Nutrition

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

Highlights cover

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

Cut Food Budgets – Grow a Kitchen Garden

By       Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, RD

            UConn Extension Educator/Food Safety

Though some economic indicators are showing that things are getting better, there are many Connecticut citizens who still find tough going. The result has been that more and more people are growing food in their backyards or on patios, and some are growing enough to need to know how to freeze and can the fruits and vegetables for storage into the winter. It is likely that the home vegetable gardening trend will continue until there is a change in our collective jitters about the stock market or the fact that raises are few and far between.

green tomatoWhen budgets are tight, we often are forced to make diet changes that might not be in our health’s best interest. One study, in the November 2007 Journal of the American Dietetic Association, showed that limited resource families would need to spend up to 70% of their food budget on fruits and vegetables in order to meet USDA Dietary Guidelines recommendations. So, it stands to reason that when things get tough, folks are likely to make other, less costly, food choices. A study appearing in the Journal of Nutrition indicated that a population of French adults, when confronted with cost constraints, would be most likely to limit purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables (along with meat and dairy foods).

So, if you can’t afford to buy fresh tomatoes from the market, why not think about growing some in your back yard?

Americans have a history of using kitchen gardens to feed their families better when times are tough. During the Second World War, the presence of backyard kitchen gardens or “Victory Gardens” emerged as Americans did what they could to help with the War effort. At the time, these gardens provided over 40% of the fresh produce eaten in this country. That meant commercial production could be devoted to supplying our troops here and overseas.

How can you plan and grow a kitchen garden that contributes significantly to reducing your food budget? First, you need to do some planning.

When choosing a place for your garden, keep in mind that fruits and vegetables need a lot of sun to grow and good drainage. Of course, the ideal place for a kitchen garden is just outside of the kitchen door. Convenience makes it user-friendly. If you do not have a sunny garden space, try planting a container garden on a sunny deck or patio. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, small lettuces, and, of course, herbs, can do very well in well-drained containers. Check with the UConn Home and Garden Education Center or your local Master Gardener for help in choosing varieties suitable to container gardening.

It is best to start small. Remember that anything you grow and do not eat within a few days will need to be preserved. When times are tight, being wasteful makes no sense. Canning and freezing take time and is usually done during the hottest months of the year. Most would agree the effort is worth it, but it might be wise to get into this one baby step at a time. Once you figure out what you can grow, use, give away or preserve in a timely fashion, you may choose to increase your garden size.

What to Grow

It might seem obvious that a kitchen garden includes primarily fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you commonly use in your kitchen. Planting a bunch of Brussels sprouts so that it will be available for the fall and winter table makes no sense if the family can’t get the sometimes odiferous cruciferous past their collective noses.

Consider growing fruits and vegetables that can contribute the most to the quality of your diet. Some of the most “good for you” fruits and vegetables can be grown easily in a Connecticut garden. Try growing cantaloupe or watermelon, strawberries, or blueberries. These can all be expensive when buying them in your supermarket. If you have room, you can get several pounds of raspberries from each plant you put in the ground. Think about that when you pick up a half-pint costing upwards of four dollars in the market.

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens and romaine lettuce are easy to grow. When it comes to greens, darker is always the best nutritional choice. Choose romaine, spinach or other dark leafy greens over iceberg or leaf lettuce if your garden space is limited.

Yes, market tomatoes can be expensive—especially if you want them to be organic, or of the heirloom variety. But consider this: one packet of seed can yield up to 30 plants. And each plant can produce more than 25 pounds of tomatoes. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that it is cheaper to grow the things than to buy them. Finally, choose carrots, green or red peppers, winter squash or pumpkin. All of these pack a healthy punch and will be a great addition to your kitchen garden.

Herbs are a good choice if you want to add wonderful flavor to foods without adding salt or sugar. Basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme are must-haves. A small pot of oregano will produce more than enough fresh herb for the summer. You can bring potted herbs indoors and continue to grow them all year long if you choose to. You may never have to spend a fortune on little cans of the dried stuff ever again.

Finally, be sure to develop a garden plan that includes early season choices (peas, salad greens), mid-season (berries, green beans) and later season produce (winter squash, Brussels sprouts). This will help to insure that you have something fresh at your table from spring until winter.

Keep your vegetable gardening budget friendly with some of these additional tips:

  • Start and maintain a compost pile—a future of free fertilizer
  • Start plants from seed or purchase the smallest plants available from your garden store
  • Save seed from this year’s crop to use next year—free seeds!
  • Trade and share excess produce or seeds with other gardeners or neighbors
  • When you need help, get information or advice from the UConn Home and Garden Education Center or your local library—free help!

Once your kitchen garden is established, your produce section is just outside your door and you will have easy access to fresh garden tomatoes or blueberries. For more information about growing a kitchen garden, contact the UConn Home and Garden Education Center at ladybug@uconn.edu or 1-877-486-6271.

Get Healthy Connecticut

SNAP-Ed photo SNAP-Ed photo

UConn Extension SNAP-Ed partnered with the Get Healthy CT Know Your Numbers campaign at Iglesia ‘El Olivar’ food pantry in Bridgeport, CT.  Heather Peracchio provided healthy eating tips and recipes as folks were being screened for elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. For more info about upcoming screenings in Bridgport this month visit, http://gethealthyct.org/know-your-numbers/

Teen Mentors Attend National 4-H Congress

4-H Congress group
Photo caption:  Top Row: Kirsten Krause, Alea Pettengill, Susan Dearborn and Paul Rouleau. Bottom Row: Victoria Footit, Jessica Roberts, Ciara Broggy, Yanis Aracena

CT 4-H FANs IM Teen Mentors, and Danbury High School seniors, Ciara Broggy and Yanis Aracena, were selected to participate in the National 4-H Congress held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 27th through December 1, 2015. Both attendees were required to submit an application and attend an interview. While at the National 4-H Congress, they enjoyed many activities including lectures, a dinner dance, interactive workshops, a tour of the Atlanta History Center and Atlanta Aquarium, as well as collaborative projects with other 4-H participants that included community outreach.

Both students found the event to be life changing. “My experience at National 4-H Congress has allowed me to gain a better understanding of cultural diversity,” Ciara says. “Throughout the week I had the chance to meet and talk with other 4-Hers from throughout the United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. I discovered that my focus on fitness, nutrition and gardening is very different from that of other 4-H participants. For example, I met 4-Hers who, participate in singing competitions, cattle showings and gymnastics. Despite these differences, we all still share a central bond within our 4-H community.”

Ciara and Yanis joined CT FANs IM as Teen Mentors at Shelter Rock Elementary School. They work with younger students in activities centered on fitness, nutrition and gardening.

“This opportunity has not only been a learning experience for the youth, but also myself,” Ciara says. “I have developed a deeper understanding about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. The three branches of my 4-H program have become a part of my every day life. I strive to live a healthier lifestyle both physically and nutritionally. In addition, my leadership and speaking skills have increased dramatically through working with the youth. This has been a truly gratifying experience and has contributed largely to my self-confidence. I look forward to expanding my involvement in 4-H.”

Yanis agrees that her experience as a Teen Mentor has been an extremely valuable experience. “Working with CT FANs IM has helped me develop skills I did not have or was not confident in,” she says. “I feel much more confident with being able to speak in front of an audience, I have learned to enjoy working in a group, rather than by myself, and lastly I have gained valuable leadership skills. I hope to continue my involvement in 4-H.”

The students both plan to attend college. Ciara hopes to be accepted into UConn’s nursing program for the fall 2016 semester, while Yanis has not yet chosen a major, and is considering several colleges.

Make the Holidays Healthy

Heather at Daily Bread

Extension educator Heather Peracchio was at Daily Bread food pantry in Danbury yesterday. She was providing clients with healthy eating tips during the holidays and food safety information. For 10 tips on Making Healthy Holiday choices, visit:
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-make-healthier-holida…