Family

Preventing Early Childhood Obesity

UConn Allied Health Sciences community outreach program
Lindsey Fenn working with a group of children and their parents.

Preventing obesity in early childhood is a critical issue being addressed by a multi-disciplinary team from UConn. It’s one of three complementary projects led by faculty in Allied Health Sciences, and is funded by a grant from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut. The project focuses on preventing obesity in early childhood by offering parents of economic disadvantage simple and feasible feeding practices to develop healthier food preferences for their children. Valerie Duffy, PhD, RD, and Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA from Allied Health Sciences and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity are the co-PIs.

Lindsay Fenn, RD, is a masters’ student in Health Promotion Sciences in Allied Health Sciences, and has conducted nutrition outreach education with family resources centers in East Hartford. Fenn conducts outreach education for three different schools, although the majority of her time is spent with Early Childhood Learning Center at Hockanum School. There are multiple partners in East Hartford that the team works with to reach audiences and broaden their impact. These include the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) centers, the Hunger Action Team, and Foodshare mobile sites.

“I ran workshops for parents on picky eating and eating healthy in general, mainly with preschool ages,” says Fenn. Each workshop is approximately one hour. She begins by working with the parents, while the children have supervised play time. Next, there is a workshop for the kids, and parents are encouraged to be involved in this segment, cooking with their kids.

UConn student Lindsey Fenn works in the community for her internship with the UConn Allied Health Sciences program.
Lindsey Fenn (far right) with a mother and child at a community outreach program.

“Programs for kids are interactive, for example, we had them make banana snowmen with pretzels for the arms and carrots for the nose. We get the kids involved so they will eat healthy foods and try new things,” Fenn adds.

Part of the project at Hockanum included a Farm to School program where they built a garden, and took the classrooms outside, planted seeds, and then volunteers weeded the gardens over the summer. Lindsay attends the community dinners at a local church, and covered nutrition topics with the participants at the dinner. She is currently working with the Mayberry Elementary School and focusing on healthy eating around the holidays.

The grant through the Child Health and Development Institute began last year, and is building off of the relationships Fenn and the Allied Health Sciences team have built in East Hartford. “Our research question is to determine if parents are following the guidelines for feeding children ages 12-36 months,” Fenn says. “We also want to determine what the knowledge gaps are for these parents.”

The team at Allied Health Sciences are using a survey and other research to fill the knowledge gaps for parents of young children. The survey was created with input from multiple stakeholders. Staff at the family resource centers were involved in developing the survey to make sure it was a good fit for the populations served. For example, the survey was administered online with pictures to reinforce concepts. Fenn conducted the survey at the East Hartford WIC program, a daycare center, and the library, and had 134 parents participate.

“Our goal is to communicate consistently with parents in East Hartford,” Harris states. “We want to help them identify one or two behaviors that could be addressed with better communication, and that they are willing to change. These may be reducing sugary drinks, replacing snacks with healthier ones, practicing responsive eating, or adding variety to fruits and vegetables.”

The team focuses on two or three changes that a parent can make in their child’s nutrition. Follow up emails with participants build off of the previous work of the messaging campaign. Dr. Molly Waring is another Allied Health team member with expertise in social media as a communication tool. Social media platforms can be used for peer support after the initial communication from the Allied Health Sciences team members.

Initial analysis shows the results are supported by previous research. There is a lack of vegetable diversity and variety in children’s diets. Numerous parents cited that they are serving their children sugar sweetened beverages.

The next phase of the team’s research is convening focus groups at WIC and Hockanum in January and February that will talk about the main areas and gaps in knowledge that the research identified. Results are being shared with stakeholders so that they can also tailor their nutrition education messages to help parents decrease sugar-sweetened beverages and increase vegetable variety.

“I’ve gotten to know the different families, and received positive feedback about the workshops,” Fenn concludes. “It’s rewarding to interact with people, and see parents again after you’ve worked with them. They appreciate our work and say that we’ve helped them make positive changes.”

The grant is only for the project in East Hartford, however Duffy and Harris are developing a proof of concept through this project so that East Hartford can be a pilot for other communities to use communication in preventing early childhood obesity.

By Stacey Stearns

Holiday Food Shopping on a Budget

grocery store shopping cart filled with food
Photo: Flickr, Phil Gold

It is that crazy, stressful expensive time of year.  But planning for that holiday meal shouldn’t be on that list.  Here are a few steps to help ease the process and cost:

  1. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer of unneeded or wanted items. This will make room for items for the big meal.  Also it will let you know which items you already have and don’t need to purchase.
  2. Go through the pantry to double check items you may need for baking (flour, sugar, baking soda or powder) or additions to the main meal.
  3. Look through the grocery store flyers either in the paper on online. This will help to plan what you will make for your meal. For example turkey is at its lowest price around Thanksgiving, beef and pork roasts in December, and ham around Easter. The store flyer may have a coupon for more discounts.
  4. Have a good idea how much money you have budgeted for this meal, some adjustments can be made by the number of people attending. If you can’t swing a big meal keep it small and invite others over for dessert. Another way to reduce cost is to have guests bring side dishes and desserts. It really takes the financial burden off the host and everyone feels more involved in the meal.
  5. Keep your menu seasonal! Vegetables and fruits that are in the holiday’s season are the best choice to stay on budget.
  6. Finally stick to your shopping list and your plan. If you have questions about how much meat you will need for each guest talk to the store butcher, he/she will help you stay on budget.

For more resources, including recipes, visit https://efnep.uconn.edu.

By Erica Benvenuti

Lifelong Learning with CLIR Begins Again in January

CLIR speakerThe Center for Learning in Retirement, otherwise known as CLIR, is one of the many programs offered through the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension, part of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. CLIR is a lifelong learning program that provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for adults of retirement age. Individuals from all walks of life are welcome and there is no educational requirement, just a desire for learning.

Each CLIR class is approximately 1.5 hours long and held in Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot campus. CLIR covers a wide range of topics including agriculture, technology, psychology, culture, and so much more. It is not too late to register for one of the many classes available during the spring semester that starts in January. The fee for each semester is $20 and there is no limit on the number of classes you can attend. Interested participants are also welcome to attend two free classes before deciding to join CLIR.

Michael Adams, a professor from Eastern Connecticut State University, will be teaching a course January 3rd on close up and macrophotography. On January 15th the President and Secretary of Windham County National Alliance of Mental Illness will be teaching a class on Mental Health Awareness. Cameron Faustman, the Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, will be teaching a class on Food Insecurity on March 13th.

Interested in learning more and seeing what other classes CLIR has to offer? Visit clir.uconn.edu, email marilyn.diaz@uconn.edu to get on our email list, or call us at (860)570-9012. We look forward to seeing you soon!

 

Job Opening: Part-time Education and Outreach Consultant

POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT

Title: Education and Outreach Consultant

Location: Tolland County Extension Center, 24 Hyde Avenue, Vernon

Commitment: 20 hours/week part time position; January 2019-May 2019. This position will be guaranteed through May 2019, with the possibility of continuing through the summer.

Posting Close Date: Monday, December 3, 2018


Kale Yeah child at school
Photo: Molly Deegan

Organization Overview : The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at University of Connecticut is committed to its status as a land grant institution, serving Connecticut and the global economy through research, education, and public engagement. CAHNR’s vision is to provide for a global sustainable future through scientific discovery, innovation, and community engagement. UConn Extension fulfills the land grant University’s mission of outreach and public engagement. Over 100 UConn Extension specialists work in the 169 local communities across Connecticut as educators, problem solvers, catalysts, collaborators and stewards. Our eight regional Extension Centers, the Sea Grant program at Avery Point, the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm, the Home and Garden Education Center and the UConn Extension office in Storrs are strategically located throughout the state to meet local needs. UConn Extension enhances small businesses, the economic and physical well-being of families, and offers opportunities to improve the decision- making capacity of community leaders.

Program Overview : Since 2012, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension has worked to strengthen farm to school in the state. Our Put Local on Your Tray Program, launched in 2015, helps schools source, serve, and celebrate local food. We offer communication materials that feature 16 seasonal products and several resources to help school food directors connect with local farmers. For the 2018-19 school year, 56 school districts have signed up to participate in Put Local on Your Tray; participating districts commit to serving locally grown products on “Local Tray Days.” In our work ahead, we plan to add a new set of educational resources that can be used by classroom teachers that reinforce learning about local food that is being served in the cafeteria. Our major program partners are CT Dept. of Education and FoodCorps CT.

Position Overview : UConn Extension is looking for an experienced and committed individual to join our Tray team to assist in outreach efforts in 2019. A successful candidate will have a proven track record of:

● Outstanding professional relationship and collaboration skills

● Excellent skills in communications and outreach

● Experience working in classroom settings and developing activities for students in K-8 settings

● Managing multiple deliverables with deadlines

● Familiarity with Farm to School programming in Connecticut

This Education and Outreach Consultant will report to the Associate Extension Educator in Sustainable Food Systems, Jiff Martin. The Project Coordinator, Molly Deegan, will help guide day-to-day activities. The position will be filled ASAP, with a preferred start date of January 1, 2019.

handing a smoothie cup
Photo: Molly Deegan

Responsibilities:

1. 35% time = Develop new educational materials – Develop new resources for classroom use (K-8) that reinforce Put Local On Your Tray program materials that are being used in cafeterias of participating districts. Work with a professional designer, if needed, to develop these new tools. This task includes dissemination of final products to participating districts.

2. 35% time = Program representation – Attend Connecticut and regional major conferences, professional meetings, and events to represent the program and deliver presentations about the Put Local On Your Tray Program. Wherever possible, dates are indicated below. Please do NOT apply unless you can fulfill the majority of the following:

○ 3-5 presentations for School Nutrition Association of Connecticut Regional Chapter Meetings to provide overview of program resources and tools

○ Attend and staff info table at CT Farm to School Conference (Jan 22, 2019)

○ Attend and staff info table at CT Northeast Organic Farming Assoc Winter Conference (Mar 2nd, 2019, location tba)

○ Attend and staff info table at Ag Day at the Capitol (March 20, 2019, Hartford)

○ Attend and staff info table at Farm-to-Institution New England Summit (April 2-4, Leominster, MA)

○ Attend and participate at CT Farm to School Collaborative Meetings – Meets monthly (every third Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:30, Hartford)

3. 30% time = Communications – Ensure consistent and reliable interaction with partners andstakeholders. This includes:

○ Respond to enquiries from stakeholders interested in the program.

○ Respond to enquiries and requests for resources from school districts already participating in program.

○ Social media – Develop and schedule regular posts to Facebook and Instagram accounts twice a week.

○ E-Newsletter – Publish monthly e-newsletter for program partners and stakeholders.

○ Maintain inventory of program materials (posters, stickers, bookmarks).

○ Assist with gathering data from participating school districts at the end of the school year.

Compensation : We anticipate filling this position for a start date of January 1, 2019 . The position will be guaranteed through May 2019, with the possibility of continuing apples drawing and stickers from childthrough the summer. The compensation will be: $25/hour for up to 20 hours per week. Due to the nature of the position, the expectation of 20 hours per week is an annual average, but it likely to vary based on outreach events. Travel costs will be reimbursed at the applicable federal rate.

Required Qualifications :

● B.A. or B.S. in sustainable food systems, agriculture, natural resources, public health, education, or related field

● A minimum of 2-3 years experience in education, agriculture, or related work in a not-for-profit setting or extension program setting

● Outstanding communication skills, teaching skills, and the ability to work with teams

● A strong understanding of school environments

● Strong work ethic and reliability

● Oral speaking skills, including experience as a presenter

● Comfortable working with individuals and organizations committed to meaningful social change and food justice through sustainable food and agriculture systems

● Excellent competency with computer and communications technologies including Microsoft Office Suite, Google Drive, and major social media platforms

● Must own a vehicle and be willing and able to travel across state for events or meetings

● Must be willing to commute to UConn Extension office in Vernon

● Must be available until May 2019

● Flexibility and optimism a must

Preferred:

● Experience working in school cafeterias or closely with school food services

● Good understanding of the federal meal guidelines of the National School Lunch Program and other child nutrition programs in school settings

● Familiarity with function and role of education service providers, including CT State Department of Education and USDA Food and Nutrition Services

What’s in it for you?

● Work in an environment with colleagues that see broad connections between sustainable agriculture, food systems, and food justice

● Develop professional relationships with a new cohort of leaders in farming and food systems in Connecticut and across the nation

● Work alongside a supervisor willing to support your own professional development and networking opportunities

● Develop new contacts and introductions across University of Connecticut, state agencies, and at USDA

To Apply: Our team is more innovative and responsive when our staff represents a diversity of perspectives and life experiences. People of color, people with disabilities, veterans, and LGBTQ candidates are strongly encouraged to apply. UConn provides reasonable accommodations to employees as required by law. Applicants with disabilities may request reasonable accommodation at any point in the employment process.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume, 3 references to Jiff Martin, Associate Extension Educator in Sustainable Food Systems. Send all documents together in ONE email to jiff.martin@uconn.edu. In the subject line please use this description: “Last Name, First Name – Tray Education and Outreach Consultant position.” Only competitive candidates will be invited to participate further in the recruitment process. Position closes Monday, December 3, 2018 .

University of Connecticut is an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and Program

Halloween Health Tips

Trick or Treat:

Halloween is filled with sweet temptations and scary over-eating. Here are a few tips to help both adults and children avoid over indulging.

Be a role model!

Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010 Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010
Butternut squash soup | by zrzka2010

Make sure your little goblins eat a healthy meal before trick or treating. Create a Healthy Family Halloween Tradition like Butternut Squash soup. Pair it with Grilled Cheese with thinly sliced apples or Raisin Bread cut into ghosts or jack-o-lanterns. YUM!  Your family will associate Halloween with a fall family meal instead of just candy collection.  They will look forward this delicious treat!

Try giving out stickers, pencils, erasers or some other non-food item. Candy can run as much as 50 dollars for some households. Nonfood items are a fun alternative and can cost a lot less! The non-food leftovers can be saved for next year or donated to a local school. Try pre-packed pretzels or a nutritious alternative.

Go to every other house so you do not have as much candy.

It’s scary out there!

Tell children to wait until they get home to eat candy. When trick or treaters return home make sure to inspect the candy. Throw away any open, torn or tampered candy. Do not eat homemade items or baked goods. If there is discoloration, throw it out. Also be mindful of choking hazards for younger children, such as gum, nuts, hard candy and small toys.  When it doubt throw it out.  If you must indulge remember to brush your teeth after eating candy.

Bag of plenty:

Set limits for eating candy, such as 3 pieces a day.

Sponsor an after Halloween Candy Drive. Have students bring half their candy to donate to the Troops. Have a Active Prize such as a School Costume Dance Party as an incentive.

OPT OUT: Have a Halloween party instead with nutritious foods and a scary movie!

Written by Heather Smith Pease, UConn Extension EFNEP Nutrition Outreach Educator in the Hartford County office heather.pease@uconn.edu

Crime Prevention

Jonathan looking at leafSeptember is over yet hurricane season remains throughout October. Quiet periods in between weather events are perfect times to check your existing emergency preparedness plans, to complete planning yet accomplished, and to acquire emergency supplies not yet in place. October is considered a quieter time than other months. Although storms can happen at any time – recall the October 8, 2011 ice storm in New England. It is the perfect time to prepare as a consequence.

October is National Crime Prevention Month. The National Crime Prevention Council sponsors this. (https://www.ncpc.org/programs/crime-prevention-month/) The organization produces a 28-page crime prevention kit as a PDF titled “Keeping Our Communities Safe.”

(https://www.ncpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/CrimePreventionMonthKit_2017-2018.pdf)

October is also Fire Safety Month. Fire safety week is October 7 ending October 13, 2018, and many local fire departments sponsor educational awareness event this week. Be sure to change the batteries in you fire and smoke detectors.

 

Here are three excellent sources of researched-based information on fire safety:

National Fire Prevention Association

https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Campaigns/Fire-Prevention-Week

Consumer Safety

https://www.consumersafety.org/news/safety/national-fire-prevention-week/

American Red Cross

https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire.html

Feel free to email me with any questions and you are encouraged to visit the UConn EDEN (Extension Disaster Education Network) website. (https://eden.uconn.edu/)

Robert M. Ricard, Ph.D.

Coordinator, UConn EDEN