May 13, 2018

Castro: Momma needs a drink, a cooking app and paper straws (The Daily Progress) »

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MELISSA CASTRO

I’ve always known Charlottesville is a family-centered sort of place, at least compared with the Washington, D.C., swamp I crawled out of.

But it’s always nice to have hard data to back up one’s assumptions.

For reasons unknown, Womply, a San Francisco-based small-business metrics firm, sends us credit card swipe data for various holidays — for instance, we recently ran their data on March Madness bar sales.

Now Womply has informed us that Mother’s Day was the best sales day in Virginia in 2017, when the average restaurant tab increased 57 percent and total sales jumped 71 percent. Mother’s Day was even kinder to restaurants than were Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day and the Super Bowl.

Looking more closely at the numbers, it appears that the 57 percent jump represents precisely $17 — or roughly two Bloody Marys.

Cheers, Moms!

***

Another random parenting-industry factoid we received this past week: 62 percent of Americans — but only 47 percent of Virginians — say meal planning stresses them out.

This data point was generated by a completely nonscientific survey of 1,000 Americans, conducted by the company behind a cooking app called Innit.

If you’re a member of the 47-percent club, Innit can offer up suggested recipes based on your allergies, diet restrictions and the random stuff you have in the fridge. It then builds shopping lists, how-to videos and “intelligently sequenced” instructions — this is somehow different than a recipe — to walk you through the process.

The app also can integrate with WiFi-connected appliances, but I’m going to side with Kellyanne Conway on this one, and avoid letting my microwave monitor my kitchen catastrophes.

***

One local mom, Marlena Simon, has been making a giant splash in the community the past few weeks. (Yes, that “splash” is the sound of your child’s milk hitting the floor. But this is for a good cause, so hear me out.)

At the behest of her 7-year-old and 10-year-old kids, Marlena started up a Facebook group, Cville STOPs, that is lobbying local establishments and families to go straw-less for the environment.

I learned about the group from Simon’s husband, Matt, who is the operations manager for the Paramount Theater. It came up while I was interviewing him about the Better Business Challenge (see today’s CBJ cover story) and the theater’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint during the last challenge. (The Paramount also hosted the awards ceremony for that event.)

Ironically, Matt said he’s too busy to have the theater participate in the challenge this year — in part because of his family’s work on the anti-straw movement.

The Simon family is preaching about the perils of plastic straws, which often slip through the filtration systems of water treatment plants, thus polluting streams and killing turtles.

“My son loves turtles,” Matt said. “So, when he heard that, he was like, ‘We have to do something!’”

The group’s name stands for “Stop. Think about it. Offer alternatives. Pass it on.”

In restaurants, the alternative would be paper straws or nothing; at home, there are several reusable options. Matt said commercial paper straws may cost two to five times as much as a plastic straw, but restaurants tend to hand out far fewer of them when they make it a by-request-only item.

STOPs calculates that 25,000 people foregoing plastic straws would eliminate 5 million straws in a year. On a larger scale, the U.S. consumes enough plastic straws to surround the Earth 2.5 times a day, they say.

At least 17 area establishments, including the Paramount, have signed on to the Last Straw pledge so far, and the Facebook group has 836 members.

And the Simons have only been at this for about a month.

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