Food

Applications Open for FoodCorps CT

FoodCorps service member banner photo

Are you ready to #serveupchange in your community? Apply now for a year of service with FoodCorps Connecticut! The deadline is March 15, but aim to submit early: we’re reviewing applications on a rolling basis. Go to http://foodcorps.org/apply to apply yourself (or share this post with a leader who shares our passion for healthy food in schools!)

School of Business Partnership Strengthens Extension

School of Business marketing students on an educational hike in the UConn Forest with Dr. Mike Dietz

Extension brings the research of the land-grant university to communities statewide. Other departments at UConn are helping Extension grow and impact new audiences with the research and resources they produce. We have built a partnership with the Department of Marketing in the School of Business that has transformed the marketing initiatives of UConn Extension, and strengthened our brand.

Our partnership started with a branding workshop presented by Robin Coulter, Professor and Head of the Department of Marketing. Jane Gu, Associate Professor of Marketing conducted a follow up workshop on digital marketing.

Extension educators completed an exercise on the importance of their programs prior to the fall 2017 Extension meeting. Responses were used to create a new mission statement for UConn Extension: UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems. Join us.

Summer interns in 2017 and 2018 have expanded our marketing capacity by developing initiatives and campaigns to increase awareness of Extension, building off of the previous work. Groups of digital marketing students in the School of Business chose Extension as their class project for the spring 2018 semester. Students in the undergraduate class focused on marketing UConn 4-H. The MBA students created a lifelong learning campaign for Extension that ties multiple program areas together.

The scope of work accomplished in a one semester course can be limited. Faculty in the Department of Marketing shifted the honors thesis for senior marketing students into a yearlong project with Extension. The class conducted research in the fall 2018 semester, and is currently developing and implementing a campaign to market Extension to UConn students.

Our partnership with the Department of Marketing has allowed us to increase the impact of UConn Extension, and raise awareness of the programs and opportunities available. Audiences that we are reaching were previously unfamiliar with Extension. We appreciate the opportunities that our partners in the School of Business provide to market Extension and grow our impact across Connecticut.

By Stacey Stearns

Job Openings with UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagram

We have jobs open at Jobs.UConn.edu – an Assistant Extension Educator with UConn 4-H based in Torrington, an Assistant Extension Educator in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, and a Research Assistant 2 – Connecticut Farm To School Specialist based in Vernon. All positions will have statewide responsibilities. Apply today, applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis.

Tailored Messages Improve Health and Nutrition in Windsor Students

national school breakfast week
Photo: Heidi Karner

Technology is ubiquitous, and a team of researchers at UConn are harnessing our everyday technology to address obesity issues in children and young adults (Poulin & Peng, 2018). Social media and text messages are a common communication tool among multiple populations, and can positively influence behavior change in health and nutrition (Hsu, M.S.H., Rouf, A., & Allman-Farinelli, M., 2018; Tu, A.W., Watts, A.W., Chanoine, J.P., Panagiotopoulos, C., Geller, J., Brant, R., et al., 2017; Pew Research Center, 2015 & 2018).

Tailored messages for health promotion and obesity prevention using e-health and m-health is supported through Hatch funding from the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. The inter-disciplinary team includes faculty and staff from Allied Health Sciences, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Communication, Windsor Public Schools, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, UConn Student Health Services, and the Windsor Hunger Action Team.

The team is implementing three connected studies to harness technology and deliver tailored nutrition and health messages to middle school students, adolescents, and young adults to improve diet quality for obesity prevention. Partnerships with the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and Windsor Public Schools reach children. Young adults are included through the study with UConn Student Health Services. Each of the three studies is using quantitative and qualitative research methods.

Valerie Duffy, PhD RD, Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Allied Health Sciences is the principal investigator. “It’s more meaningful if you tailor messages to someone on health promotion,” Duffy says. “Our goal is to prime the pump and nudge people toward better diet and lifestyle behaviors. The messages were developed with input from those in the age group being served, and the algorithm tailors the messages to the individual’s responses.”

The tailored messages will have short-term and intermediate-term impacts. The child and parent will receive text or email messages on improving diet healthiness of children based on their online responses. Intermediate-term impacts will again be tailored to individual responses and delivered by email, text and social media with the goals of improving diet healthiness, and school meal consumption over the school year.

Heidi Karner is graduating in May of 2019 with her masters’ degree in Health Promotion Sciences from the Department of Allied Health Sciences. She works with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and the tailored messages project.

When she was an undergraduate in the dietetics program, completing a 4-week supervised practice rotation in Windsor, Karner saw a need in the community that wasn’t being met. This led her to pull together a collaborative team including the Windsor Schools, the Windsor Hunger Action Team, and the University to prepare and successfully obtain a seed grant from Foodshare. “The school food service director wanted to increase breakfast participation at Sage Park Middle School, and received $5,000 to start the project. We also tested breakfast items with the students, and many of our vendors donated products.”

The goals for the message program at Sage Park Middle School are to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, increase

National School Breakfast week at Sage Park Middle School in Windsor
Photo: Heidi Karner

breakfast program participation, and decrease food insecurity in middle school students. These goals were identified as problem areas by the middle school staff and the Hunger Action Team.

The collaborative team is working on a quantitative and qualitative approach to develop the message program. In the quantitative phase, 200 students completed an internet-based survey on what foods and activities they like or dislike and their attitudes and believes. The students completed the survey on Chromebooks available to each student at school. The students received messages tailored to their responses. From initial analysis of this quantitative phase, the tailored messages were well received by students — 78% agreed that they learned new information, 86% reported the messages were helpful, and 73% would like to receive more messages in the future.

In the qualitative phase, the complete findings of the quantitative survey will be shared with the stakeholders. The feedback will identify priority areas where student behaviors differ from recommendations. Feelings and feedback from students will be obtained through focus groups.

This feedback is being used to create a fun and interactive computer game to embed on the website. The Department of Communication at UConn is collaborating on the computer game, and it will be piloted with the middle school students.

“We’re trying to change the culture in the school and community about food and health,” Karner says. “I’m always asking what is relevant to the students, and what do they want.”

It all connects back to understanding the population being served, their health behaviors, and preferences. “It’s not just about hunger, but nutrition too,” Karner adds. “We focus on the quality of the foods.” Although Karner is graduating, this is a continuing project that will be refined and passed along to other graduate students to champions, continued collaboration with stakeholders and sharing best practices without other school systems.

 

References

Hsu, M.S.H., Rouf, A., & Allman-Farinelli, M. (2018). Effectiveness and behavioral mechanisms of social media interventions for positive nutrition behaviors in adolescents: A systematic review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 63(5), 531-545. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.06.009.

Pew Research Center. Social Media Fact Sheet. Internet and Technology2018.

Pew Research Center. Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Internet & Technology, 2015.

Poulin, S. M. & Peng, J. (2018). Connecticut Childhood Obesity Report, 2018. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Tu, A. W., Watts, A. W., Chanoine, J. P., Panagiotopoulos, C., Geller, J., Brant, R., et al. Does parental and adolescent participation in an e-health lifestyle modification intervention improves weight outcomes? BMC Public Health. 2017,17:352.

 

Solid Ground Farmer Trainings in January

The following Solid Ground Farmer Trainings are scheduled for January.

BF 106: Vegetable Production for Small Scale Farming – January 5th

BF 240: Pesticide Safety for Conventional & Organic Producers – January 9th

BF 270: Welding Basics for Agriculture – January 12th – FULL

BF 110: Growing Crops in Low, High and Movable Tunnels – January 26th

All classes are free, but registration is requested. Email Charlotte.Ross@uconn.edu for more information.

Chicken Questions?

Do you own chickens? Our poultry care video series with retired Extension Educator Dr. Mike Darre can answer your questions. There are 10 videos, topic include: how to hold your birds, how to inspect your birds, determining if your chicken is a good layer, watering systems, nest boxes, feeding, housing and heating, bird litter, housing, and the egg cleaning and quality check. You can watch the entire series on our YouTube channel.

 

In pilaf, salmon, manicotti, kelp’s versatility impresses chefs

a chef tastes kelp
Juliet Wong, convention services manager at the Sheraton, samples one of the kelp dishes.

Story and photos by Judy Benson

After tasting rice pilaf with carrots, peppers and kelp, grilled shrimp wrapped in kelp leaves, baked salmon topped with leeks and kelp and manicotti stuffed with mushrooms and kelp, restaurant owner Chris Szewczyk is eager to incorporate the Connecticut-grown seaweed into his menu.

“It’s an exciting product,” said Szewczyk, owner of Taino Smokehouse in Middletown.

Standing nearby in the kitchen of the Sheraton Hartford South in Rocky Hill was Lydell Carter, sous-chef at the hotel restaurant. Between forkfuls of the various dishes, Carter said he, too, is a convert to the possibilities of cooking with kelp.

“I definitely see it’s very versatile,” he said. “I really liked it with the shrimp.  I like the flavor profile and the texture.”

Read more…

Originally posted on the Connecticut Sea Grant website.

Pre-Register for Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers’ Conference

vegetable conference banner photo

SOUTH WINDSOR, CT – UConn Extension’s 2019 Vegetable & Small Fruit Growers’ Conference will be taking place on Monday, January 7th, 2019. The conference will be held at Maneeley’s Conference Center on 65 Rye Street in South Windsor.

The day will include 9 educational sessions, an extensive trade show with over 30 exhibitors, and plenty of time for networking. Session topics range from Farm Labor to High Tunnel Production including Growing Brambles, Growing Strawberries and Tomato Nutrient Management. Other highlights include a Cut Flower Production session that will give us a taste of the following full day workshop on January 8thin East Windsor. A farmer panel that will discuss Marketing, specifically POS (point of sale) Systems will round out the event. Three pesticide re-certification credits will be available for licensed applicators.

This event is organized by UConn Extension, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the Connecticut Vegetable & Berry Growers’ Alliance. The steering committee uses evaluations from previous years to produce a fruitful program, gathering the best speakers from within our region and across the country to fulfill the requests and meet the needs of Connecticut growers.

This day will not only be great for learning, but also for networking with other growers, Extension educators and industry representatives. We hope you take the time to gather plenty of ideas and knowledge to take home with you to practice on your own farms and improve your farm businesses.

Pre-registration to attend the conference is $40. The pre-registration includes the trade show, continental breakfast, coffee, and lunch. The pre-registration fee for students (high school or college) is $18 (must show valid ID). Pre-registration must be received by January 2nd, 2019). After the deadline and at the door is $60 per person. The registration form, additional information and other upcoming events can be found at http://ipm.uconn.edu/under events.

This institution is an affirmative action/ equal employment opportunity employer and program provider. Contact us 3 weeks in advance for special accommodations.

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