Issue No. 86
A not-for-profit ministry of
Church of the Brethren Benefit Trust Inc.
Church of the Brethren Insurance Services provides the following products: dental, vision, basic life and accidental death & dismemberment, supplemental life and AD&D, dependent life and AD&D, retiree life, long-term disability, short-term disability, voluntary accident insurance, and Medicare supplement
for eligible Church of the Brethren employees
Dental, vision, retiree life, and Medicare supplement coverage may also be available for eligible retired Church of the Brethren employees.
For eligibility information, call Connie Sandman at 800-746-1505, ext. 366, or contact your human resources representative.
Medical and ancillary plans (named above) may be available to Brethren-affiliated employer groups.
Long-Term Care Insurance is available for all members of the Church of the Brethren, their family and friends, and employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities.
1505 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120
Open Enrollment starts Nov. 1
November is a month when we think about food. It's the month of the great national feast we call Thanksgiving. We see images of pilgrims and Native Americans sitting down to the first Thanksgiving meal, an event embellished in our imagination and deeply symbolic. There are countless pictures of golden-roasted turkeys surrounded by lush dishes of vegetables and sauces, with cakes and fruit pies ready on the side.
Further, November heralds the end of the harvest season. Our magazines and screens are filled with images of fruits and vegetables flowing out of great cornucopias, shocks of harvested corn, brilliant Halloween pumpkins, and baskets of rich produce from our fertile land.
Behind all this lovely food are questions about where it came from, how it was produced, and how far it traveled -- very appropriate questions to ask as we dig into November's culinary delights and harvest bounty.
Those are questions behind this issue of
Insurance Update as we look at the farm-to-table movement and how it is reminding us of a time when the food we ate came from our own land or from nearby farms. It raises the question -- can we eat that way again?
Further, as has been our practice each month, we will feature one of our insurance products. This month we want you to think again about short-term disability coverage. We also want to remind you that Open Enrollment will continue throughout this month.
May you have a fruitful November and a blessed Thanksgiving celebration. And may the food that you share have the freshness and nutrition that tells you it hasn't taken a long journey to your table.
Don't Miss Open Enrollment
Open Enrollment is now -- from Nov. 1 - 30, so it's time to pay attention! Use this time to consider your insurance coverage. Do this whether or not you are an employee in one of employer groups served by Brethren Insurance Services.
Open Enrollment is the window of opportunity presented by group insurance plans for starting or changing coverage of the various insurance policies offered
by the group plan, most on a pre-tax basis. So each year at this time, members served by Brethren Insurance Services are asked to review their coverage and determine whether they want to make changes and/or add to the insurance products they are already using.
However, even if you are not a member of Brethren Insurance Services, it would be wise for you to take some time now to review your insurances and determine what you need for yourself and your family for the year ahead.
Because some payroll deductions for insurance premiums are made on a pre-tax basis, Open Enrollment is governed by IRS Sec 125 rules, which allow for changes only during an open enrollment period. This is why BIS stresses and advertises its Open Enrollment, which this year is Nov. 1-30.
The actual open enrollment period varies from group plan to group plan and is determined by when in the year the coverage starts. For Brethren Insurance Services members, coverage for all its insurance products begins on Jan. 1.
If your employer offers products through Brethren Insurance Services, you can use open enrollment to change your coverage - increasing it or decreasing it on given products or adding new ones. Feel free to contact your HR department or call us to see what products you are eligible to participate in:
- Medicare Supplement
- Short-term Disability*
- Long-Term Disability*
- Life Insurance*
- Accident insurance*
- Pet insurance*
*(Not available to retirees)
Make sure your insurance matches your current lifestyle, especially with reference to life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and short-term disability insurance. Have there been changes during the past year that need to be considered? Open Enrollment is the time to do that. How do your various coverages meet your needs to support your life and your family?
Act now. The rules allow for changes only during this open enrollment period, unless there are "life events" like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a spouse, which enable persons to adjust or add coverage at other times during the year. And of course coverage can begin any time for a new employee, and end at any time if the employee leaves the job.
So review your insurance coverage. Make sure you are able to maintain your financial lifestyle, and take action if necessary. Open Enrollment is now!
Choose Short-Term Disability Insurance
You may not realize how often people are stricken with unexpected disabilities. Estimates vary between one-in-four and one-in-five for the number of workers who can expect to be disabled three months or longer during their working life. Reliance Standard Insurance Company estimates that one in seven employees can expect to be disabled for five years or more. The prospects of sinking into poverty rise for people with a disability. Unexpected illnesses and injuries cause 350,000 personal bankruptcies each year and nearly 50 percent of all mortgage foreclosures.
For these reasons, it is important to have long-term disability insurance. But to be fully prepared, you should also have a plan to cover your needs until LTD begins. A sudden injury or illness can quickly put you into financial distress. If your injury is work-related and you have workers' compensation, the early weeks of your disability will be covered. But you may work for an employer who does not offer workers' comp. Further, most injuries and illnesses causing disability are not work-related and thus not covered by workers' comp. Here is where short-term disability insurance will help you.
STD is just what its name implies. It provides benefits at the beginning of the disability and for a short time until other provisions can begin. For instance, LTD does not begin until after an "elimination period," which for the policy offered by Brethren Insurance Services is 90 days. Some people have the financial resources to cover those initial weeks, but most people do not. They quickly exhaust their sick days and savings. This is where short-term disability insurance makes sense. An STD policy will cover you almost immediately.
Short-term disability terms vary, but with the policy offered by Brethren Insurance Services, payments begin on the 15th day of the illness or injury and continue for 11 weeks, thus covering almost all of the 90-day elimination period. The payments provide 60 percent of weekly earnings up to a maximum of $1,250 per week. Please note that the BIS policy includes maternity benefits.
The policy does have a "pre-existing" period. Any sickness or injury for which you received medical treatment, consultation, care, or services, including diagnostic procedures, or for which you took prescribed drugs or medicines during the three months immediately prior to your effective date of insurance is not covered for the first 12 months in which the policy is in effect.
It is not difficult to see how valuable STD insurance can be. If your disabling injury or illness incapacitates you for a few weeks, STD will replace a sizeable portion of your pay check, so that when you are back on your feet, you are not in a financial hole. If your disability is long lasting, you do not begin your long-term benefits with a large financial burden.
So STD is a wise way of protecting yourself and your family from the financial effects of the unthinkable -- a serious and debilitating illness or injury. Think about this coverage and ask your HR department if this benefit is provided. The best time to add new insurance coverage is during Open Enrollment -- Nov. 1-30.
How to cut down on food miles
Elizabeth Segara in "Energy News" on the website
writes about visiting a grocery store in Charlotte, North Carolina, and tracking the mileage of five items at the store:
Milk 78 miles
Bananas 2,048 miles from Mexico
Apples 2,729 miles from Washington State
Avocados 2,048 miles from Mexico
201 miles from Kentucky
7,304 miles for these five items
Segara goes on to suggest how we can reduce the number of "food miles" on our grocery list.
- Switch it up: Instead of using a banana from Mexico every day in your breakfast smoothie, try making the smoothie with local fruit like peaches or strawberries when they are in season. The peaches will travel far fewer miles than the bananas, using less fossil fuel, and they will be fresher. Think of similar alternatives in your area.
- Buy locally: Look up farmers markets near your house and shop there whenever you can. Buy items that are local and buy them in season. To find out what grows in your area, check out this regional food map.
- Read the signs: In the grocery store, most produce has labels describing where it is from. Choose the products closest to your hometown.
- Start a garden: Find out which herbs, fruits, and vegetables you can grow in your backyard, and start your own garden.
- Tell your friends: Encourage your friends to shop at farmers markets with you, or start a neighborhood garden together.
Another way to conserve food miles is through Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs have become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Check out this website for more information:
Here's to nutrition, flavor, community, and the environment!
The farm-to-table movement
If you are a regular reader of this newsletter, and if you are sixty years or older, chances are good that your parents and certainly your grandparents ate food that they grew themselves or was grown by farmers they knew. The folks of these past generations ate fruits and vegetables in season and preserved quantities of it for the winter months. They may have raised chickens or other small livestock for food. Some of you may have experienced these traditions, or the end of them when you were children. Today we are far removed from that reality. When was the last time you plucked a chicken!
In a 1989 essay, "The Pleasures of Eating," essayist, novelist, and short story writer Wendell Berry wrote that people who eat, which is of course all of us, "mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and cost of what they are sold: How fresh is it? How pure and clean is it? How free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported, and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been 'processed' or 'pre-cooked,' how has that affected its quality or price or nutritional value?"
Berry goes on to conclude, "Most urban shoppers would tell you that food is produced on farms. But most of them do not know which farms, or what kinds of farms, or where the farms are." (from
Bringing it to the Table)
Though this was written almost thirty years ago, it is still an apt description of food production. But the good news is that there is a growing awareness of Berry's "critical questions." Things are changing. Wendell Berry was one of the early voices, one of the heralds of what is a small but growing movement called "farm-to-table."
Berry is eminently fitted to write about this. Born in 1934, he is a native of Henry County, Kentucky, and the families of both his parents go back through at least five generations of small farmers. After college and University and a brief teaching stint in New York City, he returned to his roots and since 1965 has lived and farmed in Henry County while publishing many books of essays, poetry, and fiction. During his lifetime he has seen and written eloquently about the decline of the family farm and the rise and deleterious effects of agribusiness and processed foods.
A counter argument could be made that people wanted choices and the freedom from growing their own food. As our country developed and we grew in wealth, we came to enjoy this even more. When you combine this with the drive for efficiency, which in most businesses is considered admirable, though with agriculture it is often put in a negative light, you have major factors behind the growth of agribusiness and more processed foods. Free of the need to produce their own food, consumers embraced this in order to pursue other careers. So people came to buy the food this process produced, creating the situation we have now - an affordable food system with broad reach. Americans spend less of their earned dollar on food than any other country in the world. But all this happened at a cost, and the food-to-table movement has arisen in response to the down-side of this huge change in how we handle food.
Since 2000, the farm-to-table movement has slowly been gaining momentum. It emphasizes food that is locally grown and eaten in season. It encourages buying at local farmer's markets that sell fruits, vegetables, and meats from nearby, within in a 50 to 100-mile radius. In the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act, the U.S. Congress asserted that an agricultural food product may not be transported more than 400 miles to be considered local or regional.
Food cooperatives have been practicing farm-to-table since the 19th century, but the last 40 years have seen a burst of growth. According to the Cooperative Grocer Network, there are more than 200 food cooperatives in the U.S. The National COOP Grocers represents 148 co-ops with more than 200 stores. Those figures point to stores and do not include the many smaller efforts underway across the U.S. In a co-op of today the object is to make organic and natural foods more affordable and available. Members decide what foods to buy and how to distribute it. One approach is to set up a store that is financed by shareholders who are also customers. Another is for a farm to sell shares and in exchange promise to deliver to shareholders each week a box of whatever produce is in season. Democratic in spirit and built on cooperation, food co-ops can take different shapes, though one common characteristic is a high level of social responsibility.
Another trend worth noting is that farmers markets have been springing up all over the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's
of farmers markets, there were 1,755 such markets in 1994. Today there are 8,687. People have been advocating the use of local food for school cafeterias in a small but growing farm-to-school movement. A recent report to Congress by the USDA notes these developments, indicating that members of Congress are beginning to pay attention. In the years since 2000, farm-to-table restaurants have sprung up all over the U.S. These are still few and far between when you consider the plethora of fast food outlets and popular restaurant chains, not to mention the many coffee shops, diners, and family restaurants that depend on shipped-in, frozen, sometimes pre-prepared items.
Processed items, though quick and convenient, often contain large amounts of sugar, fat, and sodium, leading to health problems. Even the fresh vegetables and fruit we can find on our supermarket shelves have traveled great distances. In order to do so, they are sometimes picked before being ripe. Fuel is consumed to transport them, releasing pollutants into the environment. Fresh food, when it is eaten soon after it is picked or harvested, still has all the nutrients that can be lost through processing or transportation. It is better for you and it tastes better.
Then why do we buy so much processed food and why is much of our produce still shipped across the continent or even the world? Why don't we all buy from farmers markets or food coops or eat at farm-to-table restaurants? The answer is price and convenience. Mass-produced, processed food is cheaper. It can be harvested in greater quantities by huge machines or hundreds of migrant workers, processed in large factories by state-of-the-art machines, and shipped in vast quantities in trucks, railcars, or container ships to be placed in big-box stores and supermarkets, where we can get a whole week's worth of food by going up and down the aisles filling a large grocery cart.
Further, we can get any food we want any time. If it's not in season where we live, it can be shipped in from somewhere on the globe where it is. A 2003 report from the Center of Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture claimed, for instance, that grapes travel as far as 1,555 miles and lettuce over 2,000 miles.
On the other hand, farmers markets and co-ops are small and few. They have only what is in season. Locally grown fresh meat is more expensive to butcher and to get ready for market than meat produced in giant meat-packing plants. To shop truly farm-to-table often means several different stops to purchase all you need for the week, and you will definitely spend more money than you would at a supermarket.
Yet change is coming very gradually. Six of the National Restaurant Association's 2017 Top 10 Concept Trends point toward farm-to-table cuisine: #1 is "Hyper-local sourcing," such as restaurant gardens; #3 is "Natural ingredients/clean menus;" #4 is "Environmental sustainability;" #5 is "Locally sourced produce;" #6 is "Locally sourced meat and seafood;" and #10 is "Nutrition."
The benefits of farm-to-table are considerable: fresher food leading to better health, support for local famers, a stronger local economy, an increased sense of community through deeper inter-connections among people, a sustainable environment, and improved animal welfare.
Whether you are buying at a farmers market or a food co-op or eating in a farm-to-table restaurant, what do the words "farm-to-table" really mean? First, the term is imprecise and is sometimes loosely used. Pay attention to what is behind it. (Note: One common fallacy is that it means "organic." While this may be true, the fact that something is locally raised does not guarantee that it is organic. The USDA certifies the "organic" label.) So what characteristics determine if food is farm-to-table? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How does the farmer raise the livestock and how are they slaughtered and processed? For instance, are cows, lambs, and pigs raised locally? Are they grass-fed? Are they slaughtered nearby? This combination of characteristics is sometimes hard to find and may take some research. There are national standards set by the USDA for humane and hygienic procedures. Buying meat that was locally grown and slaughtered does not guarantee that the animals were handled well and hygienically, but being able to visit the location allows you to monitor the processes.
- Do the people who provide your wild fish abide by quotas to prevent over-fishing?
- Do you have relationships with your farmers, fishermen, or ranchers? This takes more than just picking up a phone and placing an order. You need to know what will be in season and what they might be willing to grow at your request. You should know what their practices are for pesticides, herbicides or antibiotics.
- Are you willing to prepare and eat whatever is in season?
- What do you know about the farm or ranch itself? Are there any external sources nearby that could be harmful, such as industrial waste? Is the water tested annually? Are steps taken to prevent soil erosion?
- Are you willing to put in the extra time and accept the extra expense in order to serve and eat farm-to-table? If you are eating out, are you willing to drive the extra distance and pay the higher prices for a farm-to-table restaurant?
- Are you willing to grow some of your own produce?
How far are you willing to go? For instance do you want to make your own butter and cheese, or if you are eating out, do you want to find a restaurant that does?
How many of us can answer "yes" to the above questions? It's not hard to see why our current food system has evolved the way it has, it makes food so much easier. Unless we buy some acreage and begin to grow our own food, we cannot break the cycle. Even if we did, it's still hard not to support the system. Let's say we raise all our own food, but we have a craving for corn chips. When we purchase organic corn chips, we are still buying something that was grown somewhere else, shipped to the place where it was produced, and then shipped to the store where we bought it.
It is probably not possible to change a system that feeds millions back to a simpler food-to-table form. Few of us would wish to return to a horse and buggy culture. Even the Amish use trains and planes. Maybe large agricultural and food-production businesses are just another example of our rapidly changing world. But maybe there are ways we have not yet thought of to raise the possibility of more people being able to eat farm-to-table.
Until then, every time we raise some of our own food or buy at a farmers market or food coop or pay extra to eat truly fresh food in a farm-to-table restaurant, we make a choice for nutrition, for flavor, for our local economy and for the environment. And maybe we even bring ourselves a step closer to the earth that sustains us.
|A cross-country virtual tour of farm-to-table restaurants
Farm-to-table restaurants are interesting and colorful places. Visit their websites, view their photos, and read what they say about themselves, the farms that support them, and their changing menus. Get a sense for what farm-to-table means and how it is carried out.
Here are links to the websites of 11 farm-to-table restaurants spread across the county. They were chosen for their proximity to places where clients and Brethren Insurance Services members tend to live.
If you have eaten at one of these restaurants or go to one in the near future, why not drop us a line and let us know what you think? You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Please note these restaurants are not being recommended by Brethren Benefit Trust or Brethren Insurance Services. These website links are offered simply as a way of helping you experience the farm-to-table movement.]
Farm to Table Restaurants
from Atlantic to Pacific
John J. Jeffries Restaurant
Eighty Acres Kitchen and Bar
The Trolley Stop
The Loft Restaurant and Dairy Bar
Kechi, Central Kansas
Greens on Tenth/Greens Table
Blue Cow Kitchen and Bar
Los Angeles, California
A difficult decision for BBT -- Retiree Life Insurance change
For several years, BBT has been offering Retiree Life insurance at below-market rates, which means it has been subsidized by BBT's other insurance products. We have decided we can no longer sustain this practice. We must begin a transition toward market pricing this insurance. Since we have chosen to self-insure the plan, it will allow a time of transition so that members will not experience an immediate rate shock.
When we began offering Retiree Life insurance many years ago, it was an affordable and popular insurance, and we found that most people were using it for final expenses. However, this trend has declined in recent years as many people plan for funeral expenses in other more specific ways. In fact, we find that fewer eligible retirees are enrolling in this product at BBT. In the national landscape, fewer employers are offering the benefit of retiree life insurance to their employees.
Retiree Life will continue to be available to those currently enrolled, but will not be open to any new entrants in 2018 and future years.
We encourage you to call with your questions.
, director of Insurance Operations, can be reached at
We appreciate the service our retirees have given through the years and realize it can sometimes be difficult to make ends meet. If you or someone you know is in this situation, contact us to see if you qualify for a Church Workers' Assistance Plan grant.
We hope you are enjoying our
monthly BRAIN PUZZLES -- just for fun! Hopefully these questions will test your reasoning a bit.
1. Here's a quick test of intelligence. There are no tricks to the test, and it looks pretty simple. But let's see how YOU do!
Read this sentence:
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT
OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC
STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS.
Now count aloud the F's in that sentence. Count them ONLY ONCE. Do not go back and count them again. What is your answer?
2. Manhole Covers: Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?
3. A man went to a party and drank some of the punch. He then left early. Everyone else at the party who drank the same punch was poisoned and became very sick. Why did the man not get sick?
4. How many outs are there in an inning?
5. Two men play five games of checkers. Each man wins the same number of games. There are no ties. Explain this.
6. Divide 30 by 1/2 and add 10. What is the answer?
7. A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of the same year. But they were not twins. How could this be so?
8. Very Tricky math! Note: This riddle must be done in your head only -- do NOT write it down.
Take 1000 and add:
What is the new total?
|You don't have to wait wait for Open Enrollment to think about
Long-Term Care Insurance
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance all through the year
Eligibility for long-term care insurance benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It helps assure that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at
or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or
to request more information.