outreach

Communicating Towards Improved Health and Nutrition

Obesity is increasingly affecting residents of Connecticut. Recent statistics report that 20% of children and 36% of young adults are afflicted by obesity (Poulin & Peng, 2018). A team of Extension educators, faculty, and graduate students in Allied Health Sciences are working with community partners to take a multi-faceted approach to addressing health and nutrition issues in schools and families through research and outreach.

“We’re trying to empower income-challenged families to minimize the barriers to healthy eating and lifestyles,” says Valerie Duffy, PhD RD, principal investigator or co-principal investigator on the projects, and Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Allied Health Sciences. “We’re working with stakeholders to determine what modes of communication are best for them, and how to close the gap between what the families are doing, and what behaviors would be better.”

Allied Health Sciences program for families in East Hartford
Lindsey Fenn, RD, a graduate student in Allied Health Sciences working with a group of children and parents in East Hartford.

Currently there are three funding sources supporting the initiatives of the team. The first is a grant from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut on preventing obesity in early childhood by offering parents of economic disadvantage simple and feasible feeding practices to develop healthier food preferences for their children. Duffy and Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA from Allied Health Sciences and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity are the co-PIs. Other team members are from Allied Health Sciences, the Rudd Center, the Department of Nutritional Sciences, the Department of Communication, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The community partner is East Hartford Family Resource Center.

“We have a collaborative team that’s trying to develop simple messages for families to help them establish healthy eating behaviors in toddlers. We hope to make messages are tailored to families so they are more meaningful,” says Duffy.

Hatch funding from the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, also in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources funds tailored messages for health promotion and obesity prevention using e-health and m-health. The inter-disciplinary team is also on this project, with many of the same team members. Three connected studies will harness technology to deliver tailored nutrition and health messages to middle school students, adolescents, and young adults to improve diet quality for obesity prevention. Community partners include Windsor Public Schools and UConn Student Health Services.

The SNAP-Ed program, funded by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) of the United States Department

Allied Health Sciences graduate student working with Windsor resident
Heidi Karner, RD, a graduate student in Allied Health Sciences works with a Windsor resident.

of Agriculture (USDA) is the third funding source, and glue that connects all of the projects. The SNAP-Ed program has built a foundation in communities throughout central Connecticut and developed strong partnerships over many years of collaboration. In turn, these partnerships allow the team to identify community needs with input from audiences served and program partners.

“We make lessons applicable to our audiences’ lives,” says Tina Dugdale, MS, RD/RN. “It’s possible to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in recommended serving sizes.” The SNAP-Ed program engages undergraduate and graduate students in Allied Health Sciences – especially those in the Dietetics Coordinated Undergraduate Program and Internship – who work in a variety of communities in Connecticut to deliver nutrition education and carry out service and outreach projects.

All three of the projects offer communication and outreach that is culturally relevant and tailored to the populations served. Materials and classes are offered in English and Spanish. Survey research will identify the key gaps in behavior, and further influence the communication campaigns. The goal connecting all projects is to improve family dietary quality and energy balance in families of economic disadvantage.

“Many people are banded together throughout the state putting forth efforts to help people with their hardships,” Dugdale concludes. “It’s a satisfying victory when we see our participants make small changes that contribute to the improvement of their health and nutrition.”

 

References

Poulin, S. M. & Peng, J. (2018). Connecticut Childhood Obesity Report, 2018. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Department of Public Health.

 

Text by Stacey Stearns

Ask UConn Extension

food, health and sustainability venn diagramDo you have questions about food, health, or sustainability topics? Ask UConn Extension. Extension educators are working in every town and city in Connecticut to bring the research of UConn to our communities.

UConn Extension is on a collaborative journey. We co-create knowledge with farmers, families, communities, and businesses. We educate. We convene groups to help solve problems. Connecticut is a small, diverse state with urban and rural spaces. We understand that because we live and work here. Extension educators are ready to connect you with our knowledge and help you to improve your community.

Do you have a garden and need help identifying why a plant is dying, or the insects that are eating your vegetables? Or maybe you want to start a garden, but have never planted one before? Our Extension Master Gardenervolunteers are at 9 locations statewide, including the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford.

We received this email from Gloria, a resident of Middletown who recently visited our Master Gardener office in Haddam: “Hi, Just, a note to thank you for taking the time and effort to find answers to my gardening questions. I am starting to try some of your suggestions. Thanks again. I really appreciate your help.” You can also email or Facebook message your questions to our trained volunteers.

Many of our programs work with land use and municipal officials, connecting them with the education and resources needed for their positions. Carol Noble is an Engineer from Bristol who has worked with our Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR)MS4 program.

“Thank you and the NEMO staff for the support provided for theMS4 program. 2017 was a busy year to complete the updated municipal Stormwater Management Plan (SMP), public notifications, submittals and follow-up tasks. The guidance for the submittal requirements and the review comments you provided on the Bristol SMP were extremely helpful. Also, the NEMO webinars provided valuable information and training. The NEMO website for CT MS4 Guide; the GIS Mapping, Control Measures summaries and educational materials have been and continue to be valuable resources for the Bristol MS4 program. Looking forward to your continued support for pollution prevention in CT,” says Carol.

The UConn 4-Hyouth development program serves over 16,000 youth across the state every year. Volunteer leaders are an integral part of the program’s success, and work with Extension educators in our eight county offices.

“By the 2014 4-H Fair I felt ready to impart my knowledge onto others. For the first time I was able to walk someone through all of the steps of an archer. I would always

Garret helping a younger 4-H member
Garret works with a younger 4-H member at the Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair. Photo: Kara Bonsack

begin by strapping an arm guard on them and showing them how to position their feet. Then I would go on to explain how to hold the bow, nock an arrow, and pull back the string. What surprised me was adults’ willingness to learn. Although towering over me, they politely listened while I taught them what to do, letting me know that my voice mattered,” says UConn 4-H member Garret Basiel of Middlesex County. Garret is a freshman at UConn in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.

“UConn: Thank you so much for all the time and effort put into having these classes for seniors. They have made a real difference in my life. Sincerely, Fran.” We received this letter from Fran, a Tolland County resident, after one of our recent classes with our Center for Learning In Retirement (UConn CLIR). CLIR offers meaningful and serious intellectual activities for adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. There are no academic requirements.

Extension has worked with farmers in Connecticut for over a century, and we continue to serve farmers in all sectors of agriculture, and at various experience levels. “As a new farmer, there are many things you don’t know that you don’t know. So, these programs encourage you to ask new questions you hadn’t previously thought of before and therefore to be better prepared for the growing season. Since many of the trainers are local, the content of the trainings is more relevant (versus online content) and it’s great that you can follow up with them after the training,” states Yoko Takemura of Assawaga Farm in Putnam, a participant in our Solid Ground Farmer Trainings.

Collaboration has been a cornerstone of Extension’s mission for more than a century. Our most effective programs are built upon collaborations with state and federal agencies, communities, volunteers and families. With these partners, Extension has created and expanded knowledge in the areas and disciplines we serve; food, health, and sustainability.

How can UConn Extension help you? Just ask. Our Extension educators work statewide and are based at 10 locations throughout the state. We have resources available to help solve problems in your community. Find an Extension educator or location on our website at http://extension.uconn.edu, email extension@uconn.edu, message us on Facebook, or call 860-486-9228 with your question.

Nutrition Education Outreach in Fairfield County

Nutrition Education Outreach November 2017
Submitted by Heather Peracchio
EFNEP graduates at Morris Street School in Danbury
 
SNAP-Ed programs:
Nutrition outreach at the Danbury mobile pantry reached 265 families on November 8th and the mobile pantry in Bethel on November 29th reached 183 families. 
 
EFNEP:
The Soccer and Nutrition program reached 22 children and adults on Friday November 3.  Adults and children participated in the program which follows the Cornell University Choose Health: Fun, Food and Fitness curricula.  There was a hands-on demonstration of a stir-fry recipe where parents and children participated in cooking and everyone taste tested.  The classes have been scheduled and advertised to parents for the first Friday of the month each month through October 2018.
The EFNEP adult program at Danbury’s Morris Street School Family Resource Staff began on October 16, 2017 with 24 new moms enrolled. In November, participants attended class on November 6 and November 13th, with their graduation ceremony on Monday November 27th. Below is a photo of the graduation ceremony, 16 EFNEP participants completed the program Monday evening with 6 more anticipated to graduate in December.

Healthy and Homemade Meals in Fairfield County

Healthy and homemade meals and seasonal vegetables were part of nutrition education outreach conducted by Extension educator Heather Peracchio in September. Heather works with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and is based in the Fairfield County Extension Center. She reports on her programming for September:

SNAP-Ed programs:

Nutrition outreach at the mobile pantry in Bethel on September 27th reached a record high 220 families. United Way suspects the great increase in numbers this month might be due to families being sent flyers home in school backpacks.

nutrition education healthy homemade mealA two-part series of nutrition classes were presented at the Veterans Affairs office in Bridgeport on September 6th and 13th. One class focused on sugar sweetened drinks and how to make healthier choices, participants taste tested a fresh fruit smoothie. The other class focused on budget-saving tips like making simple cook ahead meals. All participants received a 2018 calendar and taste tested a salad with homemade honey mustard dressing and a tamale pie, both recipes were featured in the Healthy and Homemade calendar from Iowa State Extension. Dietetic intern, Anna VanderLeest, assisted with both of these classes.

Eat Smart Live Strong at Elmwood Senior Center on Wednesday, September 20th reached 42 seniors; and New Hope church in Danbury on September 27th reached 28 seniors. Each class had the opportunity to taste test a kale salad with homemade honey mustard dressing. Each senior was encouraged to continue to follow the two key healthy behaviors from the series, eating at least 3.5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day and participating in at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Each participant was given a 2018 Healthy and Homemade calendar as well.

SNAP-Ed participated in the Danbury Farmers market Saturday September 23rd. Participants learned all about seasonal vegetables including kale and apples. Extension educators Heather Peracchio and Juliana Restrepo-Marin offered an in-person food demonstration of a kale apple slaw. 30 participants attended the class offered on-site at the market. The next class is planned for Saturday October 14th.

This month Fairfield County Extension nutrition programs partnered with Western Connecticut Health Networks Dietetic Internship. Three dietetic interns from Danbury and Norwalk Hospital, Candido Gonzalez, Christian Aguilar and Angelina Campbell accompanied Heather to shadow and assist with programming on September 20th and September 27th.

EFNEP:

A new program combining fitness and nutrition with Extension educator German Cutz’s current 4-H soccer teams had a third class on Thursday, September 14th. Participants included 46 parents and children, where they learned about label reading and how to identify fat and sugar in common snack foods as part of the Choose Health: Fun, Food and Fitness curricula. There was a hands-on demonstration of an apple cinnamon yogurt tortilla snack where parents participated, and everyone taste tested. They also held a class Friday, October 6th.

Heather continues to coordinate with Danbury’s Morris Street School Family Resource Staff and a new EFNEP program at Morris Street School is planned Monday evenings beginning October 16th. Interested participants can contact Morris Street Family Resource Center to sign up.

Extension is a nationwide effort to give the public access to research-based information, scientific expertise, and educational programs they can use to enhance their everyday lives. UConn Extension, a program of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) works in all 169 towns of Connecticut with a network of over 100 educators and scientists. Over 2,900 volunteers leverage the ability of Extension to work in every community.