Nutrition

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 soupMake 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

Butternut Soup Photo from Frugal Café attributed to Halloween Soup Diana Johnson free license

Conversations Around Food

EFNEPImagine running out of food, with small children to feed, and no food stamps for another week. Friday’s paycheck has to pay your utility bill, or they will cut off your electricity. Feeling panicked yet? Picture what it was like, over 40 years ago, to have someone from UConn Extension knock on your door and ask if you need help learning how to feed your family for less.

Since 1969, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) educators have been helping thousands of families and youth in some of the most challenged neighborhoods in Connecticut.

While parts of Connecticut are affluent, our state has deep pockets of poverty that can lead to food insecurity and hunger. Some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country are in urban areas of our state. Food deserts, or areas that lack access to grocery stores and fresh food, contribute to the problem. This includes urban centers as well as more remote rural areas where transportation is a major hurdle for accessing healthy foods. Coupled with the challenging economy, the state has seen an increase in the number of families with children using soup kitchens and food assistance.

During the 1960’s, there was increasing awareness of the health problems associated with poverty. Hunger and poor nutrition were identified through several government studies. Cooperative Extension leaders recognized that programming was not reaching low-income populations as well as it could. In 1962, several states conducted pilot projects focusing on the best way to reach this audience with food and nutrition information. Throughout the mid 1960’s, effective land-grant university projects helped to build administrative support for establishing a program within Cooperative Extension.

EFNEP is the oldest federal nutrition education program for low-income families, being formally established in 1969. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers EFNEP at land-grant universities in all U.S. states and territories, and the District of Columbia. The program provides practical, hands-on food and nutrition education to tackle societal challenges such as hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and obesity.

UConn Extension has eleven EFNEP educators in communities throughout the state. EFNEP is active in cities such as Hartford, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Willimantic, Bridgeport, and Danbury. Bilingual programs and materials, cooking classes, and educational trips to the grocery store are a few offerings.

When the program first began, EFNEP educators did knock on doors to recruit participants. Today, EFNEP staff develop relationships with community-based organizations and agencies who work with low-income families and youth. One of the first pilot projects, in the 1960’s, was conducted in a Bridgeport housing project. Dr. Janina Czajkowski-Esselen directed this pilot project. She was one of the visionary thinkers who helped develop the concepts behind the EFNEP program.

There is a unique peer educator component in EFNEP, which has since been used in communities around the world. The program considers the situation of each participant, and tries to help them identify and determine solutions to their issues around food choices, shopping, feeding families, food safety, and food insecurity.

The program meets clients where they are, and considers economics, culture, and literacy in programs and materials. Educators use interactive, hands-on teaching methods through conversations, not lectures.

Participants develop skills that can help them improve their food and nutrition practices for better health and quality of life. Depending on the situation of the family, this may mean just having enough food at home to last from payday to payday.

UConn EFNEP educators serve as a link between program participants and other local agencies, including federal programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program) that participants may qualify for.

In 2015, EFNEP reached 1,850 participants, and 2,089 family members. Since the program’s inception, over 48,000 families with more than 150,000 family members, and close to 200,000 youth have learned from educators about improving health and quality of life. For more information about EFNEP, visit the NIFA website:nifa.usda.gov/program/expanded-food-and-nutrition-education-program-efnep

School Districts Invited to “Put Local on Your Tray” This Fall

carrot posterJust in time for National Farm To School Month in October, UConn Extension and its partners at the Connecticut State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and the New England Dairy and Food Council are excited to announce an opportunity to participate in a new program called “Put Local On Your Tray”.

Put Local On Your Tray promotes local food in Connecticut schools. Participants receive support and materials that help school districts plan, serve, and celebrate locally grown food. “When kids have an opportunity to learn and engage with fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables in a positive way, they are much more likely to eat them,” shared Dana Stevens, Program Director.

In the 2014-2015 school year, schools in Connecticut spent $7,244,580 on local food, and 70% of school districts that responded to the 2015 Farm to School Census offered farm-to-school programming; that’s 97 districts, 706 schools, and 355,489 students! Schools report that farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste.

Local procurement can be integrated into all types of child nutrition programs, including: breakfast, lunch, after-school snack, supper, and summer meals. Connecticut also celebrates CT Grown for CT Kids Week from October 3 – 7th, offering schools another opportunity to take one small step for farm to school.

Put Local On Your Tray has proved to be an invaluable component of our educational efforts at Middletown Public Schools to connect our students to local farms and agriculture while promoting overall wellness to enhance and maximize student achievement, states Ava McGlew, MS, RD, CD-N, Food Service Director Middletown Public Schools.

UConn Extension has developed posters, stickers, newsletters, and recipes to support school districts in connecting students to fresh, seasonal foods. Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage participation in this new program.

UConn Extension Hosts Fall Open House

New Haven officeNorth Haven—UConn Extension’s New Haven County Extension Center invites the public to a Fall Open House on Thursday, September 15, 2016 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 305 Skiff Street, North Haven.

The New Haven County Extension Resource Council, Inc. (NHCERC, Inc.), a volunteer organization supporting the educational outreach programs based in this center, is hosting this event. Faculty, staff, and volunteers will be available to discuss Extension outreach programs offered via this Extension Center. Brief spotlight presentations will be made on “4-H STEM Activities to Do with Kids”, “Your Garden in Fall” and “How we sometimes get sick from the food we eat”. Educational displays and materials will also on hand. At 5:45 pm there will be a very brief Annual NHCERC, Inc. Meeting followed by The Extension Volunteer Recognition Ceremony. The public is welcome to attend all or any portion of this event. Light refreshments will be available. Call 203. 407. 3160 for more information. RSVPs are appreciated.

The New Haven County Extension Center, one of eight county-based UConn Extension Centers, provides a wide variety of educational outreach programs for families and individuals, youth, staff, farmers, professionals, businesses, and social service and public agencies, among others, in New Haven County and beyond. UConn Extension faculty and staff, based in the New Haven County facility, work in fields such as 4-H youth development, food safety, master gardening, financial literacy, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM) and coastal storm preparedness. For more information, visit http://www.extension.uconn.edu/extension-centers/newHaven.php.

UConn Extension connects the power of UConn research to local issues by offering practical, science-based answers to complex problems. 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. Extension provides scientific knowledge and expertise to the public in areas such as: economic viability, business and industry, family and community development, agriculture and natural resources. UConn Extension brings research to real life.

UConn is an equal opportunity employer and program provider. 

Internship Program Provides Credentials for Job Search

By Kim Colavito Markesich

Originally published by Naturally@UConn on July 26, 2016

According to a 2012 survey of employers conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, an internship is the single most important credential for recent college graduates in their job search.

The UConn Extension/4-H Internship Program was created to offer paid career-oriented summer internships to undergraduate students. Students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in the field, while assisting extension educators with program delivery.

“We’ve focused on underclassmen as it is very difficult for them to secure summer internships in these specialized career fields,” says Paul Gagnon, the College’s career consultant with UConn Center for Career Development.

Students apply for the competitive internships, and if selected, they complete a learning agreement that includes an outline of the summer project objectives and expected outcomes. In addition, each student receives mid-summer and end-of-summer evaluations and must take a non-credit notation course that requires a summary paper. While students do not receive academic credit for the course, upon completion the internship is noted on their official transcript.

“Last summer I was an intern at the Windham County Extension Center,” says Holly Lewis, who recently completed her junior year in the Department of Allied Health Sciences. “I split my time between 4-H STEM workshops, the 4-H county fair, agriculture research and gardening. I planned team building and science-based activities that we used at day camps throughout eastern Connecticut.”

Lewis continues, “I researched the dry matter intake of dairy cows, beef and goats, and sampled pastures and recorded information on the management of thirteen farms. Assisting Joyce Meader [extension dairy/livestock educator], we produced data for the farmers to use in future feeding plans for their livestock. Once a week, I helped maintain and learn about caring for an extension garden in the Willimantic School District. I also assisted with the planning, advertisement and running of the fair.”

Erinn Hines
Erinn Hines with two 4-H members.

Says Erinn Hines, “During my time at the internship, I worked alongside my supervisor, Margaret Grillo [extension educator], to develop educational programs for New Haven/Middlesex County 4-H.” Hines is entering her senior year in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “I gathered curriculum for Discover 4-H, a monthly STEM activity email subscription. I also helped implement a healthy living program for the New Haven/Middlesex county 4-H Fair in August, encouraging families to incorporate more activity into their daily life. Aside from these projects, I worked with my supervisor throughout the summer to prepare for the fair. I’m looking forward to returning to the extension center this summer.”

“It’s been very helpful that Erinn is a former 4-H’er, because she was very familiar with the program,” says Grillo. “This summer we’re developing curriculum for a new science program for youth ages 7 to 12 called Discover Science through 4-H.”

The internships are funded through donations to the UConn Extension held by the UConn Foundation. For summer 2016, ninety students applied for twenty-six possible slots in a variety of extension programs throughout the state. After evaluation of applicants’ skills, interests and geographical issues, fourteen internships were awarded. Collaborating with Gagnon to facilitate the program are Michael O’Neill, associate dean and associate director for UConn Extension; Bonnie Burr, department head and assistant director of UConn Extension; and Marilyn Gould, administrative assistant.

“We’re really seeing a great interest from faculty, staff and students,” says O’Neill. “We receive requests from extension offices and, starting this year, we have accepted requests from outside companies looking for interns skilled and interested in the areas served by UConn Extension. We are reaching out to alumni and businesses to help increase funding and expand the program.”

John McDonald, a psychology major and urban studies minor, will graduate in December 2016. He interned during the summer and fall of 2015 with Laura Brown, extension educator in community and economic development at the Fairfield County Extension Center. “I conducted a literature review of greenways and multi-use trails in support of the Naugatuck River Greenway (NRG) economic impact analysis and reviewed literature on environmental observation in support of the First Impressions community exchange program. I attended meetings of the NRG steering committee and presented with Laura at the fall extension seminar.”

“This is another great way for us to support our students and give them a head start in their careers,” O’Neill notes. “We are also finding that as employers get to know our interns, they are discovering the benefits of working with the students.”

Internships for summer 2016 include:

Will Teas
Intern Will Teas

Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) MS4 Stormwater Management Internship (Middlesex County Extension Center). William Teas, natural resources and the Environment major, is working with UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) NEMO program team to develop resources for communities facing new stormwater management (“MS4”) regulations. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) has developed robust new regulations for Connecticut communities and institutions who manage a separate stormwater system, and CLEAR is developing workshops, websites and other materials to support communities in meeting those requirements.

Center for Land Use Education and Research and CT ECO Geospatial Internship (Middlesex County Extension Center). Luke Gersz, Natural Resources and the Environment major, is working with the UConn CLEAR geospatial team to advance the map catalog part of the CT ECO website. CT ECO is a partnership between UConn CLEAR and CT DEEP to make Connecticut’s natural resource geospatial information available.

Community Nutrition Programming Intern (Fairfield County Extension Center). Julia Cobuzzi, allied health sciences major, is working in community nutrition programming in Fairfield County and will have the opportunity to work with two federal nutrition programs,  the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education).

Emergency Preparedness Intern (UConn, Avery Point). Thomas Martella, cognitive science major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is working with a diverse group from UConn Extension and with town officials, and will gain experience in creating/editing videos, developing script and posting information on a website. This effort is required as Connecticut’s coastal communities face increasing risks due to storm and flood events, yet attitudes and actions toward emergency preparedness and evacuations are often lackadaisical.

Sustainable Food Systems Research Intern – Buy Local Initiatives and Marketing Approaches (Tolland County Extension Center). Anne Page, finance major in UConn’s School of Business, is conducting a literature review on public education strategies that promote buy local behavior in direct and institutional markets, forming a foundational piece of research for future iterations of UConn Extension’s CT 10% Campaign and the Live Local projects. The office is a shared work space, where there is exciting interaction with team members that work on FoodCorps, CT Food Justice VISTA Project and the CT 10% Campaign.

Invasive Plant internship (Storrs). Kelsey Brennan, individualized major in sustainable agriculture in the College, is assisting with the development, coordination and implementation of numerous invasive plant management activities in Connecticut, including prevention, early detection, rapid response, monitoring, control (including biological control of the invasive plants mile-a-minute weed and purple loosestrife) and disposal. The intern will primarily work with members of the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) but will also gain experience in interacting with scientists and other educators in the field to learn about non-native invasives.

Mix Some Whole Grains with Local Fruits and Veggies

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

Senior Extension Educator, UConn Extension

strawberriesLest this article appears to be written by the food police, I confess I am a real fan of a plate of regular, white flour pasta, ciabatta bread, and, once and a while a fried bologna sandwich on good (well, maybe not so good) old fashioned store bought white bread with mustard. But, as a nutrition professional that was well trained years ago, I know that it is important to eat a diet that is well stocked with whole grains.

As June turns to July, and farmers markets offer up with new fruit and vegetable options with each passing week, consider serving them up with a side of whole grains.

An article published in this week in Circulation Online, “Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies,” by Geng Zong, Alisa Gao, Frank B. Hu, and Qi Sun (find the article here: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/133/24.toc) reported on a meta-analysis of 12 published studies as well as data from unpublished survey results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III and NHANES 1999-2004.

What is a meta-analysis you ask? This type of study looks at the results of many studies and analyzes them, with the goal of developing conclusions that are statistically strong due to the larger numbers being considered. This analysis included information from 786,076 study participants. The conclusions derived from this review include:

  • People who ate the most whole grains appeared less likely to die of any cause during the study than those who ate the least, with the strongest relationship identified with death from cardiovascular disease and, to a lesser extent, cancer (stronger association with colon cancer than others).
  • Those with diets higher in whole grains had lower risk for cardiovascular disease and adult onset (Type II) diabetes.

Generally, these results confirm what has been considered to be good dietary practice for a while. The Dietary Guidelines Dietary Guidelines, 2015-2020, released in January 2016, called for Americans to eat (based on an 1800 calorie diet), six ounces per day of grains, half of which should be comprised of whole grains. It can be hard to figure out what six ounces is without an actual kitchen scale, but generally, the guidance is six servings of grain foods, with portion sizes as follows:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
  • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread (approx. one ounce)
  • 1 ounce 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

You might need to use measuring cups or even invest in a kitchen scale just to help you see what is, in fact, a true serving size. I know that it is more than likely that I eat two servings (at least) when I have a plate of pasta. Of course, your calorie needs may be higher or lower than the 1800 standard illustrated here. Some folks may need only 1200 calories with four ounces of grain foods (if you are a smaller person, are very sedentary or want to lose weight) or 2200 calories or more if you are very active, including seven ounces or more of grain foods. The Dietary Guidelines can be found here: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

How can you incorporate more whole grains in your daily menus while enjoying locally grown greens, berries, scallions, and soon, the peppers, tomatoes and zucchini?

First, you could even purchase locally grown/milled grains. You may have to stretch your definition of local to include other states in the region, however. The Northern Grain Growers Association included growers from Vermont, Massachusetts, and one from Connecticut. These growers produce spelt, wheat, barley, oats and/or cornmeal.

Once you have made the commitment to eat more, try introducing whole grains slowly. Initially, my family was not a great fan of whole grain pasta. We ate half and half. Start cooking the whole grain product first as it takes a bit longer; then add the white flour pasta. Serve whole grain pastas with heartier sauces that can stand up to the stronger flavor and texture: a Bolognese made with turkey; a sauce of tomatoes, lentils and pesto; whole grain pasta lasagna. Search the grocery aisles for whole grain couscous or pasta made from white whole-wheat flour. Make an Israeli (the larger diameter couscous) whole grain couscous salad with oil, lemon juice, feta, olives, tomatoes and cucumber. Serve it on locally grown spinach. This makes a great Greek style salad. Use whole grain basmati or jasmine rice for dishes that may be inspired by Asian or Indian ingredients. You really will not miss the white rice—though keep in mind that it can take as much as twice as long to cook a whole grain rice product.

Moving on to breads and cereals, there are so many options in the marketplace. Try whole grain raisin bread—make French toast with it. If you cannot find it in your store, ask for it. Whole cornmeal makes delicious muffins and pancakes with much more flavor and texture than the boxed pancake mixes that use white flour. Or try oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes. Add local maple syrup or blueberries and you will experience breakfast nirvana!

Finally, when purchasing breakfast cereals, look for those with “whole grain” as the first ingredient, whether it is whole wheat, cornmeal or oats. Serve with some local milk and strawberries.

For more information incorporating whole grains into your daily eating plan, contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Highlights of Extension

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Learn how UConn Extension is tying research to real life in your community through our 2015 Highlights of Extension.