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Staff Editorials

Amount of wasted food in America is disgraceful

    If you are like the average American and have had your office/group Christmas party already, then you probably threw away enough green bean casserole, store-bought sugar cookies and potato salad to fill a trash can.   
    Most modern American families tossed enough Thanksgiving leftovers to make the bellies of a third-world family bulge for a week.
    About the only concern we have for the broccoli and ham leftovers is hoping the neighbor’s dogs don’t get into the garbage.
    While it is most evident during the holidays, the problem of food waste is a whole lot bigger than what to do with week-old turkey.
    According to a statement by the EPA and Department of Agriculture, “Food loss and waste in the United States accounts for approximately 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers and has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change.”
    The federal agencies called for a 50-percent reduction in wasted food by 2030. A sizeable portion of the waste are crops that go directly from field to dump, which brings up a tangled mess of issues like farm subsidies, trade and, oddly enough, what happens to ugly apples.    
    The USDA believes one driving force in the waste has been the stream of images of beautiful fruit/veggies dating back to the earliest days of color advertising that has left Americans squeamish of perfectly healthy potatoes or squash that don’t mature in the ideal shape/color. Most grocery distributors don’t even bring ugly fruit to market. Other than lightening up some on how we select produce, there isn’t much an average American can do to tackle the big picture of industrial produce waste.
    On the consumer side, however, cutting down on food waste increases your bank account. The USDA estimates the average family trashes $1,500 to $1,600 in groceries every year.
    In a simpler global market, one could pontificate about how all the wasted lettuce and tomatoes might feed the hungry. But the real obstacle isn’t cleaning our plates because there are kids starving in Korea - It’s the logistics of getting surplus food to hungry people that creates the challenge. You can’t easily bring ears of unsold corn from Kansas to downtown Atlanta.
    It is a shame that so much food goes to waste while people go hungry and it’s encouraging to see the USDA recognizing the problem, even if the next steps aren’t obvious. They have calculated just 15 percent of the current waste would feed 25 million Americans - about 42 million Americans are judged “food insecure.”
    A secondary effect of the wasted grub is landfill space. Food takes up more space in American landfills than any other items, according to the EPA.
    It is disgraceful when you think of all the labor, time and resources that went into producing food and then think of all the additional, and thoroughly wasted effort, in hauling it to stores, only to have it then reloaded and hauled to a dump.
    On a personal level, calculate your loss of time/money going to the store, buying something, letting it crowd the fridge for a while, then putting it in a garbage bag and hauling it to the curb or dump and paying to dispose of it.
    To cut down on waste at home, the USDA offers some obvious suggestions involving lists and honest assessments of your family’s meal habits. Plenty of advice can be found online, but nothing you wouldn’t come up with on your own if you spot a problem in your cupboard and fridge.
    Just think what the forefathers in these Appalachian foothills would think if they knew their descendants were filling trash cans with food they paid for but never got around to eating before it went bad?


Support your community: Shop Local

    Sop-LocalWe love Amazon Prime. LOVE it. If you’re subscribed to the service you can order almost anything online and, like a good little soldier, it arrives at your doorstep in two days, free shipping to boot.
     That being said, Amazon doesn’t give us the same I’m-doing-something-good-for-the-world feeling like shopping local does, and it certainly doesn’t do anything to support our community or local economy. In fact, if you get past its convenience and consider future implications of Amazon (which calls itself the ‘Everything Store’), the image is borderline terrifying – everything we buy could very well come from one monolithic, monopolistic, totalitarian-esque company if we don’t shop local.
    Some of the reasons we support supporting our local businesses are obvious but we still harp on them every year:
     •You put money in the local economy by giving local business owners and their employees money. These business owners and employees can turn around and spend it locally, too.
    •Sales tax supports our local governments, which provide necessary infrastructure and public services.
    •If you don’t support local businesses they close. We hear people complain all the time about there being ‘nothing going on in Jasper,’ but we can also think about several businesses and restaurants that closed this year because the community didn’t support them. That leaves the retail landscape less diverse.
    Other reasons to shop local aren’t as obvious, but just as important:
    •Independent stores have unique things that make interesting and oftentimes more memorable gifts than what you can find at box stores. We have plenty one-of-a-kind businesses in the county, from the top-notch restaurants, ladies clothing stores, western and outdoor stores, athletic gear, pet and tack markets, antique stores, bakeries, health stores, pottery studios and art galleries, local theatre companies, and an independent coffee shop. We’ve even got an army surplus store and a locally-sourced meat market. If you can’t make a decision about what specific gift to buy, we’d bet all of these businesses offer gift cards.     
    •Business owners are inundated with calls from organizations that want donations or sponsorships. Businesses in small towns get hit especially hard with requests because there is a limited number of merchants. One Pickens business owner said he gets between five to seven calls each week from local organizations like churches, schools, sports team and others, and that he gives as much as he is able. Local businesses are also the ones who let groups hang posters in their storefront windows for upcoming events. Let’s see an online retailer match that service. The community needs to return the support by giving back with our dollars this season (and all year round). The more we support our businesses the more they’re able to help  by giving out free gift cards or sponsoring that sports team.
    •Local businesses offer in-person support for things you buy, and independent business owners usually go to great lengths to make customers happy. You also get to create personal relationships with store owners and employees, which is invaluable.
    •This isn’t exactly a reason to shop in town, but more of a guideline – please don’t go into a local store, pick the owner or employee’s brain about a product they carry then go online and order it cheaper. Isn’t their professional input and time worth a few bucks?
    •You save gas and time if you don’t have to drive somewhere else.
    We realize some things you need you’re just not going to find in Pickens. In the market for a book on propaganda through history for that politically-minded person on your list? You probably won’t find it in Pickens, but there’s a lot you can find here if you are willing to look.
    We’re not unrealistic and we’re not asking you to spend every dime of your holiday budget in town, but join us in making an effort to spend as much as you can with local businesses. Trust us, your community and your conscience will reap the rewards.

Hooray for our home teams!

    The school year isn’t even halfway through, but in that short time our high school students, coaches and teachers have racked up laudable awards for our little hometown. We want to publicly say congratulations for making us all proud, and for giving us a break from the polarity, vitriol and backbiting caused by this election cycle.
    Since the beginning of the school year:
    •The PHS band had a stellar performance at the Southern Invitational Music Festival where they placed first in the 2A division and were awarded Silver Division. They also received Best in Class for Percussion, Outstanding Performance Award for Majorette, Best Overall Music, Best General Effect, and Best Majorette.    
     •For the first time since 1980 the drama team won 1st place at the Region 6AAAA competition with the performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. They also won Best Set, Best Costume, Outstanding Acting awards for three students and Best Actor Overall. They competed at state last weekend.
    •The PHS Dragons - led by Coach Chris Parker who was selected as a Falcons Coach of the Week in October – will head to playoffs this weekend. They finished 4th in the region. 
    •The cross country girls finished 2nd in the region and 14th in state. Cross-country boys finished 1st in region and 10th in state. One student took 1st in region and 4th in state.
    •Volleyball teams had their best record since the program began.
    • During the 89th National FFA Convention a former Pickens County FFA Member won the American FFA Degree, the highest award bestowed by the organization. 
    • There is most likely at least one other team/group we have inadvertently missed in this list. Sorry.
    When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week it felt so good to have the country unified rather than tearing each other apart --- it didn’t matter if you were a Cubs fan or not, you couldn’t help but be happy for the team. We get that same warm and fuzzy feeling when our students do well at home because we can all get behind them; Cheering on a football team or marching band doesn’t require you be a registered member of a certain political party or be affiliated with a specific religious sect or denomination.
    We love seeing our kids get involved in things they are passionate about and succeed; Achievements from our students spanned the arts, sports and a variety of extracurricular disciplines.  These successes foster community pride, encourages our students to be their best, teaches them the valuable skill of working on a team, and inspires up and coming elementary and middle schoolers who might want to give something new a try.
    The school year isn’t over yet and we look forward to all the upcoming opportunities to cheer all our kids along – from kindergarteners to high schoolers, from recreation leagues to school teams, and from arts to sports and agriculture.
    Again, congratulations on a job well done!

Things you probably didn’t know about Thanksgiving

    Are you and your family looking forward to a delicious, traditional Thanksgiving meal?  Then break out the oyster shuckers because the first feast the at Plymouth Colony in 1621 – right off the coast of Massachusetts – included seafood like lobster, fish, and clams, as well as venison, carrier pigeon and waterfowl. Granted, it also featured fare that resembles the modern Thanksgiving meal like wild turkey, Indian corn, berries, fruits, pumpkins and squash, but overall it looked much different than it does today. 
    Here are some other Thanksgiving facts you may not have known:

    • In the mid-19th century the woman who wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Sarah Josepha Hale, campaigned for 40 years to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. In 1863 a magazine editor finally got President Abraham Lincoln to declare the national holiday.

    • Thomas Jefferson thought Thanksgiving was “the most ridiculous idea.”

    • There are four towns in the United States with the word turkey in its name; Turkey, Texas; Turkey, N.C.; Turkey Creek, Arizona, and Turkey Creek, Louisiana.

    • Football on Thanksgiving began as a tradition in 1876 when Yale played Princeton. This went on until 1920 when the National Football Association had six teams play that day. [Note: The Detroit Lions have played every Thanksgiving since 1934].

    • Turkey was the first meal enjoyed by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they were on the moon.

    • Pilgrims didn’t wear buckled hats and Native Americans didn’t wear loincloths, like the majority of artistic representations of the feast would have you believe. Buckled hats weren’t around until the 18th century and it was really cold in New England in November. Historians believe Native Americans would have been fully clothed.
    •Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird. In a letter to his daughter he wrote, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country! The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America."

    •The day after Thanksgiving is the single busiest of the year for Roto-Rooter’s residential plumbers, according to a press release on their website. “Big holiday meal preparation and cleanup can lead to a lot of unwanted waste in the kitchen drain and garbage disposal. Also, holiday houseguests who require additional clothes washing, showers and toilet flushes put a strain on household plumbing.” It goes on to say, “virtually every traditional Thanksgiving dish is a supreme drain clog culprit.”

    •The first TV dinners made by Swanson were a direct reaction to their overestimation of the number of Thanksgiving turkeys they would sell in 1953. The company had 260 tons of turkey to do something with and petitioned employees for ideas. Salesman Gerry Thomas had recently seen a compartmentalized aluminum trey used on an airline and pitched the idea to package the turkey, dressing, peas and sweet potatoes. Swanson rolled out a massive advertising campaign and it was a huge success. It was this campaign that made TV dinners a hit in American homes. 

    •Butterball launched its Turkey-Talk Line in 1981 to give customers cooking advice. Butterball, the number one turkey processor in the US, handled over 10,000 calls the first year and now handles over 100,000. The line hired its first male employee in 2012.
 
    • It’s debated as to which president first pardoned a turkey. The tradition began in 1947 during the Harry Truman administration, but some historians argue that Abraham Lincoln was the first when he pardoned a turkey his son had as a pet.


Remain calm following election results

A humorous article recently predicted a record number of Thanksgiving fist-fights when someone chooses to gloat between helpings of turkey on the outcome of the presidential race set to finally end next Tuesday.

With the rancor of the past months between Clinton versus Trump, there are going to be some very angry, frustrated and frightful Americans when the dust settles and the last ballot is counted.

This has clearly been the nastiest election in modern American history and has been unbefitting of the United States of America. So the idea that the nation will come together after the results are announced is not promising.

Polls showed Hillary cruising until the latest e-mail investigation news hit last week, which could change things, but the most non-partisan of all predictors, Las Vegas bookmakers, are still saying Hillary will win. If this happens, there will be a large majority of unhappy people in this area, where Vegas Smagas, we know who will carry Pickens County.

Regardless of the outcome we would like to urge everyone to remain calm and show some restraint. Victory in a presidential election shouldn’t be celebrated the way we would if Georgia could somehow win a big game this year. No drunken storming off into the night to wreak property damage in either celebration or disgust [it is ironic that people burn cars in both riots and sports championship celebrations].

A couple of points we would like to make in advance of next Tuesday:

• The Electoral College confuses everything. It’s not as simple as counting up all the votes in America and declaring whoever got the most as the winner. It might should be that simple, but it hasn’t been since 1800s. It won’t be a conspiracy, nor unprecedented, if the top vote-getter isn’t the winner.

Four times in American history a candidate has won the presidency by winning the electoral college votes even though they got fewer votes overall.  Most recently Al Gore got more votes  than George Bush. This weird quirk has to do with a winner take all tally of each state’s electoral votes. It’s not a perfect system but it has been our American system for more than a century.

• Keep in mind that the president is the executive of our nation, but is only in charge of one of the three branches of government. Our forefathers had great forethought to put ample checks and balances all through the system to prevent wild extravagances from any single person – even the president. Plus our government has devolved with so much in-fighting and partisanship that it keeps most everything at a stalemate anyway.

While the winner may be holding the most powerful office in the world and certainly has the potential to greatly mess things up, neither Clinton nor Trump can come in and just willy-nilly become a one-person show. No one is coming after your guns or starting to build a wall the day after the election.

The two-houses of congress have a long reputation of standing in the way of most anything happening in Washington, both the good and bad, and we feel confident that will apply the brakes to any sudden lurches to either the left or right.

• Whoever wins, wins. There are arguments that the system is unfair but it’s essentially the same system we have used for at least a century and both parties knew its pros and cons when the race started. Refusing to accept the results of an election moves the country in a dangerous direction. At that point, we are sliding into the politics of third-world countries where armed forces declare the results, not voters.

• We are not naïve enough to suggest anyone shake hands with class following the outcome of the vote. We do urge everyone to take a moment and remember whether it is your candidate or not, the winner will be the president and a symbol of all our country, elected by the people of the greatest nation in history.

Show some patriotism and show some pride that our country still is a stable nation, ruled by laws and fairness.