Get Your Kids Involved in Planning Their School Lunches!

ChooseMyPlateGovBy Ozella Jones, Nutritionist

We are well into the new school year. Chances are, your kids might be getting tired of their school lunches.

Here are some tips to spice them up: Start by engaging your kids in the planning. Let them help!

I always like to ask kids what they like to eat, and then I help them put their own lunches together. I can also offer suggestions to help balance out the package, making sure to always include the fruits or vegetables that might not be top of mind to them.

I like to give out this simple page that helps kids and parents plan a balanced meal. This shows a sample meal with fruits, grains, protein, vegetables and dairy — I use that as a guide and let the kids pick their favorites in each category. Point out the portion sizes, too.

If the kids are included in the planning, they are more likely to enjoy the meal. They will feel like they have choices and are an important part of it all — which they are.

A good place to start is with a plan. While you’re shopping, ask the kids what they like or what they’d like to try. You might be surprised! Here are some suggestions for easy additions to the lunchbox or paper bag:

  • Low-fat multigrain nutrition bars — instead of cookies
  • Flavored rice cakes — instead of chips
  • Applesauce or fruit cups — instead of puddings
  • Fruit, like apples, tangerines, grapes, or vegetables like baby carrots — instead of candy

For the main part of the meal, you might suggest peanut butter bagel bites, or lean meats like turkey or chicken. They might like to assemble their own cheese and crackers.

The key is bringing the kids into the planning — get them to think about what they’re eating and how much. Start them out with good information to make good choices throughout the day.

If you’d like some additional tips on building balanced meals, check out my two favorite resources for guidance and recipes:

Questions? Please come visit me at SHS Central Facility.

Need a Ride to Your Appointment? SHS Transportation Services Can Help!

By Ginger Doll, Transportation and Fleet Manager at Swope Health Services (SHS)

At Swope Health Services, we know transportation plays a big role in accessing health care.

Our SHS drivers work where the need is, providing rides for more than 100 people on any given day. Monday through Friday, six SHS vehicles are on the roads by 7:30 a.m.

Studies show that about 3.6 million people a year in the U.S. miss a medical appointment because they lack transportation. At SHS, a missed appointment might mean health challenges for the patient who couldn’t come to our clinics. It also hurts others who could’ve been scheduled in that missed appointment time.

transportationmapThat’s why we’re revving up our Transportation Services:

  • New Vehicles: SHS will replace its aging vehicles in the coming months. These new vehicles will be equipped with wheelchair lifts, bringing the number of vehicles capable of wheelchair transport to five.
  • Better Routing: Our service area is wide, covering parts of 19 Zip codes in the 320-square mile KC metro area. Planning and coordinating rides will get an upgrade with a new software package that includes giving drivers more accurate directions and more efficient routes that should reduce patient ride times.

SHS also helps coordinate services with other agencies providing transportation, including Share-A-Fare, MO Health Net, KanCare and Home State Health.

In addition, SHS makes daily pick-ups at area of homeless shelters. We also have a Mobile Medical Unit that can provide on-site care at the shelters.

Do you need transportation to SHS Central? Call 816-599-5575 to make an appointment. We ask that you call a minimum of 24 hours before your appointment.

Have an idea for us about our transportation services? We welcome your comments below.

Health Insurance Open Enrollment Is Coming

OPEN ENROLLMENTWhen the Swope Health Services Outreach & Enrollment team launched in 2013, the department set a goal of about 7,600 encounters.

Each encounter is a meeting with someone who had questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), what insurance subsidies are available, or how to sign up for insurance and other benefits.

Now, more than 30,000 encounters later, this team has won attention from federal officials for its top-ranked performance:

  • SHS was the No. 1 performer among all recipients of a National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association grant in 2014. SHS enrolled 4,787 people in affordable insurance in 2014.
  • Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius sent a congratulatory letter to Karimah Baptiste, SHS Manager of Outreach & Enrollment, thanking her for “great work on a daily basis.”
  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a press conference at SHS last November, using SHS to promote the open enrollment opportunity to sign up for affordable insurance at

Right now, Baptiste and her team of six Certified Application Counselors are getting ready for a new open enrollment season, which starts November 1, 2015.

Anyone who obtained insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace will receive a letter from their insurance provider advising of any changes to their plan.

If you had a plan and liked it, and it is still available, you can re-enroll. Some plans, however, will have changes — perhaps in coverage areas, provider networks, or rates.

“I want everyone to explore their options,” Baptiste said. “There may be new marketplace plans or other changes. We are here to help with that exploration.”

The Outreach & Enrollment team will meet with individuals and families, in person and taking as much time as necessary. The service helps individuals compare plans, select levels of coverage and co-payment, and sign up for insurance or other services.

Do you have questions about the ACA or your own health insurance status? Call SHS Outreach & Enrollment at 816-599-5590 to schedule an appointment.

SHS Outreach & Enrollment Helps People Get Health Insurance

Summer may be winding down but behind the second-floor Outreach & Enrollment door at Swope Health Services Central, things are just starting to heat up.

You might think this is a department that works only during the annual Affordable Care Act (ACA) Open Enrollment period for health insurance, but you’d be mistaken.

It’s true that Open Enrollment — from roughly November to January — makes up the most intense period of work. But throughout the remainder of the year, people are still eligible to sign up under Special Enrollment conditions.

That makes Outreach & Enrollment a non-stop effort at SHS.

Outreach 1There’s always room to reach more people with facts on the ACA and to help them get insurance under Special Enrollment when they face certain changes in status. You may qualify for Special Enrollment if you’ve experienced any of these events:

  • A change in family, such as marriage, divorce, childbirth
  • Moved out of your coverage area
  • Lost your coverage
  • Graduated from college
  • Become a lawful citizen
  • Been released from prison

Typically, there is a 60-day window for enrolling from the date the event occurs.

Inside the office, Karimah Baptiste, SHS Manager of Outreach & Enrollment, displays a calendar that’s booked with events that her six-person team of Certified Application Counselors (CACs) will attend.

The CACs are in all corners of the community: at church groups, with non-profits like Urban Rangers, advocacy organizations like the National Council of La Raza, community centers like Armourdale Health Center, and civic events like Kansas City Mayor Sly James’ Rock the Block party. The staff visits domestic abuse shelters and prisons, and follows up with anyone who has questions.

“Outreach isn’t just sitting at a table,” Baptiste says. “We are talking with everyone.”

Insurance isn’t exactly the most exciting topic, Baptiste admits. She makes it part of her mission to bring some fun into the educational process and make sure people understand their choices.

The process includes one-on-one discussions to help navigate through the maze of insurance plans, pricing levels, subsidies, tax credits and other variables.

The SHS Outreach & Enrollment team has helped nearly 10,000 people successfully enroll for affordable health care since its launch in 2013.

Do you have questions about the Affordable Care Act or getting affordable health insurance? Contact SHS Outreach & Enrollment for an appointment at 816-599-5590.

Project Homeless Connect: One-Day Event On Friday, August 28th

ProjectHomelessConnectCan you help spread the word about a special one-day event to help people without homes in our community find the support they need?

The event is Project Homeless Connect KC and the goal is to connect someone experiencing homelessness to the services they might need. The Swope Health Services (SHS) Mobile Medical Unit will be there to provide free medical care.

The event is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, August 28 at the Gregg/Klice Community Center at 17th Street and The Paseo, Kansas City.

Among the free services to be offered:

  • assistance getting a birth certificate
  • applications for housing support
  • employment assistance
  • applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women-Infants-Children (WIC) programs
  • Veterans programs
  • assistance with prescriptions
  • haircuts
  • portraits
  • legal aid
  • free wellness checks and select vaccinations for dogs of homeless individuals

ProjectHomelessFlyer1On-site child care will be available and all participants are offered a free lunch.

Project Homeless Connect will even provide free transportation throughout the day, approximately every 45 minutes, from:

  • Jackson County Courthouse, 415 E. 12th St.
  • CSL Plasma Center, 3715 Broadway St
  • Central Library Bus Stop, 14 W. 10th St.
  • City Union Mission, 1100 E. 11th St.
  • Hope Faith Ministries, 705 Virginia Ave.

Participants need to bring all vital documents — any forms of ID, Social Security cards, Birth Certificates, Veterans’ IDs (DD214)—with them. These documents are critical to getting the resources and services that can make a positive change for homeless individuals and families.

The event is organized by the nonprofit Rotaract Club of Kansas City, a young professional service organization.  More than 300 volunteers, service providers and sponsors gave assistance to 265 participants and children at the first event in 2014. At this year’s event, the organizers hope to assist 300 homeless participants.

Spread the word! More information is available at Volunteers are also welcome — see the website or contact