Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

It was a doubleheader Saturday as I pulled into the fairgrounds at 9 a.m. To my right, the farmers market was already buzzing with activity and to my left the gates to the fairgrounds opened to smiling Walgreens manager Jon Parmentier welcoming folks to the annual Health Fair from his post at the entrance to the commercial building.

It was my inaugural market this season. I'd never missed the opener before, but bad planning had me out of town June 2. Not only did I miss the market, but I forfeited my opportunity to be a judge at the first Rethink Your Drink competition.

The competition was the brain child of Deborah Kravitz, Nutrition

Project Coordinator for Del Norte Unified School District, and her

staff. I worked with Deborah last December when she offered to provide

nutritious snacks for families attending our Pajamas on Parade event at

the library. When she asked me to be a judge I was so disappointed that I

had to miss it.

Saturday, I filled my basket with broccoli, bok choy and beautiful

ripe strawberries, then walked over to the Health Fair to see what was

new this year. It didn't take long to discover it. All my walking and

talking had made me thirsty, so I stopped at the first watering hole I

found. The Community Food Council and Building Healthy Communities booth

was serving water with strawberries, pineapple and kumquats floating in

it. This, I thought, is that infused water Deborah was talking about. I

took a sip and I was hooked.

Next door, the DNUSD Nutrition for Healthy California (Deborah's

program) and First 5 partnered in a display to bring home the importance

of choosing water over less healthy beverages. Rethink Your Drink gets

kids and adults thinking about why they should drink water instead of

sodas or fruit juices high in sugar.

First 5 Director Patti Vernelson explained that besides the

relationship between sugary drinks and childhood obesity, the campaign

to replace soda and juice with water has huge long-term oral health

benefits. When children come to school with rotted teeth, the pain and

discomfort makes learning more difficult. We want all our kids to have a

healthy start, she said.

Deborah's associate, Cheryl Simonson, set up containers with three

different infused waters to share with fair goers. Cheryl didn't have to

twist my arm to sample them. My favorite turned out to be the winner of

the Rethink Your Drink competition, a concoction called Taste of Thai.

(See all three recipes at the end of this column).

The competition was designed to demonstrate that water can taste

great, without adding sugar. I was delighted to see so many young people

gravitate to the colorful bottles and drink with gusto. In fact, by 11

a.m. Cheryl had served 10 gallons of water.

In a recent USA Today interview, Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola's 45-year-old

president of sparkling beverages in North America and mother of a

school-age son said, when asked if Coca-Cola was trying to figure out a

way to get sugar out of all drinks, that many people rely on the carbs

and energy in her products. "When my son gets home from school, he needs

a pick-up with calories and great taste."

Patti Vernelson disagrees. "Sugar sweetened beverages contribute to

the rising rates of poor oral health and childhood obesity in Del Norte

County and elsewhere." She points to recent research indicating that 40

percent of youth ages 2andndash;5 in our county have visible tooth decay and

nearly half of Del Norte kids are considered overweight or obese.

Driven by the goal to improve the physical and oral health of our

local children, Patti said a Healthy Beverage Policy is being presented

to the First 5 Children and Families Commission for adoption today. The

policy states that First 5 Del Norte will not serve sugar-sweetened

beverages or fruit drinks to children at any of its sponsored events,

activities or celebrations and that water will always be provided free

of charge at all First 5 sponsored events.

According to Patti, it's the first policy of its kind adopted by a

local public entity. And given the reaction I saw Saturday as kids drank

the water and asked for more, it's going to prove to be not only the

healthy choice, but a popular one.

I came home and made my first infused water drink. I used the Taste

of Thai recipe substituting fresh local strawberries for raspberries.

I'm hooked.

To read the entire interview with Coca-Cola executive Katie Bayne, go to http://www.usa


Rethink Your Drink Recipes

Taste of Thai (created by Yinghoua Chang, Del Norte High School

senior): andfrac34; cup raspberries; 1 large spring (Thai) basil; 4andndash;5 thin slices

fresh ginger, skin on.

Cucumber Medley: 1 quarter small watermelon, cut into thick

triangular pieces, rind removed (about 5andndash;6 pieces); 1 large sprig fresh

mint (8andndash;10 leaves); 6 thin slices cucumber.

L-Razz-Ma-Tazzy (created by Jackie Bennett, UC Cooperative Extension

secretary, took second place): 12 ounces fresh raspberries, 3andndash;4 lemons

slices; andfrac12; tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped.

Just put the ingredients you choose in a large pitcher and add water!

Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate's publisher, at

mtandshy;hoandshy;masandshy;@triplicate.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.