Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Food Pantries Offering Health Care to Needy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An out-of-work David Thomas walked into a Milwaukee food pantry just seeking groceries. Thomas learned he was a stroke waiting to happen and got blood pressure medicine along with his bread.

Food pantries have long aimed to help heal hunger. A new project aims to see how well they can help heal high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments, too.

It's part of a growing movement to offer medical care for the poor and uninsured in the places where they regularly gather.

"We're taking a window of opportunity approach," says Bill Solberg, director of community services for Columbia St. Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee, which co-founded the food pantry project. "We know we can see these people once a month."

Despite an increasing number of free medical clinics, treatment is hard for the needy to track down. That's especially true for the nation's top health problems -- high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol -- that require ongoing care even when the person feels no symptoms if they're to avoid heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and amputations.

Clinics require a special trip, a long wait, perhaps a baby sitter, annoyances for the well-to-do but huge obstacles for someone who must take three buses to reach the doctor or who loses a day of pay for the time off.

Consequently, "they only come when they're out of medicines or have symptoms. It's so frustrating," says Dr. Jim Sanders of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

So specialists increasingly are seeking other ways to address glaring disparities in U.S. health care, by taking care directly to where the people who need it most hang out.

Churches nationwide are offering blood pressure screening days and health fairs. Projects in numerous states are teaching barbers and beauticians how to teach their customers about stroke symptoms or to encourage a mammogram while giving a haircut.

Baltimore health officials are debating expanding the concept, with a proposal to offer blood pressure testing in 100 hair salons and barbershops in neighborhoods with high rates of heart disease.

In Milwaukee, Columbia St. Mary's and the medical college aim to provide scientific evidence that "chronic disease management" -- ongoing wellness care -- can significantly improve food pantry users' health in nine months.

The targets: High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking. The plan: Nurses will screen users of three food pantries for those health conditions when they come in for free groceries. Those with problems can get treated on the spot, with ongoing care as needed.

And because four of those conditions are diet-related, patients also will get nutrition education: Cooking classes in the pantry's kitchen and tips to make the often carbohydrate- and salt-heavy food-bank staples a little healthier. Medical students will be sent shopping with patients, helping with things like label-checking for salt.

Sadly, high-carb and high-fat foods tend to be a lot cheaper than fresh produce, and many of these families feed four for a month on $250, Sanders says. "Try to talk them into a head of broccoli. It's going to be an eye-opener."

Thomas, 47, learned his blood pressure was a sky-high 194 over 124 while visiting the project's initial food pantry clinic. A nurse told him he was at high risk for a stroke, and he agreed to treatment. Her warnings really sank in days later, when a meatpacking plant checked his health as part of a job interview, and said he'd be hired only after his hypertension was controlled.

Five days after starting pantry-provided pills, Thomas' blood pressure was dropping fast.
"This clinic is going to bring joy to the whole neighborhood," he said.

The program, which aims to treat 2,500 patients over three years, is funded by a $450,000 grant from a charity, but patients are expected to contribute for medications if at all possible.

Sanders predicts that for $4 or $5, a month's supply of generic hypertension or cholesterol medicine will be adequate for most. The seriously ill will be sent out for more advanced care, and nurses will enroll patients who qualify into Medicaid or other health programs.

"This is definitely an innovative program," says Dr. Jada Bussey-Jones, a preventive health expert at Emory University.

It's not the first time food banks and medical clinics have teamed up, notes Dr. Georges Benjamin of the American Public Health Association, pointing to a long-standing collaboration in the nation's capitol.

But there's little data showing how well this kind of nurse-led community project works, or that it can be cost-effective, Sanders says.

"The most important principle here is going where the people are," Benjamin says. "There no reason you can't do immunizations there, no reason you can't do nutritional counseling there. ... It makes a lot of sense."

Friday, December 14, 2007


In the debate over foie gras, chefs take out their knives.


In a Newsweek column last May, chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck explained how he would run his food empire from now on: "It's about getting every one of us to eat the right foods," he said, outlining his plans for serving pesticide-free vegetables and free-range chicken, beef and pork. "As for foie gras," Mr. Puck said of the delicacy of buttery rich duck (or goose) liver, "my customers and I can easily live without it."

The classically trained Austrian chef, who earned his fame at Spago and whose products can now be found at both the airport and the frozen-food section, has clearly touched a nerve in, as they say, the celebrity-chef community.

"I think he should stop worrying about cruelty to animals and start worrying about all the customers he's flopping his crap on at airports," says chef Anthony Bourdain, the author of "Kitchen Confidential" and the star of the TV series "No Reservations." Mr. Bourdain elaborates: "He does a lot of business in California. He got squeezed and pressured and phone-called from all angles, and like a good German shopkeeper he folded and sold out the people hiding in the cellar next door. I got no respect."

"A German shopkeeper"? How has a debate over goose liver gotten so nasty? And when did being a chef become so, well, political?

Chefs have always had their opinions. Julia Child's biographer Laura Shapiro writes that, "as she saw it, irradiation didn't pose nearly the threat [to our way of eating] that, say, vegetarianism did." In the 1970s, Paul Bocuse led the way toward simpler dishes with fresh ingredients, launching nouvelle cuisine. And Alice Waters emphasized local and organic foods with her "earth-to-table movement." But the question of whether to serve a dish or not because of humanitarian concerns is a relatively new one.

Banning foie gras has become a rallying cry for animal-rights activists across the country because the delicacy requires the insertion of a feeding tube into the duck's or goose's esophagus for several seconds three times a day toward the end of the bird's life; this force-feeding causes the liver to swell to well over its normal size. California plans on banning foie gras by 2012, and it's already illegal in Chicago. Last month the Humane Society of the U.S. sent the Agriculture Department a petition pushing for a nationwide ban.

But now the delicacy has caused a split among celebrity chefs--some of whom believe their job is preparing food, while others want to use their fame to score political points. In an email, Mr. Puck said his decision was not the result of being bullied. Reflecting on Spago's 25th anniversary, he writes: "I realized that . . . we had built a very successful company . . . and I wanted to use this success as a platform for doing something more socially responsible--something that needed leadership. Removing foie gras is a small part of our larger initiative . . . about values and eating and living WELL." (Mr. Puck's nine-point WELL program stands for "Wolfgang's Eating, Loving and Living.")

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, whose organization worked with Mr. Puck on WELL, says the group did not engage in pressure tactics. But Michael Ginor, co-founder and president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, disagrees: "There was an awful lot of pressure. I know from Wolfgang Puck's own chefs who are friends."

Some chefs view the criticism of foie gras as a direct assault on their tradition and heritage (it has been eaten since the time of the ancient Egyptians). "The intimidation [animal-rights activists] gave me and my staff--this is a big political problem," says Daniel Boulud, New York's four-star restaurateur and host of the TV show "After Hours" (in which the chef throws a dinner party for friends at a different restaurant each week). "Animals are treated here for the purpose of food--I think the duck has a pretty nice life." Culinary elder statesman Jacques Pépin calls the banning efforts "a sham." (Both men are respectful of Mr. Puck but believe, like Mr. Ginor, that he was pressured into his decision.)

Bill Buford of The New Yorker considers the activism of chefs "a good thing because food itself is and always has been more than just a plate of food. It is also history, identity, family, biology, culture, and, yes, politics." Fair enough. But like other celebrities who campaign to save the rainforests or to stop global warming, chefs may eventually push the limits of their fame. And Mr. Puck's customers may decide they've had enough.

On the other hand, Mr. Buford, the author of the best-selling "Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany," couldn't care less about the specifics of this debate: "It's a fat bomb," he says of foie gras, "the swollen testimony of a goose that has lived a luxurious life, offered up as an inflated luxury to the people prepared to pay for it. . . . Who cares? Do you? I don't." Clearly, some others do.

Banana Eggnog Pudding

This is one of the all-time favorite Southern dessert treats, but with a little holiday twist:

4 Eggs, separated
¾ cup Granulated Sugar, divided
½ cup Light Brown Sugar
2 ½ cups Whole Milk
1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Rum Extract, divided
1 tsp Nutmeg, divided
60 Vanilla Wafer Cookies
6 Ripe Bananas, sliced
Dash of Kosher Salt

Preheat oven to 350° F.

To prepare the custard, mix flour, brown sugar, salt, and ½ cup of the white sugar in the top of a double boiler. Blend in the egg yolks and milk. Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp of the rum extract and 1/2 tsp of the nutmeg.

Spread 1/4 of the custard in the bottom of a 2 qt casserole or other similar sized ovenproof baking dish. Cover the custard with 1/3 of the wafers, followed by 1/3 of the sliced bananas. Continue to alternate layers, ending with a layer of custard on top.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar and the remaining rum extract on high speed to stiff peaks to make a meringue.

Spoon the meringue on top of the custard and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface. Sprinkle the remaining nutmeg evenly over the top.

Bake at 350° F until meringue is golden brown. Refrigerate until chilled thoroughly.

Makes 12 Servings.

Mushrooms Provençale

24 large mushroom caps
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, mashed
3 tablespoons minced shallots
Salt and pepper
Pinch of thyme

Preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Remove the stems of the mushrooms.

Blend the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Fill each of the mushrooms with the mixture.

Sprinkle the mushrooms with olive oil.

Arrange the mushrooms in a baking or gratin dish not too close to each other.

Bake the mushrooms in the oven at 400º for 15 minutes.

Serve two mushrooms as a starter or as a side dish.

Serves 12.

Brown Rice Pilaf

1/4 cup butter
2 Tbsp. Vegetable oil
1 med. Yellow Onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
2 ribs Celery, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups long grained brown rice
1 qt. Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tsp Black pepper
2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Melt butter with oil.

Sauté onion, garlic, celery and pepper until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add rice and sauté, stirring constantly, for two minutes.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Season to taste with salt, black pepper, and cayenne.

Continue cooking until rice is al dente and liquid is absorbed.

Fluff with a fork, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve.

Makes approx. 10 servings.

Hamming it Up

Here's a simple (but FLAVORFUL) recipe recommendation for your family's Christmas dinner:

Holiday Glazed Ham

1 bone-in cured ham, about 15 pounds
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
½ cup regular prepared mustard
1 Tbsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan. Stir in brown sugar, mustard, pepper, cloves, and allspice. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325º F.

Trim the skin from the ham using a sharp knife. Leave approx. 1/8 inch of fat all around. Score the fat in a diamond pattern. Place the ham, fat side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon half of the glaze over the top of the ham. Return to the oven uncovered and bake 30 minutes. Spoon remaining glaze over the ham. Bake about 30 minutes, basting occasionally with pan juices. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil. Allow the ham to rest for approximately 20 minutes before carving. Makes approx. 20 servings.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Banana, Anyone?

The ‘monkey see, monkey do’ mentality among staff leads to mediocrity, drives owners bananas

(Dec. 03) I didn’t invent the hypothetical situation, but let’s just suppose for a second that I did.

Put five monkeys in a cage. Inside that cage, hang one banana on a string and place a ladder under it. Keep a garden hose nearby. Soon one of the monkeys will spot the banana and start to climb the ladder to get it. When he does, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. Now, replace the banana.

After a while another one of the monkeys will probably go for the banana. Again, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water.

Monkeys are relatively smart, so pretty soon, whenever one of the monkeys attempts to climb the ladder, all the other monkeys will try to prevent him from doing it. When that happens, put away the cold-water hose. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one.

Now hang a new banana over the ladder.

The new monkey will spot the banana and head for the ladder. To his surprise, all of the other monkeys will spontaneously attack him. After several more futile attempts, all of which will result in further beatings, the new monkey will no longer try for the banana.

Remove another of the original monkeys and again replace it with a new one. Now replace the banana. Again, the new monkey will make a grab for it. Like his predecessor he will be stunned to discover that all the other monkeys attack him. In fact, the previous newcomer will most likely take a particularly enthusiastic role in his replacement’s punishment.

One at a time, gradually replace all of the original monkeys with new ones. Each of the newcomers will go for the banana. Each one will be attacked by the other four. Most of the new monkeys have absolutely no idea why they were not allowed to climb the ladder, or why they are participating in the assault on the newest monkey.

When all of the original monkeys have been replaced, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, not one of those monkeys ever approaches the ladder. Why not? Because as far as they are concerned that’s the way it has always been done around here.

And that is how corporate culture and company policy begins.

A friend sent me that parable, and though the author is unknown to me, the moral is quite clear.

If your best employees keep leaving and only the least valuable remain, you’ve got to start challenging the policies and processes that made you successful in the past.

Carolyn Straub, human resources administrator for Runza National, a Lincoln, Neb.-based regional restaurant chain that is known for its overstuffed sandwiches, agrees. “If you tolerate employees and managers that have accepted mediocrity as the standard level of performance, each go-getter that you bring into your restaurant will be dragged down by the middle or bottom groups,” she says.

“Accepting mediocrity and poor performance accelerates turnover among the good performers and leaves you with only the poor ones. The water in this story symbolizes every time that a manager compromises standards, accepts poor performance, or douses an employee’s ideas, improvement suggestions, or eagerness to go above and beyond.”

I couldn’t agree more. If performance is slipping at your operation, every manager and operator should first look themselves in the mirror before they blame the economy, the competition, the customer, or the “quality of help these days.”

Do you hire people prescreened to fit your culture or do you hire anyone and try to fit your culture to them? Rookie mistake. Maybe you quickly hire average performers and hope that “training” will fix them. But there is no right way to develop the wrong person. Do you make it a privilege to join your team, or are you surprised when once-profitable units underperform?

There is no such thing as a great team in a bad store.

Are your general managers so busy managing numbers that they’re failing to recognize performers, as well as the performance? Remember that brains, like hearts, go where they’re appreciated.

Mediocre managers will not take the time to methodically challenge the process and search out root causes of operational problems. Instead, they blame the monkeys, and determine that it must be the reward that’s wrong. So they decide to exchange the banana for an orange. Sound familiar?

If you want to get better, challenge your policies, procedures and processes daily. Ask: What makes our day difficult? Why do we do it that way? What if we didn’t? What was the origin of the policy? Does it still make sense for us, for our customers? Does the process or policy make it is easy for customers to do business with us? If not, why? Change it. Does it make it easier for our team to do business with us? If not, why? Change it. Does our hiring and training program assure us better performers than the competition? If not, why? Change it.

And if this discussion makes you uncomfortable, you’d best ask yourself one last question: “Which is stronger in our company: our willingness to change or our resistance to it?”

Banana, Anyone?

Jim Sullivan’s newest book and audio-book is called “Multi Unit Leadership: The 7 Stages of Building High-Performing Partnerships & Teams.” You can order it and get his free monthly e-newsletter of best practices at For a podcast of this column go to .

Body Art at Work

Some Managers Look Past Tattoos and Piercings - But Not if They Distract Customers

For 12 years, Ann Kinder has sported a two-inch square tattoo on the inside of her left ankle. Because she regularly wears pants, many of her co-workers are hardly aware of the vibrant design, a peace dove styled in blue, white, green, and orange.

"I have colleagues with tattoos that are more visible," says Ms. Kinder, a communications associate for a nonprofit education agency in Naperville, Ill. But no one can miss the nose ring Kinder added two months ago. "That's something I decided to be a little bolder about," she says, noting that several other women in her office have pierced noses.

Body art, once the province of bikers, longshoremen, marines, and punks, is going more mainstream, showing up in white-collar workplaces. As more young employees – both women and men – opt for ink and piercings, they face decisions about how much decorated skin to bare or not to bare. In the process, they are also quietly forcing their employers to accept them.

More than one-third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 have tattoos, and 40 percent of those between 26 and 40, according to a Pew Research study. For those over age 40, the number drops to 10 percent. In all, an estimated 30 million to 40 million people have tattoos.

As a further sign of growing popularity, reality shows on television, such as "Miami Ink" and "LA Ink," promote body art. Last week 7-Eleven even launched an energy drink called Inked, targeted to a rapidly growing niche market – young, tattooed Americans.

Fields such as entertainment and technology often permit relaxed dress policies. "I have clients who work all over the United States and are allowed to expose their tattoos," says Jamie Yasko-Mangum, a corporate-training consultant for Successful Style & Image in Orlando, Fla.

Other businesses remain conservative. "There are many professions where tattoos are not allowed to be exposed," Ms. Yasko-Mangum says. These can include law offices, banks, restaurants, pharmaceutical firms, and insurance companies. In such places, women with butterflies and flowers decorating a shoulder or men with snakes and flame-breathing dragons encircling a forearm must rely on long sleeves to cover their art.

That's the approach David Kimelberg, general counsel for a venture capital group in Newton, Mass., takes to keep his tattoos a secret. "They do tend to be distracting," he says. "They're unique and colorful. Your attention goes to that if they're exposed."

Despite the secrecy, Mr. Kimelberg, who is also a photographer, found a network of heavily tattooed white-collar professionals. They form the subject of his book, "Inked Inc." Sixty percent of those he photographed are women.

After the book's publication in May, Kimelberg had to reveal himself to his company. To his relief, reaction was "quite positive," he says. "We pitch to start-up companies with pretty young management teams. [Tattoos] create a connection on a personal level. You're not seen as this conservative, stodgy group. They see you as more youthful. They can connect with that."

But many other employers and clients fail to make that connection. Despite the growing popularity of body art, some companies are clamping down. "At first it was like, 'Oh, OK,' " says Brooks Savage, CEO of Executive Staffing Group in Raleigh, N.C. "But it has been taken a little too far. People are starting to tighten policies. I'm taking a stronger and stronger stand on it. I've had managers speak to employees." Some of his criticism is directed to young women whose shirts expose lower-back tattoos when they bend over or reach up.

Susan Potter Norton, an attorney with Allen Norton & Blue in Miami, also finds employers less willing to accept body art. "I've had a number of private-sector employers ask if they can require employees to cover up tattoos or decline to hire them," she says. The answer in Florida is yes.

Marty Kotis, president of Kotis Properties, a real estate development firm in Greensboro, N.C., does not have a strict policy against body art. For employees who do not interact with the public, where a good first impression is important, he takes a laissez-faire approach. His test is: "If it negatively impacts our business, it's not a good thing."

He interviewed one job applicant who wore a large nose ring. "I found it kind of distracting talking to her," Mr. Kotis says. "If a prospective client is sitting there and instead of hearing the pitch about our company is thinking, 'That must have hurt,' or 'Why would she have that?', that would be a concern."

Before Kinder had her nose pierced, she checked with the human resources director, who did not object. Kinder finds that the small ring has had "no negative effect" on her work environment. But a major fitness club where she holds a second job does not allow nose rings. She covers it with a band-aid while she works there.

Michelle Clark, creative director for a public-relations firm in Atlanta, keeps her tattoos concealed at work. "In the summer, I can't go sleeveless," she says. When she attends business meetings, she hides an infinity symbol on her wrist with a big bracelet. She also wears just one pair of earrings to work, despite having seven holes in one ear and three in the other.
"I prefer people to remember me for my work and not to be distracted by my tattoos or piercings," Ms. Clark says. "A friend insists it is her right to show off everything under the sun. She has a lot less respect in our business."

Even so, attitudes are changing, says John Putzier, author of "Weirdos in the Workplace: The New Normal." He describes the process as "more of an evolution than a revolution," adding, "Eventually, what's avant-garde today is more common tomorrow." He defends the right of managers "to regulate, dictate, and prohibit."

Mr. Putzier expects managers to evolve. "As baby boomers retire, Gen X and Gen Y will be doing the hiring," he says. "The standard of decorum for appearance will change and is changing." A shortage of skilled workers will also encourage companies to look beyond externals.
One heavily tattooed professional, Todd Dewett, is an associate professor of management at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Although the stigma is softening, he says, most people still "stereotype anyone with a lot of ink." He adds, "The belief that tattoos will slow you down professionally in some fashion is not irrational." Mr. Dewett is the author of a forthcoming book, "Leadership Redefined."

Yasko-Magnum, the corporate-training consultant, advises those considering a tattoo to reflect on whether their profession will accept it. "When you are in an office, do not expose your tattoos, because you can lose your credibility. I hear people say, 'That's my personal expression.' But when you're working for a company, you have to conform."

She adds that she has seen clients, now in their 30s and 40s, who wish they had never gotten tattoos. That regret sends some professionals to dermatologists for laser tattoo removal.
In the long run, greater workplace acceptance will depend on whether tattooing is simply a trend or a lasting part of American culture, says Bob Kustka, a human resources consultant in Norwell, Mass.

For now, Clark takes a sanguine approach. "You have to take into consideration that not everybody likes what you like," she says. "You have to have some respect for what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable if you expect them to work with you."

Congratulations to Class #47

Class #47 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program graduated on Friday, November 30, 2007. CONGRATULATIONS to the graduates!

Pictured Above (front row, left to right) Michelle Naidoo, Dana Arend, Bianca Gunn-Thomas, Shateese Williams (back row) Chef Conway, David Williams, John Marsh, Phillip Kittrell, and Ricky Bullock