Fresh from the field, Connecticut Grown strawberries are now ripening and ready to eat. Strawberries are the first fruit available in Connecticut and signal the arrival of summer for many residents who look forward to visiting one of the state’s pick-your-own farms.
“Visiting a Connecticut strawberry patch to pick your own is a wholesome, family fun activity,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner. “This type of activity supports local farms and farm families while generating millions of dollars in agritourism for the state’s economy. And, the best part of it all is that you get fresh Connecticut Grown strawberries to eat at home.”
While it’s early in the season, producers are reporting that picking is quite good. “Despite the amount of record breaking rain in April and early May, the strawberries crop is now experiencing excellent weather for maturing to ripening. The season is off to a great start and it appears that the production will be right in line for a successful strawberry season,” said Nancy Barrett, owner of Scantic Valley Farm in Somers, CT.
It’s a good idea to call ahead, or check the farms website, for daily updates as weather conditions impact availability. Sweet and juicy strawberries are also available now at farmers’ markets and farm stands throughout the state. Find one near you at www.CTGrown.gov/strawberry.
When ripe, strawberries smell wonderful and taste even better. As members of the rose family, this perennial plant is a good source of vitamin C, manganese, folate, and potassium. They are also loaded with antioxidants.
Strawberries should be plump and firm with a bright red color and natural shine. The color and fragrance of the berry, not size, are the best indicators of flavor. Once you get your strawberries home, wash them and cut the stem away to store in a cool place. If you plan to keep them in the fridge for a few days, wait to clean them until you plan to eat them. Rinsing them speeds up spoiling.
Strawberries can be used to make jams, jellies, shortcake, pie and more. They can also be pickled, especially when picked green or unripe, or frozen to use later in smoothies. Find more recipe ideas to create your own delicious dishes by visiting our Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/GrowCTAg/.
Make plans to visit a Connecticut strawberry patch this weekend to create lasting memories and delicious, healthy dishes.
Finally the weather is getting warmer and we can wake up from our winter hibernation. With milder temperatures, heading outside is a great plan. We are fortunate to live in Connecticut and have access to many beautiful parks, beaches and trails. Here are some moderate to vigorous activities to get us started in the right direction for the Spring season. Hope to see you out there!
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
When you think “local food” do you also think “school food”? You should. About 25% of food served by Hartford Public Schools is local.
This helps the local economy, and bolsters hometown pride. Lonnie Burt, Senior Director of Child Nutrition for Hartford Public Schools explains that, “Purchasing local products is important on so many levels; it has a positive impact on our community and the residents.”
Knox Inc, a community organization and farm in Hartford, sells vegetables like bok choy, collard greens and fresh cilantro directly to Hartford Public Schools. Brunella Ibarrola, Assistant Director of Nutrition Support for Hartford Public Schools Food and Child Nutrition Services, shares that students are thrilled when they see “Hartford grown” on the menu. “When students become aware that a vegetable has been grown right in Hartford by Knox’s Incubator Farmer program, they become really excited and proud of their city!”
Local food purchasing requires building relationships and UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray program is a matchmaker for many of these connections. The Tray Program helps Connecticut school districts serve and celebrate locally grown products.
“Schools want to increase their farm to school programming, which is where we come in; and when we are able to establish a partnership between a school and a farm, it benefits the larger community” says Molly Deegan, Put Local on Your Tray Coordinator.
Besides the benefits for the community, the students are learning valuable lessons in the cafeteria – a space that is sometimes overlooked as part of the learning environment in a school. Using local products allows “students [to] gain knowledge about local farmers and their products which are grown in their community” shares Maureen Nuzzo, Director of Food Services, Old Saybrook Public Schools. Old Saybrook is one of 59 school districts serving nearly 300 schools that have taken the pledge to source and serve local foods. Programming which highlights local foods, gets students involved in, and excited about, school lunches and nutrition. With National Nutrition Month in March, it’s a great time to celebrate local food and that’s just what UConn Extension’s Put Local On Your Tray program is all about.
When Maggie Dreher, Director of Nutrition Services for Avon Public Schools, Canton Public Schools, & Regional School District #10 served local kale from Sub Edge Farm (the first of many local produce items) she had no idea that just months later she would be hosting a district-wide event that put the farm on display. On March 21st, Maggie will be hosting a Jr. Chef competition featuring two teams per school district (6 total) where they will be challenged with a “chopped style mystery box,” where local produce from Sub Edge farm will be featured.
Through a combination of technical assistance and promotional materials, the Tray team works with schools to build a culture of health in the cafeteria, celebrate school nutrition programs, and support local agriculture.Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).
Do you practice yoga? Do you have a favorite herbal tea? As part of #NNM, self-care is a big part of “being well” and making sure you’re taking care of the [mental] part of you. Helping yourself to wind down may lower stress levels- even if it’s that morning cup of tea that you absolutely need in order for your day to start off right. So, we ask-What do you do for #selfcare?
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.”
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
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.
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 through 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
● 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 email@example.com. 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
Obesity is increasingly affecting residents of Connecticut. Recent statistics report that 20% of children and 36% of young adults are afflicted by obesity (Poulin & Peng, 2018). A team of Extension educators, faculty, and graduate students in Allied Health Sciences are working with community partners to take a multi-faceted approach to addressing health and nutrition issues in schools and families through research and outreach.
“We’re trying to empower income-challenged families to minimize the barriers to healthy eating and lifestyles,” says Valerie Duffy, PhD RD, principal investigator or co-principal investigator on the projects, and Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Allied Health Sciences. “We’re working with stakeholders to determine what modes of communication are best for them, and how to close the gap between what the families are doing, and what behaviors would be better.”
Currently there are three funding sources supporting the initiatives of the team. The first is a grant from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut 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. Duffy and Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA from Allied Health Sciences and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity are the co-PIs. Other team members are from Allied Health Sciences, the Rudd Center, the Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Department of Communication, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The community partner is East Hartford Family Resource Center.
“We have a collaborative team that’s trying to develop simple messages for families to help them establish healthy eating behaviors in toddlers. We hope to make messages are tailored to families so they are more meaningful,” says Duffy.
Hatch funding from the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, also in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources funds tailored messages for health promotion and obesity prevention using e-health and m-health. The inter-disciplinary team is also on this project, with many of the same team members. Three connected studies will harness technology to deliver tailored nutrition and health messages to middle school students, adolescents, and young adults to improve diet quality for obesity prevention. Community partners include Windsor Public Schools and UConn Student Health Services.
The SNAP-Ed program, funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of the United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA) is the third funding source, and glue that connects all of the projects. The SNAP-Ed program has built a foundation in communities throughout central Connecticut and developed strong partnerships over many years of collaboration. In turn, these partnerships allow the team to identify community needs with input from audiences served and program partners.
“We make lessons applicable to our audiences’ lives,” says Tina Dugdale, MS, RD/RN. “It’s possible to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in recommended serving sizes.” The SNAP-Ed program engages undergraduate and graduate students in Allied Health Sciences – especially those in the Dietetics Coordinated Undergraduate Program and Internship – who work in a variety of communities in Connecticut to deliver nutrition education and carry out service and outreach projects.
All three of the projects offer communication and outreach that is culturally relevant and tailored to the populations served. Materials and classes are offered in English and Spanish. Survey research will identify the key gaps in behavior, and further influence the communication campaigns. The goal connecting all projects is to improve family dietary quality and energy balance in families of economic disadvantage.
“Many people are banded together throughout the state putting forth efforts to help people with their hardships,” Dugdale concludes. “It’s a satisfying victory when we see our participants make small changes that contribute to the improvement of their health and nutrition.”
Poulin, S. M. & Peng, J. (2018). Connecticut Childhood Obesity Report, 2018. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Another popular recipe from our KidEats App developed by our 4-H FANS program and the New Mexico State University Learning Games Laboratory is the Banana Breakfast Cookie. Enjoy them at home with this easy recipe.
Angie Tovar of Danbury was a teen mentor in our CT FANs IM 4-H program. She is entering her junior year of college at Western Connecticut State University where she majors in Elementary Education. Angie currently works as a translator for St. Peter Church in Danbury and Student Worker for Pre-Collegiate and Access Programs in Danbury. We caught up with her to learn more about how her experience with the 4-H FANs program impacted her life.
4-H taught me to….. not be afraid to put myself out there. At first, a lot of the activities we conducted made me nervous, but I learned to push myself and try new things.
4-H taught me to stop…. Doubting myself. It really helped me believe that I can do anything if I really set my mind to it. It sounds a little cliché, but it’s the truth. The staff and the way this program is set up makes everyone truly believe that.
Because of 4-H….. I decided to become a teacher. I loved the experience of being in front of children and getting to pass on my knowledge of a subject onto them. I realized that teaching is what I truly love to do.
If I hadn’t been in 4-H…. I would have probably been in college, pursuing another career, and pretty miserable because it is not what I truly wanted to do.
How do you keep the 4-H motto – “To Make the Best Better” – now? I always keep this in mind, reminding me that there is always room for improvement. After every day of the program, we would reflect on what we did and how we could improve for next time. I still do this a lot after I finish anything. I truly believe that no matter how good something I did was, there is always a way for me to do better.
How did 4-H contribute to your leadership skills? 4-H helped me to be a better public speaker and think about what you want the outcome of a lesson to be. Since I want to become an Elementary School teacher I have to be comfortable speaking in front of others. 4-H provided me with the opportunity to practice this. The staff helped coach me and give me constructive criticism to better my public speaking. Also, it made me realize that when planning for activities, you have to think about others and what you want them to get out of this. It is the most important thing when prepping for lessons.
What do you wish people knew about 4-H? There are so many programs with 4-H! I feel that in our area very few people know about 4-H and all the wonderful things they do to better the lives of young people. I wish people knew that 4-H has just about everything.
Why should young people join 4-H? These programs provide youth with so many skills that they will continue to use for the rest of their lives. Each program works on bettering a child’s life in different ways. Also, each program makes families feel part of a community. They bring parents together and make them realize that they are not alone.
In Meriden schools, they served Red, White, & Blue Smoothies in honor of the winter Olympics and local dairy in February. What a cool idea! And one that you can replicate at home in honor of Memorial Day. It’s a fun and delicious smoothie. The layers were strawberry, banana, and blueberry served at breakfast with graham crackers.
Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food.