UConn Extension

Food Safety and COVID-19

raised bed in foodshare garden

March 26, 2020 Update

The following information has been compiled for the general public and for those who come under essential businesses in Connecticut.

FDA resources:

  • FDA has recently stated that food supply is safe among COVID-19 and there are no current disruptions in the supply chain. Consumers should be confident in the safety of their food. To read more about coronavirus impacting the food industry please visit FDA leaders_food supply is safe.
  • If you have questions such as
      1. How do I maintain social distancing in my food production/processing facility and food retail establishment where employees typically work within close distances?
      2. A worker in my food production/processing facility/farm has tested positive for COVID-19. What do I need to do to continue operations while protecting my other employees? 

or other concerns regarding Food safety and COVID-19, please visit FDA Latest FAQs

Consumer resources:

  • As a consumer if you have questions such as
      1. Should I mist produce with a very diluted bleach solution (a teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water) and let it air dry before I eat it to avoid contracting COVID-1?
      2. Does cooking foods kill the virus that causes COVID-19? (Short answer- YES) 

Please visit Consumer_FAQs

Since, it is believed that cooking can kill viruses, it is recommended that the high-risk population (especially under current circumstances) such as immunocompromised hosts and seniors, avoid the consumption of RAW produce.

Other food safety resources:

  • For questions that food industry in other states (NY and neighboring) may have such as
      1. How long can COVID-19 remain viable on different surfaces?
      2. Can animals raised for food and animal products be source of infection with COVID-19?

Please visit FAQs_FoodIndustry

For businesses:

  • Under the Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan program,a qualifying business or nonprofit organization can apply for a loan of up to $75,000 or three months of operating expenses (whichever is lesser). All of the information can be found at  CT_Recovery Bridge Loan Program
  • The American Farmland Trust’s Farmer Relief Fundwill award farmers with cash grants of up to $1000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis. Initially eligible applicants include any small and mid-sized direct-market producers. For complete information go to the ATF website at Farmer Relief Fund.

As always, if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. At UConn extension, we will try to answer your queries as soon as possible and keep you updated as we know more.

Educator: Indu Upadhyaya, DVM, MVSc, PhD,

Assistant Extension Educator, Food Safety

Virtual Extension Programs

man sitting at an Apple computerConnect with Extension – even during COVID-19 social distancing. We have a variety of virtual Extension programs available for you over the coming weeks:

  • Friday, April 3rd – All DayInstagram stories with Abby Beissinger, our Plant Diagnostician
  • Friday, April 3rd – 10 AM – Jen Nadeau, our Extension Equine Specialist will share horse books for adults to enjoy in a Facebook Live session
  • Monday, April 6th – 8:30 AM – Extending the Grazing Season webinar hosted by Rachel Bespuda for our program, Nutrition’s Role in Sustainable Livestock Production Practices. Pre-registration is requested.
  • Monday, April 6th – 1:3o PM – Webinar with Cary Chadwick, UConn CLEARFrom Maps to Apps: Accessible Tech for Field Scientists and Citizen Scientists Alike 
  • Wednesday, April 8th – 1:3o PM – Webinar with Emily Wilson, UConn CLEARStatewide LIDAR Elevation Points in Interactive, Color 3D! 
  • Wednesday, April 8th – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family
  • Wednesday, April 15th – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family
  • Friday, April 17th – 10 AM – Jen Nadeau, our Extension Equine Specialist will share what you need to know about model horse shows in a Facebook Live session
  • Wednesday, April 22nd – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family
  • Wednesday, April 29th – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family
  • Wednesday, May 6th – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family
  • Wednesday, May 13th – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family
  • Wednesday, May 20th – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family
  • Wednesday, May 27th – Starting at 7 PM – Virtual 4-H Trivia begins – play online as an individual or family

Check back often. We are adding programs from our Master Gardener program, as well as programs on cooking and nutrition from UConn EFNEP.

Recorded Webinars and Video Lessons Available On-Demand

Hemp Outreach and Research Initiatives at CAHNR

hemp plants growing under glass in a UConn CAHNR research lab
Photo: Jessica Lubell

The UConn CAHNR Hemp Research and Outreach team has members from Extension and the UConn Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. We have a suite of resources available for commercial growers. Our recent workshop was full, and the presentations and other resources are at https://hemp.cahnr.uconn.edu/.

Considerations for Fruit and Vegetable Growers Related to Coronavirus

Considerations for Fruit and Vegetable Growers Related to Coronavirus & COVID-19

coronavirus image
Photo: National Park Service

The situation with current COVID-19 pandemic is escalating unpredictably and as we are monitoring the virus spread in CT, here are some tips for farmers to practice safe food production.

This information is adapted from a blog post by Chris Callahan from University of Vermont.

Considerations for Fruit and Vegetable Growers Related to Coronavirus & COVID-19

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a common concern and many are wondering what they can and should do. The information here is intended to help guide the fruit and vegetable farming community. If you have concerns or additional suggestions please email us (email addresses at the end) or the CT Department of Agriculture ProduceSafety@ct.gov

Background

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (“the novel coronavirus”). Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and may appear 2-14 days after exposure. While the majority of COVID-19 illnesses are mild, it can result in severe and fatal illness, particularly in the elderly and among those with severe underlying health conditions. Federal and State agencies are working hard to better understand the virus, how to control its spread, and how to treat those infected.  One of the key things we can all do is to limit and slow the spread of COVID-19 to provide time for this understanding to develop and to not overwhelm the medical system. Much more information is available at the CDC Situational Summary page. 

What Should Growers Do?

  1. Stay Away from Produce if Sick – If someone is sick, they should be nowhere near fruit and vegetables that others are going to eat. This is likely already part of your farm’s food safety plan and policies, but this is a good reminder to emphasize and enforce the policy. Make sure employees stay home if they feel sick and send them home if they develop symptoms at work. Consider posting signs asking customers not to shop at your farm stand if they have symptoms.
  2. Practice Physical Distancing – By putting a bit more space between you and others you can reduce your chances of getting ill. This might mean limiting or prohibiting farm visitors or reducing the number of off-farm meetings you attend in person. Avoid shaking hands and other physical contact. This also reduces the risk of your produce coming into contact with someone who is ill before it heads to market.
  3. Wash Your Hands – Reinforce the importance of washing hands well when arriving at work, when changing tasks (e.g. moving from office work to wash/pack), before and after eating, after using the bathroom, before putting on gloves when working with produce, and after contact with animals. Soap + water + 20 seconds or more are needed to scrub all surfaces of your hands and fingers thoroughly, then dispose of paper towels in a covered container.
  4. Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Drying –Viruses can be relatively long-lasting in the environment, and have the potential to be transferred via food or food contact surfaces. In this early stage, there is no indication that this virus has spread via food of any type. However, there’s no better time than the present to review, improve, and reinforce your standard operating procedures for cleaning, sanitizing, and drying any food contact surfaces, food handling equipment, bins, and tools. Remember, cleaning means using soap and water, sanitizing is using a product labeled for sanitizing, and drying means allowing the surfaces to dry completely before use.
  5. Plan for Change – Many produce farms are lean operations run by one or two managers and a minimal crew.  Do you have a plan for if you become severely ill?  How do things change if half your workforce is out sick?  More business and labor planning guidance is available at the Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development site.

For more information on how to protect yourself, please visit CDC How to prepare for Corona virus 

What Should Markets and Farmers Markets Do?

  1. Everything Above – Growers, retail food market owners, and farmers market managers should do all the things above. Does your market have a hand washing station? More guidance for food and lodging businesses is available from the  Vermont Department of Health.
  2. Communicate with your Customers – Consider reaching out to your customers and recommend they stay home if they are ill. Have you informed your customers about any changes in your hours or policies?
  3. Consider Alternative Delivery – Some markets are taking this opportunity to launch pre-ordering and electronic payment options to enable social distancing at market.  Some markets are moving to a drive-through pickup option.
  4. Reinforce the Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables – We are fortunate to have so many growers who do a great job with storage crops and winter production. This means our community has access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are important to their immune systems at this time of need.  Be sure to promote the nutritional value of your products! But, keep in mind that promotion of your products should be within reason. Avoid making overly broad or unsupported health claims. Fresh produce contains many minerals and nutrients important for immune health which may reduce the severity and duration of an illness. Fun Fact: Pound for pound, that storage cabbage in your cooler has as nearly as much vitamin C as oranges.

What should CSA Farmers do?

  1. Communicate with your CSA Members – Consider reaching out to your members to let them know of any payment plans you can offer, to help ease the burden for families that are coping with unexpected loss of income or childcare costs. Remind members of your commitment to food safety, but don’t make broad claims about the risk of unsafe produce in grocery stores which most people in our communities still rely upon.
  2. Consider your CSA pick up – Members this year may be more concerned about the space and flow of their CSA pick up, looking for more distance between each other and their produce bags as they gather their veggies. Customers may prefer pre-bagged greens and appreciate other pre-weighed items for ease of selection. There could even be renewed interest in the CSA box model over the CSA mix & match model. Prepare for the need for modifications in order to ease concerns members may be feeling after weeks or months of social distancing.

Please stay safe and stay tuned for further updates as this is a constantly changing scenario.

Thank you,

UConn Extension Team

(Indu, Mary, Shuresh and Jiff)

indu.upadhyaya@uconn.edu

mary.concklin@uconn.edu

shuresh.ghimire@uconn.edu

jiff.martin@uconn.edu

Plant and Seedling Sales

Spring Plant Sale! Pre-orders are open for the 19th Annual New Haven County Extension Resource Council, Inc. Spring Plant Sale! The sale includes a variety of annual flowers and vegetables, hanging baskets, and herbs.  All proceeds Benefit UConn Extension Programs in New Haven County and orders must be placed by April 15 at noon prepaid by check. Pick up will be: Thurs., May 7th, 2-5 or Sat., May 9th, 10-1* at the UConn New Haven County Cooperative Extension Center – 305 Skiff Street, North Haven, CT (corner of Skiff St. & Whitney Ave.). Plant pick up will be designed with social distancing and best practices to maintain the health of everyone involved.

Access the order form here: http://s.uconn.edu/plantsale  Thank you for your support!

The Connecticut Conservation Districts are ready to take your orders for their annual plant and seedling sales, Each district will have some unique plants for their sale, such as bloodroot (shown above), pagoda dogwood, swamp milkweed, highbush blueberry, chokeberry and many others. There are five districts throughout our state so check out the ones near you for their sales brochures and ordering forms on the link below.

https://conservect.org/northcentral/plant-seed-sale/?inf_contact_key=96613844f2127d3e82fbeafbec4f8ae8

Infection Prevention Action Steps

hand washing
Photo: Clemson Extension

Our UConn 4-H team developed the following fact sheet for 4-H youth during public health emergencies. The action steps can be used by any family, group, or organization.

During any public health emergency, it is important that we all take a little extra time to increase sanitary practices at 4H gatherings. Not only will this help pre- vent the spread of illness but is a wonderful opportunity to educate youth and adults about proper healthy hygiene and social responsibility for ourselves and the community around us. Our goal is to provide resources to assist you in reducing the risk of inadvertently spreading disease at your 4H meetings and events.

Download the fact sheet.

Live Stream of Chicks Hatching with 4-H

three chicks in the grass

New London County 4-H is excited to be incubating chicken eggs at the Extension Center. Their goal was to set up the 4-H Egg Cam so our Mahan School 4-H STEAM Club could watch the chicks hatching.

BUT…
YouTube changed their live stream policy and a channel cannot live stream unless it has at least 1000 subscribers. Right now UConn Extension has 233. So we are on a mission to get to 1000 subscribers by March 16, then we will be able to live stream the chicks hatching at the end of that week (March 19).
Please go to: https://www.youtube.com/user/uconnextension

And subscribe!
Please share with all your friends! Wouldn’t it be cool to have ALL our UConn 4-H and Extension kids and families be able to see the chicks hatching!

Litchfield County 4-H to Hold Food Insecurity Awareness Forum

4-H logoLitchfield County 4-H is pleased to announce plans to hold their Food Insecurity Awareness Forum on Wednesday, March 25, at 7 pm, at the Litchfield Community Center in Litchfield. The forum will feature an educational panel discussion including several local and state experts on the subject of food insecurity in Litchfield County and a call to action for community members to learn how they can help make a difference. The cost for admission is to bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to the local food bank for local families in need. This event is being co-sponsored by Litchfield County 4-H and the Litchfield Community Center.

Since community service is a large component of the 4-H experience, the 2020 Litchfield County 4-H Theme is Operation Community Impact, focusing on food insecurity in Litchfield County. “When I first brought this idea to the 4-H members, they were very surprised to learn that over 10% of Litchfield County residents are food insecure. They agreed that there is a lack of awareness of the issue in our county and decided they wanted to help do something about it”, according to Bill Davenport, Litchfield County 4-H Educator, UConn Extension. The Litchfield County 4-H officer team came up with an action plan that begins with holding this forum to increase awareness in the county and engage all thirty 4-H clubs in the county to help in some capacity in this effort with the Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association leadership team coordinating and leading the effort. They also plan to work closely with local food banks, food pantries and any other civic groups or organizations who are willing to become involved with this important issue.

The local and state experts serving on the panel include:

  • Molly Stadnicki, SNAP & Nutrition Outreach Coordinator at End Hunger Connecticut
  • Julie H. Scharnberg, Grants and Program Director, Northwest CT Community Foundation
  • Kathy Minck, Site Director for Food Rescue US NWCT
  • Deirdre DiCara, FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity, local homeless shelter and food pantry)
  • Jaime Foster, Chief Programs Officer, Connecticut Food Bank
  • Michael J. Puglisi, Ph.D. RD, UConn Assistant Extension Professor, Nutritional Sciences

Litchfield County 4-H will provide refreshments at the event and several 4-H members will be in attendance to learn from the experience, make some connections and hopefully gain some more ideas on how to help. “Our goal is to fill the room with community members who walk away with an increased awareness and a renewed energy to help us make a difference in our community with this important but often overlooked need”, according to Davenport.

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.

Register for UConn 4-H Goat Day

Mia Herrera and goat at show in KentuckyUConn 4-H Goat Day is on Saturday, April 4, 2020 from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM in the Ratcliffe Hicks Arena on the UConn-Storrs campus. This event is designed for youth ages 7-18, parents, leaders and adult goat enthusiasts from around New England.

UConn 4-H Goat Day features various workshops held throughout the day such as Dairy Goat Showmanship, Goat Knowledge and Crafts, Hoof Trimming and Milking. The workshops will be covering topics such as goat evaluation, management, health, nutrition, and goat products. Participants will gain knowledge about goats whether you are looking to purchase one or expand your farm. This is the perfect opportunity for 4-H members who have goat projects to learn more about goat care and management, while also learning about skills they can use during their future shows. Presenters include veterinarians, American Dairy Goat Association judges, goat owners and industry professionals. Registration is due March 11th and can be found at 4-H.uconn.edu.

This event is sponsored by the UConn 4-H program. The UConn 4-H program is a youth development program of the UConn Extension System. Extension is in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources (CAHNR). Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities through experiential learning in Connecticut and beyond. The 4-H program is open to youth from ages 5 to 18. 4-H stands for Head, Heart, Hands and Health. The programs’ goal is to provide its members with various opportunities to develop leadership, public speaking and citizenship skills all while having fun. Members learn through projects of their interest. 4-H offers projects in interest areas such as photography, computers, plants and animals and many more. Beyond the projects, 4-H members can also participate in after-school programs, field trips, the 4-H camp and community service. Other upcoming 4-H program events include Expressive Arts Day and Citizenship Day.

Have Your Soil Tested for Macro and Micro Nutrients

person holding a cup of soil
Photo: Dawn Pettinelli

Send your soil sample in for testing now. Our standard nutrient analysis includes pH, macro- and micro nutrients, a lead scan and as long as we know what you are growing, the results will contain limestone and fertilizer recommendations. The cost is $12/sample. You are welcome to come to the lab with your ‘one cup of soil’ but most people are content to simply place their sample in a zippered bag and mail it in. For details on submitting a sample, go to UConn Soil and Nutrient Laboratory.