Nutrition

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

Communicating Towards Improved Health and Nutrition

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.”

Allied Health Sciences program for families in East Hartford
Lindsey Fenn, RD, a graduate student in Allied Health Sciences working with a group of children and parents in East Hartford.

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

Allied Health Sciences graduate student working with Windsor resident
Heidi Karner, RD, a graduate student in Allied Health Sciences works with a Windsor resident.

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.”

 

References

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

 

Text by Stacey Stearns

Angie Tovar: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

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. Angie and other teen mentors at a programAfter 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.

Patriotic Smoothies

serving smoothies in Meriden schools

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.

Put Local On Your Tray (Or Plate) In April

Put Local on Your Tray is a farm-to-school program helping Connecticut schools serve and celebrate regionally grown food. Even if you’re not a school, they have some advice for getting local onto your plate this season.

spinach and greens being grown in greenhouse
Photo: Molly Deegan

Days are getting slightly warmer and longer, the breeze is sharp, and the land is both awakened and nourished by fresh spring rain. Farmers are in a busy period of transition, from indoor planning and preparing for the height of summer – to the beginning stages of planting outdoors – making sure everything is ready to go. While there may not be an abundance of produce to choose from this month, there still are some special products to take advantage of for their especially sweet and distinct flavors of spring that they offer. For instance, mixed greens!

Spinach is our suggested local item to look out for – according to our Tray team Farmer Liaison, Shannon. After a long winter, the sugars stored in it’s leaves give it flavor hard to find any other time of year. Seen below, are rows of sweet greens growing at Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge.

EFNEP in New Britain

Extension educator Heather Pease from our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program was recently at the YWCA in New Britain for a program. Heather said of the program, “Learning about portions, measurements and recommended serving sizes! Playing with our food!”

EFNEP New Britain EFNEP New Britain portions and sizing with food EFNEP New Britain EFNEP New Britain participants

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family! Contact the office near you for more information!

SNAP-Ed Programming in Fairfield County

By Rachel Hathaway (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Rachel Hathaway (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Nutrition outreach in January at the Danbury New Hope Church mobile food pantry included an on-site food demonstration with Banana Oatmeal, recipes and information were also distributed to 235 participants while waiting for their number to be called. Nutrition outreach at the Walnut Hill Church mobile food pantry in Bethel was on January 24th and reached 140 families.

Extension educator Heather Peracchio and intern Marianna Orrico, a Health Promotion and Exercise Science student from Western Connecticut State University, attended this month’s Danbury Food Collaborative meeting hosted at United Way on January 17th. Food pantries in attendance were given 200 copies of seasonally appropriate recipes to distribute to clients this month.

Heather also attended the Danbury Coalition for Healthy Kids meeting on January 24th. Danbury area agencies met to plan out a strategy for reducing childhood obesity in the greater Danbury area. Heather shared EFNEP and SNAP-Ed resources with community partners in attendance.

Growing Gardens, Growing Health in Norwalk

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family. Some of our past classes are highlighted in this series. Contact the office near you for more information. 

student in Norwalk with strawberry in the garden
Photo: Heather Peracchio

Growing Gardens, Growing Health connects low income parents and their children to instruction, hands-on practice, and resources for gardening, nutrition, and cooking in order to encourage healthier food choices for the whole family. Over the course of the past 6 summers, participants worked with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist from EFNEP and certified master gardeners from Extension to plant and grow fresh vegetables and herbs. Over ten weeks, families received practical, family- and budget-friendly information about nutrition and built essential skills by making fun, healthy recipes. Each week children of the families learned about MyPlate and the food groups through fun and interactive games and activities with the help of EFNEP volunteers and an Extension summer intern.

Economically disadvantaged families were recruited to participate in a 10-week, hands-on, nutrition and gardening education program (n=35). Program goals were to enhance participants’ knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy associated with purchasing, preparing and consuming produce; incorporating physical activity into everyday life; and gardening and growing produce for personal use. Childhood obesity rates are higher than national average, 39% in this city. The Growing Gardens, Growing Health program helps families work together to grow fruits and vegetables on a community farm, learn about nutrition and how to prepare healthy foods in the on-premises, fully equipped kitchen classroom, and enjoy the freshly prepared fruit/vegetable-based meals as a group seated around the table. Local health department educators partnered with University Extension educators including a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), bilingual program aide, Master Gardener (MG) volunteers and student volunteers to implement this program. Data collection included a pre-post survey (n=21), and participants demonstrated increased readiness to change physical activity behaviors (47%), cooking behaviors with vegetables/fruits (40%) and consumption of 5 servings vegetables/fruits daily (31%). A family shares, “I am so glad we committed to this. We are eating better, with more nutrition, using less of a budget.” In summary, garden-based nutrition education that is family-focused may improve physical activity, vegetable/fruit consumption and self-efficacy associated with purchasing, preparing, and consuming produce; such improvements may decrease risk of obesity.

Cooking Matters

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family. Some of our past classes are highlighted in this series. Contact the office near you for more information. 

EFNEPChild First Groton funded a Cooking Matters Families program open to all school age children and parents. The plan was to improve family relations and learn a skill together. UConn EFNEP worked in collaboration in the planning, marketing and executing this successful program. We were overwhelmed with responses and had to start a waiting list for further programs. The Groton Elementary School supplied a staff member who was an asset to this program in education and facilitation. During our first class we had 13 people attend: 6 parents and 7 children, ranging 4-8 years of age. The children were very involved and one boy said “This is the best day of my life,” setting the stage for the next 5 weeks of out program. The cooking facility was very small to accommodate this large group of 13 with 4-5 staff. But everyone who participated worked together to ensure safety and fun.

At the conclusion of the program the group had really grown and come together. The comments we received from the families were “The kids are helping more in the kitchen,” “We are closer as a family,” “When is the next class, we want to sign up?” ” I never thought they would eat those things.” Hearing these comments help volunteers, teachers and staff motivated to keep doing what they are doing. Watching the children eat their creations each week is a complete success in itself. ” I didn’t think I would like it but I did,” “I have never tried ground turkey before! I will use it at home.” The families were each sent home with ingredients to make the recipe again and the stories were very interesting. “We froze the ingredients so they wouldn’t go bad and made it 2 weeks later,” “We took the ingredients and some extras to make it ours.” Each week seeing the families working together as a team meant we were doing the right thing. One obstacle that occurred included fitting the class into the families’ busy schedules, with conflicts with school, work, and health issues. Working to find times that best fit everyone’s schedules helped the participants, and they felt valued by the adjustments that were made. In conclusion all the participants stated that they would attend another session, they had fun and benefited from getting to know each other better.