Finding unity through the crisis

By Jamie Willmann

In a time where much dissension exists, where the world is hurting out of a lack of love and community, and where isolation has hindered social interaction, we can find a sense of connection in the most unexpected places.

There is benefit in meeting someone who is experiencing the same trials or pain we are going through. Though we may all come from differing backgrounds, we can find unity in this COVID-19 disaster by digging a little under the surface. Underneath, we still find persons who have emotions and feelings that are directly affected by the state of the world. 

Finding commonality in trials breeds possible connection. When we relate to one another, sympathy is present. It creates a sense of safety knowing that someone knows what we are experiencing. We may not feel as lonely in our trials anymore, and it creates an internal sense of validation. 

People across the world are experiencing an influx of changes to their normal routines. By nature, we are adaptable to new environments and changes, but the pandemic is entirely on a new scale. It is bringing new situations that we never thought possible. 

We are not designed to be isolated from others. We crave community and the presence of others. As we now adjust to something that goes against our nature, problems arise. Anxiety increases, and irritability becomes present. 

In the moments when you feel COVID-19 has shattered your daily life, imagine that you are standing at the edge of potential for growth. Although you may feel anxious, depressed, or fearful, you also share in the fact that there is growth that can come out of this. You, however, have to choose that path. 

The first step is acknowledging you need help and then accepting a helping hand from your neighbor. 

There is a conception of mental health that needs to be stopped. Many believe they must appear as if they have it all together, which then inhibits them from receiving the help that could change the trajectory of their daily lives. We must break down these expectations to allow others in to help us.

Whether you are facing job loss, money problems, sickness, or family loss, know that you are not alone. Nowhere does it say that you have to do this on your own. 

Our Crisis Counseling Program (called Texans Recovering Together) is made possible by a dedicated group of professional counselors. 

— We are a team of people devoted to providing accessible, caring, and responsive services. 

— We are here to listen to you, to build you up, and to provide you with what you need to press on. 

— We are a network of community support that is here by your side. 

By empowering our communities and taking a strength-based approach, our services provide empowerment to the community and resilience to combat the fear. We believe that we are better together, and we want to help you through these hard times.

Call us at toll-free at (866) 576-1101 to speak with a counselor, or request counseling here.

We are #TexansRecoveringTogether. We are here to help you recover. 

Jamie Willmann was raised in a Christian home and was taught to serve and love others at an early age. She has a passion for making people smile and brightening people’s days. Jamie came from Wisconsin three years ago to attend Baylor, where she graduated with a degree in international studies. She now devotes her free time to self-care, exercising, relaxing in nature, and fellowship with friends.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Plenty of free COVID-19 testing available in October

Surge testing available at the following sites and times:

All tests are FREE. Pre-register or register on-site. All tests are the self-administered nasal swab taken from the lower nasal passage.
For any updates to location and dates, please check: COVIDWACO.COM

Pre-Register Here
All sites open 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Bring your voucher to you test appointment. If you cannot print, a voucher will be created for you at the site.

Oct. 9 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 10 
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College 
(drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

October 11 
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 12 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 13 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 14 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 15 
Waco ISD Stadium (drive-through) 1401 S. New Road, Waco
Waco Convention Center (walk-up) 100 Washington Ave. (enter from Franklin Avenue side and follow signs)
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 16 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 17 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (walk-up) 915 LaSalle Ave.

Oct. 18 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 19 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 20 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 21 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 22 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 23 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.

Oct. 24 
McLennan Community College (drive-through) CSC Building, 4601 N. 19th St.
Remember, social distancing is our new normal:You are more likely to get COVID-19 from someone you know than a stranger.Stay home and avoid social gatherings, even with your family and close friends.If you have tested for COVID-19 self-isolate immediately until you receive the results. If it is negative, you may stop isolation. If it is positive, you should continue to isolate: At least 10 days from symptom onset AND72 hours of no fever without the use of fever-reducing medication ANDRespiratory symptoms are improving. Always wear a face covering/mask when you are in public and keep 6 feet apart from other people.

10 Waco organizations collaborate to promote free mental health services

City of Waco

Strategic Communications Workgroup  

MEDIA RELEASE  

Ten Waco organizations are partnering with Heart of Texas MHMR to  promote free, confidential mental health services available to all Central Texans. Mental health needs have risen with COVID-19, and these organizations want community members to know there is help available at no cost to the recipient.  

Heart of Texas MHMR is participating in the Texans Recovering Together Crisis Counseling Program that provides short-term interventions to help people impacted by COVID-19. The program is available to anyone impacted by COVID-19 and is designed to reduce stress and provide emotional support, as well as connect folks with other agencies that can help in the recovery process. All services are free, anonymous, confidential, and available by virtual visit.  

While many organizations are working together to promote a safe, healthy environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health can’t be overlooked. The uncertainty brought on by the virus coupled with job loss, financial burdens, education complexities, and health concerns has led to an  increase in stress, anxiety, and other mental health needs across the county. Texans Recovering Together  is here to help our community get through this crisis.  

The organizations participating in the campaign include McLennan Community College, United Way of Waco-McLennan County, Prosper Waco, Baylor University, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Waco Foundation, the City of Waco, and McLennan County.  

Each participating organization will promote a series of social media posts on specific days in an effort to  widely spread messaging about mental health assistance. The Communications Co-op, co-funded by the  City of Waco, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and Waco Foundation, will provide grants to each organization for social media promotion of the mental health campaign. 

The Strategic Communications Workgroup is one of four committees established by Mayor Kyle Deaver in an effort to provide accurate information to all residents of Waco and McLennan County.

For more information, contact Natalie Kelinske, director of communications & donor services for Waco Foundation, at nkelinske@wacofoundation.org  or 254-754-3404.

Waco leaders stress safe practices & flu shots


By Ferrell Foster

Five Waco civic, health, and school leaders Wednesday encouraged the people of Greater Waco to think of their neighbors and to be careful how they are involved in gatherings and celebrate the Labor Day weekend. They also stressed the importance of getting a flu shot.

With the holiday coming and football season upon us, Mayor Kyle Deaver asked residents to do these activities “smartly and safely” so the community can remain open. “Take care of yourself and take care of each other.” He made the comments during the weekly City of Waco News Conference related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerry Maze, executive director for Education Service Center Region 12, noted, “What happens in the community shows up in the schools,” and that can be both good and bad. “If everyone works together and makes good decisions, we get better outcomes.”

Dr. Brian Becker, of Ascension Providence Hospital, called special attention to the holiday weekend, noting that following standard safety procedures is important for our public health and to our neighbors.

Dr. Marc Elieson, of Baylor Scott & White-HIllcrest, also spoke to the importance of wearing face masks, distancing, and proper hand hygiene. ”Be wise,” he said.

A number of questions were asked about schools and Baylor. For students, “it’s so much more about what’s happening off campus,” Mayor Deaver said. “We know this is hard; it’s trying for everyone, … but it’s the way we keep schools open and having football” and other activities.

Dr. Jackson Griggs, of the Family Health Center, praised the efforts of Baylor University to test and then isolate students exposed to COVID-19. “I’m impressed with efforts by Baylor to mitigate the risk.”

Current hospitalizations are down some, but the hospital representatives said their in-patient numbers usually lag behind case counts by about a week. And case counts have been rising in McLennan County.

The current “Effective Reproduction Rate” for McLennan County is 1.07, Mayor Deaver said. Anything above 1 means the disease is expanding, not contracting. The Rt is a measure of contagiousness or how many people one COVID-19 person infects.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Griggs highlighted the importance of bringing down the positivity rate. In recent weeks that rate has hovered just under 15% in McLennan County, which is above the state rate. More testing helps identify people with COVID-19 and also lowers the positivity rate. “Anyone with subtle symptoms needs to come in and be tested,” Dr. Griggs said. The first step is to contact your primary care physician.

The head of Family Health Center also emphasized the importance of flu vaccinations. “We need to keep flu rates down this season,” Dr. Griggs said. There’s a lot we don’t know about flu and COVID-19 infections in the same person. “Flu vaccines are imperative.”

It is especially important to promote the flu vaccines in “communities of color” because they have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and have “historically lower vaccination rates.” 

The news conference is aired at 1:30 p.m. each Wednesday at WCCC-TV for the public to view.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication for Prosper Waco. He also serves on the Act Locally Waco Board of Directors and helps the website with blog posts related to health, education, financial security, and equity.

Fruit of the month: Apples

By Paula Solano

As we to transition into the 2020-2021 school year, we can appreciate how our school and health systems work collectively to ensure the safety of students and educators. I find apples, a seasonal fruit often associated with both health and education, appropriate for this season.

Extended workdays, possible home schooling, and other responsibilities may often lead to missing a meal or making a fast-food run. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate provides recipes, tips, and resources to guide you in creating a healthy eating plan. Start simple, download the MyPlate App, an easy-to-use app that will help guide you and track your progress.

Apples might be the essential fruit to have in a pinch. In fact, apples can be enjoyed during breakfast, lunch, or dinner or as a perfect on-the-go snack. When selecting apples, choose those that are firm, with intact stems, and they should smell fresh. 

Wash your hands as recommended by the CDC, clean contact surfaces, and thoroughly rise apples to remove any dirt before you pack, enjoy, or use while preparing a meal. Refrigerate apples in a plastic bag, away from other fruits and raw meats for up to three weeks.

Not only are apples yummy, they are saturated fat free, low in fat cholesterol, and sodium free. Apples are rich in fiber and phytochemicals (compounds produced by plants). 

Enjoy these tasty apple recipes!

Apple Cinnamon Yogurt Muffins (Kid Friendly)

Serving: 24

Nutritional Information: Calories: 217, protein: 3g, fat: 10g, carbohydrates: 29g, fiber: .6g, sodium: 230mg, cholesterol: 44mg

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine

1 cup grated Braeburn or Golden Delicious apple

1 container (8-ounce) low fat vanilla yogurt

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Grease 24 3-inch muffin pan cups or line with paper liners. In large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt, orange zest, and nutmeg. With pastry blender or fork, cut in 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter until mixture is crumbly.

2. In medium bowl combine apple, yogurt, and eggs; add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until centers spring back when gently pressed.

3. Cool muffins in pan 5 minutes; remove from pan and cool until able to handle. Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 stick butter. In small bowl, combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. To serve. brush tops of muffins with butter and roll top in cinnamon-sugar mixture.

4. Enjoy!

Golden Apple Oatmeal 

Servings: 1

Nutritional Information: Calories: 122, protein: 4g, fat: 2g, carbohydrates: 27g, fiber: 3g, sodium: 331mg, cholesterol: 0mg

Ingredients

1/2 cup diced Golden Delicious apple 

1/3 cup apple juice

1/3 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/3 cup quick cooking oats (of your choosing)

Instructions:

1. In small pot, combine apple, apple juice, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt (if desired); heat to boiling. Stir in oats and cook 1 minute. Cover and let stand two minutes before serving.

2. Enjoy!

Paula Solano is a Master in Public Health student at Baylor University and certified Community Health Worker who is volunteering at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. A Waco native, she is passionate about serving her community, particularly underserved and underrepresented residents. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

State launches enhanced postpartum care services

NEWS RELEASE

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced today the launch of HTW Plus, enhanced postpartum care services for eligible women enrolled in the Healthy Texas Women program. Beginning Sept. 1, about 90,000 HTW clients will automatically receive this new postpartum care coverage for up to 12 months. 

While all women in HTW have access to screening, diagnosis, and medication to treat postpartum depression, women with HTW Plus coverage will also be able to receive outpatient individual, family, and group psychotherapy services, as well as peer specialist services.

HTW Plus will provide physical health, mental health, and substance use disorder services that address asthma, diabetes, hypertension, certain cardiovascular conditions, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders including postpartum depression, and substance use disorders including drug, alcohol, and tobacco use.

Approximately 90,000 postpartum women enrolled in Healthy Texas Women on average each month will be covered by HTW Plus and have access to expanded postpartum care services for up to 12 months after the date of enrollment in the Healthy Texas Women program.

HHSC will issue new HTW Plus pink cards and an updated information packet to women eligible for the new service package. 

In 2019, SB 750 directed HHSC to evaluate postpartum care services provided to women enrolled in HTW after the first 60 days of the postpartum period and develop a postpartum care services package for women enrolled in HTW. 

HHSC contracted with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler and The University of Texas System Population Health to conduct an evaluation of services used by women in the Medicaid for Pregnant Women program in comparison to the Healthy Texas Women program. Additionally, findings from the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee informed the HTW Plus service package.

The evaluation focused on services related to the major health conditions recognized as contributing to maternal morbidity and mortality in Texas—common cardiovascular conditions, substance use disorders, mental health conditions, and certain chronic health conditions.

Covered services include:

  • Cardiovascular imaging and laboratory studies, blood pressure monitoring equipment, and antihypertensive, anticoagulant, and antiplatelet medications
  • Diabetes management services including labs, additional injectable insulin options, blood glucose testing supplies, and voice-integrated glucometers for women with diabetes who are visually impaired
  • Asthma medications and supplies
  • Psychotherapy and peer specialist services for postpartum depression and other mental health conditions
  • Screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT); medication assisted treatment (MAT); and peer specialist services for the management of substance use disorders
  • Tobacco cessation drugs

About Healthy Texas Women 
The Healthy Texas Women program provides family planning services and other women’s health services that contribute to preconception care and better birth outcomes. The program provides a wide variety of women’s health and core family planning services, including contraception, cancer screenings and pregnancy testing. In Fiscal Year 2019, about 279,000 women on average each month were enrolled in the Healthy Texas Women program.

COVID-19 vs. The Flu

By Kayla Gilchrist

Oftentimes, many people confuse COVID-19 and its risks with influenza (flu), believing they are relatively the same.

“It’s not that serious; it’s just like the flu.”

“Why can’t they find a seasonal vaccine for coronavirus like they did for the flu?”

“I’ve had the flu before so I’m pretty sure I can handle COVID-19.”

Although both COVID-19 and the flu share similar characteristics, such as both being contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by separate viruses which bring about some vital differences.

Coronaviruses are found in both humans and animals causing mild to moderate respiratory issues. COVID-19 is caused by a completely new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which causes a more severe illness. The flu is caused by influenza viruses — completely different strands of viruses than coronaviruses.

From: Waco Family Health Center

Due to some of the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 being similar, it can be difficult to tell the difference without testing to confirm a proper diagnosis. Because COVID-19 comes from an entirely new strand of virus (SARS-CoV-2), we are learning more and more everyday.

Given the best and most updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, below are some key differences and similarities between COVID-19 and influenza.

Similarities

1. Common symptoms shared by both COVID-19 and the flu which range from asymptomatic (no symptoms) to severe are:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

2. For both the flu and COVID-19, one or more days can pass before an infected person starts to experience signs of illness or symptoms.

3. It’s possible to spread both viruses up to 24 hours before showing any symptoms.

4. Both can spread between people within about 6 feet or from person-to-person contact through droplets made when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can reach the mouth, nose, or be inhaled into the lungs of someone nearby an infected person. Both viruses can also spread through physical touch (e.g. shaking hands) or by people touching infected surfaces then touching their face.

5. Both COVID-19 and flu pose the highest risk to:

  • Older adults
  • People with certain underlying medical conditions
  • Pregnant women

6. Both COVID-19 and flu can cause these complications:

  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (i.e. fluid in lungs)
  • Sepsis
  • Cardiac injury (e.g. heart attacks and stroke)
  • Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions (involving the lungs, heart, nervous system or diabetes)
  • Inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues
  • Secondary bacterial infections (i.e. infections that occur in people who have already been infected with flu or COVID-19)

7. Anyone with a high-risk of complications and/or who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 or flu should receive proper medical care.

8. Any and all vaccinations for COVID-19 and flu must be approved or authorized for emergency use (EUA) by the FDA.

Differences

1. If you have COVID-19, it could take longer to develop symptoms than if you have the flu — up to 14 days after infection. A person with the flu usually develops signs and symptoms anywhere from one to four days after infection. Unlike the flu, with COVID-19 you may also experience a change in or loss of taste or smell as part of your symptoms.

2. If you have COVID-19, you might be contagious longer than if you have the flu. Most people with the flu are contagious up to 7 days while those with COVID-19 can remain contagious up to 10 days.

3. COVID-19 is believed to be more contagious. It’s been observed to spread quicker and more easily to a wider range of people than the flu.

4. Children are more at risk for complications from the flu than from COVID-19, however the CDC states that “both infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both flu and COVID-19.”

5. School-aged children pose a higher risk of a rare but severe complication of COVID-19 called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MISC).

6. Those with the flu will most likely recover in less than two weeks unless they develop complications, whereas recovering from COVID-19 could take up to two weeks and even longer should complications develop.

7. The flu has FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs to treat it and multiple vaccines produced annually for prevention. Studies, including a study on an antiviral agent called Remdesivir, which is available under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), are still in progress on how to prevent and treat COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed a regularly updated guide on treatment of COVID-19 here https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov

Here are resources to use for what to do if you are sick with COVID-19 or the flu and how to prevent them:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/takingcare.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/index.html

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

https://www.ynhhs.org/patient-care/urgent-care/flu-or-coronavirus

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus

Kayla Gilchrist is an adventure-seeking, fun-loving, Christ-oriented, twenty-something with an extensive background in media and a knack for writing. She received her bachelor’s in communications with a minor in theatre arts from Prairie View A&M University. When she isn’t writing or managing social media accounts, Kayla enjoys acting, directing short films, delicious food, poetry, swimming, novels, and spending time with family and friends. She happily just joined the City of Waco team and is excited to use her skills as a helpful resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Summer months call for summer squash

By Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez

Recently I have been thinking about the “Wild West” — a time when there was a lot of discovery and a lot of unknown. I must say, it somewhat feels like we are in a modern-day Wild West. I can only imagine how difficult it was to stay hydrated. Someone probably shared a water canteen and planned travels according to where the next water source would be.

Today we do the same when we camp, go hiking or walking, or are outside for an extended time. To avoid dehydration, we must actively think about drinking more water, and even more so in these hot summer months.

Thankfully, we do not have to solely rely on water; fruits and vegetables also provide us with water. This month we are highlighting a vegetable which consist of 95% water, making it a great source for extra hydration and is even named for its season. Introducing summer squash! 

Nutrition: 

Per USDA dietary guidelines it is recommended we consume 3 Cups of vegetables daily. Vegetables may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. It all counts!

Summer squash is a great source of vitamin C, which keeps our immune system strong and helps our bodies heal quickly. Additionally, summer squash is fat free, saturated-fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, and low in calories (around 20 calories in 1 cup). It is not recommended to peel summer squash because most all the vitamins and minerals are found in the skin. 

Shopping, Storage, and Preparation: 

There are two types of squash: summer and winter. Today we are focusing on summer squash. There are many varieties of squash, some names you will see are: patty pan, yellow crookneck, yellow straightneck, chayotes, and zucchini. For all squash varieties, choose firm, glossy, small to medium-sized squash. Avoid squash that is soft, moldy, or sunken in spots. Though usable, larger squash tend to be less flavorful and tougher. 

Right before using, wash squash by rubbing the skin under cool running water. Refrigerate summer squash for up to one week or freeze and use within three months. If freezing, cut it into pieces and blanch (placing vegetables in boiling water for a short time and then placing in freezing water.). For more instructions, read here

Enjoy: 

Due to its mild flavor summer squash can be prepared multiple ways. It is important, however, to remember that seasonings or other ingredients added to squash will change the nutritional value. Below are some ways to enjoy it: 

Roast — Cut squash in slices and drizzle with olive oil and low‐sodium seasoning before placing on a baking sheet. Cook 10-15 minutes or until tender. 

Grate — Add raw, grated squash to green salads, muffins, or cookies. Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons in place of pasta noodles. 

Grill — Pair squash with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers, or fruit. 

Raw — Enjoy in salads or dipped in hummus or a low-fat dip. 

Sauté — Heat pan to high, add oil to coat the pan and add sliced squash. Sauté until lightly brown, about 3‐5 minutes, or tender. Use as side dish or add to dishes like stir fry or pasta. 

Check out these other tasty recipes too: Italian Spinach and Zucchini Meatballs or Baked Zucchini Sticks

See below different ways to cut and prepare zucchini –  thank you to Montana State University Extension for the graphic: 

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and the challenges it poses to communities across Texas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and many others continue to practice public health recommendations. Whether we are communicating online or face-to-face know that program content will always be research-backed to help individuals navigate decisions for themselves and their families. For information on resources, ideas, and programs for yourself and family visit Texas A&M AgriLife’s HUB.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com


Lindsey Breunig-Rodriguez is an Extension Agent for the Better Living for Texans program with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine but now calls Waco home. A graduate from Baylor University, she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy Ann just saying hello.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

McLennan County Leadership Response Team formed to respond to COVID-19

Press Release – The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, Ascension Providence, Baylor Scott & White, and the Family Health Center have formed the McLennan County Leadership Response Team to work and plan together on a local response to reports on the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.  Meeting weekly as a group, we are actively monitoring patients for risk factors and working to ensure our local health care system is prepared to respond to the situation as it unfolds.

There has been a lot of information in the news about COVID-19. If you are healthy, your risk is relatively low and recovery is high.  The good news is that the same steps you can take to stay healthy during the flu season will protect you from many viruses, including the flu and COVID-19. The Response Team has prepared a list of important facts to help people understand the current situation.  This is a rapidly evolving situation and the Response Team will provide updated information as it becomes available.

Risk

  • There are NO diagnosed COVID-19 cases in McLennan County. 
  • At this time, if you have not traveled to an effected area or have not had contact with someone with COVID-19, your risk is low.   Any respiratory symptoms you might have are more likely to be flu or another respiratory illness.
  • Most cases of COVID-19 are not severe. People with a greater risk of developing serious symptoms are Older adults; People with chronic conditions; and People with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty Breathing

Facemasks

  • Facemasks are NOT recommended for people who are well.  The use of facemasks are crucial for health care workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • You should only wear a facemask if a healthcare professional recommends it.

Protection

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District (PHD) encourages everyone to follow preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a lined trash can.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with regular household products.

Isolation and Quarantine

  • Your healthcare provider or the Public Health District may ask you to stay at home in order to slow the spread of the virus.  Please follow the instructions given to you.

Questions

People with questions can call the Public Health Information line at 254-750-1890 which is available Monday through Friday from 8am – 5pm.

Information

This is an rapidly evolving situation and Public Health District will provide updated information as it becomes available.  The most trustworthy sources for information are:

  • Waco-McLennan County Public Health District;
  • Texas Department of State Health Services;
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and
  • World Health Organization.

Better Living for Texans: Oh-so-lively citrus fruit

By Lindsey Breunig

In 2020, the Better Living for Texans posts will continue, and we are excited to announce that monthly posts will start focusing on a seasonal fruit or vegetable.  Material shared will include the nutritional value/benefits, how to select and store, cook and use, and other fun facts regarding the chosen fruit or vegetable! Have a request? Feel free to share and let us know!

Per USDA dietary guidelines it is recommended we consume 1 – 2 Cups of fruit daily. Fruit may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed, it all counts! In general 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group.  Like vegetables, we want a variety of color on our plate and in our diet, one way to vary your plate is by choosing fruits that are in season! As we transition into the winter months one may traditionally label winter colors as “darker” and “warmer,” but today’s highlighted fruit is not the case! Winter season is “when you’ll find the bright greens, eye-popping yellows, and oh-so-lively oranges.” Let’s bring out the bright colors and talk about citrus fruits!

Citrus includes but is not limited to oranges. Other types of citrus fruits are lemons, limes, mandarins (tangerines), grapefruit, and kumquats. (source) When shopping for citrus look for a peel that is smooth in texture versus a thicker bumpy peel. Avoid citrus that has soft or mushy spots. Citrus fruits come from a tree and do not continue to ripen once they are picked. For juicy citrus choose a heavier a fruit, and for good flavor take a whiff and know a sweet fragrance often means good flavor. For continued best quality of the fruit, store in the refrigerator’s crisping drawer. Citrus will keep in the fridge for several weeks compared to a few days to a week if stored on the counter. (Source). Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C and folate. Vitamin C is important for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy. When it comes to citrus fruits there are a range of options available.

Orange juice is a common staple for many, but one must use caution to ensure it is not the only source of fruit. Juice should make up half or less of total recommended fruit or vegetable intake. Whole or cut-up fruit will provide dietary fiber and reduce sugar intake when compared to juice. Think about how many oranges it takes to make a cup of juice – about 3 oranges! Though naturally occurring, the sugar from one orange compared to a cup of juice adds up quick!  If you don’t mind the flavor, try cutting your juice with water to reduce sugar. Additionally, when selecting juice, read the nutritional label on the back to verify there are 0g of Added Sugars.

Precut fruit can be convenient and a great snack option, but often has a higher price tag. Luckily during citrus season mandarin (tangerine) oranges are often on sale and make for a great snack.  Trying to find the best deal? Always compare the unit price to see the best deal. See the example below, what would you choose?

 Inspired to add more citrus into your winter cooking? Check out some of these great recipes!


Lindsey Breunig is a graduate of Baylor University and currently works as the Better Living for Texans Educator for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She is originally from Grapevine, TX and now calls Waco home. Here in Waco she loves to venture out to Cameron Park, visit the local Farmers Market, and try out the awesome eateries in Waco. If you see her and hear a loud bark, that’s her pup Lucy just saying hello.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP. To learn more about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or to apply for benefits, visit www.yourtexasbenefits.com

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.