Nutrition

EFNEP: Making an Impact

EFNEP

The nutrition programming through EFNEP has three components: healthy food and physical activity choices, making funds go farther, and learning skills to improve food preparation and food safety practices. Clients participate in four to eight lessons, meet with the educator at least four times, complete pre and post assessments, participate in food and nutrition activities, and practice their learned skills. Recipes are available in English and Spanish. During the program, participants taste new foods, acquire cooking skills, and learn about food safety and storage. As part of healthy choices, clients learn about preparing healthy foods and nutritious snacks for various stages of the life cycle. Making funds go farther in the grocery store is a skill anyone can use. Extension educators help clients plan meals, make grocery lists, read labels, and shop wisely. UConn Extension educators toured the Danbury Price Rite with moms from Grassroots Academy, and taught them about saving money at the store while feeding their families healthier foods. EFNEP has always included an evaluation component that measures food behaviors and dietary quality. Evaluations show the vast majority of EFNEP participants have made at least one improvement in their food choices. There is also an increase in the number of participants eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables after an EFNEP program.

Welcome Lindsey Brush to CT FANs IM!

Lindsey Brush

Lindsey is the new Program Assistant for the Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion. Lindsey is a recent graduate of the University of St. Joseph’s in West Hartford with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. Lindsey is also pursuing a certification as a personal trainer from National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has worked with community outreach including SNAP-ED, Boys and Girls Clubs, and telephonic health coaching. Lindsey brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our team.

Pumpkins are a Terrible Thing to Waste…

By:     Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH

            UConn Extension Educator/Food

 

Sakata Seed America
Photo: Jude Boucher

Pumpkins are thought to have originated in North America. Early colonists learned of pumpkins from Native American Indians for whom pumpkin was a dietary staple. They would often cut strips of pumpkin and roast them on an open fire before eating. These resourceful people also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats. Seeds were saved for future crops. Nothing was wasted. Colonists adopted the pumpkin and used it to make stews, soups and desserts. Some say that pumpkin pie originated as colonists sliced off the top of the pumpkin, removed the seeds, filled it with milk and spices and roasted it in a fire. Yum. You too can learn to make the most of this member of the winter squash family. If you grow pumpkins in your garden, you are one step ahead. If not, pick up several at you local farm stand: but, why not try getting some seeds and growing your own crop next year?

Despite a dry summer, there does not seem to be a pumpkin shortage this year. In fact, the Connecticut supply looks great—all sizes, shapes and many new varieties can be found in your local farm stand.

So, this is a good year to make sure you get the most from your pumpkin—home grown or locally purchased.

Halloween leftovers

Over the years a variety of vegetables—turnips, gourds– and finally, pumpkins have been carved as “Jack-o-Lanterns.” Large pumpkins are best for carving. They are easy to carve, they don’t make the best eating, and they have many large seeds for roasting. Once Halloween is over, if your pumpkin has been carved, it is best used in the compost pile or made available to the neighborhood squirrels. Because pumpkin is a low acid vegetable, it very easily supports the growth of bacteria at room temperature or outside on a warm fall day. Even though you then cook the pumpkin, there is a risk for food-borne illness.

If not carved, you can still clean it out and use the seeds for roasting, even if the pumpkin is too large to make for good eating.

Roast the seeds

When cutting open a pumpkin, be sure to save every seed you can salvage. Put them into a large colander. The shells are edible—adding all kinds of healthy fiber to you diet. (Actually, any seeds from winter squash-acorn or butternut-can be roasted as well.)

To roast the seeds, simply clean them off, dry with paper towels, spray or stir in a little vegetable or olive oil, salt lightly and roast on a cookie sheet lined with foil for about 45 minutes (or until golden brown) at 250°F. You can also try using soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder or other seasonings you like.

Finally, eat the pumpkin

Use smaller pumpkins for meal making. These pumpkins are sweeter with finer flesh. Though often called “pie pumpkins,” pumpkins are too good to reserve for a piece of pie at the end of Thanksgiving dinner. They make great ingredients in savory soups, stews, pumpkin ravioli and gnocchi, risotto, quick breads, pancakes, or try pumpkin stuffed with rice, sausage and dried fruit.

If this talk of pumpkins for dinner is tempting you to grow your own in the spring, add it to your list when planning out our garden and ordering seeds. Pumpkin is a warm-season vegetable that grows well in Connecticut. Keep in mind that pumpkin is a very tender vegetable. The seeds do not germinate in cold soil, and the seedlings are injured by frost.

Do not plant until all danger of frost has passed, and the soil has thoroughly warmed. Plant pumpkins for Halloween late in May or early in June. If pumpkins are planted too early, they may soften and rot before Halloween. For more information on growing pumpkins in the home garden, contact the Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271 as you prepare for your spring planting.

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.