When Julia Cobuzzi of Monroe transferred to UConn from Stonehill College in Massachusetts at the beginning of her sophomore year, she was not sure what she could do with a major in Allied Health Sciences.
“I took Introduction to Nutrition with Stacey Mobley, and it has been my favorite course by far in my college experience,” Julia says thoughtfully. Then, she met Paul Gagnon at the Center for Career Development, and he encouraged her to apply for an Extension internship. Julia spent the summer of 2016 working with Heather Peracchio in the UConn Extension office in Bethel. Heather is an Extension Educator for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education) program.
The community nutrition education intern teaches small and large groups, works with adults and children, conducts cooking demonstrations, and assists in developing materials for programs. During her first year interning, Julia had only taken one nutrition class and did not have much experience teaching. Working with Heather, she developed her skills, and a greater understanding of nutrition.
“I taught a 4-H program to 2nd-6th graders at a summer school at Shelter Rock Elementary School in Danbury. I also taught the same program to 1st-4th graders at a summer 4-H program in Bridgeport, that also included a gardening component. Over the weeks the kids came in, and were making better food choices at home, and eating the rainbow. I knew they were understanding what I was telling them,” Julia recalls. “I was sad at the end of the first summer. I learned so much from Heather, taught a lot of classes for youth, and it was a lot of fun to see that I could make a difference.” She switched her major to nutritional sciences, and then re-applied for the internship. Julia was selected to serve as the Community Nutrition Programming Intern in Bethel for the summer of 2017.
“The EFNEP program works in the community to help income-challenged parents learn how to shop for and make nutritious meals and snacks, all for better health and quality of life,” Heather says. “Julia assisted with preparing and implementing a 10-week gardening and nutrition program with parents and children in Norwalk, and a four week 4-H summer afterschool program with teens in Bridgeport, and farmers’ market nutrition education with the general public in Danbury.”
During her second summer of interning, Julia led a grocery store tour at ShopRite and talked to participants about budgeting, and purchasing food in season. The group of 16 moms was split into three groups, one led by Julia, one by the ShopRite dietitian, and one led by Heather. At the end of the program, each participant was given a $10 gift card from the grocery store, and they were challenged to purchase one meal that has all five food groups with the $10. Participants were competing amongst each other to see whom could create the healthiest meal for the least amount of money.
“How a community processes nutrition information is something you could not learn in a classroom – you have to see it in person to understand it,” Julia adds.
From a personal perspective, Julia enhanced her proficiencies in teaching in terms of figuring out how to write a lesson plan, and creatively teach to keep the audience engaged. She improved her public speaking skills, and ability to teach large groups of people. Julia also led classes at the Danbury Farmers’ Market, where she taught adults.
Julia began her senior year this fall, and is graduating in 2018. “My goal is to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. The internship helped me immensely in figuring out what I want to do.”
Article By Stacey Stearns
Did you know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has an app to help you track your food, fitness, and health? Download SuperTracker. With it you receive a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan, can track your food and physical activity; and receive tips and support to help you make healthier choices and plan ahead.
Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM) is a 4-H STEM after-school and summer program and integrated research project, educating third and fourth graders in nutrition, fitness and gardening. The program is presented in collaboration with area 4-H clubs.
CT FANs IM is supported by a five-year $2.5 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is an offshoot of the original 4-H FANS program, which also focused on fitness and nutrition for school-aged children and their families.
“We’re bridging community connections with Extension, by serving youth and families in under-served areas,” says Umekia Taylor, associate educator and project director. “With the startling statistics on obesity in our country, I find it exciting to promote healthy lifestyles by combining nutrition and fitness in programs that engage our youth.”
During the month of March, the Put Local On Your Tray program is partnering with school districts across the state to feature local dairy. Put Local On Your Tray helps Connecticut school districts serve and celebrate locally grown products. Through a combination of technical assistance and promotional materials, the program works with schools to build a culture of health in the cafeteria, celebrate school nutrition programs, and support local agriculture.
Why local dairy? “Dairy is produced year round in Connecticut,” shares Dana Stevens, Program Coordinator for Put Local On Your Tray. “Dairy farming is an important part of our agricultural landscape, and the majority of Connecticut schools already purchase dairy that is regionally produced in the form of milk. Milk arrives at the school just 48 hours after leaving the farm. Food service directors, students, administrators, and parents should feel good about the fact that schools are supporting our hard working New England dairy farmers and providing nutritious meals for our kids”.
“Milk is the number one food source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of American’s children—including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium—that are required for proper bone growth,” says Amanda Aldred, Program Manager for New England Dairy & Food Council for School Nutrition in Connecticut. “The benefits go beyond building stronger bones. For instance, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods improve overall diet quality and help reduce the risk of various chronic diseases like heart disease.”
There are over 35 districts that participate in the Put Local on Your Tray program (you can see a map on the website here). The program is open to any interested school district, charter school, or private school.
This month, more than 15 districts are planning to host a Local Tray Day featuring dairy. Events include: Celebrating National School Breakfast week with a parent breakfast and smoothie sampling in Meriden; Taste-testing green spinach smoothies for St. Patrick’s day in Windham and Waterbury; Making mozzarella cheese in Groton; Hosting a dairy farmer visit in Wethersfield; Local yogurt parfait tastings in New Haven, and more! All districts organizing dairy events are eligible to win a dairy farm field trip organized by NEDFC for up to 25 students.
UConn Extension’s Put Local on Your Tray program has posters, stickers, newsletters, and recipes to support school districts connect students to dairy during the month of March and other local foods throughout the year. Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage participation in the program. For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 860-870-6932. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).
About New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC)
New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC) is a non-profit nutrition education organization staffed by registered dietitians. NEDFC is a state and regional affiliate of the National Dairy Council® (NDC). Our goal is to ensure that health professionals, scientists, media and educators have a credible body of nutrition information upon which to base health recommendations.
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.
Have you ever wondered which fruits and vegetables are available in Connecticut, and when? The Department of Agriculture created this chart to help:
By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH
Senior Extension Educator, UConn Extension
Lest 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-486-6271.
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/
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.