Education

Holiday Eating Survival Guide

a plate of chocolate covered pretzels with festive sprinkles on them
Photo: Air Force Academy

Choose:

  • Lower calorie appetizers- vegetables, or fruit
  • Avoid lots of cheese, and fried foods
  • Smaller plates and tall skinny glasses

Know your limits:

  • Eat before you go to a party or out holiday shopping
  • Make a healthy food for the party
  • Have a plan for healthy eating… 5 small appetizers and 2 drinks
  • 2 mixed drinks can have almost 500 calories and depending on the appetizers, it can run as high as 230 calories per appetizer
  • Indulge in a holiday treat closer to bedtime, you will tend to eat less than if you had it during the day
  • Be mindful of eating – slow down and pay attention
  • Carry hard candy mints to change the flavor of your palate or brush your teeth to signal yourself to stop eating

Start a new tradition:

  • Instead of giving cookies or chocolate try making soup mixes or salsa as gifts
  • Make a non-food craft as a holiday activity
  • Try walking, ice skating or sledding to enjoy the season
  • Try reducing fat and sugar in your holiday baking by substituting with applesauce

Article by Heather Pease, Extension educator, UConn EFNEP

UConn 4-H Military Partnership Hosts Barnyard Boogie

little boy holds rabbit

The UConn 4-H Military Partnership Project joined forces with the Subase Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Subase New London School Liaison Officer, University of Rhode Island 4-H, CT and RI National Guard CYP Coordinators, and New London County 4-H clubs for a “Barnyard Boogie” family sensory afternoon. Hosted by Horses Healing Humans, a partnering agency with VETSCT.ORG (Veteran Equine Therapeutic Services), local businesses, non-profits and Mental Health Professionals collaborated to make possible this free event for military-connected EFMP kids to meet kid-friendly barnyard ponies, goats, chickens, rabbits, sheep, and dogs. Over forty youth connected to the 4-H animals, many meeting a farm animal for the first time. Four 4-H clubs attended with animals in tow. This event will become an annual experience for our military families. Proud moment of the day involved one school-age boy, who, after much encouragement from his mom, tentatively reached out one finger to touch Trinket the sheep’s fleece. An expression of pure joy flooded his face, and he threw both arms over Trinket and buried his face in her fleece.

family meets the animals little girl holding a rabbit

Article by Pam Gray, New London County 4-H

What do labels really mean? Organic, Natural, Cage-Free…

organic food labelWhat do labels really mean? Organic, Natural, Cage-Free, Grass-Fed, Pasture-Raised and Local

You have probably seen these terms on food labels and in the news, but what do they really mean?  And how important is buying organic and natural foods when it comes to healthy eating.  Some terms are helpful and others are misleading. So, let’s look at some of these terms to see what they really mean.

  1. Natural

The term “natural” broadly means minimally processed and free of synthetic dyes, coloring, flavorings and preservatives.  These foods can still contain such ingredients as high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).  Natural is largely unregulated by the USDA for most foods except meat, poultry and egg products. Foods containing meat, poultry, or eggs must be minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients in order to be labeled “natural”. However these animals may be given antibiotics, growth hormone, and fed GMO feed.

  1. Organic

Organic claims on food products are regulated by the USDA.  Organic foods must be produced without the use of most conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering.  These foods are also produced using methods that promote the conservation of our natural resources.

Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.  These animals also must be raised in living conditions that encourage natural behaviors such as the ability to graze on pastures and are fed 100% organic feed.   This makes it less likely that these animals will carry disease or create antibiotic –resistant strains of bacteria.

Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications and must remain separate from conventionally grown crops.  Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge –based fertilizers.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that provides and annual list called the “dirty dozen”.  The list names 12 fruits and vegetables found to be highest in pesticide residues based on laboratory tests from the USDA.  The dirty dozen currently includes apples, celery, tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, imported nectarines, grapes, spinach, kale, pears, cherries, and potatoes. However, 2016 FDA residue findings suggest, particularly for domestically produced foods, that pesticide applications generally demonstrate compliance with legal and established agricultural practices.   The majority of samples tested contained no detectable pesticide residues while any detected residues were typically present at levels far below the tolerance levels.  This testing was conducted on produce that was not labeled organic.

In the United States there are 3 levels of organic claims:

  • 100 –percent Organic. Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
  • Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
  • Made with Organic ingredients. These are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA Organic seal cannot be used but “made with organic ingredients” may appear on its packaging.
  1. Grass –fed and grass- finished or 100% grass-fed.

If an animal is grass- fed and grass-finished then their feed was composed entirely of grass, legumes, and green vegetation up until the animal was slaughtered.  However, this label does not address the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides.  USDA defines “grass fed” as it applies to labeling but does not regulate it in any way.  So when shopping for meat, you need to make sure you are getting 100% Organic, Grass-Fed meat.  Grass-fed beef is leaner and has been shown to have healthier omega-3 fatty acids.

  1. Cage –Free

This term simply indicates that animals were not kept in cages.  They are still in an enclosed facility, but with unlimited access to food and fresh water.  The facility; however; could be very small and crowded with little room to move about.  This health claim does not mean that animals were free to roam in pastures or that they had access to the outdoors.  Many cage-free claims are not certified, making it a misleading label.

  1. Free- Range

USDA has approved this term for animals that were raised in a sheltered facility with unlimited access to food, water, and access to the outdoors.  It does not indicate that the animal went outside in its lifetime, only that there was a door to the outside.  The term does not specify the outdoor conditions, but pastures are permitted to be fenced and covered in netting.

  1. Pasture – Raised

USDA has not developed a definition for this term yet; however; many farmers use it to distinguish themselves from “free range” farms.  Animals are free to roam outdoors with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and indoor shelter in case of bad weather.  This differs from “free range” in that pasture-raised animals spend more time outdoors than indoors.  This is the most ideal label to look for when choosing chicken and eggs.  Often these animals are not given growth hormone or antibiotics, but you need to ask to be 100% sure.

  1. Locally Grown

What is local food?  Unlike organic standards, there is no specific definition.  Generally local food means food that was grown close to home.  This could be in your own garden, your local community, your state, or your region.  People buy locally for the financial benefits, less transportation of the food and freshness of the food.  Small local farmers often use organic methods, but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic. Visit a farmers market and talk to the farmers.  Find out how they produce the fruits and vegetables they sell.

In summary, it is important to look at claims on the foods that you buy to be sure you are getting what you want.  Be aware of the differences in labels so that you know what you are buying, particularly if it costs you more than conventional foods.

References

Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) 2019. Interpreting Pesticide Residues in Food. Issue Paper 66. CAST. Ames, Iowa.   www.cast-science.org

http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/food-labeling/organic-foods

http://eatright.org/Public/content.

http://www.helpguide.org/life/organic_foods_pesticides

http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/12735  – what do-organic-natural-cage-free

 

Article by Sherry Gray, UConn Extension Educator

Updated: 11/13/19

Emergent Disease in Connecticut Deer Population Discovered

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) discovered an emergent disease in deer population in Connecticut.

female whitetail deer in Woodbridge, CT
Photo: Miguel Rangel Jr

In October of 2017 DEEP officials detected an unusual die-off of White Tail deer in central Connecticut. DEEP submitted carcasses to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) to establish possible causes of death. Necropsies were performed and tissues from the deer were analyzed by pathologists at the UConn laboratory. Anatomic changes observed in these tissues alerted pathologists to a disease never before recognized in Connecticut, “Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease of deer” (EHD). Samples were referred to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia where the presence of EHD virus (EHDV) was established.

EHDV causes a hemorrhagic disease in deer that is transmitted by midges, insects of the Culicoides spp. These insects also transmit the virus causing Bluetongue disease in domestic ruminants (goats, sheep and cattle). Bluetongue has not been found in Connecticut. There is a sustained expansion of these diseases in the United States linked to the geographical expansion of the transmitting vectors, in this case to northern latitudes.

DEEP and CVMDL have joined efforts over the years on discovering, detecting and reporting diseases affecting wildlife that, given environmental and ecological conditions, may spill over into livestock and human populations in the state of Connecticut.

This particular common effort, detecting EHDV in Connecticut, has initiated further studies at CVMDL to identify which species of Culicoides are responsible for transmission of the virus here in Connecticut. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) in New Haven is supporting this effort by providing CVMDL with Culicoides insects trapped across the State of Connecticut.

CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn CAHNR, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.

Article written by CVMDL

Survey for Poultry Producers

rooster at UConn facility
White leghorn roosters with chickens at the Poultry Uniton Jan. 27, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The University of Connecticut is collaborating with 14 multi-state institutions to put together a USDA grant on Agriculture and Food Research Initiatives titled: Systems-based integrated program for enhancing the sustainability of antibiotic-restricted poultry production.

Our focus is on sustainable poultry production and we are dedicated to help small, medium and large poultry farmers, processors and industry personnel to increase profitability, reduce input costs, increase productivity, and reduce losses due to environmental and biological stresses, including pests and diseases. In addition, this grant would help develop tools to enhance rural prosperity and health by ensuring access to affordable, safe and nutritious poultry products to sustain healthy lifestyles. 

The long-term objective of our project will ensure the sustainability of antibiotic-restricted broiler production by enhancing bird, human and environmental health, and ultimately increasing consumer acceptability and economic returns to farmers.  

We are using this survey questionnaire to gather information that will help us assess your needs for poultry research, education and outreach in the region. We would like inputs from all personnel involved with poultry production and processing such that our resources can better serve your needs in future.

We understand your time is valuable, the questionnaire should take only 3-5 minutes to complete.

Thank you

University of Connecticut Team

 

Please take the survey at bit.ly/PoultrySurvey

Job Opening: Laboratory Technician

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT: UCPEA 4 LABORATORY TECHNICIAN II

 

POSITION

soil in handThe Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Connecticut invites applications for a permanent, 12-month position as an UCP 4 Laboratory Technician II. Reporting to the Laboratory Manager, this position provides technical support for the Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory and serves as a primary resource to the University community, the general public and a wide variety of internal and external constituents.

The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at the University of Connecticut contributes to a sustainable future through scientific discovery, innovation, and community engagement. CAHNR’s accomplishments result in safe, sustainable and secure plant and animal production systems, healthier individuals and communities, greater protection and conservation of our environment and natural resources, balanced growth of the economy, and resilient local and global communities. We epitomize the role of a land-grant university, which is to develop knowledge and disseminate it through the three academic functions of teaching, research, and outreach. In so doing, we improve the lives of citizens of our state, region and country.

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

The successful candidate will be expected to prepare and analyze soil and plant tissue samples, and report results to farmers, contractors, researchers, professors, commercial growers, landscapers, lawn care companies, and homeowners. Specific duties include: participate in meetings to plan and evaluate lab procedures; identify procedures for intended results and make modifications to incorporate suggestions for improvement; assist in editing and updating lab manuals, and keep current on new procedures and laboratory software; prepare reagents, solutions and other lab supplies or apparatus needed to complete laboratory procedures; assist, and instruct student workers with their duties and with technical problems related to laboratory procedures and equipment; Maintain up-to-date inventory of supplies; set up and maintains laboratory; instruct others in proper and safe use of equipment; answer phone and provide information to customers about interpretation of results or refer customers to Home and Garden Education Center; order lab supplies, chemicals and office supplies using UConn’s KFS, purchase orders and Pro-Card; and schedule outside repairs of lab and office equipment as well as perform routine maintenance and minor repair of lab equipment and related apparatus to ensure proper working order. Maintain the Laboratory’s Facebook page and perform outreach at Hartford Flower Show annually. The person selected will work in close cooperation with the Home and Garden Education Center.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS

B.S. degree in chemistry, geology, biological sciences or other lab oriented scientific discipline and 1-3 years of experience, or equivalent education and experience. Demonstrated knowledge of concepts, practices and standard laboratory procedures used in a soil testing laboratory, including digital handling of laboratory data.  Knowledge of standard laboratory safety procedures. Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to explain laboratory procedures and to edit laboratory manuals. Experience using Microsoft Word and Excel, and social media platforms, e.g. Facebook. Demonstrated ability to work independently.

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS

B.S. degree in chemistry, geology, biological sciences or other lab oriented scientific discipline. Ability to program in Microsoft Access; Experience analyzing water or soil extracts using an Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP), discrete

analyzer, or other related analytical instrument; Knowledge about how fertilizer recommendations are developed; Plant science background; Knowledge of analytical chemistry.

APPOINTMENT TERMS

This is a full-time position with a competitive salary and a complete benefits package including health insurance, vacation time and retirement benefits. The successful candidate’s appointment will be at the Storrs Depot campus. The Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab is located at 6 Sherman Place, Storrs, CT

TO APPLY

Position available March 15, 2020. Applicants should submit a letter of application, resume, and a list of contact information for three (3) professional references to UConn Jobs at http://www.jobs.uconn.edu/.  Unofficial transcripts will be required at time of interview.

This job posting is scheduled to be removed at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on January 15, 2020.

All employees are subject to adherence to the State Code of Ethics which may be found at http://www.ct.gov/ethics/site/default.asp.

__________________________________________________________________________________

The University of Connecticut is committed to building and supporting a multicultural and diverse community of students, faculty and staff. The diversity of students, faculty and staff continues to increase, as does the number of honors students, valedictorians and salutatorians who consistently make UConn their top choice. More than 100 research centers and institutes serve the University’s teaching, research, diversity, and outreach missions, leading to UConn’s ranking as one of the nation’s top research universities. UConn’s faculty and staff are the critical link to fostering and expanding our vibrant, multicultural and diverse University community. As an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, UConn encourages applications from women, veterans, people with disabilities and members of traditionally underrepresented populations.

Environmental Monitoring for Food Safety

worker in a dairy processing facility with a swab and computer taking a sample for food safety
Photo: NCSU Extension

Dairy Processors: Are you interested in designing and implementing an environmental monitoring program (EMP) to improve your food safety program? This course may be for you.

In this eight-hour online course, you will learn alongside virtual dairy processors and apply concepts in the context of a dairy facility. This online course is available on-demand and adapts to your understanding of the materials. These features provide you with the flexibility to progress at your own pace with the confidence you will understand the content.

Dennis D’Amico, our Extension educator in the Department of Animal Science at UConn was one of the educators who developed this course. For more information, or to register, please visit NCSU Food Safety.

Students Receive Change Grant for CT Environmental Action Day

Submitted by Maggi Anstett, Madeline Williams, and Margaret Sanders

 

logo for UConn Co-op Legacy Fellow Change GrantStacey Stearns, Marc Cournoyer, and Jennifer Cushman wanted to create a sub-committee to develop digital kits for middle school students for Connecticut Environmental Action Day, so they introduced the Change Grant opportunity to Maggi Anstett, Madeline Williams, and Margaret Sanders. The Change Grant is part of the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship program run by the Office of Undergraduate Research. The UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship – Change Grants provide undergraduates the opportunity to engage in projects that make an impact and represent the UConn Co-op’s commitment to public engagement, innovative entrepreneurship, and social impact. Undergraduates in all majors can apply for up to $2,000 in funding to support community service, research, advocacy, or social innovation projects. Together Maggi, Madeline, and Margaret were eager to complete the Change Grant application. They evaluated the contents of the application and each took a section to tackle. They completed the application within a week and shortly after they got accepted for the Grant. The Change Grant will provide up to $2,000 as previously stated, however they are still creating their budget, so they can optimize all the money.

The goal of their Change Grant project is to educate young students in Connecticut on how to live an environmentally friendly life, on the importance of the environment, and how to create environmental action in their home, school, and community. As we know, the world is currently facing a climate crisis and we all face potentially life-altering changes as a result of this. Many young students are not aware of the impact our environment has on our everyday lives and therefore do not make active decisions to be environmentally friendly.

Maggi, Madeline, and Margaret hope to educate middle school students on these important topics and to create an annual day that focuses on educating them on our current climate. Additionally, they will assemble digital kits that will be distributed to middle schools in Connecticut, broadening the impact of the program. These kits will include educational materials, along with digital tools that schoolteachers can utilize to continue the education we begin. They are currently thinking about giving the digital kits to 4 schools in each county in Connecticut, thus totaling 32 different middle schools throughout the state. The main reasoning behind doing the digital kits is to reach an audience who cannot be a part of Connecticut Environmental Action Day (CEAD), a one-day event on the UConn-Storrs campus. CEAD is a program of UConn Extension that was dormant for many years before being revitalized with the help of UConn undergraduate students last year. Last year CEAD had one hundred middle school participants from three schools. However, it must reach more students to create a larger and lasting impact. CEAD uses the hashtag #ExtendTheChange to encourage social interaction and influence on associated environmental action. Prioritizing accessibility to all students’ shows that this is important, and them being invested in their future on this planet is also important.

Spend Family Time Outdoors Exploring Nature

person walking on a bridge with colorful fall leaves around them
As the holiday season quickly approaches, time with family and friends is important to many of us. In honor of this past National Take a Hike Day (it was November 17th), try getting in your quality time with some fresh air this weekend! Take advantage of a local trail or path to get the blood flowing after a big meal. Your friends and family with thank you for burning off the extra calories!
 
This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.

4-H Program Teaches Finances to Military Youth

Reading Makes Sense Youth on the USS Constitution in Boston
Photo: Pamela Gray

A group of military affiliated youth recently wrapped up a six-week session of lessons about saving, spending, earning, and the value of a dollar, and their time. Following the Reading Makes Cents 4-H Afterschool Curriculum Guide, participants were able to inspect the hidden secrets of a dollar, learn about saving and spending, needs and wants, and budgeting and sharing (donating to those in need).

Each meeting was started with reading aloud a picture centered on the lessons for the day. The kids had a great time examining needs and wants through a fun experiential game where they decide what is actually necessary to spend money on. They ‘earned’ a week of minimum wage, and then were able to ‘shop’ some catalogs with prices listed – their money was more carefully spent when they considered the time it had taken them to earn it! They brainstormed options available for them to earn money (yard sale of their old toys, lemonade stands, chores for people), as well as ways they can give back to the community with their time instead of giving money.

The stories The Hard Times Jar and If You Made a Million were the clear favorites. A visit from a Navy Federal Credit Union representative helped them explore credit and investments through age-appropriate games and rounded out the experience by providing families with information on the options available through the bank for military affiliated youth. To round out the experience with some real living history, the participants visited Boston, visiting the USS Constitution (the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy) and the Paul Revere house, ‘paying’ for their trip with tokens earned at the classes for attendance and good behavior. Overall, the experience will hopefully produce some great financially wise futures!

Article and photo: Pamela Gray