Health

UConn Recruiting Hydroponic Greenhouse Growers

hydroponics

The University of Connecticut Greenhouse Research & Extension team are conducting a study in root rot of hydroponically-grown leafy greens. They would like to collect plant samples with root rot from commercial operations in the U.S. Your participation will help better understand how microbes interact in roots and potentially identify beneficial microbes that reduce the risk of plant pathogens in hydroponics. 

Participants would benefit from this study by receiving a free diagnosis of what is causing root rot in the sample and early access to the information generated from this project. If you are interested in participating, follow this link: http://s.uconn.edu/surveyrootrot

For questions, contact Cora McGehee at cora.mcgehee@uconn.edu  or Rosa Raudales (rosa@uconn.edu or 860.486.6043).

This project is sponsored by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch Multistate project accession number 1020637.

Upcoming Equine Extension Programs

girl wearing a riding helmet sitting on a horse

The UConn Equine Extension program has two upcoming programs for horse owners, enthusiasts, and anyone else that wants to attend.

  • Latest Innovations and Research in Winter Horse Care – Join us on February 4th at 7 PM at the Eversource building in Newington for this presentation by Dr. Jenifer Nadeau. The event is free, and UConn ice cream will be served. Please RSVP so we can prepare. This event is sponsored by Connecticut Horse Council.
  • Connecticut Horse Symposium is Saturday, March 28th at the Horsebarn Hill Arena in Storrs. We have a full day of horses, friends, education, and fun planned. You can see the full schedule and register at: http://horsesymposium.uconn.edu/

Job Opening: Farm to School Project Coordinator

little girl holding a slice of apple at school

The CT Farm to School Collaborative (CTFTSC) is actively seeking to fill a newly created part-time position of Project Coordinator. Applications due by February 5th.  75% of the Project Coordinator’s responsibility will be working with the state’s leading Farm-to-School partners and allies to implement the recently developed CT Farm to School Action Plan. This work includes coaching and coordinating with 3 Action Team Leaders, supporting the activities of 3 Action Teams, and maintaining excellent communication systems with all stakeholders. The remaining 25% of the Project Coordinator’s time will be directly supporting the work of the CTFTSC, which includes staffing the monthly meetings, managing the ctfarmtoshool.org website and google group, coordinating efforts for CT Grown for CT Kids Week, and working with CTFTSC members on key annual events.  We hope to generate a competitive pool of candidates with strong representation from the global majority. View the job description.

Volunteer with Us

volunteers collect CT Trail Census data in 2017 on a multi-use trail
Volunteers collect data in 2017. Photo: Aaron Burris

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many use this as a day of service. Extension values the service our volunteers contribute. In 2019, they volunteered 207,887 hours across all programs, valued at $5.3 million to our communities.

Volunteers contribute knowledge and experience to Extension, and expand our capacity to deliver programs in every municipality and town of Connecticut. UConn Extension volunteers are from a range of sectors including robotics, information technology, project management, and agriculture. 

Marlene Mayes, a volunteer with the Master Gardener program since 2004,

working in garden
Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey and a Master Gardener volunteer work in Burgdorf. Photo: Chris Defrancesco.

coordinates the Foodshare Garden at the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield. Each summer, the garden has over 600 community volunteers, who grow 4,000 pounds of vegetables donated to Foodshare. “Everything is research-based, the greenhouse and garden are about teaching and getting people to grow in their own backyard,” Mayes states. 

We have volunteer opportunities for UConn students, and citizens throughout the state in several of our programs. Join us as a UConn Extension volunteer.

#AskUConnExtension – How do I lose weight?

Our UConn Expanded Food and Education Program (EFNEP) educators are often answer questions from participants about weight loss. Heather Pease, one of our EFNEP educators, offers the following guidelines:

How do I lose weight?

fried chicken next to peppers and an apple
Fried chicken next to an apple and peppers on a white background. The photo was taken to illustrate healthy food versus unhealthy food.
Photo: UConn

The beginning of a new year turns our focus towards renewal and change. Many people will make a “new year’s resolution” such as losing weight.

Losing weight requires changing habits and behavior. Instead of losing –let’s put the focus on ADDING physical activity for stronger bodies and eating more nutrient dense foods that builds healthy bodies!

Smart goals” or specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely intentions can help you make a plan for success. If you want to lose weight in the new decade- ask yourself:

Specifically: How?

  • Track what you eat for a week – where can you make some changes?
  • Eat less calories and move more-
    • Add more:
    • Fruits and Vegetables are low in calories, and high in nutrients
    • Add more: moving!
  • Try a free food tracking app to figure out the quality and quantity of food you are eating.
    • It can also tell you how many calories are you eating? How many calories are you burning?

Measure: How will you measure your changes?

  • Use measuring cups and timers to help you identify how much you are eating and moving
  • Log your movement with your phone
  • Try a free app like google fit or apple health to help measure movement.

Attainable: What steps will take to lose weight

Try using your phone to schedule 3 minute movements every hour at work- That’s 24 minutes of movement- try walking in place or go for a walk

Realistic: It takes time and intention to make change

  • Try to do add on to something you already do that is a good habit- when you eat dinner use a smaller plate
  • Try to set a small goal of exercising for 10 minutes; set a reminder schedule it at the same time every day and it will soon catch on

Timely: Most goals have a deadline- when do you hope to achieve your goal- remember weight loss is about sustainability and health

  • With weight loss the TIME piece can be how much time it takes to lose weight (usually 1 -2 pounds a month and maintain your new habits.
  • Use time to help you ease into new habits, walk 20 minutes after work every day in my house instead of eating. It is important to look at present habits and make small intentional changes J
  • Focus on adding minutes and activities to increase your physical activity, stamina and strength

Article by Heather Pease

Industrywide Food Safety Initiative Focuses on Ice Cream

Industrywide Food Safety Initiative Focuses on Small/Artisanal Ice Cream Companies

making ice cream at UConn, purple gloves hold container of ice cream
Chemical engineering majors make a test batch of reduced sugar ice cream at the UConn Creamery on April 8, 2015. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced that food safety resources for small and artisanal ice cream manufacturers, including an online class and technical support, are now available. Dennis D’Amico, one of our Extension educators was on the team that developed these initiatives.

These initiatives, which are similar to tools created in 2017 for the artisan/farmstead cheese community, are designed to help companies mitigate their food safety risks.

This initiative was led by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, an organization founded by dairy farmers in 2008 to convene the entire industry on common goals and opportunities. Innovation Center experts formed the Artisan Ice Cream Food Safety Advisory Team that includes the National Ice Cream Retailers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, academics, company owners and food safety experts from across the dairy industry.

“We created these tools with input from the owners of small ice cream companies and learned what can most effectively work for them,” said Tim Stubbs, Vice President of Product Research and Food Safety for the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “As a result, we think these resources have been designed in a way that these companies can help assure consumer confidence in their products.”

The resources include an online course offered through North Carolina State University titledFood Safety Basics for Artisan Ice Cream Makers.” The course includes 10 interactive modules on the importance of food safety, identifying hazards, preventive controls, design, plant practices, sanitation and environmental monitoring. The course is available free through July 31, 2020 (discount code INTRO-FREE). Visit https://foodsafety.ncsu.edu/food-safety-basics-for-ice-cream-makers or www.usdairy.com/artisan for information.

A new website — www.safeicecream.org – is hosted by IDFA and offers self-study resources, guides, templates and tools designed to quickly help manufacturers.

Also available are workshops that provide direct coaching and technical support for small businesses as they write their food safety plans.

Information on the workshops or one-on-one food safety support is available by calling (607) 255-3459 or emailing dairyfoodsafetycoach@cornell.edu. More information can be found at www.usdairy.com/artisan

Where can we get healthy food? #AskUConnExtension

Where can we get healthy food? Dr. German Cutz, one of our Extension educators, discusses urban agriculture as one option as we use innovative technology and new methods to grow food for our families and communities.

vegetables with two hands picking some up and question: Where can we get healthy food?

#AskUConnExtension

Video: Mike Zaritheny

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

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/.

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