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Looking at alternatives

Plant-based meat substitutes seem to be making headlines recently, with Burger King starting to sell the Impossible Burger, a burger that’s meat free, and states like Arkansas are trying to require only products from animals use the words “burger” or “jerky.”

But, how does it affect farmers in Huntingdon County?

Matt Barnett, president of the Huntingdon County Farm Bureau, said the effect so far has been minimal.

“It is known, but I haven’t seen or heard of anything that it is affecting,” he said.

Barnett said the industry will have to wait to see how it will truly affect them.

“Right now (non-animal meat) is in the beginning stage, so we’ll see how it’s going to pan out,” he said, adding, “I think consumers prefer real beef than something that would be created in a lab.”

Barnett said he would be generally in favor of not allowing non-animal meats to use the terms “burger,” “meat,” or “jerky,” as is being attempted in states like Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming.

“I think people need to know the difference between what’s made in a lab … and what’s grown on a farm,” he said.

Bob Whittaker, farm manager of Separate Peace farm, outside of Huntingdon, agreed and compared it to soy milk.

“I definitely think when people see the word milk or burger, in their minds, they relate it to an actual burger,” he said. “That’s just marketing 101.”

Whittaker said while he doesn’t think it would impact him personally, he thinks labelling can sometimes be confusing to people who are not as familiar with the product. He raises his animals purely on grass for food and said some people get confused by the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished.

“Grass fed … is a really loose definition,” he said. Some people may assume grass-fed means the animals is raised entirely on grass and not kept confined to the barn, but Whittaker said farmers can raise an animal in a confined space and on grain and still call their animals grass-fed as long as they switch the animal to grass before it is butchered.

“That’s really misleading,” he said. “Grass-finished animals are on the pasture their whole life, eating grass and not getting corn silage or grain.”

However, Whittaker said even those definitions are not universal.

“I don’t think there are (legal) definitions,” he said. “There are some things that are not clear with how they are working on definitions. For (our business), we are better off not worrying so much about how (the government) will classify it but do our own marketing and find people who are interested in the way we are doing things. We are way better off to do that than any other route.”

Whittaker said he really hasn’t seen any impact on his business from plant-based meat substitutes. He said the only impact the substitutes might have had is made people more interested in grass-finished beef and less content with confined beef.

“People are concerned about where their meat is coming from, looking for healthier alternatives,” he said.

However, he thinks it will take a while for the meat substitute market to make an impact, if it does at all.

Currently, the beef industry is going strong. According to Nichole Hockenberry, director of marketing and communications for the PA Beef Council, beef demand is up.

“Consumers have always had a variety of different protein options to choose from. Research shows that consumers consider beef one of the best sources of protein. … Right now beef demand is up, which tells us consumers are clearly craving beef and its great taste, which is hard to replicate,” she said, adding, “When you look at the market for beef and beef substitutes, beef substitutes account for less than 1 percent of sales.”

Until the markets change, farmers in Huntingdon don’t face much threat from plant-based meat substitutes.

Gordmans to take place of Peebles

The department store Peebles in Huntingdon Plaza will be converted into a Gordmans store in early 2020.

Both Peebles and Gordmans fall under their parent company, Stage, and its community of stores.

The decision to make the change came about because consumers were responding so positively to Gordmans across the country.

“Stage is converting a number of its Peebles stores to Gordmans because consumers are responding to Gordmans’ off-price offerings,” said Blakeley Graham, a manager and brand publicist at Stage. “Gordmans is an off-price retailer, which means that it has a wide array of merchandise for the entire family at the lowest possible prices compared to department store prices.”

The Peebles in Huntingdon isn’t the only store that is converting. Gordmans will see a considerable increase in stores by the end of the year.

“Stage has opened 74 Gordmans this year; by the end of 2019, there will be over 150 Gordmans stores across the country,” said Graham.

The store has new merchandise deliveries arriving weekly, including popular name brand apparel, home décor, footwear, gifts, accessories, fragrances and more.

Graham says that the transition from Peebles to Gordmans will be a fast one.

“The converting Peebles store will close in the days leading up to the Gordmans grand opening,” said Graham.

The conversion from Peebles to Gordmans should take less than two weeks.

Peebles is currently holding a store closing sale.

Peebles opened in the Huntingdon Plaza in Smithfield Township in November 2003, and prior to that, it was an Ames.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Vacant posts filled in Alexandria Borough

The Alexandria Borough Council unanimously approved a motion to accept the applications of three borough residents to become members of Alexandria Borough Council last night.

Mary Jane Walker, Tori Wilt and Jane Pilch will be joining the council, following a motion to accept the resignation of council member Adrian Lane.

The three new council members will be sworn in at the Magisterial District Justice office in the near future, bringing the council to its full capacity of seven council members.

Regarding the proposed tree removals in the borough pertaining to the shade tree ordinance, Mr. James Savage, a professor of horticulture at Penn State University and a certified arborist of over 25 years of experience, at the invitation of council member Judy Scott, spoke before the council.

“I’ve been on international committees dealing with trees in urban areas all of my life, so I have a pretty good background. As far as the 12 trees I was shown in the borough, one tree had some issues that are correctable. None of the trees I was shown were removable. You have several on the street here that are hazardous and should be dealt with. How I think you need to deal with this is to have an inventory done,” he said.

Council President Mike Smith noted that this was what he had suggested to Mark Troutman, an arborist hired by the council to inspect the trees.

However, Troutman, present at the meeting, had just previously resigned his services to the council as he said the whole issue was “a hornet’s nest,” and did not wish to be involved.

“Penn State (Cooperative) Extension can help you with this. We have programs that help you with this and can teach your people how to correct this. I have the contacts and we can do this,” said Savage.

Savage provided his information to borough secretary John Casas.

Council vice resident Rebecca Smith said she wanted to “wait and investigate this” to make sure that there were no conflicts of interest and to get a formal proposal from Savage before moving forward with bringing Savage on board. M. Smith concurred, wanting to examine Savage’s credentials before hiring him.

Council member Scott Glass asked the cost of this service from Savage through Penn State Cooperative Extension, to which he said it was free, although he could only work with public land.

M. Smith noted that as one of the potentially hazardous trees in question is on private land, he would not be able to deal with it.

Rebecca Smith put forward a motion to get three offers of arborists and proceed from there, as Savage would not be able to work with any trees on private land, which the Shade Tree Ordinance states the council is responsible for, as well.

The motion passed, with council member Judy Scott voting against it.

Glass addressed the council and a sizable public audience regarding the origins of the ongoing tree issues.

“We were approached by three different members of the borough with concerns about the trees on their property being hazardous. So we went through our existing tree ordinance, went out and took a look at them and said, ‘OK, we’ll have the trees removed’. This is part of a process that has been ongoing before anyone was on council. We’ve been trying to find a way to get back into the city tree program so we can actually afford to pay to have safe trees, better trees, and trees that don’t destroy property,” he said.

Crist Fellman, chief deputy of the Huntingdon County Emergency Management Agency, addressed the council regarding the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers upcoming study of the flow of the river and storm related issues within the borough to see what’s causing flood-related issues.

“This is the engineering study, and it’s being done for everyone in the municipality. They may come around and knock on your door and ask about past flooding situations. If you have information, you can divulge to them about historical information about the causes of the flooding they would appreciate hearing that.”

He said the study could remove some residents from the flood plain established by Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This is all just getting started,” said Crist.

He also addressed the council’s recent decision to remove Alexandria borough from the National Flood Insurance Program.

“I’m to give you folks one last opportunity to rethink what you’re doing. Because being able to buy private flood insurance has always been an option,” he said

Glass disagreed.

“I think this crosses the line between EMA and FEMA,” said Vice President Rebecca Smith.

The council approved a motion to make a payment of $5,110.90 to auditor Arthur Moretti on behalf of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Co. for its audit.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

WIC program to see changes

For area residents who are a part of the WIC (Women, Infants, Chldren) program Huntingdon County, as well as Bedford and Fulton Counties, there will be a new way for them to shop for WIC food benefits beginning in September.

In September, those who use WIC food benefits will use an electronic benefits transfer, and there will be no more paper checks sent to WIC recipients.

As part of this change, WIC participants will save time at the checkout and can buy WIC foods in as many shopping trips as they need throughout the month. Those who participate may also have access to a new WICShopper Smart Phone App, allowing them to scan a food’s bar code to determine if it is a WIC-allowed food.

This means that paper checks will be a thing of the past, according to Melissa Mobley, director for the WIC program in Huntingdon, Bedford and Fulton counties.

“WIC is excited to offer a new, convenient way for our families to shop,” said Mobley.

Mobley also explained how this will make shopping easier for those who receive these benefits.

“Shopping can be done on demand for whatever WIC item is needed,” said Mobley. “With paper checks, customers had to purchase all the items on a single check at one time. If someone needs just a half gallon or milk, or a few bananas, eWIC makes that possible. Depending on the store, WIC items may also be purchased with other grocery items — there won’t be a need to even separate out WIC foods.”

She also mentioned how the app can be used for those who download it.

“The PA WIC food list identifies products that are available and allowed by WIC,” said Mobley. “The WIC Shopper app allows customers to scan a product and see if it’s WIC allowed. The app does not tell customers if the product is available in their current WIC prescription.”

WIC provides services at over 250 clinic sites throughout Pennsylvania, and WIC serves approximately 205,000 pregnant women, infants and children under age 5. These WIC families shop at more than 1,500 grocery stores in the state.

Total spending from WIC recipients throughout the state is around $248 million a year with their WIC food benefits.

Juniata makes list for alcohol usage

Juniata College was featured in Princeton Review’s yearly survey of college students, coming in at number 13 in the category of “Lots of Hard Liquor.”

The rankings cover 62 categories, and there are 140,000 student participants in the survey across 385 colleges and universities.

“It’s a concern that the college takes seriously,” said Matthew Damschroder, vice president for student life and dean of students. “Part of educational process is developing qualities of character in our students. That involves looking at how they interact with each other, and we’re always working to help students make better choices and to reduce risks while still giving them opportunities to have fun,” he said.

For the review’s liquor list, the question asked was “How widely is hard liquor used at your school?”

Tim Visser, a senior at Juniata studying business management, says he’s not surprised the college is on the list.

“I think the reason it’s on the list is because there’s not really anything else to do on the weekends for the average student at Juniata. So, I think that’s what leads to more drinking and more liquor consumption. People are bored and want to have fun so they just drink more often.” he said.

Damschroder believes there are wider cultural issue at play.

“There’s a lot of complexity surrounding media today. I think we’re part of society where students are exposed to this type of drinking culture early on, and it’s glamorized,” he said.

Juniata does surveys of its own and uses that information to guide their approach to student well-being.

“We do regular surveys, particularly from the American College Health Association. We track student alcohol consumption on campus, and other peer institutions across the country. The numbers that we have match those of our peers. And we use that data to inform our programming to keep students, faculty and parents educated about how they can make positive choices,” said Damschroder.

The University of California at Santa Barbara took the dubious honor of being #1 on the Lots of Hard Liquor” list.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

Tussey board talks filling SRO post

Tussey Mountain School Board reviewed a tentative agenda for next week’s regular board session that includes a motion to contract with Saxton Borough Council for the position of a school resource officer (SRO) Monday evening.

The position, along with a job description for the SRO, will be among several back-to-school motions the board is expected to act on next Monday evening, noted board president James L. Hodge who opened last night’s workshop with a 30-minute executive session called for personnel matters.

The SRO position which expired the end of last school year, has been discussed at length by both Saxton Borough Council and the school district administration, with the full school board slated to act on the position next week. Details of the proposed contract will be released at the school board’s Monday, Aug. 19, meeting, noted superintendent Dr. Gary Dawson.

Much of last night’s work session focused on back-to-school preparations with Tussey educator’s first day set for Monday, Aug. 19, followed by the first day of school for students on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

The approval of $4,471 is expected to be agreed on by the board next week which calls for the purchase of a new stage curtain for the Tussey Elementary School. The curtain will be purchased from the North State Co.

Board secretary Lisa Rankin and Dr. Dawson noted that it was very difficult to locate a firm to provide the curtain. “There’s a limited number of companies out there,” remarked the district superintendent.

A motion to purchase new blinds for the elementary school was tabled until more quotes can be secured. Dawson said that the district was having the same problems finding a company that sells blinds. A bid from Budget Blinds for $16,362 was the only quote to date, the district obtained.

In preparation for the start of the 2019-20 school year the board will approve nearly two pages of district staffers and volunteers as well as several building use and field trip requests. Also, on the agenda is a list of bus stops and school bids for the new school term.

When the board meets Aug. 19, it will give authorization for Tussey Future Farmers of America (FFA) students to take part in the Southern Huntingdon County School District’s FFA program. Last year, Tussey students participated in a similar program with the Forbes Road School District in Fulton County. The program involves online activities, said Dawson.

The board also plans to give its permission for the Lady Titans soccer team to conduct a fundraiser at the athletic field to aid the Huntingdon County Humane Society. In addition to money, the organization will accept animal food for use at the Humane Society headquarters.

School district officials announced that a PRIDE Community Movie Night will be hosted by the school students at the athletic field 8 p.m.to midnight, Saturday, Sept. 14. In addition to middle and high school students, the public is invited to attend the event. Serving as supervisor will be Amanda Adams.

Also scheduled for next Monday night are motions to approve two high school site coordinators for the 21st Century Program (after-school activities) for the 2019-20 school year, accept with regret the resignation of Amy Minnick, part-time special needs aide at the middle school and to contract with Melody Toth, who will provide athletic trainer services for fall sports (the district continues to search for someone to handle those services for winter and spring sports).

It was announced that the building and grounds committee will hold a meeting at 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 19, to address several building-related matters.