Durham Bulls fans have more to look forward to than Opening Day this year. Today the Bulls, in partnership with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS) and sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), announced the Durham Bulls Victory Garden. Planted outside of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP) on Jackie Robinson Drive, this new fruit and vegetable garden will supply fresh produce to Durham neighborhoods in need.
Building community food systems
According to the US Department of Agriculture, North Carolina is the eighth hungriest state in the country. More than 630,000 children, families, and seniors across our state aren’t sure when or where they will get their next meal. Working across a seven-county radius, IFFS builds community food systems that support all residents with knowledge, skills, and access to healthy eating.
IFFS’s work includes gathering and distributing food to low-income residents. IFFS is planning to collect 1,200 pounds of organically grown food from the Victory Garden each growing season to distribute through the nonprofit’s network of pantries and mobile markets. The space will also highlight the connection between gardening and the food we eat each day.
“In our urban areas, children are disconnected from nature and where their food comes from,” said Cindy Sink, Director of Community Impact and Advocacy for IFFS. “We hope this is the beginning of creating spaces throughout downtown Durham where seeing edible gardens is a common experience. We want people to connect to real food and understand the importance of fresh produce in ending hunger and diseases caused by poor nutrition.”
The garden is designed to be a community space open to the public year-round. It will also serve as an outdoor classroom for the thousands of students who attend the annual Education Day at the Park. Students will have a chance to explore the garden, learn about local food systems and understand the
importance of a diet of healthy, fresh food. The Bulls will also lead three Bulls Kids Club garden tours each baseball season.
“The starting point for a healthier North Carolina is to eat fresh, healthy foods,” said Reagan Greene Pruitt, Vice President, and Integrated Marketing & Community Engagement of Blue Cross NC. “The Durham Bulls Victory Garden will educate our communities about locally grown produce and help provide food to our neighbors who need it the most.”
The garden, to be designed by Apex’s Bland Landscaping Company, grew from the idea that landscapes around Durham could be used for more than decoration. The Durham Bulls, IFFS, and Blue Cross NC aim to show the community how small plots of land can be transformed into gardens. The DBAP, which sees more than 500,000 visitors each year, was the perfect downtown Durham spot to host the space.
“Durham is a progressive area where people want to give back to their community, and they want the organizations in the city to reflect their values,” said Matt Sutor, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Durham Bulls. “For us to tell our fans that we hear them, and we understand their values is very important to us. We’re thinking about the community at all times, and we hope this garden is just the jumping off point for the work we’re going to do here.”
Thrive NC coming to downtown Raleigh
Bland Landscaping will maintain the garden throughout the year. IFFS will coordinate workshops, field trips for school children, community outreach and educational activities. IFFS will also organize volunteer opportunities to harvest and deliver food to local food pantries.
Blue Cross NC’s sponsorship of the Durham Bulls Victory Garden is part of a series of charitable donations aligned with the mission of Thrive NC presented by Blue Cross NC. Blue Cross NC is donating $250,000 along with all ticket proceeds from Thrive NC to nonprofit organizations across the state.
Thrive NC is a two-day event, scheduled for May 10-11 in downtown Raleigh. Thrive NC will feature a food festival with contributions from top chefs and restaurants, live music and community service. A collaborative summit will kick off the event with meaningful conversations to address food system challenges in North Carolina.
We hear a lot about the power of a healthy lifestyle. It helps prevent chronic diseases, boosts your mood and even helps reduce stress. One of the key factors of a healthy lifestyle is good nutrition.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, and to help you and your loved ones getting the nutrients your body deserves, we’ve compiled a few of our nutrition expert’s best tips and tricks.
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8 tips for healthy eating
Pack Your Own Travel Snacks
To keep your nutrition habits on track, and more green in your wallet, pack your own snacks and water bottles whenever you go out. Doing this will ensure that you’re staying hydrated and fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods, not gas station or airport treats.
Lead by Example When It Comes to Fruits and Veggies
One of the most common parenting problems is getting your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables. It’s hard, kids are picky. But there is power behind leading by example and refraining from nagging. The more often your kids see you eat fruits and veggies, the more likely they will take a bite.
Prepare Healthy After School/Activity Snacks
Want your kids to make better food choices? Try bringing fruits and vegetables with you when you pick them up or have them readily available when they walk in the door. If healthy snacks are the first thing they see, they’ll be more likely consumed before reaching for unhealthy options.
Grow Your Own Herbs
Herbs can be expensive and easy to waste, so instead of buying them from the store, grow them at home. All you need is a pot, dirt, water and sunshine. Sometimes you can buy pre-planted herbs like basil mint or rosemary to make things even easier. Herbs add a ton of flavor and color to your meals, so don’t shy away from incorporating them into your favorite dishes.
Don’t Shy Away from Frozen Veggies
Veggies are a great way to add nutrients to your meals, but they can be time-consuming to prep. Frozen vegetables can be a lifesaver because they’re already prepped and ready to cook. Simply open the bag and steam them in the microwave or add them to what you’re cooking on the stove top.
Grab Snacks with Complex Carbs
When you want to snack, grab something with complex carbs. They give you an energy boost and have protein to satisfy you until your next meal. Some go-to snacks include trail mix made with dried fruits and unsalted nuts, an apple or pear with string cheese, celery sticks with a scoop of peanut butter or Greek yogurt with fresh berries. If you’re on-the-go, try grabbing a snack bar made with only fruits and nuts.
Rethink Your Drink
Is your morning coffee derailing your health goals? You don’t have to give up caffeine to maintain a nutritious lifestyle. It all comes down to choosing the best option. Instead of ordering a latte or macchiato, try ordering an Americano or regular coffee and substitute whole leaf stevia for a sugar packet. This will save you calories and still give you an early morning kick-start.
Look for Healthy Options When Eating Out
When eating out, ask if the restaurant has a menu that lists nutrition facts or look on their website. If there’s nothing available, look for menu options that are protein based and baked or grilled. It also helps to choose tomato-based sauces over cream based and ask for dressing or cheese toppings to be put on the side.
While some tips may be easier to incorporate than others, it’s important to keep your wellness in mind. Your body needs nutritious foods to keep performing at its best. For more nutrition tips visit nutrition.gov or consult a Registered Dietitian.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to nutrition and health. New studies and tips are coming out all the time, authored by research professionals, fitness gurus and bloggers alike. Most of the time, these studies and tips contradict each other! This makes it easier to get overwhelmed and to be confused on where to look for the facts.
To learn the truth, we met with three nutrition experts here at Blue Cross NC. They helped debunk some of the most common nutrition myths. Here’s what we found out.
Tips: Quick Health Snacks - YouTube
Myth: Fruits and Veggies Contribute to Type 2 Diabetes
Eating fruits and vegetables is NOT a main contributor to type 2 diabetes and/or weight gain. In fact, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the glycemic index has a limited reliability and that a rise in blood sugar may vary by 20 to 25 percent between individuals.
A more common recommendation for the prevention and reduction of chronic diseases is to eat MORE fruits and vegetables, not less. This is due to their disease-fighting properties and high levels of fiber.
Myth: You Don’t Need a Lot of Protein in Your Diet
This is false! Regardless of age, physically active people require more grams of protein per pound of body weight compared to less active individuals. Overall, your protein intake should be primarily determined by the intensity of your exercise. For example, a higher intake of protein is recommended for people who do strength training and endurance activities like running and cycling.
Myth: 8 Glasses of Water a Day is Enough
Eight glasses, or 64 ounces, of water, will most likely not meet your daily fluid needs. It’s likely you’ll need more! Hydration is based on many factors such as exercise level, age, gender, muscle mass, medications, chronic disease/illness, temperature, and elevation. Your hydration needs are individualized, so don’t always believe eight glasses will do the trick.
Myth: All Grains Are the Same
Whole grain labeling can be confusing – just because something says it contains whole grains doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. Look for foods that have whole-wheat or whole-grains listed as the first ingredient in the ingredient list. Also, make sure they have at least 2-3 grams of fiber per serving. Fiber is great for keeping you full and satisfied. Whole grains also have great health benefits.
Myth: If It’s Advertised as Healthy and Full of Protein, It Must Be Healthy
Just because it says healthy, doesn’t mean it is. Often, we fall victim to deceptive advertising, calling foods healthy when they’re full of excess sugar. For example, some protein bars that are supposed to be “good for you” really have the same amount of sugar as a candy bar!
The need for Americans to watch and decrease their sugar intake has been encouraged for years. However, people frequently don’t know how to cut back on sugar. The easiest way to fight back is by arming yourself with the knowledge to investigate your food choices. The American Heart Association’s guidelines limit sugar intake to 24 grams (six teaspoons) for women and 36 grams (nine teaspoons) for men. When choosing foods, make sure you read the nutrition facts and ingredients. By doing so, you’re on your way to food shopping like a pro!
If there are other nutrition facts or studies you want to have confirmed or denied, consult a local Registered Dietitian.
I love this recipe because it’s simple and easy to prepare, and is a great way to get grilled flavor without grilling. A perfect pick for winter suppers or for rainy days when you can’t fire up the grill. Salmon is full of heart-healthy Omega-3 fats, and a single serving is an excellent source of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6. This salmon recipe is perfected when served with a side of veggies, whole-grains, or with a salad loaded up with fresh greens. You can add thinly sliced red onion, and sliced fruit such as blueberries, mandarin oranges, and strawberries.
Four 6-ounce salmon filets
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Move oven rack to the highest position, and heat oven broiler on high.
Rinse salmon fillets and pat dry.
Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.
Place on foil-lined baking sheet, and place on highest rack in the oven under the broiler.
Broil 7-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. When done, the internal temperature of the fish should reach 145F at the thickest part of the filet.
Remove from oven, and serve.
Pictured: Fillet of broiled salmon, garnished Hawaiian style
This recipe is one of my favorites to make in the summertime. I love going to the local farmers market to pick out the freshest grape/cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil. It requires no cooking and is always a hit at tailgates or other social events as it appeals to both the eyes and taste buds. It’s also very versatile in that it can be added as a topping to grilled meats or eaten like bruschetta. My personal favorite and a health-conscious way to make it is to use as little mozzarella as possible, and use the smaller “pickling” size cucumbers since they pack the most crunch.
4 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 cups cucumbers, diced
A handful of fresh chopped basil leaves (about 10 leaves)
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, add to taste:
Grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half
Chop several fresh basil leaves
Sprinkle ground pepper
Mozzarella cheese, cubed (but not to exceed 4 ounces)
Olive oil (but not to exceed 2 tablespoons)
Toss and mix all ingredients and store it in the fridge for a cool, refreshing savory treat!
Pictured: Caprese – Italian salad with cherry tomatos, olives, cucumbers, cheese and avocado
The opioid epidemic is one of the most talked-about and devastating problems we face every day in North Carolina. For the longest time, it seemed like there was a lot of talk and not a lot of action.
Political and community leaders, law enforcement, and health care organizations saw firsthand how critical the problem was becoming and talked about ways to address it. But the number of opioid-related deaths in North Carolina kept climbing to shocking levels: Up 55 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
$10 Million Community Investment
These kinds of statistics show just how severe the problem has become in North Carolina and how it’s going to take a lot more action to solve.
At Blue Cross NC, we recognized the urgency to address the opioid epidemic several years ago and started working quickly to meet the challenge. We have evidence that many of our efforts are working. But we know we must remain focused to greatly reduce the number of lives lost and families shattered.
That’s why we recently announced a $10 million investment in community health initiatives to combat opioids.
Two of these initiatives are:
$1 million donation to TROSA to help the Durham-based substance abuse recovery program create new capacity in the Triad area and improve access to Western North Carolina residents.
$390,000 to the UNC School of Government to develop community-based resources and programs, working with SOG faculty and staff, in 10 communities hit hard by opioid addiction.
Our way of approaching the problem is to work closely and collaboratively with others. This includes providers, pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies, government officials, and employers, all of whom can help identify strategies to deal with the crisis now and prevent opioid addiction in the future. No problem of this size can be solved by any single entity.
STOP Act and Other Limits
Sometime over the past year or two, the tide finally began to change in favor of more action and less talk.
The General Assembly approved the STOP Act last year, and Gov. Cooper signed it into law. It includes many provisions, among them a limit on first-time prescriptions of certain drugs and a requirement that prescribers of opioids check the Controlled Substance Reporting System database.
Long before the STOP Act, Blue Cross NC already placed certain limits on opioids to help ensure their use was medically indicated and appropriate.
In 2016 we fought the pharmaceutical industry, which wanted to make a certain class of opioids much easier for providers to prescribe and patients to get. These so-called abuse-deterrent opioids are often marketed as “safer” drugs but have not lived up to these claims. Fortunately, the effort to make opioids more available in North Carolina failed.
In early 2017 we formed a company workgroup to bring together resources and teams in the company to fight the epidemic. We also joined the Payers’ Council, a group set up by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources to bring insurers and others together to explore solutions.
The Payoff: 16% Decline in Prescriptions
When we look at our data, we find some trends that show our efforts are paying off. Since 2013, we’ve seen a 16 percent decline in the total number of opioid prescriptions.
Our philosophy is that patients should get the right medication at the right time. As a pain management specialist, I understand that opioids are indicated and appropriate for some patients. Often they’re only necessary for a short period of time. Or they might not be needed at all. There are many instances in which a non-drug complementary therapy, like physical therapy or chiropractic care, may be an alternative.
The CDC offers clinical guidelines based on research. We support and promote these guidelines and often send communications to providers in our network to educate them on the need to consider what the CDC recommends before prescribing an opioid.
The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest threats to public health in generations. Across North Carolina, those of us working to solve this problem are encouraged by a sense of energy, urgency and focus on getting this accomplished. We have a ways to go, but at least we’ve moved beyond simply talking about the problem.
I love this recipe because it brings a whole new flavor to broccoli, and it’s also a hit with my toddler – he can’t get enough!
If you’re not a big fan of broccoli, this recipe could easily convert you! Did you know that roasting broccoli will bring out a sweeter, caramelized flavor? That flavor compliments many types of meat and seafood. Also, it’s good for you! One cup of broccoli is a good source of Vitamin A and B6 and an excellent source of Vitamin C.
4 cups broccoli, cut into florets
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Preheat oven to 475F.
Toss broccoli florets in olive oil.
Place broccoli on a baking sheet, and spread out into one layer.
Roast at 475F for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove baking sheet from oven, and stir, turning broccoli over. Redistribute broccoli in a single layer.
Return pan to oven and roast another 5-10 minutes, until broccoli begins to brown slightly on edges.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired, and serve.
I love experimental cooking. That’s why this recipe makes me so happy. It is nearly impossible to mess up. Plus, there are tons of variations you can use to make it your own.
For me, adding in cayenne pepper helps find the contrast between the sweet and spicy flavors. It is a glorious combination. But if staying sweet is your thing, adding in cinnamon and nutmeg is so warm and comforting. Plus, sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene, which gives sweet potatoes their orange coloring and makes them so good for your eyes and skin!
4 sweet potatoes
1 tbsp vegan buttery spread
Spices to taste (optional)
Bake 4 sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until soft
Once cooled, (but still warm) carefully peel sweet potatoes and place in large mixing bowl.
Peelings should fall off of potato easily, but be careful as they can trap heat and be deceivingly hot.
Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl
1 tbsp using any organic vegan buttery spread that’s free of hydrogenated oils
Add spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, or cayenne)
March in North Carolina is a time when the weather may drop, but basketball season is reaching an all-time high. The Madness is upon us on Tobacco Road, and whether you’re a die-hard fan or a basketball bystander, it’s pretty much guaranteed you will find yourself in front of an intense game of basketball in the next few weeks.
Just because you’re camped out in front of the TV like with all of your team’s gear on, it doesn’t mean you should have any guilt about skipping the gym.
Stay in shape while watching the NCAA tournament
These short workouts can be just as intense as your commitment to the tournament and, more importantly, won’t block the TV.
Tip-Off: Your team is about to lunge for the ball, here’s your chance to do the same. Ten lunges with each leg. Be sure to keep your knees aligned with your ankles and your eyes on the game.
TV Timeouts: Who are you kidding, you’ve seen all these commercials; why not plank, strengthen that core and avoid a few minutes of monotony.
Your Team Calls a Time Out: Get down in that huddle with your team and perform a wall sit for the duration of the timeout. You never know when you’re going get called off the bench, might as well keep those legs prime.
Fouls: Here’s your chance to flop. Get on your back and do bicycle kicks until all free-throws have bricked or gone in the basket.
3-Pointer: Every time the ball hits the net from behind that line, you’ve got three squats. Make sure your knees are aligned and your hips go down below your knees.
Halftime: Let’s get real, halftime is for your team to rest and you to do some work. Get up, quit the nail-biting and go for a walk. While you’re walking, try this breathing tip: in through your nose for four counts, hold for one to two seconds, then gently blow the air out. A few minutes of this can help lower your stress levels to prepare for the second half.
Block: A good block can be just as satisfying, and just as important as a great bucket. Your team’s out there fighting the burn so you can do the same. Ten side steps in each direction. Remember to keep low, keep your knees parallel and pretend like you know what to do with your hands.
Dunk: It’s a momentum changer that’s bound to get the stadium on their feet. It’s only natural this next exercise should get you on your feet too. For every dunk, three either celebratory or angry burpees. Remember to keep your feet shoulder-width apart, the weight in your heels and jump like it’s tip-off.
Game Over: Look at the score, tomorrow your goal is to do something physical for as many minutes as points your team scored. The Madness is upon us. It’s time to lace up your tennis shoes and get moving!
In health care, the value of having diverse doctors and nurses is often overlooked.
“Nurses deal with human beings, we are making decisions that impact human life.”
Our commitment to ensuring that North Carolinians get affordable care – by supporting those who give it, continues here, with a $1 million grant, to the nursing program at North Carolina Central University—a historically black university (HBCU). This effort will positively impact North Carolinians in rural and urban counties as more skilled nurses join our provider networks
We know that nurses spend many hours training to think critically at a moment’s notice. Nurses work long shifts and wear scrubs with cartoon-characters to make patients smile. They put the “care” in health care. Nurses teach you how to get better or feel safe when you are sick. They learn these skills and so much more at NCCU.
Critical Thinking and Compassion
E.D. “Reese” RN, BSN, CCM, MSL, a Blue Cross NC nurse and care manager feels pride when she speaks of North Carolina Central University (NCCU).“Being an Eagle means everything. There is a sense of pride when you go to an HBCU.” It is clear that nursing is not just a profession for Reese, it is her passion.
They have trained for this, they know what to do.
When asked about her experiences as a nursing student at NCCU, Reese recalls rigorous courses of study and not everyone made the cut. Her first two years were liberal arts. In her third and fourth year in nursing school, she transitioned to the “upper division.”Just because you are a junior doesn’t mean that you get to move to upper division. You have to earn it!
“My mother always instilled in me to be the best you can be. She strongly believed in education and stressed this throughout my life. Going to NCCU gave me a sense of belonging and encouragement.”
Reese knew that education was key to success, but she couldn’t imagine all that she learned at NCCU being a guiding force in all that she would do after graduation. The nursing program taught her to think critically and to ask the right questions. This is a necessary skill for any nurse. The critical thinking skills, as it relates to the health of Blue Cross NC members, is based on basic fundamental nursing process, which involves a collaborative approach, that entails assessing, planning, implementing, coordinating and monitoring with follow-up for efficiency.
NCCU ‘Eagles’ will save lives
“NCCU prepared me for the future. I gained valued professional and life skills during my time at NCCU. This vital decision-making and problem-solving skills have been stepping-stones to new roles in my career growth.”
Some people believe that nursing is an easy profession, but they would be wrong. Nurses “do a lot of research to make decisions.” It is a high-stress job that calls for a great amount of patience and compassion.
Nurses count on past experiences. They must be strong communicators and think critically to find solutions during an emergency. Reese remembered an experience after 9-11. In her nursing role, she was tasked with helping a group of telecom workers get medical clearance. The group needed to rebuild a telecom building near ground zero.
Her research told her that routine masks were not going to cut it. The workers needed special masks to protect them from toxins likely present in debris.
The investment will also be used to build upon the university’s state-of-the-art facilities. By supplying students with access to cutting-edge technology, they recieve the practical experience needed to excel in the health care field.