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Food

BOE approved changes in 2017, slow transition to full compliance to continue into ’18-19 school year

A BOE policy is increasing healthy food options in PJ schools. Stock photo from Metro

Port Jefferson School District is looking to become a healthier place.

Students and parents returning this fall should expect to see further changes to foods offered in cafeterias, sold for team and club fundraisers, and even those foods allowed at school celebrations for the 2018-19 year to meet standards set in a May 2017 board of education policy change.

In a July letter addressed to parents from Danielle Turner, the now-departed district director of health, physical education and athletics, the policy was enacted to address nutritional concerns as well as increase students’ physical activity throughout the school day, a move designed to keep the district in line with state and federal regulations.

“Elements of the policy went into effect last year,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said. “We chose a path of gradual compliance starting with last year so our students and advisers could plan accordingly going into the 2018-19 school year.”

Under the policy, school meals in the district now must include fruits, vegetables, salads, whole grains and low-fat items, adherent to federal standards. In addition, food and beverages sold in vending machines and school stores must meet nutrition standards set by federal regulations. Food and beverages sold by clubs and teams for fundraisers, both on school grounds and off, will also be subject to the same regulations. The policy also impacts in school celebrations and parties where food and drinks are provided, saying building principals will “encourage” parents and staff to follow the guidelines, and restricts the use of food “as
an incentive or reward for instructional purposes.”

“As a school community, it is important that we model what we teach about health,” Casciano said.

Student body president and Port Jefferson senior Reid Biondo said clubs and teams were made aware the policy change was coming last year and started to make preparations to adhere to the changes when it comes to fundraising.

“The fundraisers are very important for clubs and teams,” he said. “Not being able to fundraise by selling food is a source of concern but the students at Earl L. Vandermeulen are very creative and are already coming up with solutions. Last year, one of the classes hosted a volleyball tournament in place of a bake sale. There are plenty of alternatives to bake sales but students and teams are going to need to work a little harder for their money.”

Despite the challenges created by the policy, Biondo said he sees the district’s point of view in trying to foster a healthier school environment.

“I think they are right to encourage a more healthy lifestyle and I think it is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Students should have access to healthy eating options and that part of this change in the school district excites me. However, I do not think removing the unhealthy choices entirely is the solution.”

Biondo pointed out that CVS is less than a five-minute walk from the school’s front door, and he suspects many of his peers will go there to purchase an unhealthy after-school snack. This would mean the revenue from bake or candy bar sale would be going to an outside source, while students continue making unhealthy choices. The senior also suggested the district should provide additional education about healthy lifestyle choices and consuming snacks in moderation, to encourage students to lead a healthy lifestyle in and outside of school.

Casciano said the district took the fundraising obstacles for extracurricular organizations into account when crafting the policy and suggested healthier alternatives can still be sold to raise money. He added the district’s hiring of Adam Sherrard to take over for Turner will have no bearing on the implementation of the policy.

The full board wellness policy can be found at www.portjeffschools.org under “Community” tab.

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The Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson celebrated its 57th Port Jefferson Greek Festival from Aug. 23 to 26. This year’s event featured carnival rides, traditional dance performances, live music, games and culinary delights.

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At some point along my ancestral chain, I must have been Italian. Or Chinese. How do I know? I have an unbelievable passion for pasta. That’s not a carbohydrate lust. While I have never met a carb I don’t like, I can take or leave rice or bread and the many other forms in which carbohydrates can be found. But my soul soars for pasta.

It was World Pasta Day Oct. 25, and that got me to thinking about my love affair with pasta. I suppose it started in my early childhood, as almost everything does. SpaghettiOs came in a can, and my mother occasionally served it to us as part of a meal. However, the story is not that straightforward. She felt the sauce was a bit sharp, and so she sprinkled the spaghetti with a little sugar. Now this is enough to make any self-respecting Italian restaurateur gag. Many did, as I would ask, “Can I have some sugar please?” of my waiter as I was served a bowl of steaming pasta. “Sugar? You mean Parmesan cheese?” he would ask. “No sugar, thank you, granulated sugar,” I would patiently explain. Then he would watch in fascination as I topped off my dish accordingly.

It wasn’t until I visited Italy for the first time that I understood the miracle of pasta. The secret is in the sauce, which decidedly is not improved with the addition of sugar. Somehow the pasta itself tastes different there too, the same way water does depending on where it comes from. I remember that first trip very well, as I fell in love with the beauty of the country, the kindness of the people, the richness of its art. But what I remember best is the pasta, which I will tell you that I came to eat there three times a day. And it never tasted the same way twice because all chefs proudly make their own secret sauces. The high point occurred in Amalfi, in a small restaurant on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea. We were with a tour but unscheduled for lunch, and we wandered around the town looking for a likely eatery. They are all charming, you know, but one in particular attracted us and we went in to find that the luncheon special consisted of six different kinds of pasta.

Six! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The chef, who spoke no English and needed none, came out to explain that we should start with the mildest pasta on the huge plate, then work our way around much as an artist does with his paint palette, to the one with the strongest flavored sauce. The six pastas were each different and the experience was, as you can tell, exquisitely memorable.

Although some think pasta was invented in Italy, others believe Marco Polo brought it back from his travels to China, where he supposedly tasted it at the court of Kublai Khan. There is record of the Chinese eating noodles as early as 5000 B.C. and, in fact, the Etruscans from western Italy seem to have made pasta in 400 B.C. There are bas-relief carvings in a cave 30 miles north of Rome depicting instruments for making pasta: a rolling-out table, pastry wheel and flour bin, according to the National Pasta Association. Anyway in the 13th century, the pope set quality standards for pasta. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with a macaroni dish he tasted in Naples while serving as ambassador to France and promptly ordered crates of the pasta, along with the pasta-making machine, sent back to the United States. Indeed, he may have been the one to introduce macaroni to this country. Cortez brought tomatoes back from Mexico in 1519, but it took two centuries before the marriage with pasta was consummated.

There have been many imitation pastas, meaning not made from wheat, that have come along, but only one makes the grade with me, and I give it a shameless plug here for those who can’t or won’t eat the real thing. Manufactured by Tolerant, it is made of beans and called Organic Red Lentil Pasta.

Buon appetito!

Flavorings in drinks can make the refreshment less healthy than it appears. Stock photo

By Chris Zenyuh

“Natural” is one of the most abused terms in food marketing.

Most “natural flavors,” for example, are simply chemical compounds synthesized in the same laboratories as artificial flavors using slightly different techniques and sources.  Similarly, “fruit sugar” or fructose has an enticing natural sounding name, but very little of our fructose consumption actually comes from fruit.  Instead, we typically accumulate fructose via table sugar — half of every teaspoon turns to fructose in our digestive system — and/or high fructose corn syrup found in almost all processed foods and beverages, even fruit juice. Though coffee and tea are, by themselves, free of fructose, the commonly consumed versions with syrups and flavoring from familiar national chains are more akin to soda, nutritionally.

When it comes to fructose, you should keep a few things in mind to keep a more healthful perspective. As a sweetener, fructose hits 170 on a scale that ranks table sugar at 100 and glucose at 70.  It also tastes sweet faster, browns faster, and holds more moisture than other sugars.  These characteristics have made fructose an industry favorite, especially once the chemistry behind high fructose corn syrup became cost efficient.

The only organ in your body that can process fructose is your liver.  Metabolically, your body makes very little distinction between alcohol and fructose.  Both are seen as poisons and both are detoxified by your liver accordingly.  The primary distinction is that your brain can metabolize about 10 percent of the alcohol consumed, thus inebriation. Chronic exposure to fructose generates much of the same metabolic dysfunction as alcohol, including liver disease. Unfortunately, there is no “drinking age” for fructose, so even the youngest of children are regularly exposed to fructose.

Glucose and fructose molecules can stick to proteins in your body.  This is known as glycation.  The more your cells are exposed to these sugars, the more frequently this occurs.  Your body does have the ability to disconnect these molecules, but too much glycation can overwhelm that system. Eventually, the attachments become permanent, known as ‘advanced glycation end-products’ or A.G.E.s (a telling acronym, for sure).

These compromised proteins cross-link with each other in a manner that disrupts their function. Collagen fibers that should slide past each other become rigid and tear under stress. Skin wrinkles, ligaments tear, and the lens of your eye can start to block light (glaucoma). Consistently high levels of exposure are recorded by your blood cells as the hemoglobin becomes glycated. Blood tests can thereby show your general glucose and fructose levels over the three months preceding the test and indicate a pre-diabetic condition.

Notably, fructose attaches to proteins seven to ten times faster than glucose, and it is harder for your body to undo these attachments.  Following simple logic, that makes you age up to ten times faster, or faster than your dog.

Eating a reasonable amount of fruit is not a problem.  Beware of how easy it is to consume too much dried fruit, though. And remember that the true nutritional value of fruit resides in its vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.  When consumed whole, the potential negative metabolic impact of the sugars within is greatly lessened by the presence of the other nutrients, especially the fiber. Consuming ‘fruit sugar’ isolated from these beneficial components of fruit, including fruit juice, is a far more dangerous game to play with your metabolism.

Knowing how your body responds to fructose enables you to make more healthful choices regarding food and beverages. Choose well, live well.

Chris Zenyuh is a science teacher at Harborfields High School and has been teaching for
30 years.

Port Jefferson’s 2016 Greek Festival kicked off Aug. 18 and has three remaining dates from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28. The annual cultural celebration is hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption at Port Jefferson and features food, activities, music, fireworks and more.

Smaller eateries could seat more, serve liquor

Smaller restaurants in Huntington may be able to expand their seating and serve a glass of wine with food. File photo

Huntington Town is looking for ways to allow smaller restaurants, like dine-in pizzerias and coffee shops, to offer more seating and obtain a liquor license in order to make them more competitive, officials said this week.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) sponsored legislation that attempts to help small businesses that serve food on-premises by placing them under a new classification. Currently, the town only classifies such establishments as either food shops or restaurants, but the former cannot have more than 15 seats and cannot serve alcohol, while the latter must have a floor plan of at least 2,500-square-feet. If passed, the resolution would create a new classification for bistros and allow one seat per 65-square-feet of total floor area, for a maximum of 38 seats in a 2,500-square-foot location.

If a business were to be approved as a bistro spot, it would have to meet specific parking requirements, could not have a drive-through, and could not dedicate more than 5 percent of its total gross floor area to prepackaged retail products, Edwards’ legislation said.

“Creating the bistro classification will help preserve the type of unique, local businesses that are present in our small strip malls as well as in our local villages and hamlets,” Edwards said in a statement. “This measure is important so that small businesses continue to have economic growth within the town of Huntington.”

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said that it’s important for town code to keep up with the times and the culture of what consumers now want in a restaurant.

“For example, today, many people like to have a glass of wine or a beer with a slice of pizza,” Petrone said in a statement. “This change will help small eateries that traditionally are owned by local businesspeople satisfy that demand and not lose customers to restaurants that already have capability.”

Residents and business owners of Huntington echoed this sentiment at a public hearing during a Huntington Town Board meeting Tuesday night.

Vito Defeo, owner of Viajo’s Pizza and Pasta on East Jericho Turnpike in Huntington, said that it’s an integral part of a restaurant to be able to offer a glass of wine or a beer with a meal.

“So it impacts our small businesses very greatly,” he said at the meeting. “Anything that can be done to move this forward, not just for myself, but for all the other small businesses in the town that are really restaurants but can’t be classified as such, I think is great. There are a lot of small operations that make amazing food that people would considered to be a restaurant, but unfortunately are not.”

Lisa Dvoskin, an attorney and lifelong resident of Huntington stressed the importance of maintaining smaller businesses in the area.

“I think we can all agree that the local businesses in Huntington are the lifeblood of this town,” Dvoskin said. “It is my hope we can have this new classification, in ‘bistro,’ to allow small businesses and restaurants to fairly compete and be successful.”

In addition to adding a bistro classification, Edwards said she also wants to simplify the bar classifications. Currently, a tavern or bar is under a sub classification of a restaurant, and with the new proposal, the distinction between a restaurant and a bar would be that a bar does not need to have kitchen facilities for food services at all times and is not required to have seating available for 90 percent of the lawful amount of patrons.

Edwards said after the meeting that based on the positive response from public comment, she expects the bistro law to be voted on at the next board meeting in January.

Co-partners Salvatore Mignano, Eric Finneran, and Daniel Valentino inside VAUXHALL. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Burger fans of Huntington: rejoice.

VAUXHALL, a burger bar with a late night menu and coffee cocktails, is set to open soon on Clinton Avenue in Huntington.

Native Long Islanders Eric Finneran, Daniel Valentino and Salvatore Mignano named the joint in honor of the Morrissey 1994 album “Vauxhall and I,” and they want to bring a fun vibe to a spot in the downtown area that has seen many different tenants over the last several years.

Burgers will be the central focus, but Valentino said the restaurant will also have wings and other appetizers. The kitchen is expected to stay open till 2 a.m. or later.

Their coffee cocktails will combine different brews with a variety of liquors, including Jameson and Jack Daniel’s cinnamon whiskey. The guys also expect to have 14 different beers on tap and an extensive cocktail menu — Finneran said they recently hired a mixologist who is putting together a revolving seasonal list.

Located at the end of Clinton Avenue, near the traffic circle with Gerard Street, VAUXHALL will be at a corner that has been a revolving door for businesses in recent years, but Finneran said that fact didn’t deter the local guys from setting roots.

“We love it,” Finneran said, adding that it makes them work harder to succeed in that spot.

Valentino was born in Huntington and attended St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. Finneran and Mignano are from the South Shore.

The front entrance of VAUXHALL
The front entrance of VAUXHALL

Valentino said they had been interested in Huntington village for a while.

“It’s a great town with the best walking traffic,” Finneran said. “It’s got that vibe that sets the tone to succeed in business. You set up shop here and you put out a good product and you’re going to win.”

This is not the first business venture for the three men. They are co-partners of the Amityville Music Hall in Amityville, a music venue that has hosted national touring hardcore bands like Glassjaw and Madball.

Finneran and Mignano are also co-partners of the Leaky Lifeboat Inn in Seaford, a punk rock bar they describe as “organized chaos,” and ZA Late Night Pizza in Seaford. Leaky Lifeboat Inn was named best bar in the Bethpage Best of Long Island program in 2012.

Valentino met his two partners while working as a bartender at the Leaky Lifeboat Inn.

“We built a great friendship, trust and rapport with him,” Finneran said.

Valentino said the trio is “always looking for the next thing.”

All three partners said the vibe of their new restaurant is “come as you are,” with a rustic feel.

“We want families during the day, but at night we expect the crowd to resemble the Leaky Lifeboat,” Finneran said. They also hope to capture the people leaving shows at the Paramount late at night.

“This is a unique, hip experience that is not in town yet,” Valentino said.

VAUXALL is expected to open sometime in late November but no official date has been set.

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Port Jefferson Station dentist Alan Mazer is reviving his annual holiday food drive later this month to benefit Long Island Cares and the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

Mazer will be accepting donations of nonperishable food and personal care items at his office, at 140 Terryville Road, between Nov. 19 and Dec. 10.

“We hope to collect barrels of nonperishables so that Long Island Cares can do their magic and assist needy children, seniors, the working poor, the disabled and the homeless,” Mazer said in a statement.

The dentist can be reached at 631-473-0666 or at www.dralanmazer.com.

Long Island Cares and its food bank, founded in 1980 by the late Chapin, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, helps feed hungry individuals and families in Nassau and Suffolk counties. According to the organization’s website, it also has support services for other community organizations, like soup kitchens and emergency shelters, and hosts programs that promote self-sufficiency, such as job training. The group distributes more than 6 million pounds of food every year.

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By Lisa Steuer

In the 1990s, low-fat food products lined the shelves. Consumers believed that choosing a product with a low-fat label was essential for optimal health and fat loss. But today, experts say that a low-fat diet can be detrimental — as food that has the fat removed can instead be high in sugar and calories to make up for the lack of fat.

“The whole low-fat phase was problematic because people substituted refined carbohydrates, and that is a huge problem,” said Dr. Josephine Connolly-Schoonen, Ph.D., RD, the executive director of Stony Brook Medicine Nutrition Division and author of “Losing Weight Permanently with the Bull’s Eye Food Guide: Your Best Mix of Carbs, Proteins, and Fats.”

So with so many diets out there today, which work best for weight loss and health? Here is Connolly-Schoonen’s input.

Going Gluten Free
Gluten is a name for proteins found in wheat, and some common foods that contain gluten include pasta, bread, flour tortillas, oats, dressings, cereals, sauces and more. Go to any grocery store these days and you will most likely find a “gluten-free” section. And while people with Celiac disease cannot eat gluten because they will get sick, many people who aren’t allergic to gluten are touting the weight loss and health benefits of going gluten free.

But if you don’t have a gluten allergy, is it necessary or nutritionally wise to go gluten free?

“I think that many people are gluten intolerant and can benefit from a gluten-free diet,” said Connolly-Schoonen. “But, [it should be] a high-quality gluten-free diet — foods that never had gluten. So your starches are going to be from potato and rice and quinoa, not from gluten-free bread and gluten-free pasta.”

So while foods that are naturally gluten free are generally healthy, those who are not gluten-intolerant should be wary of processed foods that have had the gluten removed, as there now exists a big market and opportunity for companies wanting to take advantage of the gluten-free trend — and products such as “gluten-free cookies” may not necessarily be nutritionally sound.

“In my practice, I’ve seen many people benefit from gluten-free styles of eating, but using whole foods, not processed gluten-free food … A slice of gluten-free bread is rather small and has the same or perhaps a little bit more calories than regular bread,” said Connolly-Schoonen. “Foods that are naturally gluten-free are quite healthy and I really do think people may benefit from a gluten-free style of eating, but it has to be natural.”

The Paleo Diet and Going Vegan
The idea behind the paleo diet is that we should eat as our ancestors or “cavemen” ate, including meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, and excluding processed food, grains and dairy. And while many people have reportedly lost weight on the diet, some argue that the paleo diet does not necessarily follow what our ancestors ate, and there is now a market for processed paleo bars and drinks.

But Connolly-Schoonen says the concept of consuming fewer processed foods is a good one to follow, especially when it comes to sugar-laden beverages.

“With the advent of the high fructose corn syrup, it became so cheap to make sweetened beverages … that have the equivalent of 17, 19, 20 packets of sugar in them, and we genetically cannot handle that.”

In addition, some people choose to go vegan or vegetarian for a variety of reasons — moral, health or a combination. Both vegans and vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry, while vegans also do not use other animal products and byproducts, such as eggs, honey, cosmetics, and more.

“I don’t think you need to be a vegetarian to be at your optimal health, but there is a lot of research over an extended period of time showing that vegetarians, more than vegans, who eat a high-quality vegetarian diet — so no Snickers bars — do quite well in terms of decreasing the risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and there really is a lot of research behind the vegetarian diet to support that,” said Connolly-Schoonen. “Vegan diets could be healthy, but it’s much more challenging to make sure that you get all of your micronutrients.”

Juicing Up
Juicing is still considered healthy in moderation and as a quick way to get antioxidants. But when you use a juicer, the juice is extracted from fruits and vegetables, leaving behind a pulp that is often thrown away. In addition, this strips the fruit of its fiber but leaves the sugar.

“Even if you’re juicing vegetables, you’re still getting the sugar … and making the sugar much more highly available,” said Connolly-Schoonen. “And most people are more satiated when they chew their food.”

In addition, many people subscribe to the idea of doing juicing “detoxes” or “cleanses” every so often — which have found to be not really necessary, as we already have a natural detoxification system that occurs in our livers. In addition, any sort of diet that deprives one of nutrients is never a great idea. Instead, work on supporting your body’s natural ability to detox.

“If you have an unhealthy gut environment, you’re taxing your liver’s detoxification system. So first you want to have a healthy gut environment, which means lots of fiber and a good source of probiotics,” said Connolly-Schoonen. “Then you need to support your liver’s detoxification system with a wide array of micronutrients, which is going to come from a wide array of whole foods like protein, fish, lean meats, beans and then your vegetables, fruits and nuts.”

The Bottom Line
Instead of following a super strict diet, you may want to simply remember Connolly-Schoonen’s “two key factors” for healthy nutrition: quality and quantity. In terms of quality, choose foods that are less processed — lean proteins like chicken and fish, a huge variety of vegetables, beans, nuts and olive oil for healthy fats.

Once one works on the quality of foods in his or her diet, “it’s been my experience that patients can then much more easily work on moderating the quantity,” she said. “Once you’re eating whole foods and you’re mixing your quality proteins and fats, it becomes much easier to manage your appetite.”

Does this mean you can never have dessert again? Not at all.

“I tell patients if you’re eating ice cream, it should be real ice cream made from whole milk fat and real sugar. You shouldn’t get artificially sweetened products,” she said. “When you want chocolate and you want ice cream, have the real stuff. And that you should be able to include in your diet, maybe not every day, maybe a few times a week — it all just depends on how active you are.”

Lisa Steuer is the managing editor of FitnessRx for Women and FitnessRx for Men magazines. For fitness tips, training videos and healthy recipes, visit www.fitnessrxformen.com and www.fitnessrxwomen.com.

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Students from Harbor Ballet Theatre perform a dragon dance at last year’s festival. Photo from PJCC

Dragons will roar as the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce will once again host the Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park, 101 E. Broadway, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“This year’s ‘Dragons’ is bigger and better than last year! With the expansion of teams, entertainment and food, this festival has something for everyone,”  said Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

“One goal this year was to create a more interactive program for the day for not just the teams but for spectators as well, including bringing in the racing course closer to land for better viewing. Collaborating with more community partners makes this event inclusive to our residents and visitors,” she added. Ransome came up with the idea of creating this festival after attending a similar event in Cape May, N.J., a few years ago.

An opening ceremony will include an Asian color guard along with the blessing of the fleet by Buddhist Monk Bhante Nanda of the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center, incorporating the traditional eye dotting ceremony to kick off the races.

Twenty-four teams will compete in a 250-meter course in  four dragon boats provided by the High Five Dragon Boat Company and will include representatives from local hospitals, civic groups, businesses and cultural organizations. Each team will be made up of 20 “paddlers,” one steersman and one drummer. Heats will run all day with a culmination  of an awards ceremony at the end of the day.

In addition to the races, there will be a day-long festival featuring numerous performances, including a lion dance, Taiko and Korean drum performances and Asian singing and instrumentals along with educational and cultural displays and vendors. Various Asian delicacies, including pot stickers, lo mein, bánh mì Vietnamese pork sandwiches, sushi, stir-fried noodles, bubble tea and spring rolls, will be available.

Along with traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, there will be dragon sculptures, an opportunity to paint “dragon” eggs and children’s crafts. New this year is a Fortune Cookie raffle sponsored by the Fortunato Breast Health Center, Asian souvenirs, a photo booth, photo opportunities with a friendly dragon and team contests for the best team T-shirt and best costumed drummer.

Sponsors include Confucius Institute of Stony Brook, LONGISLAND.com, New York Community Bank-Roslyn Savings Division, Fortunato Breast Health Center, SCNB Bank, Tritec, News 12, Times Beacon Record Newspapers and Unity SEO Solutions.

The event will be held rain or shine and admission is free. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and come enjoy the festivities. For more information, call 631-473-1414 or visit www.portjeffdragonracefest.com.

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