Schools’ kitchen equipment needs drive Senate bill

Norine Savage, a satellite cook for the Grand Forks School District, serves a spaghetti lunch Friday at Phoenix Elementary School in Grand Forks. Photo credit: John Stennes/Grand Forks Herald.

When it comes to making school menus healthier, some think it comes down to not only what food is served but where it’s stored and prepared.

Advocates for healthier children say better kitchen equipment plays a vital role in meeting school lunch nutrition guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We’re now in a new generation of nutritional standards that are really pushing, appropriately I think, fresh fruits and vegetables,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., told the Dickinson Press last week. “But that means that a can opener isn’t the equipment of the future — a refrigerator is.”

Heitkamp, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced a bill last week seeking to provide schools in North Dakota and across the nation with more assistance in securing loans and grants that would help them pay for these upgrades.

One hundred percent of surveyed North Dakota school districts are meeting the guidelines compared to 93 percent in Minnesota and 86 percent of schools nationwide, according to the USDA.

Despite the numbers posted by the states, both are in need of millions of dollars for equipment for school kitchens, according to information taken from the 2012 Pew Charitable Trust report “Serving Healthy School Meals.”

The report analyzed results from the nationally administered 2012 Kitchen Infrastructure and Training for Schools Survey.

The wish list for new kitchen equipment ranges from less than $5,000 to more than $100,000 per school across North Dakota and Minnesota.

Based on those results, the organization concluded 74 percent of North Dakota schools needed at least one piece of equipment to serve healthier meals to kids at a price tag totaling about $28 million. In Minnesota, that number is 96 percent with a total upgrade cost of $98.9 million.

A breakdown for each state is below. First up is North Dakota:


You can read more about the bill and what it could mean for area schools in this Herald story.

The top needs that schools listed included knife sets, salad bars and computers to manage menus and analyze nutrition content.

Just a note, the Pew Trust prices for those items are higher than what you may find if you start searching online shopping sites.

For instance, the knives and cutting board set is priced at $530 per unit, meaning North Dakota schools need about 179 of those sets. The utensils are priced at $32 per unit while a food processor comes in at $1,941.

Nationwide, the top need was utility carts, which Pew has priced at $490 each. Utensils were next followed by knife sets, food processors and industrial scales.

The most expensive equipment runs $30,000 and up for fridges, freezers and refrigerated and non-refrigerated trucks. The highest priced item needed by an estimated 12 percent of U.S. schools is a conveyor/wrapping system with price tag of $52,000.

Some of the school kitchen improvements in both states necessitate going beyond buying a new fridge or stove. Creating more space in kitchens and dining areas was cited as the most among surveyed schools.

 North Dakota:


You can read more research conducted by Pew and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation here.

Putting the ‘fun’ in funeral

I’ve always thought it weird that the word “fun” appears in funeral.

I’m fairly young, so I haven’t attended an abundance in my life, but I can’t recall any that I would categorize as anything less than depressing.

When I’m sitting in one, my mind always tends to wander to my own departure from this world. The thought of having dozens of people sitting in a church wailing doesn’t really appeal to me.

That’s one reason I want to write my own eulogy and fill it with my misadventures. In life, I’m all about making people laugh, so if there aren’t some chuckles and even a few hearty guffaws during my funeral, then I don’t think it will be an accurate representation of who I was.

They say you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but does it count if I’m poking fun at myself? I’d really like the world to be able to share one last laugh with me about the time I ran into my parents’ suburban with a riding lawn mower — though I hope by the time I kick the bucket that won’t be the crowning achievement in my comedic life.

Part of me wants to request the “Chicken Dance” be played during the processional, but I think that may be a little too ridiculous — even for my funeral.

Then again, who needs a traditional funeral? The phrase “celebration of life” sounds a bit hokey, but I think it sets a good scene.

I don’t need a parade or anything, but I think beer is a must and fireworks of course — it’s not a Jewett family party unless something is on fire or exploding.

Plus, in addition to placing your ashes into an urn or even compressing them into a diamond, there are companies that will put them into fireworks as well.

This makes sense for the sake of efficiency — people get a show and your ashes get spread in the process. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I am all about being efficient.

And after the funeral/kegger, there’s a whole host of things my body could do if I don’t end up being shot into the sky.

Digging a hole into a rural hillside and recreating an Egyptian tomb or placing my body inside the ribcage of a fake fossilized dinosaur would cause quite a stir if I’m dug up 1,000 years from now.

I also could become an anatomy lesson for medical students or go chill out on a body farm — a facility where decomposition is studied. I’d like to be the body that just hangs out under a tree feeding the woodland critters.

Perhaps, I could be part of the Body Worlds exhibit. My body tissues would be converted into plastic and put in some sort of pose for education — and likely amusement — of the generations after me. I wonder if my relatives would get free admission to see me?

Or, I guess there’s always the old standby of being buried in a coffin or kept in an urn, but where’s the fun in that?

Price check: February food costs rose at fastest rate since late 2011

If you’re a frequent grocery store shopper, you may have noticed the total at the checkout is slowly increasing despite your purchases remaining the same.

In February, food prices climbed at their fastest rate in almost three years and local residents, retailers and food pantries are already feeling the pinch. You can read more about the hikes’ local effect in this Herald story.

The 0.4 percent overall price increase was pushed in part by rising meat, poultry, egg and produce prices, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Overall, food prices are predicted by the USDA’s Economic Research Service to increase by 2.5 to 3.4 percent this year. Last year, the increase was a more modest 1.4 percent. Put in context, the increase won’t be the largest seen in the past decade — just one of them.

Beef, poultry, seafood and eggs are expected to see continued increases. The table lists potential increases for food types tracked by the ERS.

Consumer Price Indexes
All food 2.5 to 3.5%
Meats, poultry, and fish 2.5 to 3.5%
Meats 2.5 to 3.5%
Beef and Veal 3.0 to 4.0%
Pork 2.0 to 3.0%
Other meats 2.0 to 3.0%
Poultry 3.0 to 4.0%
Fish and seafood 2.5 to 3.5%
Eggs 3.0 to 4.0%
Dairy products 2.5 to 3.5%
Fats and oils 1.5 to 2.5%
Fruits and vegetables 2.5 to 3.5%
Fresh fruits & vegetables 2.5 to 3.5%
Fresh fruits 2.5 to 3.5%
Fresh vegetables 2.0 to 3.0%
Processed fruits & vegetables 2.5 to 3.5%
Sugar and sweets 2.0 to 3.0%
Cereals and bakery products 1.5 to 2.5%
Nonalcoholic beverages 2.5 to 3.5%
Other foods 2.0 to 3.0%

As you can see, all food types are expected to increase in price by at least 1.5 percent.

On average, grocery store prices have jumped by 2.8 per year since 1990, according to the USDA.

Sometimes food price seem to be on a roller coaster instead of straight shot upward. A Reuters story on rising food prices notes average supermarket prices fell between February and December 2013 by 0.2 percent.

You can see this through the chicken sandwich example used in today’s Herald.

I also made graph using the average prices recorded per pound for ingredients bought in the Midwest region in January of each year. (You can view a list of these prices and a national comparison here.)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The total price of the sandwich fluctuates with the rise and fall of certain ingredients.

Adjusting for inflation, the price of the 2008 purchase comes to $8.31, more expensive than what you would pay today.

In Grand Forks, a quick scouting of local stores puts the price of this same purchase at at about $7.50.

Prices per pound unless otherwise noted
Midwest average Local stores
Chicken (boneless breast) $3.59 $2.38
Iceberg lettuce $0.78 $1.58*
Tomato $1.40 $2.38
White bread $1.30 $1.19
Sandwich total $7.07 $7.53
*Per head, weight can range from 16 to 24 oz.  

The cost of fraud: Prevalence of scams in the U.S.

Last year, Americans lost more than $1.6 billion to fraudsters and scams.

If you think that number seems big, try this one: That amount only represents people who filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Earlier this week, I wrote a story highlighting scams plaguing the region and advice from organizations such as AARP, the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota to avoid becoming a scam victim.

While researching that story, I found out the federal government tracks scam and fraud reports much more closely than I originally thought.

Through a reporting system called the Consumer Sentinel Network, complaints received by organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, state attorney general offices, law enforcement agencies and identity theft monitoring centers are complied into one report by the FTC. You can browse the system’s annual reports here. I have to say they’re fairly user friendly.

In 2013, the network recorded two million complaints, about 55 percent of which were fraud-related.

Source: Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, January-December 2013.

That shakes out to about 1.2 million complaints from people encountering some sort of fraud. As the report reveals, a majority (61 percent) of those people paid some amount of money to scammers — that $1.6 million I mentioned at the beginning at this post.

The average payment was $2,294 while the median payment came in lower at $400.

Below is a breakdown of how much fraud victims reported paying to scams for the last three years.

Phone scams seemed to be the most popular method of defrauding consumers last year with 40 percent of reports indicating the point of contact for a scam was through a call. Email wasn’t far behind at 33 percent.

It seems using phone calls has become much more popular method as you can see in these graphs, though it may just because people encountering phone scams report them more often than those encountering other forms of fraud.

For more news on scams making rounds in the United States, checkout the FTC’s “Scam Alert” page.

A whole lot of pierogi

As my pierogi teachers impressed on me Thursday in the Minto Community Center kitchen, baking is supposed to be fun. Photo by Roger Schuster.

While I enjoy looking through spreadsheets for a story, my favorite assignments involve people sharing a part of their world with me.

The folks preparing for tomorrow’s Polish Food Festival (you can read the story here) were kind enough to do just that. More than that, they gave me a story of my own to tell.

You could say that jumping in and helping them make pierogi (filled dumplings that are boiled and then fried) goes against being an objective journalist, but I think some stories are better if we as reporters get into the thick of things.

For today’s story, that meant strapping on an apron, grabbing a rolling pin and getting covered in flour.

The pierogi crew told me that I (kid in the green scarf) was a natural with a rolling pin — something I’m not sure my own mother would believe. Photo by Roger Schuster.

First, Linda Babinski, whose apron proclaimed her as “Pierogi Queen,” tasked me with rolling out the dough. I should probably note that I don’t even own a rolling pin nor do I remember the last time I actually used one (eighth grade food class perhaps?).

I firmly believe using one is like a bicycle: Use it wrong and you’re scraping stuff off of some sort of hard surface. Sometimes it’s a street, sometimes it’s a table that hasn’t been properly doused in flour.

Oh, and that whole thing about never forgetting.

I claimed a small victory when only two small sections of the dough stuck to the table. The next part of the process was more manageable and  reminiscent of making Christmas sugar cookies — well if every cookie is shaped like a circle.

One of the successful-looking pierogi I made in in preparation for the Polish Food Festival in Minto, N.D. More 1,000 of these little buggers will be served Saturday. Photo by Roger Schuster.

From there, the circles are tossed across the table to the fillers. I had rolled out one mound of dough when it was time for me to join the fillers side. After a dough piece is tossed at you, you heap a spoonful of filling (which can range from mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, meats, fruits or even sauerkraut) on it and then fold the circle in half.

The next part is crucial and if you mess it up, then a Polish curse falls on your house for a hundred years. Just kidding, the pierogi will just explode when placed in the boiling water. To seal the pierogi properly, the edges must be pressed together with a fork from both sides. My first pierogi passed inspection, and was sent along with dozens of others to the boilers.

The process was a lot of fun, and I can now say I’ve made the Polish delicacy — though I don’t think I’ve earned the “Pierogi Queen” apron quite yet.

Dose of dollars: A closer look

Grand Forks Herald graphic.

Pharmaceutical companies paying doctors to speak at events about their products and research centers to run studies on those products may sounds like the type of shady deals you’d see a movie plot revolve around.

In reality, the practice is legal and very common. It is also very regulated, according to local doctors I spoke for this story, which takes a look at who among them has received the most money from these companies.

Grand Forks Herald graphic.

The doctors also gave insight into the nature of receiving payments. Taking the money can be view negatively but in some cases they say it allows to speakers and research centers to pass on knowledge to patients and other doctors.

The payments from drug and medical device companies to doctors or research centers cover a variety of items including speaking at conferences, conducting research, consulting and covering meals and travel expenses. Payments totaling more than $10 are required to be reported.

The data used in the story linked above and in this post comes from ProPublica‘s Dollars for Docs, a database featuring more than two million records from 15 pharmaceutical companies.

The database allows you to search by state and keyword. An easy place to start is your city. Typing a doctor’s name is best because it should pull up records from all cities where the payments were disclosed (some doctors, such as Dr. Matthew Roller who is mentioned in the Herald story, do outreach in smaller communities).

Grand Forks Herald graphic.

The records span from 2009 to 2012, giving us a short but thorough glimpse of which doctors and research centers are receiving money and how much.

Total, the 15 companies spent $2.5 billion in the United States over those four years. The companies sales make up about 43 percent of the industry’s market share, according to ProPublica.

North Dakota received about $5.5 million, putting it at 44th on a list including the 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. California tops the list at $298 million. You can see the entire list of states here: State Spending.

In Grand Forks, about 160 doctors received somewhere between $278,000 and $300,000.

Pinning down an exact total for the city is difficult as some payments were only disclosed as a range of $1-$1,000 or $1,001-$10,000.

Payments over that time period numbered 252. Add smaller towns around Grand Forks and the payment total hits 364 with another $5,000 added to the northeastern North Dakota region total.

GRAND FORKS* $278,681
DEVILS LAKE* $54,287
GRAFTON* $3,242
*Doesn’t include values given as a range ($1-$1,000 or $1,001-$10,000)

In both Grand Forks and Devils Lake, companies spent the most money on paying speakers. In the smaller communities, meal costs took over the top spending spot.

Across the Red River, four northwestern Minnesota cities add another $29,000 to the regional total in the form of 42 more payments.

*Doesn’t include values given as a range ($1-$1,000 or $1,001-$10,000)

Speaker payments reigned supreme for these cities as well.

Including payments in all of those cities, 227 doctors or research centers received a total of $367,000 in payments from pharmaceutical companies from 2009 to 2012.

The Dollars for Docs database won’t be the only source for this information for long. A project headed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services called Open Payments is expected to be up and running no later than Sept. 30 of this year.

It’s a requirement of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act — passed part of the 2010 health reform law

Open Payments would display payment information for all manufacturers of covered drugs, devices, biologicals, and medical supplies online. Companies have until March 30 to submit their payment information for 2013.

Medical doctors, dentists, dental surgeons, eye doctors and doctors of chiropractic medicine will ll be required to disclose these payments.

This increased transparency — along with increased criticism — has some companies shrinking their payments for speakers. You can read more about the trend on ProPublica’s website.

Below are PDFs listing all local payments. Grand Forks and Devils Lake each have their own document while smaller communities have been grouped into separate PDFs.

Fargo and West Fargo numbers only reflect payments of more than $250 (There were over 900 payments recorded between the two cities.) You also can view all of these payment records on the Dollars for Docs database.

Parents’ income, education affects kids’ weight

Grand Forks Herald graphic. Source: National Survey of Children’s Health 2011-2012.

Childhood obesity rates in the United States may finally be leveling off, but the news isn’t good for every kid.

Those with parents toting less than a bachelor degree or incomes below the poverty line for the household’s respective size aren’t slimming down at the same rate as their more affluent peers.

Their rates increase from 1990 to 2010 while children with parents holding at least a bachelor’s degree have seen their obesity rates sputter and decline during that time period. This trend includes children in North Dakota.

Thirty-six percent of the state’s 10 to 17 year olds were overweight or obese, according to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 30 percent of adults in North Dakota were considered obese in 2012.

CDC adds approximately 17 percent — or 12.5 million — of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years old are obese in the United States.

You can read today’s childhood obesity story analyzing North Dakota data and highlighting local efforts to combat the problem here. For more graphs and data not included in the story, keep scrolling.

Hitting the books

I compared quite a few numbers in the story, but I think sometimes it’s easier to see a visualization. Take the education data, which the national survey only had available for its most recent version.

Here’s what children’s weight status looks like compared to their parent’s education in North Dakota.

As the chart notes, about 56 percent of kids whose parents have less than a high school diploma are overweight or obese compared to 34 percent with parents earning more than that diploma.

In Grand Forks County, less than 10 percent of the population had less than a high school education, according to 2012 census estimates. A quarter of the population has a high school diploma, GED or equivalent.

You can see a similar correlation between weight and socioeconomic status when comparing N.D. children’s physical activity to their parents’ educational attainment. Kids with more educated parents had more days of vigorous physical activity.


It’s easy to say people who are better educated know that their kids shouldn’t eat McDonald’s every day or spend hours in front of the TV, but researchers also note other factors could be contributing to this weight trend besides uninformed parents.

Accessibility to parks and other recreational facilities is one theory. Researchers for the National Academy of Sciences note: “Neighborhoods influence not only food access but opportunities for physical activity. Low-income neighborhoods have fewer playgrounds, sidewalks, and recreational facilities.”

The image below is taken from the city’s 2040 land use plan. The circles indicate the service area of park and recreational sites in the city.

Very few areas in Grand Forks seem to lack park service though it may not be feasible for some children to bike or walk at least a mile to a park depending on the layout or composition of their neighborhood (crossing high traffic streets or having to pass through commercialized areas for instance).

If you’re a parent, you know that putting your kids in sports or other types of activities costs money whether through school or a club, but a financial barrier to sports exists for some low-income families. Low education levels often can translate into lower paying jobs for parents or guardians. Jobs that used to be within people’s reach 10 years ago with no high school degree now may require at least a two- or even four-year degree.

Some area families can receive a helping hand from organizations such Grand Forks’ Altru Family YMCA. The YMCA provides an average $200,000 per year in financial assistance toward its activity fees, child care and other programs.

Click to view a graphic comparing percentages of overweight/obese North Dakota children by income level.

Financial burden

A household’s financial situation not only impacts access to activities but to basic food as well.

When low-income families are facing a budget crunch, food is one of the first costs they cut with healthy, more expensive foods being traded for cheaper items high in sodium and sugar that have a longer shelf life.

About 54 percent of kids living below the poverty line for their household’s size (for a family of four that income level is $23,850) were overweight or obese in 2011 in North Dakota.

In Grand Forks County, the percentage of families and people whose income in the past 12 months was below the poverty level was about 10 percent, according to estimates from the 2012 American Community Survey. The overall poverty rate is closer to 16 percent.

Besides cost, access to healthy food also can be difficult because the household does not own or has limited access to a vehicle. Click on the link to this Google map, and you’ll find fast food restaurants are often closer to homes than grocery stores.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated nearly 10 percent of Americans live in low-income areas more than one mile from a grocery store.

The most recent county-level data indicated in 2010 that the percentage was slightly higher in Grand Forks County at 11.3 percent.

When including the county’s entire population, the department considered nearly 30 percent of people as having low access (living at least a mile away) to a grocery store — including about 4,500 children.

Graphic showing count of children with low access to (living at least mile from) a grocery store in North Dakota. Source: USDA.

Overall, Grand Forks County has less than two grocery stores but nearly eight fast food restaurants per 10,000 people.

More than half of the restaurants in the county are fast food establishments compared to 44 percent of restaurants in the state.

If you want a more comprehensive look at neighborhood access and income level, this Google map shows the locations of parks, schools, fast food restaurants and grocery stores in addition to income and population information for census tracts in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

If you want to do more exploring, you can check out the USDA’s Food Environment Atlas, National Survey of Children’s Health results through this database or the CDC’s childhood obesity page.

Wheels on the bus going round more and more

Public transportation use has grown steadily across the United States — a trend likely being fueled in part by concern for the environment, money and young people looking to save both.

Last year, Americans took more than 10.7 billion trips on public transit — the highest in 57 years. In big cities, using the bus or subway seems like a no-brainer so it’s not hard to imagine why the greatest growth in 2013 came from smaller cities.

According to a trade group called the American Public Transportation Association, cities with populations less than 100,000 people — such Grand Forks and East Grand Forks — saw gains in bus ridership of 3.8 percent.

In Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, ridership increased by 50 percent from 2006 to 2013. Since undergoing departmental changes in the mid-2000s, including a new name — Cities Area Transit — the city bus system saw its highest ridership numbers come in 2012 with more than 371,000 trips taken by passengers.

Local data shows an increasing number of those riders are millennials — people born between the early 1980s and 2000s. Numbers from 2010 to 2012 (CAT was just able to start tracking demographics starting in 2010) show UND ridership was up nearly 19 percent while Northland Community & Technical College was up about 3 percent.

You can see the growth in the chart below. I left out adult riders because the high number really skews the chart.

Source: Cities Area Transit.

The adult group recorded the second highest growth during that time period. Here are the numbers for that group.

Passenger type 2010 2011 2012 Change
Adults 209,146 249,147 242,779 16.08%

Surveys and reports indicate the millennial group is driving less and more focused on what mode transportation if going to get them where they need to be and in the most efficient manner. In other words, the decades long driving boom is likely over.

They also want more technology linked with their transportation, such as CAT’s RouteShout app, which gives online and mobile access to bus route and schedule information.

You can read more about the recent local bus ridership trends and millennials in this Herald story.

What I didn’t touch on in that story is the fact that 2012 was not the highest ridership the city bus system has seen. A search of the Herald archives revealed higher numbers back in the 1980s.

Year Ridership
1985 446,595
1986 381,957
1987 350,432
1988 380,038

There’s obviously a pretty big gap in records there. What we do know is that between 1988 and 2006 ridership (2006 was the earliest year the city could readily give to me) decreased substantially. Now it seems to be back on an upswing.

Overall, national bus ridership has declined since 1990 amid some ups and downs. It’s probably safe to say CAT is experiencing something similar.

Source: American Public Transportation Association.

Looking at ridership for all public transportation modes, there’s ups and downs recorded in the past 23 years there as well.  You can see ridership trends for all types of public transit in this document: APTA Ridership 1990-2012. The chart below shows the trend compiling all modes of transit.

Source: American Public Transportation Association.

In both graphs, you can see a dip in trips during the country’s most recent recession. Now that the U.S. seems to be in recovery mode, public transit advocates say communities can invest even more in transit systems.

According to APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy, almost 60 percent of public transportation trips are taken by work commuters.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

“Access to public transportation matters,” Melaniphy said in a news release. “Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.

“Another reason behind the ridership increases is the economic recovery in certain areas. When more people are employed, public transportation ridership increases…”

In 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimated nearly 700 people took public transportation to work each day in the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks area — from about 600 four years ago.

Data Digest: Mapping cancer

While North Dakota tops lists for its nearly nonexistent unemployment rate and the happiness of its residents, it lands on the low-end when it comes to its number of new cancer cases.

An average of 3,400 new cases of cancer were diagnosed annually from 2006 to 2010 in the state, according to the National Cancer Institute. That puts it at 32nd in the nation for highest incidence of cancer.

North Dakota’s incidence rate was about 450 cases per 100,000 people. Delaware topped the list with 514 cases while Arizona brought up the rear with 396 cases.

The graph below illustrates which types of cancer incidence rates are increasing and decreasing by annual percent change.

Breaking it down by North Dakota county for all cancer types, Sargent County has the highest incidence rate of cancer in the state with 600 new cases per 100,000 people per year from 2006 to 2010.

Here’s the top 10 counties with the highest incidence rates:

Sargent County, ND 599.9
Griggs County, ND 565.3
Ward County, ND 515
Barnes County, ND 511.8
Foster County, ND 510.1
Bowman County, ND 504.9
Towner County, ND 503.4
Sioux County, ND 494.3
Eddy County, ND 490.2
Bottineau County, ND 483.3

And the lowest:

Pembina County, ND 361.5
Dunn County, ND 357
Renville County, ND 354.9
Kidder County, ND 354.6
Grant County, ND 344.6
Logan County, ND 343.4
McKenzie County, ND 338.7
Sheridan County, ND 293.5
Billings County, ND *surpressed
Slope County, ND *surpressed

*Suppressed means the number of cases was so low the registry could not list them because it may compromise patients’ anonymity.

You can view the entire list of counties here: North Dakota Counties. They’re also available on this Google Map.

Obviously in a state as sparsely populated as North Dakota, the numbers seem a little inflated by the per 100,000 people measurement. For instance, Sargent County’s population during the time of the study hovered around 3,800 people.

Taking a look at the annual average counts gives you a better idea of how many new cases pop up per county.

In Sargent County’s case, the average was 31 cases per year. Cass County takes the top slot with an average 597 new cases. Case counts for all counties are included in the above North Dakota Counties document.

The top 10 counties by cancer case count are below. These numbers represent all types of cancer.

The counties topping the cancer count list unsurprisingly remain similar when looking at death counts. The top 10 list is largely unchanged with more populous counties near the top.


This document, North Dakota Death Rates, contains death incidence rates and counts for all cancers for all North Dakota counties.

Cancer deaths overall have been decreasing in North Dakota and nationwide. Below is the average annual percent change by cancer type.

If you want a more historical view, this graph shows cancer deaths peaked in the early 1990s and has since declined.

You can find and browse data for all 50 states on the National Cancer Institute’s website.

Data Digest: The ND counties lightning seems to fancy

Lightning hazard events for North Dakota counties, 1995-2009

North Dakota doesn’t rack up as many documented hazardous lightning strikes as other U.S. states, but lightning still cost residents thousands of dollars year each.

From 1995 to 2009, lighting caused nearly $1.8 million in property damages North Dakota counties, according to data compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey last month. (You can view a map of the entire United States created by USGS here.)

That’s about $128,000 per year statewide.

Lightning also was responsible for six injuries and one death. Pembina and Cass counties tied for the highest number of injuries at two each. The one fatality also occurred in Cass County, making it the county you probably don’t want to get caught in the rain.

While the two counties with the most lightning events saw no injuries or deaths, they did see high repair bills.

Stark and Burke counties topped the list with the highest numbers of recorded lightning events at six each during that 14-year period.

Unsurprisingly, those two counties also notched the highest damage costs. Burke County lightning strikes resulted in $421,000 in property damage while Stark followed at $379,500.

The two counties actually account for almost half of the lightning damage costs in the state.

If you break it down by average cost per event, Ward County’s three events with a price tag of nearly $77,000 come out on top. The county dethrones Burke and Stark counties, which had average event damages of $70,000 and $63,000 respectively.

Second place for highest number of lightning events was split between three counties. Grand Forks, Barnes and Cass counties each recorded four lightning events.

Barnes County’s events proved to be almost twice as costly as the other two counties combined.

Almost $200,000 in Barnes County property damage was reported during the 1995-2009 time frame while Cass and Grand Forks counties tallied $60,000 and $30,000 respectively.

You can see all reported events, injuries, fatalities and a damage costs here: Lightning Report.

I also should note that USGS keeps track of other fun stuff like hazardous wind events, winter weather hazard events and tons of other stuff. Check out its Google Map account.