point: Tackling the Tough Subjects

My Mom tries to have this conversation with me that starts, “Shannon, if something bad happens…”

I usually cut her off. “Mom I am not ready to talk about this yet; we have time.”

The truth is if something unforeseen happens, I am not clear on her wishes.

There are many reasons any of us may need help with caring for our personal, financial, and health needs. The most common are part of the aging process. Estate planning, durable power of attorney, trustees, living wills, and guardianship all sound daunting, but their true purpose is to find the best means to care for those in need. This is possible by planning ahead now.

A health care durable power of attorney can be any person 18 or older who you trust to make health care decisions for you.  Anyone taking on the role of power of attorney, trustee, or guardian (whether they be a family member, a professional, or court-appointed) should be a good communicator and have the loyalty and commitment to follow your wishes to the best of their ability.

An estate planner can help you and those close to you understand important information, but can be expensive. Aging and Adult Care offices of Central Washington has a living will kit called “Five Wishes,” which is a legal way to document who you want to take care of you, what kind of medical treatment you want, how comfortable you want to be, how you want to be treated, and what you want your loved ones to know. That is a great option for making your wishes known.

At Health Alliance Medicare, we work hard to try to take good care of our member’s physical and mental health to ensure they have the most graceful golden years possible.  We also encourage you to think ahead to make future health care decisions that are in your best interest. This includes tackling the tough subjects, such as end of life care.  From what I have learned the topic, though hard to discuss, is too important put off.

I am going to start by asking, “Mom, just in case something bad happens…what are your wishes?”

Health Alliance On-Call for You

Like New Nurse Line, This Director is Always On-Call

Jane Elliott lives and breathes Health Alliance. She has for years.

“My work is my hobby. We have so many great things going on. Leading efforts to help members doesn’t feel like work to me,” said Jane, Quality & Medical Management director.

Jane also loves our new 24-hour Anytime Nurse Line. Beginning July 1, all Health Alliance members can call 1-855-802-4612 to get help:

• Deciding if they need to see a doctor right away or set up a visit
• Coping with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and more
• Finding health care resources

Jane also played a key role in enhancing our wellness benefit. But, she and her team want members to know that if they go in for a wellness visit, they could still get a bill. Adding non-wellness needs into this appointment could result in costs.

”Your doctor might ask, ‘Do you have other things you’d like to talk about?'” she said. “This may lead to topics  that aren’t part of the free wellness benefit.”

To make sure your visit is covered as part of the free wellness benefit, Jane says be clear with your doctor about this appointment up front.

“Tell your doctor you want to focus on your wellness needs. If non-wellness needs come up that aren’t urgent, you can set up a follow-up visit,” she said.

Jane also knows wellness means a healthy work-life balance, even if  the lines blur when she works outside standard work  hours.

“I’m very family-focused, and I feel Health Alliance and our members are part of my extended family,” she said.

Blood Sugar Maintenance

Tips for Managing Your Blood Sugar

Stress and Your Blood Sugar

Everyday stress can make your diabetes  worse by triggering hormones that change blood sugar. Plus, when you’re stressed out, you’re less likely to practice good self-care.

According to Livestrong, stress causes blood glucose to rise by releasing two hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase your glucose in order to help reduce your stress.

Stress can make you emotional, which for many people can lead to binge eating. People usually turn to foods filled with sugar and carbohydrates for comfort, which raise your blood sugar.

To cope with stress and reduce its impact, try to:

  • Breathe deeply. Practice breathing slowly and deeply at least once a day to calm yourself.
  • Move more. Even simple exercises like a quick walk or dancing around the living room can make you feel better.
  • Focus on the positive. Find something you enjoy that takes your mind off whatever is causing your stress.
  • Practice good self-care. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

Move More

Outdoor play helps keep your blood sugar in check. It’s also a great way to have fun with your friends and family.

Do something you love or would like to try. Here are some ideas to get you started!

  • Go fishing at a local lake.
  • Try hiking in a nearby state park.
  • Plant a family garden in your backyard.
  • Ride your bike through your neighborhood.
  • Go roller skating, walking, or running with a friend.
  • Play a backyard sport like basketball or catch with your family.

Remember to check your blood sugar before starting. You might need to eat an extra snack if it’s too low.

If you’re leaving home, pack testing gear, meds, extra snacks, and water. Wear your medical ID bracelet and bring contact numbers and a copy of your emergency plan.

Diabetes shouldn’t stop you from having fun. Just plan ahead so you have what you need, and always take a break right away if you start feeling dizzy.

Planning Ahead

You can never be too prepared with your diabetes. Take time to pack a diabetes emergency kit now before an emergency strikes. Here are some important items for packing the perfect kit:

  • A 3-day supply of:
    • Medicines, marked with their name and correct dose
    • Insulin
    • Insulin pump
    • Lancets
    • Syringes
  • Extra batteries
  • Alcohol wipes for cleaning the injection area
  • A cooler for storing insulin and meds
  • Flashlight, in case you lose power
  • Medical ID bracelet to help first responders quickly know your needs. Your tag should have:
    • Your name
    • Diabetes, insulin pump, or insulin dependent
    • Known allergies
    • Medicines
    • Emergency contact numbers
  • A list of your meds and doses
  • A blood sugar log to help you keep track of your numbers in an emergency
  • Drinks and snacks like water, juice, fruit cups, and hard candies
  • Your doctor’s name and contact information
  • Emergency contact information with cell and work phone numbers, emails, and home addresses

Be sure to update your kit with new meds and supplies as things change. Also, mark on your calendar when your supplies and meds will expire.

There is no better time than now!

Work Up a Sweat with a Workout Buddy

Sweat Glands Work Better in Pairs

There’s something special about being part of a group. Spoken or unspoken, you rest easier knowing, “We’re in this together.”

You experience that feeling when you exercise in groups, too. Research shows those who sweat socially, like with a workout buddy, are more likely to stick with their fitness plan and see success.

In a Baylor University study, after teaching 53 female college students a specific weight-training workout, the researchers told them to do it on their own 3-days a week for 6 weeks.

Can you guess what happened? Every single one of them quit the study.

A workout buddy doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes success more likely, a review of 87 studies on 50,000 people found this link to be clea).

Still not convinced? Here are 5 more reasons to think about grabbing a friend and workout buddy before hitting the gym:

  1. Time flies. This isn’t to say your 60-minute workout will be easy, but instead of constantly watching the clock, you can catch up on each other’s lives between sets, laugh, and have fun.
  2. No more Debbie Downer. Who likes canceling plans with a friend? If your workout partner is counting on you to be there, you’ll be less likely to bail.
  3. Share a babysitter. If your gym doesn’t have a kid center, share the cost of a sitter.
  4. Keep perspective. Most of us are hard on ourselves. When you have workout buddies, they can help you see your progress and remind you of how far you’ve come.
  5. Stay on track. Not only do friends help you see how far you’ve come, they also keep you thinner. Harvard University researchers found that a person’s risk of becoming obese goes up by 2% for every 5 obese friends or family members he or she has. Yikes!

Give social sweating a try, and let us know what you think.

And if you’re looking for a gym to join, check out our Fitness Discounts section.

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