food

Improving Health and Nutrition in Hartford

girl sitting in grass drinking orange juice out of straw with basket of fruits and vegetables next to herParticipants at the Village Family Resource Center at Burns Latino Studies Academy in Hartford wanted more information on health and nutrition. Our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program (EFNEP) partnered with the Family Resource Center to provide five educational outreach sessions in 2019. Community members wanted to learn about food security, healthy choices, feeding children, quick and easy healthy recipes, how to include more fruits and vegetables, and how to save time and money. Parents shared with our team that they struggle with diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health issues.

The workshop series covered food safety, reading and understanding food facts, meal planning, MyPlate, and portion control. We made our own spices to substitute Adobo, Sazón, and a mix of herbs and spices for soups to control sodium intake. In another workshop we made a quick and easy lasagna using spinach and zucchini.

Participants learned measuring skills, and how to use new kitchen tools to make prep time fast and easy. We also helped them develop meal planning strategies with ingredients they have at home. We encouraged them to track their spending, and have their children help with the math for extra practice.

One parent shared with us, “I am a diabetic and have been trying to start eating healthy. It has been so hard because I didn’t know what foods and how much I could eat. Now I am making changes, measuring, and using an app to keep track.” After a few diet analyses she was making positive changes that she also shared with her dietician.

We are continuing to serve community members in Hartford, and provide educational outreach programs that help improve nutrition and health outcomes. Our EFNEP program also works with other communities statewide to help our residents.

Article by Angela Caldera

Urban Agriculture in Bridgeport

Blumenthal and urban ag students

Extension works on urban agriculture projects in cities including Danbury, Stamford and Bridgeport. We are collaborating with food accessibility and food justice organizations in Bridgeport to build capacity growing fresh vegetables.

Growing sites include schools, community centers and capped brown fields. Partners provide healthy food and train underserved, diverse audiences in farming.

UConn Extension offered two urban agriculture courses in Bridgeport, collaborating with Green Village Initiative. We implemented a year-round urban agriculture program in both English and Spanish. Fifteen urban residents from Bridgeport completed the 2018 program.

The Food Justice AmeriCorps VISTA Project service program built organizational capacity in community food security and food justice. Food justice helps communities grow, market, and eat healthy foods. Our partners empowered their communities through food programs and services. Host sites shared best practices and learned new skills in engaging people through participatory decision-making. We had four VISTA service members in Bridgeport. Host organizations were: the Bridgeport Farmers Market Collaborative, CTCORE— Organize Now!, Green Village Initiative, and at Housatonic Community College.

Article by Bonnie Burr and Jiff Martin

Students’ IDEA Grant Will Showcase Innovative Agriculture

collage showing photos of three students, Jon Russo, Ally Schneider and Zach Duda
Jonathan Russo, Alyson Schneider, and Zachary Duda

A group of students from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) received an IDEA grant from the UConn Office of Undergraduate Research. Their project will help bridge the communication gap between agriculture and consumers. Approximately two percent of the population is involved in agriculture, but we all need to eat every day. There is a growing disconnect between agriculture and consumers because they are not involved in agriculture. Misinformation about food and agriculture is also increasing. Connecting consumers to farms expands their access to relevant information.

Zachary Duda, Jonathan Russo, and Alyson Schneider are producing a documentary film, Completely Connecticut Agriculture: Agricultural Innovation. Their goal is to show consumers examples of innovative agriculture in our state. All three students are Agriculture and Natural Resources majors in CAHNR, graduating in 2021. Jon has a double major in Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems. Stacey Stearns of UConn Extension is serving as their mentor, and other faculty and staff from UConn Extension are serving in advisory roles on the project.

“Around the world there has been a large disconnect with consumers and producers regarding basic knowledge about agriculture,” Zach says. “We want to highlight some farms and programs in Connecticut that target that disconnect and better educate the public while helping them connect to agriculture.”

The idea for this project formed several years ago, when Zach, Jon and Ally were all serving as state FFA officers. Their experiences have shown them many aspects of Connecticut agriculture. The students understand how innovative and resourceful agriculture in the state is and wanted to bridge the disconnect between consumers and agricultural operations. They have also witnessed how Connecticut agriculture helps support a sustainable food supply for residents, and how uncommon commodities diversify and enhance farm profitability.

The three students will visit various farms across the state, meet with agricultural leaders, and film day to day operations as well as thoughts from farmers and leaders on the future of agriculture in Connecticut. The video will showcase innovation in Connecticut that breaks barriers through diversity, education, and disproves misconceptions about agricultural operations. The students will lead viewers through the film and connect with the consumer as they learn about each of the innovative agricultural operations along with the audience.

Filming will take place later this summer and into the fall. Social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 revised some plans. The students selected fifteen farms to include in their documentary – and each of the farms showcases one or more of the three theme areas:

  • Sustainable Food Supply,
  • Consumer Disconnect, and
  • Uncommon Commodities.

Local food is a buzzword that has gained popularity in recent years. Many consumers associate fruits and vegetables with local food. “We want to highlight how producers are using innovative techniques to yield more local food so we can show that there is so many more products for Connecticut residents to purchase when they are looking to buy local,” Ally says. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of local food for many residents, and agricultural producers throughout the state have risen to the challenge by pivoting their business and finding new ways to deliver products to consumers.

A sustainable food supply is also environmentally balanced. It ensures that future generations can continue producing food and enjoying their lifestyle. “Through various practices such as no-till, renewable energy, fishing quotas, soil amendments, and crop selection we want to show consumers that Connecticut agriculture is becoming more environmentally friendly even as production is on the rise,” Jon says.

Some audiences view agriculture from a traditional mindset. The video will dispel traditional agricultural myths by showing uncommon commodities that farms are producing and selling. Examples of unique products on Connecticut agricultural operations include popcorn, chocolate, and flowerpots made from cow manure.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Our Extension educators are working with the various agricultural operations featured in the documentary to help them adopt innovative practices and create a sustainable food supply.

Our students are helping bridge the communication gap between farmers and consumers with their documentary that will showcase the innovative agriculture practices happening right here on farms in Connecticut. Farming has many positive aspects that will be the focus of the film. The students plan to address agriculture’s challenges as well and share Connecticut agriculture’s story with consumer audiences. Film screening will be in the spring of 2021.

Genetic Engineering Professional Development

teachers in laboratory with Dr. Gerry Berkowitz learning about DNA and GMO ]The American public is growing increasingly skeptical about the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods. Despite consensus in the scientific community that foods containing GM ingredients are safe, nearly half of Americans believe otherwise. Younger adults are also more likely to regard GM foods a health risk.

In order to address misunderstandings about GM foods and provide information about the applications of genetic engineering in agriculture and other fields, a team is developing a program to enhance science literacy for educators and young adults. The team is collaborating to create a standards-based curriculum and laboratory-based professional development for secondary school teachers on genetic engineering. The project aims to build the knowledge and confidence of educators and provide them with materials to deliver lessons related to genetic engineering in their classrooms.

High school teachers will participate in training at the Storrs campus, where they will utilize laboratory resources and build connections with academia and industry professionals. The networking opportunity will also allow educators to share career opportunities in the field of genetics with students. In addition to the professional development workshop, the program will prepare simpler exercises that can be taught outside of classroom and without the resources of a lab setting, such as during 4-H youth activities, to introduce scientific concepts.

Read the full article at http://bit.ly/UConn_PDSTEP.

Article by Jason M. Sheldon

Partner Testimonials

boy eating from a bowl outside with another little boy behind himPartnerships are at the foundation of Extension’s work statewide in all 169 towns and cities of Connecticut. We integrate with agencies and non-profits in communities in a variety of ways.

“Our partnerships strengthen Extension, and in turn increase our statewide impact. Our innovative collaborations allow Extension and our partners to reach respective goals together.” ~ Mike O’Neill, Associate Dean and Associate Director, UConn Extension

“For the benefit of Connecticut farmers, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture collaborates with UConn Extension across many disciplines. From FSMA Produce Safety Rule education and outreach that expand market opportunities to Viability Grant funding of crucial research done by Extension educations, our strong partnership will help to sustain and foster innovation for agriculture in our state.” ~ Bryan Hurlburt, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture

“The Master Gardener Program has provided significant value to the Bartlett Arboretum for many years. We rely on Master Gardeners to support our community outreach in so many different ways. Examples of their contribution include Master Gardener availability in Plant Clinic from May through September of each year to address homeowner plant problems and issues. Master Gardeners conduct visitor tours of our gardens and our champion and notable trees. They provide Arboretum management with ideas for plants in our gardens. All of these activities enhance the visitor experience at the Bartlett Arboretum and further its mission.” ~ S. Jane von Trapp, CEO, Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford

“The information and assistance provided by CLEAR has enabled our town to save resources while complying with the requirements of the MS4 Permit. The template for the stormwater management plan alone saved us a significant amount of money by allowing staff to complete an acceptable plan in a minimal amount of time.” ~Warren Disbrow, Assistant Town Engineer, East Hartford

“We are grateful to partner with SNAP-ED and EFNEP to ensure the people we serve not only have access to nutritious food but also have opportunities to participate in evidence-based nutrition education. In food insecurity programs we can bring healthy food, and a pantry shopping experience directly to schools, senior centers and other community-based organizations. Through partnerships with SNAP-ED and EFNEP clients can learn, sample healthy recipes and then apply new skills to shopping.” ~ Jaime S. Foster, PhD, RD

“The Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) found a great partner in UConn Extension as we rolled out the Best Practices in Economic Development and Land Use Program that really asks, ‘How do we do our jobs better?’ In economic development in Connecticut we face a fiercely competitive landscape for jobs and investment. How we compete as a state matters, but at the end of the day, a company locates in a community. We want our communities to be as well-prepared as possible, and that’s something that UConn Extension’s programs in Community & Economic Development is doing every day. CEDAS offered the3platform to create a set of standards and the UConn team helped add the details. More importantly, they were the support to our communities that wanted to get better. We can all want to do a better job at local economic development, but if3there’s not someone there coaching and mentoring us along we’re not going to get there. UConn Extension was the helping hand that truly pulled our communities through the process and in the end, raised our standards for economic development in Connecticut.” ~ Garret Sheehan, CEcD, President Connecticut Economic Development Association, President and CEO Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

Highlights of Extension

Highlights of Extension spread of images and articlesUConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. We are proud to serve all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The worldwide pandemic involving COVID-19 (coronavirus) has produced unprecedented challenges in the UConn community and around the world. Our services continue during this challenging time. All of our educators are working and serving their audiences.

Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment. The Highlights of Extension annual report showcases program achievements from the past year.

Our Extension faculty and staff are effectively responding to the new challenges as well. They are utilizing technology and mobilizing resources to help families, communities, businesses, farmers, and other stakeholders. For example, our extension specialists and 4-H volunteers are helping distribute thousands of gallons of dairy products weekly to families in need throughout the state. There are many other examples of how the CAHNR family is responding to help our communities.

Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate

The Highlights of Extension annual report is available online at https://bit.ly/ExtensionHighlights and we invite you to learn more about CAHNR Extension at https://cahnr.uconn.edu/extension/.

Litchfield County 4-H Helps Distribute Dairy to Families in Need

Litchfield County 4-H to Help Distribute Yogurt and Sour Cream to Families in Need

Background Facts:

  • Because 30% of the fluid milk gets sold to restaurants, schools and institutions that are now closed, there is a huge surplus of fluid milk on the market now that cannot be further processed into more shelf stable products like dried milk and butter fast enough.
  • The price of milk for the farmers have dropped from $19.00 per hundred pounds to $13.00 per hundred pounds because of this.
  • Hundreds of dairy farms across the country are now forced to dump their milk because the dairy plants have such a surplus they have no room at the plants to store and process the milk because of the drop off in demand due to the closures. There are over 1,200 truckloads of milk being dumped every day across the country.
  • Some farms have no choice but to dump the milk that is in their bulk tanks that cannot be picked up by the processing plants in time, because they have to make room for the next milking of their cows.
  • Meanwhile, food pantries are in desperate need of more food to help provide nourishment for the increasing number of food insecure people, due to the pandemic and more people losing their jobs.
4-H members unloading milk from truck
Photo: Jill Davenport

The farm families who own Cabot Creamery Cooperative have generously donated over 23,000 pounds of yogurt and sour cream to the Litchfield County 4-H.  On Wednesday, April 29, 2020, pallets of sour cream and yogurt will be delivered to Litchfield High School, Danbury High School and Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Bank in New London. 4-H members from Litchfield and Fairfield Counties along with volunteers from Litchfield Community Center will be safely distributing the dairy products to local food pantries, homeless shelters and families in need throughout Litchfield County and elsewhere that same day. At the end of this effort, they will have moved 11,000 pounds of sour cream and 12,600 pounds of yogurt from the surplus inventory into the kitchens of families in need.

Litchfield County 4-H, the youth development component of UConn Extension, had already chosen their 2020 theme for the year, which is Operation Community Impact, with an emphasis on food insecurity in January. By coordinating this activity, 4-H members are able to see firsthand how important the community service efforts of 4-H is in order to can make a difference in the lives of others. They hope to secure more donations of milk and other dairy products to continue this effort over the next few weeks for as long as needed. Bill Davenport, Litchfield County 4-H UConn Extension Educator, who grew up on a dairy farm in Litchfield and owns dairy cows in his brother’s herd in Ancram, New York, came up with the idea after learning about the milk surplus and some farms having to dump their milk because of the pandemic.

He organized this effort from securing the donation to organizing the deliveries to Litchfield, Danbury and New London counties as well as assembling the volunteer drivers to the food pantries. He also credits the following individuals without whose help this effort would not be possible: Cabot Creamery and Agri-Mark Milk Cooperative for their generous donation of yogurt and sour cream; Lisa Hagemen of the Community Kitchen of Torrington, Inc., Kathy Minck of Food Rescue, and Berta Andrulis Mette of the Litchfield Community Center for helping connect with the local food pantries and assembling the list of the product orders; Superintendent Chris Leone and Litchfield High School for use of their loading dock and parking lot for distribution, and the Litchfield County UConn 4-H members, parents and volunteers who continually rise to the challenge of community service and helping others in need.

“I am excited to be able to help get some of the surplus dairy products that were packaged for sale to the schools and restaurants that are no longer open out of storage and into the hands of families who are food insecure,” says Bill Davenport. “It makes no sense that farmers are dumping milk while there are people who desperately need food. If we can help move some dairy products out of the surplus storage, the dairy plants can then have more room to accept more milk from the farmers so that we can slow down the wasteful dumping of milk at the farms, while helping to keep the dairy farmers in business. And, as always, I am grateful that our amazing 4-H youth and parents are thrilled to help connect the dots and support the distribution of displaced dairy products. I hope that our actions will increase awareness of the issue and encourage others to help do the same across Connecticut and the region so that we can help move more milk and dairy products out of the surplus and into the refrigerators of people who desperately need it.”

“Farmers work each and every day to provide, nurture and embrace the production of healthy food while taking care of our employees, communities, animals, and our environment,” says Cricket Jacquier of Laurelbrook Farm, LLC and Chairman of the Agri-Mark Cooperative. “Our farmers who own Cabot Creamery, a Certified B Corp, are proud to help provide nutritious dairy products to those in need and it is just another example of our deep commitment to our communities.”

About Cabot Creamery and Agri-Mark Cooperative

Cabot Creamery Co-operative has been in continuous operation in Vermont since 1919, and makes a full line of cheeses, Greek yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and butter. Widely known as makers of “The World’s Best Cheddar,” Cabot is owned by the 800 dairy farm families of Agri-Mark, the Northeast’s premier dairy cooperative, with farms located throughout New England and upstate New York. For more information, visit: http://www.cabotcheese.coop

Cabot Creamery Co-operative is the world’s first cheese maker and dairy cooperative to achieve B Corporation Certification

About UConn 4-H

4-H is a national program with six million youth participating in various project areas who learn life skills, supervised by over 500,000 volunteer leaders. Litchfield County has 26 active 4-H clubs with over 400 active members in those clubs. Project areas include but are not limited to beef cattle, canine, crafts, dairy cattle, dairy goats, equine, community nutrition, food safety, food preparation skills, horticulture, mechanics, oxen, poultry, robotics, sewing, sheep, small animals, STEM, and swine.

The 4-H program is organized into four program areas including Agriculture, Civic Engagement, Healthy Living and STEM. These themes all overlap throughout the 4-H experience, with emphasis placed on creating well-rounded individuals. 4-H is the youth development program offered through the UConn Extension system. The purpose of UConn as Connecticut’s land grant university is to provide the citizens of Connecticut with educational opportunities through teaching, research and extension programming. For more information about 4-H and how to join, please contact Bill Davenport, Litchfield County Extension 4-H Educator, at william.davenport@uconn.edu or at 860-626-6854.

Looking for Open Farm Stands? Use this Map

map of open farms and farm stands in Connecticut

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, CT Northeast Organic Farming Association has partnered with the CT Dept of Agriculture to expand the list of farms, farmers’ markets, and farm stands beyond the current CT NOFA membership – free of charge and online. It is a joint effort to promote the availability of all Connecticut farmers who can provide food and other farm products in this time of crisis. Note: Read all signs and use caution when visiting farms, markets, and grocery stores and be sure to stay away from all food establishment if you feel sick. View the interactive map.