Monday, April 17, 2017

Farm to Kids

Ele Watts
WSDA Regional Markets

What if you could improve a person’s health for their lifetime through early education and positive experiences with healthy eating? At WSDA, our Regional Markets Team is promoting Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) to make that vision a reality.

Attendees making salad with Washington grown produce.
Farm to ECE has three main components:

  • Education
  • Experiential learning
  • Local food procurement

Farm to ECE enhances life-long health and wellness of children, their families and caregivers by exposing them to positive food experiences and improving access to local, healthy foods.

During the last week in March, WSDA hosted a series of workshops for childcare and early education providers across the state. The workshops provided in-depth, hands-on training on Harvest for Healthy Kids, an innovative free curriculum for young children focused on fruits and vegetables which includes:
Harvest to Healthy Kids trainer conducts interactive workshop.

  • lesson plans
  • activities
  • recipes
  • vocabulary lists
  • family newsletters
  • art projects 

Attendees learned songs about berries; learned to prepare a simple cabbage, apple, and carrot salad and discussed age-appropriate food exploration activities for children from birth to five years old. The workshop also included training on how to purchase and use Washington grown fruits and vegetables from local food outlets (i.e. farmers markets and food hubs) in early learning facilities.

The workshops were a collaboration between WSDA, the Washington State Department of Early Learning, and trainers from the Mount Hood Community College Head Start and Early Head Start Programs and was funded through a Specialty Crop Block Grant. For more information about Farm to ECE, contact Ele Watts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wanted: Bugs

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

wanted poster for lily leaf beetle
Believe it or not, the Department of Agriculture is ready to take live bugs off of your hands…or yard.

Of course, it’s not just any bug that WSDA is looking for. They are in need of live specimens of the Lily Leaf Beetle, will be found for the next few weeks, primarily on lilies.

Gathering these bright red insects is part of a biological control project that WSDA’s pest program hopes to launch this spring. WSDA held public meetings in Bellevue last week to tell community members about the new pest and their plans to respond to the introduction.

The lily leaf beetle consumes both the leaves and blossoms of lilies and fritillaries. It is a threat to both home gardens and commercial lily growers. The bug was first found by an alert gardener in Bellevue and sightings of the beetle have now been confirmed throughout the greater Seattle area.

Unfortunately, eradicating this particular pest is not possible.

The good news, however, is that a biological control has proven effective in other areas where the Lily Leaf Beetle has become established, such as the East Coast. WSDA’s project involves the release of tiny wasps that predate only on the Lily Leaf Beetle; there are no other insects in the Pacific Northwest which the wasp targets.

To improve the likelihood of establishing the wasp in Washington, WSDA needs to ensure there are sufficient Lily Leaf Beetles in areas where the wasps will be released.

WSDA asks gardeners who see the beetle in their yards to report them. WSDA will collect the beetles from gardeners upon request.

You can take pictures of and report Lily Leaf Beetle sightings on WSDA’s website. When reporting your sighting, leave a note in the comments section of the form if you would like WSDA to collect the beetles.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Credit card skimmers on the prowl as you pump your gas

Mike Louisell

Gas prices and a line at the pump aren’t the only concerns for motorists these days. Crooks are at work stealing credit and debit card information as unsuspecting consumers fill their tanks.

Inspectors with WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program, who visit service stations throughout the state regularly, are discovering card skimmers placed inside the gas pumps. These skilled thieves install devices in less than a minute and prefer to target older dispensers located out of the view of store clerks. The thieves return later to steal the credit and debit card information.

“The newer skimmers are capable of sending the stolen information
to a smart phone using Bluetooth technology,” program manager Jerry
Skimmer device (circled) captures credit/debit card data
Buendel said. “In those cases, the thieves can park nearby, download the info and return later for another download.”

One victim of this theft was a Puyallup customer who discovered he
had been ripped off when he tried to make a purchase later with the same card and the card was declined. Funds in his account had already been stolen.

WSDA inspectors also have recently discovered skimming devices at gas stations in Olympia, Yakima and the Tri-Cities. Seattle has seen cases as well.

There are more than 11,000 fuel dispensers in Washington. WSDA inspectors check for skimmers during routine inspections and follow up on tips received from fraud investigators at financial institutions. At times, station owners remove skimmers they find and don’t report the problem.

“Our staff has received training on skimmers and we’re working hard with industry and law enforcement to protect the public,” Buendel said.

Consumers can protect themselves

 WSDA offers these tips for consumers to protect themselves:
  • Consider paying cash or using your card inside the business. 
  • If you pay by credit card, check your card activities regularly.
  • Avoid paying by debit card – they don’t offer the same protection as credit cards.
  • Look for tamper-proof seals on the fuel dispenser and make sure they are not broken.
  • If you see something unusual about the door or the device where you swipe your card, don’t use it. Report it to the station attendant, law enforcement or WSDA’s Weights and Measures Program.
  • Choose a pump near the door to the store or nearest the cashier. Higher visibility may keep the crooks away.
  • If you suspect your credit or debit card has been compromised, report it immediately to your bank or credit card company.
Steps station owners can take

WSDA urges service station owners to install higher security locks, use security seals, check their pumps and locks frequently or install equipment that will disable the pump when the access doors are opened.