Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally

Trail Finder Website: More Trails, New Features

hands holding a trail mapThe Trail Finder website is the go-to website for finding trails across the state. Use the search options to find trails by location, activity (hike, bike, horse, etc.), distance and difficulty, accessibility, and features like waterfalls and nature trails.

Trail Finder posts (both the information and map) are ALL approved by trail managers. Recently, the trails team has been working with the Regional Water Authority (RWA), folks in Woodbridge, the Sharon Land Trust, the Northwest CT Land Conservancy, and others.

Interested in the many benefits of having your trails and your information on Trail Finder? Learn more at  add your trails and contact us at for more information!

New Trail Census Data Portal

The CT Trails Program is excited to announce the launch of the new CT Trail Census Dashboard which includes yearly dashboards since 2017 and a new yearly comparison dashboard. Use the information to support trail reports, projects, fundraising, and more! The portal offers
  • people walking dog on a traila map, list, and short description for all CT Trail Census infrared counters statewide
  • selection tools to find trail counters
  • daily, weekly and monthly total use
  • average use during the day and during the week
Don’t miss the Understanding Charts and Statistics – Single Year or Yearly Comparison  web page, or the help web page to learn more about the dashboard and how to use it.Please reach out with any questions and comments!

8 Essential “Always” of Holiday Food Safety

Article by Indu Upadhyaya, Ph.D., Assistant Extension Educator, Food Safety

Holiday gatherings bring families and friends together, to spread more joy and happiness. While the merriment begins around Thanksgiving and continues until the New Years’, the food during holiday buffets, the party trays, the turkey, and other delicacies remain the main attraction of gathering. But be aware that a well-meaning and much anticipated get together can easily turn sour if the food is not safely prepared, served, or stored. Food safety should be diligently taken care of, especially during holidays, as in the delight of the season, negligence could cause serious health consequences.

dinner table set for a holiday meal with candles in the middle
(Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Most people who get sick from eating contaminated food, might have mild illness and recover early, however susceptible populations can see lasting effects or even death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans get sick from contaminated food. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die due to foodborne diseases across the country. These data are out of reported cases, thereby not including cases of undocumented, non-reported stomach indigestions and/or mild diarrhea or vomiting. The real number of patients getting sick from foodborne illnesses is still an unknown and hard to predict.

What you can do this season is control food contamination in your own home and community. Start with these simple steps aligning with USDA holiday food safety guidelines.

Here are the eight “always” of food safety to help everyone stay healthy during the holiday season:

1. Always wash your hands.

It’s a simple rule to follow, yet many easily forget in the midst of festivities. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash hands:

  • Before you start preparing food,
  • After using the bathroom,
  • Before serving food and eating,
  • After you handle raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs.

    2. Always clean and sanitize

    Clean and sanitize any surfaces that have touched raw turkey, meat or fish and their juices and will later touch food such as kitchen counters, sinks, stoves, tabletops, etc.

    • Cleaning: with soap and hot water, and a paper or dish towel. Use these to remove any dirt and debris you can see.
    • Sanitizing: sanitize the surfaces to kill any remaining germs. Different food grade sanitizers or sanitizing wipes can be used. Allow to air dry and follow the label instructions on commercial sanitizers to determine whether you need to rinse food preparation areas after use.

    Food borne bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella, found in poultry products, can survive on countertops and other kitchen surfaces from four to up to 32 hours, so make sure you repeat this step after handling raw meats or turkey.

    Don’t forget to clean and sanitize any areas that will encounter the turkey before and after cooking.

    3. Always thaw the frozen meat/turkey safely.

    Always follow USDA recommended thawing. There are three ways to safely thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave.

    • Refrigerator thaw: Turkey can be safely thawed in a refrigerator. Allow roughly 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey. After thawing, a turkey is safe in a refrigerator for one to two days, before cooking.
    • Cold water thaw: The cold-water thawing method will thaw your turkey faster but needs to be done very carefully. When thawing in a cold-water bath, allow 30 minutes per pound and submerge the turkey in its original wrapping to avoid cross-contamination. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook immediately after thawing.
    • Microwave thaw: Smaller sized turkeys that fit in the microwave can be thawed using this method. Make sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the thawing process, bringing the food to the “Danger Zone” (between 40-140°F).

    It’s safe to cook a completely frozen turkey; however, it will take at least 50 percent longer to fully cook. Remember to never thaw your turkey in hot water or leave it on a countertop.

    4. Always separate food items to avoid cross contamination.

    Cross-contamination is the spread of bacteria from raw meat and poultry onto ready-to-eat food, surfaces, and utensils. To avoid this, always use separate cutting boards — one for raw meat and poultry, and another for fruits and vegetables. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash the cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.

    USDA recommends not to wash your raw poultry due to the risk of splashing bacteria throughout your kitchen. It can easily lead to aerosolizing bacteria and cross contamination.  As mentioned earlier, always clean and sanitize any surfaces that have touched raw turkey and its juices. That includes counters, sinks, stoves, tabletops, utensils, and plates. Sinks are the most contaminated areas of the kitchen, so keep them clean and don’t transfer any dirty items to clean spaces. It’s important to pay attention to your movements in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination.

    5. Always cook thoroughly.

    Always follow a standard recipe to cook properly. Make sure your turkey is cooked to a safe final internal temperature of 165°F by using a reliable food thermometer. Check the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing, and the innermost part of the thigh. Cook your turkey at 325°F until its internal temperature reaches at least 165°F. Cooked, hot foods should be kept at 140°F or warmer.

    When cooking a stuffed turkey, pay attention that the turkey, as well as the stuffing inside of it, reaches at least 165°F. Even if the turkey itself reaches 165°F, the stuffing inside may take longer. Its best to prepare your stuffing and turkey just before cooking. Using a cold stuffing makes it more difficult to reach the safe temperature of 165°F. Stuff the turkey loosely and use ¾ of a cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. Use a moist stuffing rather than a dry stuffing because heat destroys bacteria better in a moist environment. To be on the safe side, cook stuffing separately.

    If cooking other meats, cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. If you prefer, you may choose to cook the meat to a higher temperature.

    For ground meats: Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F as measured with a food thermometer.

    For baked goods, avoid eating foods containing raw eggs or uncooked flour, such as cookie dough or cake batter. It’s tempting to sneak a taste during preparation, but pathogens like Salmonella present in these ingredients can lead to food poisoning if not cooked first.

    6. Always follow the two-hour rule.

    All perishable foods must be refrigerated within two hours of coming out of the stove or fridge, or one hour if the ambient air temperature is above 90°F. Never forget this two-hour rule put forth by USDA. After two hours, perishable food will enter the “Danger Zone” (between 40°F and 140°F), which is where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause the food to become unsafe. Discard all foods that have been left out for more than two hours.

    7. Always keep warm food warm and cold food cold.

    Remember the rule — keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

    • Always transport hot foods by wrapping the dishes in insulated containers to keep their temperature above 140°F.
    • Always transport cold foods in a cooler with ice or gel packs to keep them at or below 40°F.

    When serving food to groups, maintain the temperature by using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140°F and cold items should remain below 40°F. Temperature abuse of food is one of the main reasons for people falling sick very often. Always follow proper guidelines.

    8. Always store leftovers appropriately.

    Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving leftovers. But they must be stored and refrigerated promptly to be safe to eat. After the turkey is served, immediately slice, and refrigerate it on shallow platters. Store leftover food in shallow containers and refrigerate promptly. Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within three to four days. Use gravy within one to two days. Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to eat up to four days in the refrigerator. In the freezer, leftovers are safely frozen indefinitely but will keep the best quality from two to six months.

    Always reheat all leftovers to 165°F, and check that temperature with a food thermometer. Cold foods should be kept at 41°F or less. And as they say, when in doubt, throw it out! Do not try to save potentially contaminated food.

    Lastly, don’t prepare foods if you are sick or showing symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea or if you recently had such symptoms. Many foodborne illnesses are transmitted unknowingly by human error, by a food preparer who had these symptoms. If you are ill, let someone else do the cooking so you can have a safe and enjoyable meal with your family and friends.

    References and additional resources:

    Protect Humans and Animals from Mosquitoes

    mosquito biting a human

    The presence of mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus (EEEV) on the rise in Connecticut, according to surveillance program from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and testing from UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Protect both humans and livestock with these steps:

    Meet Brenda Sanchez

    Brenda SanchezBrenda Sanchez recently joined our team as an Outreach Nutrition Education Assistant with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in our Bethel office in Fairfield County. She joins us from experiences working in the medical field and with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, where she spent 11 years as a peer counselor and certified lactation consultant.  

    Many members of Brenda’s family are involved in medical and nutrition positions, and the role with Extension builds off her previous experiences as well. We sat down with Brenda to learn more about her background and role with Extension. 

    What is your area of interest and how did you get interested in it? 

    I like anything related to the medical field as well as working in the community. Working with the community gives me great satisfaction. Knowing I have helped and impacted their lives for the betterment of themselves and their families is just a great feeling.  

    I got interested in these areas by seeing them modeled on in my family. I had fitting examples of love towards the community through many family members. I was also exposed to the medical field through family members since I was a kid, so I became passionate about it. 

    What excites you the most about working with UConn Extension? 

    Knowing I will help families and young people achieve better eating habits and make better lifestyle choices in their nutrition. I like to do service and work with the community and help them make better choices and feed their family.  

    What is one thing you hope people will learn from you and your work? 

    I hope I can help people embrace a lifestyle that they did not imagine was possible for themselves and their families, by choosing, preparing, and managing a variety of foods available in the market, I hope to offer choices that might seem doable even in a low-income budget or as a single mom raising her children. I’m also passionate about helping mothers and their children. 

    One thing everyone should know about nutrition is to grab those resources that are out there for them and make the best possible nutrition and diet choices and enjoy it as a family. 

    What advice do you have for parents with picky eaters? 

    Modeling behavior is one thing that always works. I modeled in front of my own children, and they all eat everything. Parents I’ve worked with also have success with it. The more variety of foods you can include in a diet, the more benefits there are. Also, tell children about the benefits different foods have, it engages them. 

    What is your favorite thing to do in Connecticut?  

    Family time, all my family lives in Connecticut, I also enjoy the fresh air, the space and nature that Connecticut offers. 

    What are some of your hobbies and other interests?  

    I like to walk, read, and bake. I love to travel, try new foods, I love to learn about diverse cultures, their customs and beliefs. 

    Meet Hannah Morillo-Galindo

    Hannah Morillo-GalindoHannah Morillo-Galindo recently joined UConn Extension as an Educational Program Assistant for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in our North Haven office. She is originally from Lexington, Kentucky and graduated in May 2023 with a degree in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

    She’s looking forward to connecting with the community and helping make nutrition and a healthy lifestyle more accessible. We sat down with her to learn more.

    What is your area of interest and how did you get interested in it?

    I was a biology/pre-med major, and realized I wanted to do something in health care and wellness, but I was not super-interested in the one-on-one healthcare field. I found public health and realized I could have an impact in this area.

    What will your role be with UConn Extension?

    I want to work in community nutrition and found this position as an Educational Program Assistant for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in the North Haven office, and it’s exactly what I want to do.

    What excites you the most about working with UConn Extension?

    I’m excited about the opportunity to connect with people and share knowledge that’s accessible. I also enjoy collaborating with other Extension programs, for example, I’ve been working with our UConn 4-H program some.

    What is one thing you hope people will learn from you and your work?

    It’s easier to eat healthy and take care of yourself than it seems.

    What is your favorite thing to do in Connecticut?

    I went kayaking near East Haven the other weekend and it was fun!

    What are some of your hobbies and other interests?

    I enjoy reading, music, spending time outdoors, and painting.

    Job Opening: Evaluation Specialist

    banner of Extension programs

    We’re hiring an Extension Evaluation Specialist. Join our team and advance the field of program evaluation by designing and testing methods that lead to improved capacity to measure outcomes of UConn Extension programs. The Specialist designs and delivers education programs and non-credit courses for UConn Extension faculty, staff, and administrators to increase their capacity to evaluate programs aligned with the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources strategic vision and initiatives. Learn more and apply:

    Stress Management Resources for Farmers

    Farming is stressful, and there are resources to help navigate those challenges. Becca Toms from our Solid Ground program talked with two of our farmers – Dishaun Harris: Root Life, New Haven and Yoko Takemura: Assawaga Farm, Putnam – about the different stresses they face farming in Connecticut and some of the practices they have put in place to help them manage that stress.

    This project was supported by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and they have plenty more resources if you are interested in finding out some more information about how you, as a farmer, can manage your stress and wellbeing, visit

    And a side note – If you feel unsafe and have any thoughts about harming yourself, please call the AgriStress Helpline. It is a free and confidential 24/7 crisis and support line with trained agricultural specialists. You can call or text 833-897-2474 and visit