The Extension Homemakers Council gathered at the JPH building on Jan. 31 to hold their Tri-County meeting. After inclement weather forced the group to postpone the event twice, everyone was happy to get together to exchange information and hear the featured speakers. The EHC is a non-profit organization that is committed to help improve lives and empower families and individuals through continuing education, leadership development and community service.

Topics discussed included Eating Right for your Lifestyle, 10 Tips to Improve Mental Health and many others.

Renee Carr informed the audience about the Arkansas Quilt Trail, a project that places hand painted quilt patterns on wooden surfaces. The paintings are then placed on barns, homes and other structures. Once a series of quilt blocks are displayed in an area, a Quilt Trail is formed. Trails are established in nearly every part of the state for viewing.

Roberta Shrinkle, AEHC, presented “Nourishing our Roots and Future”. Shrinkle is the Food Insecurity Project Chairperson for Arkansas. Food Insecurity, as defined by the USDA is “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life”. Hunger and Food Insecurity are closely related but there is a slight difference. Hunger is the sensation of discomfort that accompanies a lack of nutrition. Food Insecurity is the lack of resources to meet their basic need for adequate nutrition. Food Insecurity affects several demographics in America. For example, Senior Citizens often have to choose between food and medical care to survive.

Children face the consequences of Food Insecurity, including poor performance in school, developmental impairments, illness and behavioral problems. Parents are often forced to buy the cheapest food that contains little or no nutrition to feed their families.

Rural Americans tend to be at the highest risk for hunger and Food Insecurity. Supermarkets and food pantries are generally far away from the homes in rural areas. Lower wages and isolation make it difficult to acquire fresh food.

African Americans are affected by poverty at more than twice the rate of white, non-Hispanic Americans. Poverty is a major contributor to Food Insecurity and hunger.

The Latino population is affected by poverty and a lack of nutrition as well. Low wages for workers is a contributing factor. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only half of the Latino citizens that qualify for SNAP benefits apply and receive them.

The EHC collects food for local food drives and pantries and offers educational information to help families in need to reduce Food Insecurity Rates in the area.

Dr. Laura Hendrix, Ph.D, a featured speaker at the event, addressed attendees with some very practical advice to help with organization of paperwork in our homes. Her presentation “Important Papers: What to Keep and Where” gave tips on how to decide whether to keep or discard the ever-building pile of papers that reside in most homes. Every piece of paper falls into one of 4 categories: Active, Keepers, VIP’s and Discards.

Active papers are used frequently, such as current bills and receipts. These can be disposed of usually within 30-60 days unless they contain tax information or other documentation that may be required at a later date.

Keepers are papers that you will need in the future, but may not access frequently. These include tax documents, medical information and active warranty information. A filing system should be designated for maintaining this type of documents.

VIP’s-Very Important Papers are items such as birth certificates, passports, property titles and other legally binding documents. They need a safe deposit box or a fire proof safe to call home.

Discards are the bulk of the paper clutter we accumulate. Old magazines, junk mail, receipts that are no longer needed and outdated bills that have been paid do not need to be kept. Be sure to shred or destroy anything that contains personal or financial information.

The last presentation was 10 tips to Improve Mental Health. We all find ourselves feeling stressed or overwhelmed from time to time. Here are some simple practices that can bring relief from the worry:

1. Interact with others, such as friends or family.

2. Practice mindfulness. A few deep breaths or meditation can be calming.

3. Exercise. Take a brisk walk to clear your thoughts.

4. Eat Healthy. It may be tempting to eat junk food when stressful situations arise, but a healthy overall diet will be more beneficial.

5. Practice gratitude. Remind yourself of the positive aspects of your life. Keeping a journal will help to bring back good memories.

6. Laughter. It really is the best medicine.

7. Enjoy some good music.

8. Set boundaries. Sometimes you have to say “no” to protect your physical and mental well-being.

9. Engage in positive self talk. Silence that voice in your head that has only negative things to say.

10. Seek professional help. Should you begin to feel as if things are out of control, do not be ashamed to get the help you need.

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