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"Woman choosing food"

What’s really on your plate at the fancy restaurant you’ve chosen to celebrate that special occasion?  Was the grouper entrée truly locally-sourced? Is it really grouper, and is it truly fresh? How about the label on that cereal box in the grocery store? Is it actually gluten-free? Is it truly non-GMO?

The complex and confusing issue of food labeling will be the focus of a public forum presented by St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Titled What’s on Your Plate? Food Labeling, from Seed to Fork, the forum will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at SPC’s Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N. The forum is co-sponsored by Nature’s Food Patch, the Tampa Bay Times and WEDU Television.

Regular readers of the Tampa Bay Times know that the answers to the questions listed above may not necessarily be “yes,” despite what the menu or package labels say. In a provocative series titled Fork to Fable, Times’ food critic Laura Reiley exposed shocking disparities between what restaurants and farmers’ markets label their food items and the reality of where they came from and how they were produced. Reiley will lead a wide-ranging discussion of food labeling practices at the forum.

She will be joined by Katherine Miller, founding Executive Director of the Chef Action Network and Senior Director of Food Policy Advocacy at the James Beard Foundation; Robert Baugh, Chief Operating Officer of the Chiles Restaurant Group in Anna Maria, Fla.; and Ben King, owner/manager of King Family Farm in Bradenton, Fla. The moderator will be Dr. Amanda Gilleland, Academic Chair of the Department of Natural Science at St. Petersburg College.

With health-conscious consumers paying more attention to food additives, calories, nutritional value and sourcing, reading food labels has become an important part of the dining and grocery-shopping experience. But this attention to the content and quality of food comes at a time when the labels are increasingly being called into question. Reiley exposed widespread mislabeling by Tampa Bay-area restaurants and outdoor markets.

Consumer advocates also have written extensively about the veracity of labels on processed foods, asserting that labelling standards are so flexible and enforcement so lax that misrepresentation is a common practice of food processors.

Admission to the forum is free, but advance registration is required at solutions.spcollege.edu.

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About 80 people witnessed the groundbreaking on Thursday, July 21, for the Clearwater East Community Library at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater Campus. Dr. Stan Vittetoe gave opening remarks and welcomed faculty, students and guests.

SPC-Clearwater-East-Community-Library (21)

“I’m so glad this day has come,” Senior VP Instruction and Academic Programs Dr. Anne Cooper said. “This library is a learning hub for our students and community.”

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos talked about the impact a library has in the community. “The college and the city have worked really hard for this day,” Cretekos said. “The library has always been important to the community and vital to students.”

Student SGA Representative Courtney Kent described the new facility as “a safe place for the imagination to grow.”

The state-of-the-art, two-story building will be an open-space concept and will replace the existing facility, which was built in 1964. The $15 million library will house more than 90,000 electronic and print books.

SPC operates two other joint-use libraries in Pinellas County with the cities of St. Petersburg and Seminole. Both are thriving facilities where students and community members share access to an expanded range of resources. A joint-use library is a place where patrons can discover new ideas and enjoy cultural enrichment opportunities while students can focus on their academic pursuits.

Dr. Shannon Ulrich, a representative of the Faculty Governance Organization at SPC, gave closing remarks. “We believe a vast amount of knowledge will be cultivated at this site.”

 

 

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St. Petersburg College Information Services Librarian Chad Mairn told the room full of children that when he was a kid, he was out making and jumping ramps on his bike. He went on to say that he wanted them to do that kind of thing, too, but with all the amazing new technology available to them, he also expected them to do greater things – anything they wanted – and no one should ever tell them that their ideas were bad ones. And so began the Maker Boot Camp, where 450 kids, ages 10-13, attended monthly sessions at the Seminole Community Library that sparked the students’ interest and creativity with topics including video game design, circuitry, robotics and video editing.

Maker Boot Camp 1

The Boot Camp came about when Mairn, with the help of Seminole’s Youth Services Supervisor Jill Storm and Library Director Mike Bryan, submitted a grant application to the Association for Library Service to Children for their Curiosity Creates grant, which supports creativity programming for libraries. Their application, one of 400, was one of the 77 nationwide selected to receive $7,500 for their Boot Camp.

The college’s Innovation Lab at the library was a strong candidate for the grant, since they already had some cool tech pieces there, such as 3D printer, a virtual reality headset called an Oculus Rift, and several robots.

“The grant allowed us to buy even more,” Mairn said. “Enough to continue the project for many years.”

Mairn said Storm handled the organization of the project, while he wrote the curriculum, ordered the technology, and did a lot of teaching – as well as learning.

“I had to learn everything,” he said. “And because I had to teach it, I had to learn it a couple of steps ahead of them.”

Maker Boot Camp 2 Maker Boot Camp 3

Some SPC staffers were enlisted to help out with the sessions. Paul Sutton, who teaches video game design, taught a session on that topic, and professional photographer and recent SPC graduate Chris Demmons filmed the sessions and taught the final workshop on video and sound editing, where they took some of his footage and made their own videos.

“My session went great,” Demmons said. “The kids were actually really sharp, and a lot of them already knew how to edit video, and the ones who didn’t picked it up really fast.”

In one session, the kids designed an invention, which they were allowed to print from the 3D printer.

“The kids came up with some great inventions,” Mairn said. “One student was invited to share her invention, a cup to catch the drips from an ice cream cone, at a competition in Washington D.C.”

The Boot Camp culminated with a fun day, Makerfest, where they invited everyone to come to the classroom and play with all the tech toys, have some snacks and watch a screening of the kids’ videos and a documentary put together from the footage and stills that Demmons shot. Demmons said he was inspired by the enthusiasm of the children.

“There were three kids who were always there early – sometimes before I was,” he said. “They were always just rearing to go and learn something new.”

Mairn says the program was so popular that it will be expanded, with intermediate sessions added in addition to the next introductory sessions.

“I don’t think I had one kid who was disappointed,” he said. “Many of them told us they’d never had access to this type of stuff before, like the Oculus Rift. They were able to experience it and get into it.”

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Eileen LaHaie

Executive Director for the Center for Public Safety Innovation Eileen LaHaie poses with St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway at the Moxie Award’s ceremony.

When Executive Director for the Center for Public Safety Innovation Eileen LaHaie was a little girl, her father always told her, “You have moxie!” She now has an award to prove it, as she was recently given a Moxie Award from the Drug Free America Foundation at their May 18 event.

According to the DFAF website, the award celebrates citizens who have shown knowledge of the facts regarding the harms of drug use, used courage to stand against legislation that would weaken drug laws and proved determined to protect our nation’s children from addiction. To select their reward recipients, the organization looks at people who have worked with them and made efforts in the community.

After working with the DFAF for more than twelve years, LaHaie said most of her work at SPC has somehow related to drug prevention. “We do community outreach, counter-drug training programs, make videos and develop curriculum for them,” she said.

LaHaie said she grew up in a law enforcement family, and she’s seen how destructive drugs can be–especially to families. “Now that I’m a grandmother, fighting drug addiction is no longer work–it has become a mission.”

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Over the past year, Diana Wright, St. Petersburg College’s Director of Facilities Services, has organized several community service opportunities for the college’s Facilities department.

The department added a food drive to their holiday party, collected bags of healthy snacks for children in need, and on May 21, some of the Facilities group spent their Saturday representing SPC at a Habitat for Humanity house down the street from the Midtown campus.

Habitat1

Wright said she was inspired by the Leadership SPC volunteer group project to bring an SPC staff group together to do community service.

“It’s just something we’re doing informally right now,” Wright said.

The five Facilities staffers who could volunteer on Saturday were ready for work, which included painting, carpentry and installing insulation.

“They had a supervisor on-site who gave specific instructions on what to do,” Wright said. “He said our team was probably the best group he’s had in a long time because they needed very little direction.”

Associate Vice President of Facilities Planning & Institutional Services Jim Waechter said their work was very much appreciated. Board Member Deveron Gibbons heard that the group would be there, so he stopped by to offer his support and thanks, and the future homeowner worked alongside them, as well.

“It was great to meet her and her appreciation was very gratifying,” Waechter said. “Everybody left with a nice sense of gratification and a willingness to do it again.”

Waechter worked on the team that was installing insulation that day, and he said the work was no joke.

“We were dripping with sweat,” he said. “I took a shower and a nap as soon as I got home.”

Wright said the group will definitely be doing more service projects in the future.

“I started this group of volunteers so that staff with similar interests could come together and serve in their communities,” Wright said. “Lending a helping hand is something that has personally helped me stay eternally thankful and serves as a reminder of how blessed we all are.”

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Students are invited to join the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners and the county administrator in a Community Conversation to discuss county services and important topics such as housing, social services and transportation.

blog_CommConvo2016

The public meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 3, from 6 – 7 p.m. at the St. Petersburg College Seminole Campus in the Digitorium, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole, preceded by an open house from 5:30 – 6 p.m.

Held in partnership with SPC and Bay News 9, the Community Conversation offers an interactive venue for citizens to talk about issues, with the convenience of social media, online video streaming and blogging. Residents can also participate in the event via phone and by watching live on PCC-TV or SPC-TV.

Citizen comments are encouraged as part of the conversation with Pinellas County Commissioners Chairman Charlie Justice, Vice Chairman Janet C. Long, Dave Eggers, Pat Gerard, John Morroni, Karen Williams Seel, Kenneth T. Welch and County Administrator Mark S. Woodard. The conversation will be moderated by Al Ruechel of Bay News 9.

There are five ways to participate in the conversation:

  • Be part of the live audience. The live event will be held at St. Petersburg College, Seminole campus, in the University Partnership Center Digitorium, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole.
  • Watch it live and blog on pinellascounty.org/CommunityConversation. The blog opens Tuesday, May 3, at 9 a.m.
  • Watch it and ask questions on Pinellas County’s Facebook or post on Twitter and Instagram accounts using #PinellasCC.
  • Call (888) 409-5380 to listen and ask questions.
  • Watch on PCC-TV (Bright House Channel 637, WOW! Channel 18 or Verizon Channel 44) and SPC-TV (Bright House Channel 636, WOW! Channel 19 or Verizon Channel 47).

For more information about the Community Conversation, including links to resources about the county’s strategic plan and the citizen survey, visit www.pinellascounty.org/CommunityConversation or call (727) 464-3000.

This blog post was provided by Irena Karolak, public information specialist with Pinellas County Communications. 

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Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) launched the 2016 New Ideas Conference with a reminder of what the event is – and isn’t – about.

“This is to give voice to the community, and this is a forum to talk policy, not politics,” said Jolly as he spoke words that resonated the ideas of free speech.

new-ideas-2

The April 8 forum – now in its second year – featured local leaders and the community talking about critical issues. Jolly served as the event’s moderator.

Last year New Ideas jumped into discussions about budget, transportation, energy and education. This year featured three panels – Veterans’ Welfare, Government Reform and Emerging Threats of Terrorism.

Read tweets from and about the forum.

Veterans’ Welfare

“Our nations heroes deserve the very best we have to offer,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) during the discussion about veterans. “Too often the VA has fallen short.”

The Veterans’ Welfare panel brought with it highly emotional responses. Johnny Jones, a retired Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician who lost both of his legs in 2010 after he was deployed to Afghanistan, touched the audience with his inspiring words. He told the crowd that losing his best friend, another U.S. Marine, to suicide forced him to think about what causes someone to go that far. He spoke passionately about the misuse of medication to those with PTSD. His non-profit organization, the Boot Campaign, works to raise awareness for Veterans’ issues. It also provides assistance to military families.

“All Americans want this to change,” said Blaze Radio Network anchor Doc Thompson. “We have the right ideas, but it is not getting done.”

Government Reform

Continuing with the idea of not getting things done, the Government Reform panel talks addressed issues with government gridlock and corruption.

“Congress has gotten so dysfunctional that good candidates don’t want to do it anymore,” said Editor of Editorials for the Tampa Bay Times Tim Nickens. “They can never get anything done, and the problem is not the middle. It is the extremes on either side.”

The discussion addressed district gerrymandering, Congressional term limits, the use of filibustering and budget concerns. The workings of primary elections also came up.

“A lot of people feel disenfranchised due to closed primaries,” said former Congressman Jim Davis. “Open primaries give more control and more choice. Neither side will like it, but we need to do it.”

Emerging Threats of Terrorism

Discussion of the threat of cyberterrorism entered the picture last. The panel featured Katherine Bauer, senior fellow at the Washington Institute; Congresswoman Gwen Graham (FL-2) and Chief Operating Officer for the Florida Center for Cybersecurity Sri Sridharan.

“Our military is protecting and defending us. We are working hard every day providing security here in the U.S,” said Graham.

Attendees were looking for answers on conflicts involving Syria, ISIS and Iran. Intellectual property, proper “cyber hygiene” and blocking ISIS online were also discussed.

“Syria, it is a humanitarian crisis,” said Graham. “You can’t make sense of whose fighting who for what reason.”

People from around Pinellas County joined students and faculty within the crowd at the SPC Seminole Campus Digitorium.

“I really enjoyed the Veterans panel,” said SPC Biology student Torin Clark. “It was awesome to hear that they were truly trying to figure out ways to help veterans.”

Clark also got a lot out of the Government Reform panel talks. Not someone who has kept up-to-date with politics, he said he learned a lot from the panel.

Local business owner Bruce Elliot said “This event is awesome, but once it is over, we have to think, ‘Well, what’s next?’”

At the end of each panel, people were told how they could get in touch with the panelists as well as others who can push for change. Many in the audience left with new answers and new questions.

Missed the forum? See video from the event online.

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