Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
Extension Today is a monthly digital newsletter intended to highlight 1890 Cooperative Extension and provide updates across the 1890 Land-Grant System.
Extension is committed to being responsive to the emerging issues in nutrition and the well-being of a diverse audience. This past year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been particularly challenging for most communities. Extension exceeded expectations in maintaining connections and providing research-based information and educational programs.
In this August edition of Extension Today, we highlight contributions to nutrition and consumer food safety for limited resource audiences. Please enjoy reading about the varied educational programs and outreach from our very talented 1890 Extension educators. Continue to stay safe and protect each other.
By Wendi Williams, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University (Alabama Extension at AAMU) delivers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (Urban SNAP-Ed) at Urban Centers across the state under the leadership of Andrea Morris, a health and nutrition specialist.
Several years ago, Urban SNAP-Ed adopted the tagline “Making nutrition easy, tasty and affordable” to demonstrate to program participants that with a modest food budget, they can prepare affordable, tasty and well-balanced meals. The program also encourages people to be physically active and to practice food safety.
Urban SNAP-Ed expanded its outreach efforts by forming a partnership with The Legacy Center, serving the disabled and older adults in North Alabama. During the first wave of COVID-19 last year, this partnership enabled The Legacy Center and Alabama Extension at AAMU to distribute more than 2,000 food boxes to needy families through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farmer to Families initiative.
Alabama Extension also helped 54 participants in The Legacy Community Kitchen initiative to construct four raised beds for vegetable gardening. Older adults improved their daily nutritional intake of vegetables by consuming 127 pounds of fresh produce (carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, squash and potatoes) grown and harvested with their own hands.
CSU Extension offers free diabetes education classes in multiple locations
Learn simple lifestyle changes that can prevent serious health concerns by enrolling in Central State University Extension’s (CSUE) free Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP) series of classes that are offered in numerous locations for the convenience of participants.
The Diabetes Empowerment Education Program is a series of six classes conducted by CSUE and community partners. All classes will be conducted virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic and will resume in-person classes when safety permits.
This program, says CSUE Family and Consumer Program Leader/EFNEP Coordinator Mary Kershaw, Ph.D., was designed for adults interested in learning ways to manage their pre-diabetes/diabetes. The DEEP program will help manage health concerns associated with high blood sugar, she adds. Participants attend one session per week for six weeks to participate in presentations, hands-on activities and simple exercises. They will learn to manage their quality of life by preventing complications, developing self-care skills, as well as understanding and using available resources, Kershaw adds.
Participants in the series of classes will identify unhealthy habits and learn skills to live a healthier lifestyle; learn techniques to manage and prevent common diabetes complications such as stress, nerve pain, heart disease, stroke, blindness and kidney failure; and receive free educational materials to maintain lifestyle changes. For more information or to register, contact Kershaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (937) 376-6654.
Promoting power-filled living through nutrition education
Nutrition is linked to overall health. The COVID-19 pandemic has punctuated this fact since early 2020 when we began learning how the virus affects people with comorbidities, or coexisting conditions, who are more susceptible to serious illness.
During this season of highly infectious disease and uncertainty, it has been exceptionally important to promote general wellness to help people, especially under-resourced populations, understand the power they possess regarding personal health. For the month of August, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension spotlights the work of Dr. Verona Mulgrave and her team of educators in the family and consumer sciences mission area.
Mulgrave recalls when and why her interest in nutrition developed. At the age of 17, and convinced that she was destined to become a pharmacist, she became more aware of the effects that food-related diseases had on people in her community. This revelation catalyzed her passion to study nutrition so that she could promote healthful, dietary behaviors and help reduce diseases and their corresponding drug interventions.
Nutrition L.E.A.D.S. program making strides at FAMU
The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) Cooperative Extension has committed to multiple collaborations with students for community outreach support. Currently, under the direction of Dr. Jenelle Robinson, associate professor of nutrition, the Extension program collaborates with students in the Nutrition L.E.A.D.S. program.
In this nutrition leadership program funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Capacity Building Grant, students are trained on various nutrition topics and commit to service learning projects with Extension’s EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program). Students have assisted in programming, planning and even evaluation of outreach efforts.
For the fall 2021 semester, the Nutrition L.E.A.D.S. students will collaborate with the Extension program to implement two initiatives. The first initiative is a Nutrition Education Toolkit. The toolkit will include nonperishable food items, healthy recipes, factsheets, hand sanitizer and exercise equipment. These toolkits will promote healthy and safe eating. Students will construct these toolkits to use as educational incentives that complement EFNEP efforts.
The second initiative includes piloting a new curriculum designed for adolescents who participate in EFNEP. The performing arts-based nutrition education curriculum includes interactive videos, poetry, and relevant and trendy nutrition topics. For more information about the Nutrition L.E.A.D.S. program, contact Robinson at Jenelle.email@example.com.
Helping families improve their health
Fort Valley State University’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps parents feed their children healthier meals and snacks, save money on food and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. Nutrition education is also provided to youth ages 4-18. In Georgia, EFNEP is offered through FVSU and the University of Georgia (UGA).
This program provides community members and concerned consumers with current information on nutrition, food selection and preparation, food quality, diet, health, risks for chronic diseases and safe food handling practices to minimize the risks of foodborne illness. It focuses on the needs of Georgians suffering from obesity, cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
To serve their communities, FVSU’s family and consumer sciences Extension agents and a nutritious educator for EFNEP help promote eating nutritious foods and increasing physical activity. During the pandemic, the FCS agents used technology to provide information on food and nutrition, child safety, financial planning, physical activity and home management.
In addition, EFNEP educators helped families change their grocery shopping habits by providing information about what foods to shop for to help limit trips to the grocery store.
Summer program encourages youth to get up and get moving
Kentucky State University SNAP-Ed Assistant Happy Raffaele recently hosted a fun event with kids in The Creative School’s summer program.
At the city park in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Raffaele talked to the kids about MyPlate and exercise. Then, they implemented what they had learned about the food groups to do some exercise. The "food ball" was tossed to each student, who then looked at the food picture under their hand and told what food group it belonged to. They then got to call out an exercise (jumping jacks, hop, touch toes, etc.) and everyone had to do five of that exercise.
These activities encouraged the kids to get up and get moving, while learning at the same time. “It was a great day,” Raffaele said. “I had fun and I'm sure they did, too!”
Teaching nutrition, food safety and food security: EFNEP impacting the community
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) team at Langston University School of Agriculture and Applied Science (LU-SAAS) works to fulfill program goals in four areas: diet quality and physical activity, food choices for the best nutritional quality, food safety and food security.
Joshua Todd, Joshua Davis and Melvin Williams are nutrition educators and members of EFNEP who strive to help Oklahomans every day. The program has served and improved the lives of more than 20,000 households in over a decade that it has been affiliated with Langston University.
“We visit schools, community centers and churches, where we can speak with adults and children about healthy lifestyles,” Davis said. “The choices our participants make regarding nutrition have a major impact throughout their lives.”
Todd most appreciates “helping participants shop smarter at the grocery store. Adults and children are often unfamiliar with nutritional labels, and everyone can learn more about stretching their food dollar.”
For Davis, the most important activity EFNEP promotes is better habits to create healthier lifestyles. “Oklahoma is No. 8 in highest obesity levels nationally,” he explained. “The assistance we offer generally has a lifelong benefit for everyone in the home.”
Extension programs teach inmates about farm work, nutrition
Two of the focuses of the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension are nutrition and consumer safety. One Extension program combines the goal of consumer safety with a strategy to help farms in southeast Missouri operate more economically while also reducing the recidivism rate among people leaving correctional facilities.
In 2018, Lincoln’s Horticulture Program began training inmates in the Southeast Correctional Center on harvest and postharvest handling of produce. This helps inmates to develop marketable skills and provides a labor force for local farms. The farms would otherwise hire workers from South America, whom they must pay to feed and house.
A second Extension program focuses on improving nutrition, improving health outcomes and positively impacting obesity and chronic disease for limited resource families and single moms. Recently, Lincoln’s Expanded Food and Nutrition staff partnered with the Innovative Small Farm Outreach Program and the Missouri Department of Corrections to engage constituents through a hybrid education model.
During a second wave of COVID-19, St. Louis EFNEP Nutrition Educator Jennifer Davis provided nutrition education via Zoom. The program also taught constituents how to grow their own vegetables. Using Zoom and the great outdoors, Davis was able to reach more than 100 constituents during the pandemic.
Cooking with Chef Cookie: Healthy Habits participants get real-time experience with a chef
Unhealthy eating habits can mean big problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Cooperative Extension’s Healthy Habits program focuses on changing bad habits, developing knowledge and skills about nutrition and food preparation, and making lifestyle changes that lead to happier, healthier individuals and families.
The program always stresses research-based information and tips from professionals, but this year, Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T offered a new twist: the chance to cook healthy recipes with a professional chef during virtual Healthy Habits sessions.
Keeping you and your food safe
By Joyce Osburne, PVAMU Cooperative Extension Program’s Extension Program Specialist
We don’t hear much about foodborne illnesses, commonly referred to as food poisoning. However, the health risks from some of the most common foodborne illnesses still exist. Foodborne illness is any illness resulting from contaminated food. Foodborne illnesses cause about 48 million (1 in 6) Americans to get sick, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year.
Scientists have identified more than 250 germs that cause foodborne illnesses, and the top five are norovirus, salmonella, clostridium perfringens, campylobacter and staphylococcus. The common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. Sometimes a person may not experience symptoms immediately after eating; it could take hours or even days. These symptoms are often ignored and thought to be a result of overeating. Populations most likely to get sick are pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends four simple food safety steps – clean, separate, cook and chill. Clean hands, kitchen utensils and surfaces are essential, and fresh fruits and vegetables are rinsed under cold running water.
Separate different types of food to prevent cross-contamination. Cook foods to proper internal temperatures as measured by a food thermometer, and after cooking, keep them at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Chill foods to the appropriate temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below and refrigerate at the same temperature. Keep foods out of the “danger zone” between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Following these simple steps can keep you and your food safe.
Santee-Wateree region promotes healthy eating to Sumter youth
Sumter youth are embracing healthy eating through a new initiative created by South Carolina State University 1890 Research and Extension. The SC State 1890 Extension Santee-Wateree region is working with area youth organizations to host Kids in the Kitchen, a program designed to encourage healthy snack choices by providing health and nutrition education to young students.
“It’s important to consume healthy meals and snacks to help students remain focused so that they can have energy and complete their schoolwork,” said Jasmine Davis, family, nutrition and health Extension agent. “By providing basic knowledge of the food pyramid and discussing the benefits of organic versus processed foods, we are able to do just that. The kinds of snacks we prepare are nutritious and delicious, and that’s what our participants appreciate.”
Since offering the program in February, Davis has met weekly with a partnering youth agency to teach participants about alternatives for snacks and meals. The elementary-age group made fruit kabobs through cooking demonstrations, while the middle/high school group prepared individual fruit cheesecakes.
In the future, Davis plans to connect with other community and youth organizations in the region and add activities such as gardening, meal preparation and health education intervention support. “I want the Santee-Wateree community to know that 1890 is here. I am excited to build partnerships and explore new opportunities to expand the mission of 1890 research and Extension,” Davis said.
For more information about Kids in the Kitchen and other programs offered by the Santee-Wateree region, contact Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nutrition and consumer food safety
Consumer awareness of nutrition and food safety is very important to healthy eating and disease prevention. For the past 20 years, the government has been advising consumers to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, not only for nutritional content but also for overall health. At the same time, more than 3,000 people have died and over 48,000 people are hospitalized every year from foodborne illnesses.
There are government programs that have been designed to improve the nutrition, safety and well-being of all American consumers. Examples of these programs include the research and development (R&D) of new food products, nutrition labels of the food products, clinical studies in the area of food safety, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), ServSafe and Food Handler training programs and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP).
To aid in promoting nutrition and consumer food safety, the Southern University Ag Center offers a virtual Food and Farm Food Safety Certification through its Enhancing Capacity of Louisiana’s Small Farms and Businesses Certification Programs. This certification provides basic training to farmers and food production managers on how to prevent, minimize and reduce the risks of food product contamination during farming, purchasing, receiving, storing, preparing, cooking, reheating and serving.
The course also explains federal guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing food areas, contact surfaces, utensils and farm facilities. For additional information on the Southern University Ag Center’s virtual Food and Farm Food Safety Certification, visit this webpage.
Delivering educational programming and training
Named director of Tennessee State University’s Community Nutrition Education Program last June, Dr. Melanie Shea Austin Cantu has been principal in delivering educational programming and training for Extension agents and program assistants in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-ED) for the past six years.
Prior to her appointment as director, she was serving as the program manager when the pandemic hit, sending employees and students home suddenly to acclimate to a virtual environment.
“We were all sent home, but both of our programs continued to serve the communities through virtual online lessons and social media efforts,” Cantu said.
The Community Nutrition Education team transformed existing programming into virtual programming. The social media marketing campaign “Shop. Cook. Eat. Within Your Budget.” took center stage, reaching out to at least two million Tennesseans through interactive media and public transportation advertising and providing tips, recipes and lessons involving cooking at home and stretching available food dollars.
“We go into the community. We love working out and about in the seven counties,” said Cantu, who oversees nine county educators and eight state staff members. “We consider it a privilege to work in the communities that we are in.”
FCS Extension agents influence a myriad of health concerns during COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 virus has been a barrier to many meaningful contributions in communities worldwide. However, the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP) family and consumer sciences (FCS) agents have continued to provide essential knowledge-based and experiential educational programs to clientele throughout the Black Belt counties in Alabama.
Although this department addresses a broad range of intellectual, moral and workforce development goals pertaining to overall healthy living, the focus this year has been on diabetes, nutrition, exercise, weight loss and consumer food safety.
The Alabama Center for Health Statistics reported that 24.5 percent of adults in Alabama are obese, while 37.2 percent are overweight. Researchers have found a strong correlation between obesity and overweight to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. FCS professionals at the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program embarked upon planning and implementing several diabetes and prevention workshops held across the region. These sessions emphasized the reduction of sugar intake and knowledge of the role carbohydrates play in food intake.
Participants learned how to identify carbohydrates, count calories and prepare healthy meals. Surveys from 45 program participants at one center indicated that 84 percent had improved confidence in managing their diabetes and reported significant improvements in exercise, healthy food intake and healthful cooking methods.
Arkansans learn food safety techniques through UAPB Cooperative Extension programming
Program aides of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff 1890 Cooperative Extension Program teach Arkansans the importance of proper nutrition and physical activity. They serve a diverse range of clientele.
“We provide face-to-face and virtual Extension outreach services at a number of community organizations,” Teresa Henson, Extension specialist-program outreach coordinator, said. “The places we serve include women’s shelters, living facilities for low-income seniors and organizations that rehabilitate the previously incarcerated and those recovering from substance abuse.”
Henson said clientele benefit from UAPB’s demonstrational cooking classes, as well as sessions on fitness and nutrition education. Recently, they have been focusing on another essential component of nutrition – the importance of food safety.
“Our program uses the ‘Eat Smart, Move More curriculum,’” Henson said. “Clients learn about the importance of 20-second hand-washing, the use of food thermometers and ways to prevent foodborne illnesses.”
Henson said maintaining a healthy eating pattern and exercising regularly are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. However, the importance of food safety is sometimes overlooked.
“Considering foodborne illness causes 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year in the U.S., it is essential that our clientele know how to properly shop for, handle, cook and store food,” she said.
Schwarz is long-awaited addition to UMES Extension
University of Maryland Eastern Shore Extension welcomed back alumna and longtime resident of the Eastern Shore of Maryland Dr. Melinda Schwarz to the Hawk’s nest to serve as a food safety specialist just over a year ago.
In her role, Schwarz develops training strategies for small farmers, assisting them in their compliance with the FDA’s food safety guidelines. She mentors food producers, vegetable growers, poultry processors and new food entrepreneurs while working with other UMES Extension educators. She also cultivates relationships with relevant state and federal agencies.
“Dr. Schwarz brings to UMES Extension a familiarity with the university community and its constituents, along with a wealth of knowledge and experience in teaching, food safety research and Extension activities,” said Dr. E. Nelson Escobar, associate administrator for UMES Extension. “She is a long-awaited addition to our team whose contribution will be valuable in years to come.”
While pursuing a doctorate in food science and technology at UMES, Schwarz was the lead researcher in a study between the university and Wicomico County Public Schools to develop a nutrition curriculum for high school family and consumer sciences classes. Prior to returning to UMES Extension after a three-year stint in the EFNEP program years ago, Schwarz worked as a middle school math and science teacher, a faculty member in the UMES Hotel and Restaurant Management Program teaching food sanitation and at Wor-Wic Community College teaching normal and clinical nutrition.
Understanding food production helps dietetic interns make nutrition real
Registered dietitian Meghan Garrett was surprised when she first learned that asparagus grew up right out of the ground. She made the discovery during a visit to a farm while still a student in a dietetic internship program in New Hampshire.
The farm tour had a profound impact that helped her better understand how food is grown and processed and how it gets from farm to table. Often registered dietitians and interns are trained to understand how certain foods are a healthy part of a well-balanced diet, but many do not actually get opportunities to visit a farm and learn about food production, she said.
Garrett, who coordinates the Dietetics Internship Program in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU), is working to change that. At VSU, the Dietetic Internship Program integrates teaching, research and Cooperative Extension to give students a well-rounded understanding of the food production process, as well as nutrition education and how to address food insecurity in low-income communities.
Virginia Cooperative Extension extends the resources of Virginia's two land-grant universities, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech, to solve problems facing Virginians every day.
West Virginia State University expands research, outreach and education in food science
West Virginia State University (WVSU) is expanding its agricultural and environmental research portfolio with research and Extension programming, and potential new curricula development, in food science. Dr. Yangjin Jung joined the university’s Agricultural and Environmental Research Station earlier this year as an assistant research professor.
“In this role, I will develop applied food science research, disseminate research findings, seek extramural funding, collaborate with scientists on and off campus for interdisciplinary research and work with stakeholders like the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, local food companies and farmers to improve food quality and ensure food safety,” said Jung.
Jung is conducting research on characterizing bacteria and foodborne pathogens from various environments such as agricultural water and foods germane to West Virginia.
“I am also interested in how farm practices, food processing conditions or storage practices affect colonization, persistence, survival and transmission of those microorganisms,” she said. “Thus, my research will not be only in a lab but also in retail establishments and food production areas such as farms and food processing and packaging facilities.”
Jung will also be working with WVSU Extension Service to develop food safety programs for children and minority and underserved populations in West Virginia. Prior to coming to WVSU, Jung worked as a research food technologist with the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service, where she investigated the level, prevalence and characteristics of foodborne pathogens from various foods. Jung is certified in Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan Development for Food Processors.