Gainesville Chooses Natural Approach To Restore Cofrin Park

By on July 29th, 2015 | Last updated: August 7, 2015 at 6:56 am
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Habitat naturalists like Don Musen, pictured, went back and forth for almost 10 years before deciding on the best approach to restore Bevill Creek, he said. City employees hope to reverse soil erosion in Cofrin Park by using coconut-fiber baskets and boulders. Debora Lima / WUFT News

Tractors, barricade tape and mounds of rocks recently appeared in Cofrin Park. The park has been closed for restoration since April.

The city of Gainesville is taking a natural approach to overhaul the infrastructure of the grounds, located at 4810 NW Eighth Ave., according to Don Musen, city of Gainesville habitat naturalist.

The goal is to offer locals a nature spot that is both enjoyable and environmentally regenerative. 

“It’s a balancing act,” Musen said.

The city is working to restore Bevill Creek, where soil erosion caused sediment run-off, the spread of pollutants through moving water.

The creek currently runs about 10 feet deeper than it should. Its natural state runs about 5 feet below the surface, but it is currently at about 15 feet.

The city will not use concrete slabs, which would hinder the creek’s natural evolution, Musen said. Coconut fiber baskets will be used instead to help bring the creek back to its original shallow state.

City employees involved in the project will also create horseshoe-shaped structures using boulders to slow water flow, impede sand run-off and, ultimately, reverse deterioration of the creek bank.

The single structure installed one week ago has, so far, collected more than six inches of sand, Musen said.

“Imagine what it could do over time,” he said.

The city is also removing the Cofrin house, a 4,400-square-foot residence that belonged to the Cofrin family. This will contribute to the creek’s revitalization, said Linda Demetropolous, city of Gainesville nature manager. 

Local engineering firm Miller Slayton Architects assessed the home in 2009 and determined its close proximity to the creek was causing cracks in the house’s northeast corner.

The city hoped to transform the building into an educational institution, but engineers said renovations necessary to bring it up to code would cost as much as $650,000, a figure both Demetropoulos and Musen called prohibitively expensive for local taxpayers.

Demolition will begin once restoration of the creek is complete. Musen said the city is in the process of scheduling the demolition. It should begin in late August and wrap up before the end of September, he said. 

The city hopes to re-open the park for public access in October, Musen said.

“We wanted to minimize the time the park was closed,” he said. “So we made sure that the work (on the creek and the house) was concurrent.”

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Boy Scouts Open Doors For Gay Leadership

By on July 29th, 2015 | Last updated: July 30, 2015 at 3:42 pm

The Boy Scouts of America removed its ban on openly gay adult leaders and employees on Monday.

During a telephone conference earlier this week, the BSA national executive board voted in favor of the resolution which goes into effect immediately, according to the BSA website

“Due to the social, political and legal changes taking place in our country and in our movement, I did not believe the adult leadership policy could be sustained,” said Dr. Robert Gates, president of BSA, in a video about the policy change.

Boy Scout Flag Saluteat Gerald R. Ford MuseumBoy Scout Flag Salute at Gerald R. Ford Museum.

Boy Scout Flag Saluteat Gerald R. Ford MuseumBoy Scout Flag Salute at Gerald R. Ford Museum.” Photo by Steven Depolo via Creative Commons

Steven Depolo

The resolution allows charter organizations to continue choosing leaders who agree with their moral beliefs and fit the national standard.

The BSA’s stance on homosexuality became a national issue in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled that the organization had the constitutional right to exclude gay members.

Incidents like the one in 2012 involving Jennifer Tyrrell, a den mother from Ohio who was removed from her son’s scouting unit because she was a lesbian, kept the organization in the news. 

Despite BSA allowing openly gay youths to join the scouts in 2013, the organization lost corporate support from companies like Intel and UPS.

Justin Bickford was an active scout from the age of six until reaching the highest BSA level of achievement, Eagle Scout, in high school.

“That was a very large part of my childhood,” Bickford said. “Definitely had an impact on my formative years.”

Over the years, Brickford noticed how the organization’s policies were negatively impacting people he was close with, prompting him to become involved in seeking equality. As a result, he co-founded Scouts for Equality in 2012.

Scouts for Equality is an organization for current and former scouts working to end discrimination in the BSA.

Bickford said his initial reaction to Monday’s decision was “yay” and involved a lot of clapping.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, believes the decision was a progressive one.

“As of today, the Boy Scouts of America is an organization that is looking forward, not back,” Wahls wrote in a press release.

Bickford hopes people who were previously opposed to the BSA because of its stance on homosexuality will now become involved.

Scouts for Equality still has some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults though, according to the press release.

Robert Bauer, assistant troop master of troop 614, chartered by First Christian Church of Gainesville, said he would keep the provision that allows charter organizations to choose leaders based on their own criteria.

“Trying to force a church to change its religious position, especially since the boy scouts is supposed to be a faith based organization, I think that’s reprehensible,” Bauer said.

The provision for charter organizations allows churches to adhere to their core values.

However, Bauer recognizes the significance of the BSA’s decision and what it means for the organization.

“I think what is most important about this decision is the Boy Scouts have acknowledged that everyone is entitled to their own opinion to this matter and they’re not forcing everyone to follow an opinion,” Bauer said.

The troop leader was a cub scout in his youth, and his two sons are involved with the BSA.

Michael Wohl, Gainesville resident and former assistant scout master, was pleased by the BSA’s decision. He became involved with the scouts when his son joined as a Cub Scout.

He remembers the opportunities for growth, leadership and character development the BSA membership passed on to his son.

“It’s my belief that the membership of the Boy Scouts is in a declining phase and that this is getting them with the times,” Wohl said. “This will actually help them grow in the future.”

Bauer believes this is a personal matter.

“I believe everyone’s opinions have validity,” Bauer said.

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Inexpensive Business Model Provides Success for Local Food Trucks

By on July 29th, 2015 | Last updated: July 29, 2015 at 4:50 pm

For less than $10, the Gainesville community can enjoy fish tacos with the complementing crunch of cabbage and sweet flavors of pineapple and mango.

Quick, affordable entrees like the fish tacos from Off The Griddle food truck has given a new meaning to the term eating out.

Off The Griddle started roughly five years ago, said owner Michael Musoke. He had always dreamed of opening a restaurant, but knew the risks and cost associated with it.

The food truck route made much more sense.

Getting Started

In 2006, Musoke started the farm Aqua Organics in Polk City. After five years of farming, he started searching for other outlets to sell his produce.

With a background in cooking, the food industry seemed like a logical choice for Musoke.

“I’ve been cooking ever since high school,” Musoke said. “And it kind of just dawned on me that going back into the industry I’d be able to take lettuce, cucumbers, basil and different products and use them on a food truck.”

A food truck made more fiscal sense than a restaurant, which played a large role in his decision making. By electing to open a food truck, he decreased overhead expenses and preliminary costs.

Charlie’s Snow Shack serves Hawaiian shaved ice out of a stationary food truck in northwest Gainesville. The food truck expanded from initially offering 18 flavors when it opened in 2012 to its current 32. Scott St. Lifer / WUFT News

Charlie’s Snow Shack serves Hawaiian shaved ice out of a stationary food truck in northwest Gainesville. The food truck expanded from initially offering 18 flavors when it opened in 2012 to its current 32. Scott St. Lifer/WUFT News

He said the vehicles themselves cost between $20,000 to $100,000. His truck falls roughly in the middle, costing less than it would to open and maintain a restaurant.

“It is and easy way to get into the industry,” Musoke said.

Food trucks in the industry follow one of two business models: variety and specialization of products. Off The Griddle sells a variety, ranging from the aforementioned fish tacos to corn nuggets and falafel wraps. Charlie’s Snow Shack specializes in shaved ice.

Food truck rallies, gatherings of mobile eateries, like the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally, are hosted monthly in the High Dive’s parking lot, or Cymplify’s First Friday Food Truck Rally. These provide opportunities for attendees to try a variety of foods, while also driving traffic for vendors like Musoke.

Off The Griddle is permanently set up outside of High Dive in downtown Gainesville, but still does catering and corporate lunches during the day. Other trucks like Humble Pie and Soup to Nuts travel around the state.

Charlie’s Snow Shack, is another permanent truck, located in the Books-A-Million parking lot at 2601 NW 13th St. Like Musoke, owner Charles Smith joined the industry roughly five years ago after being inspired by a Jacksonville snow shack in 2012.

During the week, Smith runs his lawn care service in Jacksonville, while his mother, Linda, operates the truck. On the weekends, he sells his shaved ice.

Smith thought the location would be temporary, but this may not be the case anymore.

“So many people like the little stand and the mom-and-pop feel of it that we’ve kind of held off [on moving to a permanent location],” he said.


Potential food truck proprietors such as Off The Griddle and Charlie’s Snow Shack must obtain a Mobile Food Dispensing Vehicle license from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which costs $50 for an application fee and $150 for a plan review fee. The annual license fee is $347 and must be renewed every year.

According to the DBPR, there are currently 22 businesses that hold a MFDV license in Alachua County.

Businesses must adhere to a food code. If an MFDV is not self-sufficient, it must utilize a commissary to obtain water, dispose of waste, sanitize the truck and its utensils, and store food and other supplies, said Chelsea Eagle, deputy director of communications at the DBPR.

Future Endeavors

While many remain content running a food truck, Musoke hopes to fulfill his dream of owning a restaurant.

Eventually, Smith would also like settle into a permanent retail space. Until his menu has been expanded to include a year-round product, he said that isn’t an option. He has contemplated adding fish tacos, lumpias or pastries to the menu.

With expansion in mind, Smith has not forgotten about his staple item.

“You know how Satchel’s is a destination spot for pizza? We want to be a destination spot for shaved ice here in Gainesville,” Smith said.

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July 29, 2015: News In 90

By on July 29th, 2015 | Last updated: July 29, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Aaron Abell produced this update.

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Rock Camp Empowers Young Girls In Gainesville

By on July 29th, 2015 | Last updated: July 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm
The band members of Guts, from left to right: Kara Smith, bass and vocals; Samantha Jones, guitar, bass, drums and vocals; Kentucky Costellow, drums; and Rebecca Butler, keys and tenor ukulele. Guts plays for campers in the Gainesville Girls Rock Camp on Friday after lunch. The camp, which is in its third year, focuses on using music to empower young girls. Christine Preston / WUFT News

The band members of Guts, from left to right: Kara Smith, Samantha Jones, Kentucky Costellow and Rebecca Butler, play for campers in the Gainesville Girls Rock Camp on Friday after lunch. The camp, which is in its third year, focuses on using music to empower young girls. Christine Preston / WUFT News

Cielo Sandoval attended the first Gainesville Girls Rock Camp in 2013.

“I knew stuff, but I learned some more stuff about students and how to communicate with them,” Sandoval, who was 13 during her enrollment. “How to communicate with all these people at the same time. How to run the band.”

After camp, Sandoval, 15, formed the Red Fire Breathing Dragons with her bandmates from camp. The group has since disbanded, but the memories remain.

The Gainesville Girls Rock Camp encourages female empowerment through musical expression. Girls between the ages of eight and 17 spend the week with strong female figures who encourage them to shine.

“This camp is about music,” said Chelsea Carnes, co-director of the Gainesville Girls Rock Camp. “But it’s also kind of a music as a smokescreen for the larger idea of empowerment and self-esteem.”

Carnes and Jennifer Vito started the camp in Gainesville in 2013 after Carnes was inspired by volunteering at the Jacksonville Girls Rock Camp.

This year the camp was be split into two separate weeks for the first time. The first week, July 6 through July 10, was for ages 8 to 12; the second, Aug. 3 through Aug. 7, will be for ages 12 to 17. The campers will perform in shows at High Dive on July 11 and Aug. 8, respectively.

Participants are grouped into bands based on the instrument each girl chooses. Each group writes a song together to perform publicly at the end of the week.

Even those with prior experience, like Sandoval, benefit from the camp.

“I had already been playing guitar for quite a while, and so had another girl in the band, so we were both pretty far ahead of the game,” she said. “We taught the other members some stuff, and they were like, ‘That’s so cool.’”

The girls wrote their song in two days instead of the allotted five, she said.

Sandoval said although she was already outgoing when she started camp, she became more passionate about playing guitar and better at communicating.

She grew up in a home where people listened to her, so she was familiar with the strong feminist ideas the camp emphasized.

But she could see how much it helped the other girls.

“If someone said, ‘Oh, sorry!’ for, like, messing up the wrong chord or something, we would say, ‘No, you rock!’ And they would smile, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I actually do rock. I don’t know why I’m saying sorry for something that I’m not sorry about,’” Sandoval said.

“You shouldn’t be sorry. It was just a mistake, and mistakes happen, but you can brush ‘em off and become your real, true, potential self, which is a rock star.”

Sandoval volunteered during the first session of camp this year, for younger girls, and will be participating in the second week, for the older girls.

Kentucky Costellow, treasurer of the camp and a volunteer since 2013, is glad the camp will be separated because volunteers will be able to better focus on each age group, particularly the older girls.

“As a girl, as you kind of hit puberty, your self-confidence levels really drop because of social pressures,” Costellow said. “It’s really the older girls that really need that one-on-one time and the mentorship of it.”

Costellow said campers are not the only ones who benefit from the camp, admitting it made her feel more empowered than she anticipated.

“I’m kind of a self-taught musician. I haven’t really had music lessons over the course of my life or anything, so I didn’t have a lot of confidence playing music,” Costellow said. “Teaching the girls how to play guitar chords, for instance, made me realize how much I actually knew about music and how much I knew about teaching, which felt very empowering to me.”

Costellow played guitar when she started as a volunteer, but she also learned to play drums during the camp. This helped her realize how much of an impact music and teaching can have.

One of Costellow’s favorite moments was when she helped an 8-year-old camper learn to play the drums and build self-confidence.

“By the end of camp she was one of the best drummers, and she just – she really blossomed,” Costellow said. “She saw someone who was saying ‘You are strong, and you are powerful. You can do this,’ that she finally, you know, kind of let go of this having to be meek and timid.”

With the first week of camp over, Carnes said she’s proud of the girls and of all the community support they received. She’s looking forward to the second session and seeing how the older girls – some of whom have been in the camp since it started – have progressed with their instruments.

Costellow said the camp’s first show at the 1982 Bar was so full that some parents had to watch from outside.

“There’s something really special about having role models that rock, and having strong, powerful women believe in you and tell you that you can do it,” she said. “It’s like we empower them, but their enthusiasm also empowers us.”


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New Gainesville Business, Cuddle Time, Pushes Personal Space

By on July 29th, 2015 | Last updated: August 7, 2015 at 6:15 am
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The company stresses a non-sexual service policy on their website, advertising, and in direct contact. Photo courtesy of Cuddle Time

Last year, James struggled through a series of unfortunate events. First, major back surgery left him with a 14-inch scar on his back. Next, a heart attack prompted doctors to place a stent in his heart. He later experienced a cancer scare.

The past ten years, James admits, was muddled in problems that started with a grievous motorcycle accident and ended in a divorce from his wife.

For James, 60, the cuddling service was a hopeful respite to help him in recovery. James only provided his first name to conceal his identity.

“I’ve had a rough couple of years,” James said. “I kept running across in books how hugging and intimacy are important for the healing process.”

In 2014, Gainesville became home to a professional, non-sexual cuddling service called Cuddle Time. The company mainly offers close contact or hugging between employees and clients, but their services expand to offer anything from a conversation on a couch to a night spent at the movies. They charge $60 an hour and up to $400 per night, according to the website.

Employees will meet with clients at an agreed upon location, and then they can move to the client’s home or another location.

Edie, an employee of Cuddle Time, said the employees are called cuddlers. There are three types of clients Cuddle Time cuddlers encounter, she said. Edie uses a pseudonym to protect her identity.

“There are the clientele that have extra money and they’re curious, and there are the second that are usually in a relationship or married…and are missing that aspect in their relationship,” Edie said. “And there are the third, which is someone who is so walled off intimately or relationship-wise that they need me to help them.”

Cuddle Time was founded by a Gainesville couple looking to start another business to supplement their income. To date, they are the only official employees of Cuddle Time. All other cuddlers are independent contractors, according to Edie.

Co-founder Mike Price, a youth counselor at a children center and a part-time EMT , said he liked the idea of this business because he wanted something to offer the community that didn’t require high start-up costs.

“I’ve seen these other cuddling businesses, and it kind of hit me that this can be an option in Florida,” Price said.

Chloe Kats, Cuddle Time co-founder and CEO, grew interested in the business as a way to connect clients with a kind of interaction not readily available–cuddling or human contact. Kats said she too uses a fictitious name to protect herself from clients.

Kats was inspired to create Cuddle Time when she learned of a similar business created by a woman in Manhattan, New York. Cuddle U, a cuddle service started by Alison Cuddle, launched in 2013 under the same premise.

In our digitally connected, personally disconnected daily experiences, human contact is often a luxury, Kats said. 

“We want to be there to help these people,” she said. “We want to give back something that they think maybe they can’t have.”

Kats cites research demonstrating physical touch can increase oxytocin, a hormone that relieves stress and builds trust.

According to Dr. Eric Krause, an assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, oxytocin, or the “love hormone,” is released in the brain when people act in a way that is perceived as positive. This could be experiences of intercourse, the connection between a mother and her child, or falling in love.

Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, said she hasn’t come across research that ties cuddling with oxytocin specifically, but she asserts that touch does increase oxytocin.

“I think all we can say is that we can extrapolate from literature about massaging, where oxytocin is increased,” she said.

Krause said clients may have a release of oxytocin if they perceive the act of cuddling as a positive social behavior.

“The consumer in that context would be looking for that pro-social behavior,” he said. “So, maybe from their own perspective it would be socially rewarding and would help elevate brain levels of oxytocin, which would be good. ”

James is now slowly growing more comfortable with the idea of entering into a new relationship, he said. He credits this growth to his sessions.

“We have a tendency to get away from that closeness,” he said. “Even when I was married, you find that there’s not that much intimacy in terms of closeness.”

However, some people believe there is an underlying concern for safety when strangers engage in closeness and intimacy.

Price said there hasn’t been an incident involving sexual misconduct. Police intervention has yet to be necessary. If a cuddler feels uncomfortable, he added, he or she will simply end the session early and block the client from contacting them.

The founders have implemented a system to track the cuddlers at all times, which is based on having steady contact with the cuddler before, during and after a session.

Also, cuddlers are not giving real names or personal information to the clients. And, according to Price, they always follow the clients in their own cars.

Kats said there is an open line of communication and a discourse with clients on what is appropriate and what is not. Usually, the cuddlers will say what is acceptable or not during a session.

Edie said that she feels fully comfortable and has never had any incident where she felt in danger.

“I took self-defense since I was nine years old, so I’m pretty confident that I can protect myself,” she said.

So far, they have expanded to Daytona, Ocala, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Sarasota and Puerto Rico. They have at least one professional cuddler in each location, ready and waiting to make contact.

But the business is still in the start-up stage, and its future remains unclear. While the business is growing, Price admits it is not a full-time endeavor.

“One week you have 5 appointments, another week you have 20 appointments,” he said.

A similar business in Madison, Wisconsin, called The Snuggle House, was shut down in 2013 before it was officially opened. Public criticism claiming the organization was a prostitution operation led to its demise, according to their Facebook page.

James said he wants to continue using the service until he feels ready for more organic experiences.

“Having done it and looking forward to it, I’ll do this until I feel really comfortable and feel healed,” he said. “Then I’ll start looking for a relationship.”

Edie has enjoyed the connections she’s made as a cuddler. Currently, she can’t even think about leaving.

“It will it be heartrending for me because I built these friendships that mean a lot to me,” she said.

The service satisfies a basic human need. But regardless of the interaction it provides, it is still just that — a service.

“You pay a psychiatrist to talk out your problems, you pay a masseuse for a deep tissue massage and you pay me to cuddle,” Edie said.

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Gainesville Strives To Become Florida’s Technology Hub

By on July 28th, 2015 | Last updated: July 28, 2015 at 6:22 pm
Florida Innovation Hub, located in downtown Gainesville. (photo by Samuel Navarro).

Florida Innovation Hub, located in downtown Gainesville. Samuel Navarro / WUFT News

On the third Thursday of every month, a group of entrepreneurs from different industry sectors meet at Bar Five, a local bar-restaurant in downtown, to toast and share business stories in what they call the startup hour.

Florida’s tax-friendly laws and Gainesville’s status as a college town makes it an enticing location for tech companies.

Patti Breedlove, director of the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator at the University of Florida, said Florida’s status as a non-state income tax state makes it attractive to incoming tech companies.

A non-state income tax means individuals in Florida don’t pay income taxes at a state level.

“If you look at national data…the Gainesville and Alachua area really stand out because of the $700 million of annual research at UF and the high average educational level in this town,” she said.

The presence and state-wide funding of institutions like Santa Fe College and UF offer Gainesville an edge over other cities in Florida, said Susan Davenport, the vice president of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Susan Davenport,

The chamber works to move greater Gainesville closer to their vision of becoming a global hub for talent, innovation and opportunity.

The chamber itself has gained notoriety.

In 2014, the organization was accredited for the second time as a 5-star chamber of commerce by the United States Chamber of Commerce, putting it in the top 1 percent of all chambers of commerce nationwide, according to its mission statement.

“We believe and know from our strategy development that we have great assets and expertise to become a high-tech city,” Davenport said.


The Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, founded in 1990, is an award-winning program at UF. It’s designed to help bioscience startup companies grow and establish their brand in the health industry.

The incubator, located in Alachua County, helps startup companies with the high cost of bringing products to market, complex regulations and the need for specialized facilities, according to their website.

With a population of over 127,000, Gainesville is the largest city in north central Florida, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Privately-owned incubators like Starter Space and Skyward Capital, both located downtown, help people develop ideas by supplying office space and business possibilities to help them grow as companies.

Innovation Square, also located downtown, is a new 40-acre space. Entrepreneurs live and work within the community space built by UF. It was designed to bring together companies focused on innovation.

The space features the Florida Innovation Hub, which serves as an incubator for startup companies. It offers clients direct access to legal and economic counseling, venture capital firms and office space.

The innovation hub is now home to nearly three dozen tech companies, including a European company.

Zeeko Ltd., a company from the UK recently set up their U.S. operations at Innovation Square, said Jane Muir, the director of the Florida Innovation Hub.

Companies in the hub have created 603 new jobs, contributing to the local economy. Between 2004 and 2010, companies from the Sid Martin program donated $753 million to Alachua County, according to a 2011 UF report.

In 2013, Nanotherapeutics, Inc., a company started at the UF Sid Martin incubator program, signed a 10-year contract for $358 million with the Department of Defense to build and operate a 180,000 square-foot advanced drug development and manufacturing facility in Alachua next spring, Breedlove said.

Pasteuria Bioscience, Inc., is another company started at the Sid Marin incubator. It was recently acquired for $113 million by Syngenta, the world’s largest agricultural business company, she said.

UF also has the fourth-highest record in the country of spin-outs for commercialization of ideas. This means prototypes eventually become final products. It is only surpassed by the University of California, the University of Texas systems and MIT, Davenport said.

“The beauty of that is this is all happening in one campus,”she said. “The cross collaboration needed to develop a technology hub is here.”

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July 28, 2015: News In 90

By on July 28th, 2015 | Last updated: July 28, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Tonia Borsellino produced this update.

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Florida Hospitals Promote Breastfeeding

By on July 28th, 2015 | Last updated: July 28, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Mothers and mothers-to-be of North Central Florida can look forward to giving their children a healthier start in life thanks to a new breastfeeding initiative.

In early June, 27 hospitals and the Florida Department of Health partnered to participate in Healthiest Weight Florida’s Baby Steps to Baby Friendly Initiative.

The initiative’s focus is helping promote an increase in breastfeeding among women in Florida, according to the website.

Four of the 27 hospitals taking part in the current initiative include the Women’s Center at North Florida Regional Medical Center, Orange Park Medical Center, Shands Lake Shore Regional Medical Center and Putnam Community Medical Center.

The hospitals were each given a $10,000 grant to enhance their maternity care, promote breastfeeding and begin implementing parts of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding program.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed their baby for the first 6 months. However, only 18.3 percent of women in Florida breastfeed, according to the most recent Breast Feeding Report Card conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The preparation and support that women get in the hospital really helps (mothers) to feel either more confident that their body is going to do the right thing or less confident about that,” said Sandra Sullivan, M.D., a clinical associate professor of pediatric research at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

Often, hospitals inadvertently undermine the success of women and their confidence about breastfeeding which can cause women to turn to formula early, she said.

Sullivan also said that by choosing to breastfeed, women decrease their children’s risk of infections, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by lowering their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, obesity and heart disease.

For women deciding whether to breastfeed or not, Sullivan points out the importance of women being educated about the differences between breast milk and formula.

“People don’t know that breast milk is specific to that baby,” she said. “The mom’s body adjusts what’s in breast milk for what the baby needs. Formula doesn’t do that.”

Creating Support

Every Tuesday morning, women from Alachua County and surrounding areas come together for the UF Shands Breastfeeding Mother Support Group to share advice between lactation professionals and mothers.

UF Health Shands Hospital became the first academic health facility and seventh hospital in Florida to receive the title of “baby-friendly” in February as part of an earlier initiative, Best Fed Beginnings. It is the only designated baby-friendly hospital located in North Central Florida.

Hospitals are designated baby-friendly by Baby-Friendly USA, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that implements hospital policies to help mothers successfully initiate breastfeeding. A baby-friendly designation is given to hospitals that successfully implements the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

The steps were created by a team of experts and include evidence-based practices shown to improve the start and continuation of breastfeeding, according to Baby-Friendly USA.

One of the steps is promoting the development of support groups and referring mothers to them during the hospital discharge process. The UF Shands Breastfeeding Mother Support Group is an example of one such group in action.

“We simply provide that peer-to-peer, that mom-to-mom support that normalizes breastfeeding,” said Casi Norman, a registered lactation nurse at UF Health Shands who helps facilitate the group.

The group was created in August 2014 before UF Health Shands received their baby-friendly designation.

Most mothers who attend the support group are employees of the hospital even though it is open to any mother who wants to join, regardless whether they had their child at UF Health Shands.

During group meetings, the mothers are allowed to spend most of the time speaking among themselves about any concerns or problems they may have while breastfeeding their child, Norman said. The experts only step in to give a last word.

“Oftentimes, they don’t even need us as lactation professionals,” Norman said. “We’re here to support, but they do a great job at supporting each other.”

Norman believes that for many women, the support group is more than just a place to seek help and advice regarding breastfeeding. It is a place the women look forward to being outside of home and work as well as a place to make friends, she said.

The mothers of the group often have mothers’ night out or family night out to get outside of the hospital setting.

“They’ve really kind of developed a friendship and a mentorship,” Norman said.

Expanding A Healthy Start

Mara Burger, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, said the Baby Steps to Baby Friendly Initiative is a partnership of local health offices with the hospitals located in their counties.

Hospitals chosen for the grant were first based off expressed interest in the project and then by breastfeeding initiation rates, Burger said in an email.

The 20 counties with the lowest breastfeeding initiation rates based on an assessment of the 2013 vital statistics birth certificate data were targeted, she said. They also targeted counties with facilities reporting the largest number of women not initiating breastfeeding.

“The main goal of this project is to help Florida hospitals conduct an assessment of their current maternity care policies and practices related to breastfeeding, begin making moves to accomplish each of the steps, and then celebrating those accomplishments,” Burger said.

According to Sullivan, part of the reason why there’s been a push to expand breastfeeding efforts is the health preventive measures it creates and consumer demand for such efforts.

“This is what people want, and so this is what healthcare providers are going to provide,” she said.

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Hogtown Creek Bacteria Levels Unsafe For Human Use

By on July 28th, 2015 | Last updated: July 29, 2015 at 10:15 am
Signs indicating unsafe levels of bacteria in Hogtown Creek were posted in June, according to Linda Demetropoulos, nature manager of the city of Gainesville Parks Department. Visitors can find these signs around various areas of local parks.

Signs indicating unsafe levels of bacteria in Hogtown Creek were posted in June, according to Linda Demetropoulos, nature manager of the city of Gainesville Parks Department. Visitors can find these signs around various areas of local parks. Debora Lima / WUFT

Howard Hall remembers seeing kids wading through Hogtown Creek, sifting for shark teeth.

But this was before the city of Gainesville posted signs around the park reading: “This is not a public bathing area,” and “Hogtown Creek is classified as impaired due to elevated levels of fecal bacteria.”

Hall, a Gainesville resident, said he only noticed the signs earlier this month while walking his dog.

The signs were posted in local parks between early and mid-June, said Linda Demetropoulos, nature manager for the City of Gainesville parks department.

The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department has found unsafe levels of bacteria in Hogtown Creek waters on multiple occasions, according to a press release by the city of Gainesville.

Swimming areas are typically shut down if bacteria levels exceed 200 CFU (colony-forming unit) per 100 milliliters of water. The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department conducts tests on swimming areas about six times per year.

Hogtown Creek was last tested on June 30. Those findings showed 5600 CFU per 100 milliliters of water, according to Robin Hallbourg, a professional geologist working with the Alachua County environmental protection department.

Results can produce a lot of variables, Hallbourg said. Due to bacteria’s persistent nature and rain storms, which wash sediment from construction sites into the creek, numbers can fluctuate. Conditions were rainy on June 30, yielding higher-than-average results.

But a test conducted on June 10 exceeded safe levels, too: 640 to 2300 CFU per 100 milliliters of water.

People can become sick or infected if they swallow the creek water or have open wounds, according to the press release. Rashes and respiratory discomfort are also a possible side effect.

“I’ve been in the military for 12 years, and I’ve been exposed to a lot more than a little something that might be in the creek,” said Bryan Schaefer, a 32-year-old Army veteran who spent Friday morning combing the Alfred A. Ring Park creek for shark teeth.

“I’m not gonna stay out of every creek I see just because I don’t know what’s in it.”

Demetropoulos said children and the elderly are most susceptible to sickness or infection.

The bacteria found in humans and animals’ digestive systems comes from pet waste, sewage lines and septic tanks.

Various initiatives are in place to address water pollution, said Sally Adkins, coordinator of the Gainesville Clean Water Partnership.

We try to focus on the program that will give us the biggest bang for our buck — something that addresses both sediment (from construction) and (bacteria),” she said.

The Clean Water Partnership has mapped all of Gainesville’s storm drains and their routes to help identify and eradicate the cause of “hot spots” — areas containing high levels of pollution.

The partnership also uses various outreach programs to educate locals on how to properly dispose of their pets’ waste.

Dispensers of pet waste disposal bags are available on hiking trails.

Demetropoulos said total decontamination of water requires major infrastructural overhauls, like connecting all Gainesville residences to a sewer line.

A sizable portion still use septic tanks, according to Adkins.

Water pollution, however, is regenerative, Adkins said. Everyday human activity, like lawnmowing and disposal of cooking grease down kitchen sinks, in close proximity to creeks makes decontamination all the more difficult, she added.

“We can sit there and point fingers at everyone, but the fact is, we have to take responsibility for our personal pollution and do what we can to preserve our local water resources,” Adkins said. “Everybody is a player.”

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