Education

Food and Nutrition Classes at Home

boy planting a seedling
Photo: Heather Pease

Hartford County’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) provided virtual nutrition education and cooking programs to limited resource adults and youth in 2021.

We held the Cook and Chat virtual series for adults online. It included sessions on cooking basics, food safety, food budgeting, and nutrition topics over three to 12 lessons. Programs partners were agencies in Enfield, Plainville, New Britain, Hartford, and Bristol. They prepared easy, nutritious recipes from home and had a group discussion. Participants received the ingredient and equipment lists before each class. Participants also received incentives for completing the program surveys and dietary recalls. These included measuring cups, grocery bags, food thermometers, and cutting boards. The early evening programs were popular since participants could use the recipe for their meal.

A virtual youth program in the summer focused on gardening, nutrition, cooking, and fitness. Human Resources Agency (HRA) in New Britain partnered with EFNEP. This was a workforce development project for youth entering ninth grade. This intensive program was 20 hours per week and held via Google classroom. Youth learned about health and nutrition careers while completing gardening and fitness activities.

EFNEP Educators positively interacted with participants despite the challenges of completely virtual environments. Youth and adult participants were eager to learn about nutrition, food budgeting, and easy recipes. Adults felt comfortable cooking in their own homes. They were also more likely to replicate a recipe for their family at a later date. The incentives motivated participants. They stayed engaged in the lessons and completed our evaluation surveys and dietary recalls. In many ways, the EFNEP educators learned a great deal more about a family’s needs in this personal space. The pandemic created new challenges. EFNEP’s efforts evolved and continues serving limited resource youth and adults.

Article by Sharon Gray, RD

Calling All Citizen Scientists: Mallard Duck Research

mallard duck eggs in a nest

Have you found a Mallard duck nest this spring? Please support the research project of Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment by letting us know. We have several students searching for nests all day, every day, but CT is full of people who are outside observing wildlife. We would greatly appreciate your help in finding nests.

More info here:

https://tracyrittenhouse.weebly.com/mallard-project.html

Direct link to reporting form:

https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/76b0075092fb4c1190326f36b1428fc0

Cleanup at Sherwood Island State Park

Friends’ Garden Team weeding and mulching one of the 20 native Acer rubrum and Nyssa sylvatica they planted along the East Beach.
Friends’ Garden Team weeding and mulching one of the 20 native Acer
rubrum and Nyssa sylvatica they planted along the East Beach. Photo: Michele Sorenson

Sherwood Island State Park in Westport was Connecticut’s first state park. It is 238-acres of beaches, wetlands, and forest that serves as a public recreation area. 

Improving Habitat for Wildlife Work & Learn is a year-round outreach project that teaches Master Gardeners, interns and the public to create, improve and maintain a natural habitat for wildlife. The group meets at Sherwood Island State Park three times per week in the growing season and once a week the remainder of the year. In the winter, we focus on removing invasive plants. Areas at the park where we work include the sand dunes, the pollinator garden, the three sister gardens and throughout the park as needed. Park Superintendent, John Guglielmoni, is fully supportive of wildlife habitat improvement using native plants. Visit MasterGardener.uconn.edu for more information on our programs.

By Michele Sorenson, Master Gardener Volunteer and Project Coordinator 

4-H Mentoring Continues Serving Youth 

Antwon with his 4-H mentoring awardsYouth in Waterbury continued benefitting from the 4-H Mentoring project during the pandemic. The 4-H Mentoring Project is a prevention program where youth gain knowledge, build character, and develop life skills. It is a fun learning environment that helps them become self-directing, productive members of society.  

Approximately 45 youth ages nine through 14 participate annually. Mentoring is a proven strategy for helping at-risk youth achieve a better future. They are more likely to succeed with the extra support of a caring, consistent adult mentor. 

The program increases their interpersonal skills and strengthens family bonds through the 12-month mentoring program. The three project components, mentoring, 4-H activities, and family nights, all contribute to positive impacts.  

The 4-H Mentoring Project provides youth and their families opportunities to broaden their horizons with positive involvement in all that UConn 4-H offers. It’s a win–win for both agencies we partner with, and for youth and their families. 

By Edith Valiquette 

Extension Donor Support is Growing Statewide Programming

high school student sitting with a notebook by the Fenton River
Photo Kara Bonsack

The work of UConn Extension serves thousands of people across Connecticut. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns helping Connecticut residents to solve problems in their communities and provide transformational learning experiences to program participants. This couldn’t be done without the financial support of generous donors, many of whom have experienced Extension programs firsthand. 

Donations for Extension programs are made through the UConn Foundation which is an independent nonprofit organization that operates exclusively to promote the educational, scientific, cultural, research and recreational objectives of the University of Connecticut and UConn Health. Housed within the Foundation are funds specifically earmarked for Extension programming that provide critical support to these programs and make it possible to develop innovative programming for Connecticut residents. Here are some examples of programs made possible by the generous contributions of UConn Extension donors.

David E. and Nancy H. Bull CES Innovative Programming Fund

A generous gift from Nancy H. and David E. Bull provides funding to support innovative programming in Extension through a competitive application process open to personnel with a full or partial Extension appointment. Applications must explicitly identify the innovation proposed and the risks involved along with the potential to influence future program delivery. Some of the projects funded include:

UConn CAHNR GMO Team received funding to address the lack of science-based information for citizens regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A multi-faceted educational approach provided unbiased information which included a web site, a panel discussion on the Storrs campus, development of curriculum for youth audiences, and short videos on GMO subjects.

Assistant Extension Educators Abby Beissinger and Shuresh Ghimire received funding to establish a hot water seed treatment program to combat seed-borne pathogens that cause early infections in fields. Identified in 2019 listening sessions as a top agricultural priority in Connecticut, Dr. Ghimire and Ms. Beissinger shared the hot water treatment protocols and workshop curricula and work collaboratively with other states to contribute to best practices.

UConn Natural Resources Conservation Academy program leaders received funding to address equity and inclusion within community conservation practices. NRCA implemented a series of participatory processes to co-design local conservation projects with multiple community stakeholders in the metro-Hartford area. The goal of this project is to allow communities to meaningfully contribute to the development of conservation that is most in demand within their community.

Master Gardener Fund

UConn Extension’s Master Gardener Program began in 1978 instructing participants in science-based horticulture practices and garden management, after which students apply their knowledge by engaging in community education, including lectures, educational displays, demonstrations, and plant clinics, as well as various outreach projects throughout Connecticut. Donations to the Master Gardener Fund within the UConn Foundation are critical to the ongoing training and community outreach that they provide. Donations contribute to salaries of the Master Gardener coordinators housed in each of the local Extension Centers in Connecticut. Donations literally keep the program going and also allow for increased accessibility and flexibility in learning modalities which combines online learning with traditional classroom instruction. 

4-H Centennial Fund

The 4-H Centennial Fund was created in 2002 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the national 4-H program. Donations to the fund ensure that participants in the UConn 4-H program have the opportunity to participate in unique and exciting state, regional and national 4-H events. Many 4-H alumni remember their experience at Citizenship Washington Focus or National 4-H Congress. These trips provide important leadership and civic engagement experiences that youth don’t get elsewhere. A delegation of youth once again attended the 2021 National 4-H Congress and plans are underway for the 2022 Citizenship Washington Focus. 

Donations to UConn Extension through the UConn Foundation have made it possible to reach more people with unique and innovative programming that solves problems in communities and enriches the lives of Connecticut families. Donors can rest assured that their contributions matter and significantly impact the lives of Connecticut residents. 

Please consider supporting Extension at s.uconn.edu/GiveToExtension

Article by Nancy Wilhelm

New Geographic Information Systems Office

CT ECO interactive 3D Lidar Point Viewer map showing downtown Hartford region.
CT ECO interactive 3D Lidar Point Viewer map
showing downtown Hartford region.

Geospatial Educator Emily Wilson was named as the UConn representative to the newly formed Geographic Information Systems Advisory Council. The Council was established by the Connecticut Legislature last session in a bill that created a state Geographic Information Systems Office within the Office of Policy and Management, a Geographic Information Officer (GIO) to oversee the new Office, and the Council to Advise the GIO. Prior to this bill, Connecticut was one of only a handful of states without a state GIS office. Emily has been at the forefront of explaining the many reasons that Connecticut needs to reduce redundancy, and increase efficiency with respect to the collection and coordination of mapping data. For more information on our work with geographic information systems visit CLEAR.uconn.edu.

Article by Chet Arnold

Registration Open: Urban Farming Course

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green vegetables growing in raised bed garden
Photo: Sigmund on Unsplash

Join us for an Urban Farmer Training Course. We’re coordinating with @GVInitiative to offer this course from May through October. Details: s.uconn.edu/urbanfarmingcourse

This program is funded in part by USDA NIFA.

Jacqueline Kowalski Hired as Urban Agriculture Educator

Jacqueline KowalskiUrban agriculture in Connecticut is growing! Urban farms, community gardens, and innovative practices such as hydroponics are all a part of the urban agriculture landscape. To help meet the needs of the urban agriculture community, Jacqueline Kowalski recently joined the UConn Extension team. She is based at the Fairfield County Extension Center in Bethel.

Identified as a land reuse strategy, community and economic development vehicle, and means to help address food insecurity, urban agriculture production has many benefits, including mitigating the effects of climate change. Climate change continues to affect all areas of food production including urban agriculture which could play a huge role to play in addressing food system stabilization.

While she grew up in a rural community, her first professional position took her to St. Croix, Virgin Islands working for the University of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Experiment Station where she developed her career-long passions of increasing specialty crop production and providing technical support to historically underserved farmers.  Jacqueline’s most recent work has been with Ohio State University Extension in Cleveland and Akron in the areas of beginning farmer education, seasonal high tunnel production, community garden leadership training, and volunteer management.

The position at UConn appealed to her for many reasons which include the growing number of urban farmers and those interested in the benefits of urban agriculture, the increasing participation of BIPOC farmers engaging in the food system, and UConn’s commitment to partnering with urban communities and working toward undoing structural racism that prevented many from participating the food system.

She will be offering a beginning urban farmer training program in collaboration with the Green Village Initiative starting in May 2022. For more information visit s.uconn.edu/urbanfarmingcourse.

Prior to her work with Ohio State, she was the Director of Horticulture and Agronomy for the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture. She received her formal education from Michigan State University and the University of the Virgin Islands.

Ask UConn Extension: All About Cheese

cheese in a refrigeratorCan cheese be frozen?

Some cheese can be stored in the freezer but it’s not recommended because it can change the texture. Harder cheeses like Parmesan freeze better than other types. Therefore, it is best to freeze harder cheeses that you intend to use for cooking rather than eating alone. It is best to freeze cheese in its original, unopened package. If it is already opened, cut it into small pieces and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freezer paper. Thaw the wrapped cheese in refrigerator and use soon afterward.

Can I eat cheese if I’m lactose intolerant?

Yes, but it depends on the cheese. Harder cheeses like Parmesan and cheddar can contain little to no lactose since most of the whey (which contains lactose) is drained during production. Cheeses that are aged (e.g., 6 months or more) are safer since residual lactose is consumed by the cultures. It is best to avoid some softer cheeses like Ricotta and Mozzarella that are higher in moisture and are not aged.

Can I eat the rind of cheese?

It is always a good idea to ask your cheese seller first but many rinds are edible. Some cheeses are coated in wax or sealed with other materials and those should be removed or cut around. Other than that, it is really a matter of personal preference since the flavor of some rinds can be strong and at times can overwhelm the flavor of the cheese itself.

What is the liquid on the outside of my cheese and what should I do?

This is not uncommon and is usually just whey (like you find in yogurt) that you can just wipe off.

What should I do if my cheese gets moldy?

Cheese can develop mold after it is exposed to air. Thankfully, most molds are harmless and can be cut away from larger pieces.  To do so, cut away about a half inch on all sides of the visible mold growth avoiding contact with the mold so you don’t spread it. If it still tastes a bit musty or moldy, continue to cut away. The same does not apply to soft cheese like cream cheese, ricotta, etc. since the mold can spread more easily in these products and will be difficult to avoid. Similarly, it is best to discard sliced or shredded cheese that has developed mold.

How should I store and handle cheese?

It is best to store all cheeses in their original unopened package in the refrigerator at <40°F. Be sure to wash your hands and any utensils before handling and try to avoid touching cheese you plan to put back in the refrigerator. It is best to keep cheeses in their original package, especially sliced or shredded cheese. Don’t put your hand directly into the bag either- pour shreds out or use a clean utensil to remove slices or shreds. Tightly wrap or seal the cheese (or the original packaging) before putting it back in the refrigerator. You can also place the wrapped cheese in an airtight container if you have one. You can take cheese out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature before you plan on eating it but don’t leave it out for too long as the texture will change and fats may seep out as oil on the outside. Place any leftover cheese back in the refrigerator as soon as you’re done.

How long can I store cheese and can I eat it after the listed date on the package?

Code dates are not tied to the safety of the product but rather the quality. The length of storage depends on the type of cheese and the storage and handling conditions. Harder, aged cheeses like cheddar and parmesan will store well in the refrigerator for a few months but will eventually develop mold once opened.  Softer cheeses have higher moisture content and may spoil faster. They should be eaten by the date listed on the package. Be sure to check all cheese for mold, slimy textures, and off-odors before eating.  Shredded and sliced cheese should be used quickly after opening since molds can develop relatively fast.

What is the white stuff on the outside of my cheese and what should I do?

Assuming the cheese is unopened it is not likely to be mold but rather calcium lactate crystals. These are common and not harmful. Over time calcium and lactate can naturally migrate to the surface of cheese and crystalize to the point that they are visible to the naked eye.

Why are there crunchy things in some cheeses?

Some aged cheeses naturally develop “cheese crystals”. Most of the time they are either calcium lactate or crystals of the amino acid tyrosine. They are safe to eat and often desirable since they are usually a sign that the cheese has been aged for some time and has developed flavor.

Job: Educational Program Assistant – Part-Time in Fairfield Co.

Search #: 496223Work type: Part-timeLocation: Fairfield County Extension CtrCategories: Academic Programs and Services

JOB SUMMARY

The UConn Extension Center located in Bethel, CT is seeking applications for a part-time Educational Program Assistant 1 position (50%).  This position is responsible for supporting and helping implement high-quality, comprehensive, Extension programming at different program sites throughout the region, with specific support to Urban Agriculture, EFNEP/Community Nutrition, Master Gardener, and 4-H programs. The Educational Program Assistant will report to the Center Coordinator to prioritize programmatic work assignments.

DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES 

  1. Assists and provides support to Extension Educators working with programs which may include but not be limited to Urban Agriculture, EFNEP/ community nutrition, Master Gardener, and 4-H programs.
  2. Assists in developing educational programs, recruiting, explaining, and providing program information and processes to Extension volunteers and participants.
  3. Works with and helps develop and refine program databases using programs such as Excel and Access, as well as national and federal databases such as 4-H, Z-Suite, and WebNEERS to extrapolate relevant data sets, maintain program enrollments, membership, and volunteer records and provide program reports to the Extension educators as required.
  4. Maintains accurate records on each program and assembles databases and prepares statistical and/or historical reports for Extension educators/Program Coordinators based on program outcomes.
  5. Performs office support functions, in support of educational programs; processes paperwork, records, and files which may be computerized or confidential in nature.
  6. Supports Extension Educators/Program Coordinators in implementing and providing off-site educational activities in the community to improve practical understanding and accomplish program goals.
  7. Provides assistance in assembling, arranging, organizing, and dismantling program event and activity set-ups and arrangements at various locations and venues, i.e. classrooms, fairgrounds, community centers, etc.
  8. Supports media relations activities for various programs; works with others to write and edit program and promotional materials for hard and soft copy publications and social media platforms.
  9. Assists Extension Educators/Program Coordinators in assessing clients’ capacity to participate in programs and helping to incorporate related knowledge into program activities for greatest learning opportunities.
  10. Assists Extension Educators/Program Coordinators in developing and implementing programs to enhance learning and provide appropriate content-based experiences to accomplish program goals.
  11. Under supervision, provides educational training and conducts related support services on an ongoing basis, and assists in resolving problems in assigned area of responsibility.
  12. Assists with increasing community collaborations with partner groups.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS 

  1. Bachelor’s degree in related field and up to one year of related experience or an Associate’s degree and two to three years of related experience; or four to five years of experience utilizing profession based standards in urban agriculture, community nutrition, gardening, 4-H or related fields.
  2. Demonstrated written and verbal communication skills and ability to work effectively with communication technologies and the media.
  3. Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite including Excel and Access and other database activities.
  4. Demonstrated sensitivity towards diverse youth, families, and volunteer clientele to be served.
  5. Must be detail-oriented. Demonstrated experience providing organizational support in a team environment including but not limited to filing, database management, and administrative processes.
  6. Must be able to regularly lift, carry, load, unload, and transport equipment, supplies, and/or program materials for educational events and workshops such as laptops, projectors, tables, chairs, displays, paper media, etc.
  7. Must be willing and able to work flexible and irregular hours, including occasional nights and weekends to help conduct programs at off-site locations.
  8. Must have reliable transportation to meet in-state travel requirements (mileage allowance provided).

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS 

  1. Knowledge and familiarity with the Cooperative Extension System.
  2. Demonstrated success in public relations utilizing electronic, social, and print media platforms.
  3. Experience working with large databases, and generating reports including 4-H online registration.
  4. Experience participating with collaborative community partnerships.
  5. Experience working with UConn administrative processes.
  6. Experience with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) technology.
  7. Multilingual – Spanish and English preferred

Physical Requirements: Incumbents must possess the ability to perform the required duties set forth above.

APPOINTMENT TERMS 

This is a part-time (50%, 17.5 hours) position based in Bethel, CT. The annual salary will be prorated according to the percent of employment.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT

Employment at the University of Connecticut is contingent upon the successful candidate’s compliance with the University’s Mandatory Workforce COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.  This Policy states that all workforce members are required to have or obtain a Covid-19 vaccination as a term and condition of employment at UConn, unless an exemption or deferral has been approved.

Employment of the successful candidate is contingent upon the successful completion of a pre-employment criminal background check.

TO APPLY

Please apply online at https://hr.uconn.edu/jobs, Staff Positions, Search #496223 to upload a resume, cover letter, and contact information for three (3) professional references.

This job posting is scheduled to be removed at 11:55 p.m. Eastern time on May 1, 2022.

All employees are subject to adherence to the State Code of Ethics which may be found at http://www.ct.gov/ethics/site/default.asp.

The University of Connecticut is committed to building and supporting a multicultural and diverse community of students, faculty and staff. The diversity of students, faculty and staff continues to increase, as does the number of honors students, valedictorians and salutatorians who consistently make UConn their top choice. More than 100 research centers and institutes serve the University’s teaching, research, diversity, and outreach missions, leading to UConn’s ranking as one of the nation’s top research universities. UConn’s faculty and staff are the critical link to fostering and expanding our vibrant, multicultural and diverse University community. As an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, UConn encourages applications from women, veterans, people with disabilities and members of traditionally underrepresented populations.

Advertised: Apr 01 2022 Eastern Daylight TimeApplications close: May 01 2022 Eastern Daylight Time