Health

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

What are the current US Dietary Guidelines for salt intake and how do I lower my intake?

-Sharon Gray, Nutrition Education, EFNEP Associate Extension Educator

The US Dietary Guidelines recommend a limit of 2300 mg for people ages 14 and up.  That is a single teaspoon of salt.   Most Americans consume 3,400 mg or more of sodium each day which equals 1.5 teaspoons of salt.  About 70% of the sodium in American diets comes from packaged, processed and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker.

Hidden salt is everywhere in the typical American diet and it adds up quickly.

A high sodium diet puts too much strain on the kidneys .  Eventually this leads to high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and kidney disease.

-You can reduce your sodium intake by carefully reading nutrition labels on packaged foods.

  • The Daily Value (DV) for sodium is less than 2,300 mg per day
  • The percent DV shows how much of the maximum recommended amount of sodium in a single serving
  • Aim for less than 5 % DV for sodium if you are looking for low sodium foods
  • Limit or avoid foods with 20% DV or more for sodium

– When you are at restaurants, eat less and consider ordering sauces and dressings on the side

– Try using herbs and spices in recipes to season your food instead of salt

Avian Influenza: What You Need to Know

This information is courtesy of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Avian Influenza (AI) remains a threat and all birds and poultry, including wildlife, can carry the disease.

What Is Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)? 

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is an extremely infectious viral disease that occurs naturally in wild birds and can spread to domestic birds. 

The virus has led to the disposal of about 48 million poultry in 21 Western and Midwestern states since December of 2014. 

No confirmed cases have occurred since June. The virus has not been detected in the Northeast or Connecticut, but there is concern that it may spread to the Northeast during the fall or spring wild bird migration. 

Is there a public health risk? 

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) consider the risk to people to be low, and no human infections have been detected. 

The risk to the food supply and consumers is also low, and controls are in place to preclude poultry and eggs from affected flocks from entering the food system. Poultry and eggs that are properly handled and cooked are safe to eat. 

What kind of birds can the virus affect? 

The virus can infect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl, as well as a wide variety of wild birds. 

How many poultry are there in Connecticut? 

There are an estimated 5 million poultry housed on approximately 240 farms in Connecticut. The state is also home to numerous people who own a small number of poultry for exhibition, meat and egg production. 

What is the state doing to reduce the risk of the virus spreading here? 

The state Department of Agriculture and other state and federal agencies have created a task force that is preparing for a potential incident of HPAI in Connecticut, and is ready to implement a response plan if necessary. 

The task force includes the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) – which is responsible for monitoring the wild bird population – the Department of Public Health, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. 

The emergency response plan follows these five basic steps: 

  • Quarantine – restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area. 
  • Eradicate – depopulate the affected flock(s). 
  • Monitor region – testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area. 
  • Disinfect – kills the virus in the affected flock locations. 
  • Test – confirm that the poultry farm is free of HPAI. 

The task force is also in active, ongoing communication with neighboring states and the U.S Dept. Of Agriculture (USDA) to prepare for the detection of HPAI in Connecticut. 

The USDA has experience with the previous three HPAI outbreaks in commercial poultry in the U.S., in 1924, 1983 and 2004. No human illnesses were associated with those incidents, or the current one. 

The agriculture department has been conducting outreach about HPAI for several years. 

The agency is now working with poultry owners to prepare for a potential incident, and is urging them to register their birds with the state. 

How is the virus spread? 

It is typically spread to poultry from direct contact with wild birds or a contaminated environment. Once established in a domestic poultry flock, it can spread rapidly. 

It is also spread by the movement of infected poultry, contaminated poultry equipment, and people who can transfer the virus between farms on their shoes and clothing. 

What should poultry owners do to reduce the risk of its spread? 

Eliminate opportunities for domestic birds to interact with wild birds. Owners of birds should avoid visiting other farms, homes or facilities that also have birds. 

Those who must visit another premises with poultry should practice strict bio-security measures, such as wearing clean clothes and shoes, and keeping vehicles clean and free of dirt, manure and other organic material. 

In addition, knowing the signs to look for and monitoring the health of birds on a regular basis is very important. 

Signs to look for include: 

  • Unusual, high mortality of birds 
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Respiratory distress 
  • Swelling around the head, eyes and neck 
  • Decreased consumption of food and water 
  • A drop in egg production 

Poultry owners are being urged to register their birds or flocks with the state, and can do so by going to the homepage of the Dept. of Agriculture’s website: CTGrown.gov. Poultry owners may also call the Dept. of Agriculture at 860-713-2504. 

Who can I contact to register my flock or if I suspect my poultry are infected? 

Poultry owners may call the state Department of Agriculture at 860-713-2504, or the USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. 

Who can I contact if I find a dead wild bird that I suspect may be carrying the virus? 

Any concerns about wild birds should be forwarded to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011, or by clicking on www.cfwwildbirdmortalityreporting.ct.gov/ 

Nutrition Education in Action

group of people under a tent outdoorsExtension is out and about – and you may run into us at a local event. Our nutrition educators were at two events on Saturday, September 17th.
 
First, the public learned how “Healthy Eating can Boost Your Immune System” through two on-site classes and cooking demonstrations at the Danbury Farmers’ Market. Participants learned how to prepare fiesta rice salad with local farm fresh ingredients. This program reached 64 people. Assistant Extension Educator, Heather Peracchio. Fairfield County Program Aide, Juliana Restrepo-Marin and Nuvance Health Dietetic Intern Jillian Stickles.
 
Then, in the afternoon, UConn Extension participated in the Second Annual Hispanic Heritage Festival sharing bilingual nutrition tips for families. We reached over 75 participants.

10 Ways to Volunteer with UConn 4-H

UConn 4-H Legends soccer group
The UConn 4-H Legends.

No matter how much time you have, volunteering with UConn 4-H makes a difference by helping youth explore and discover the skills they need to lead for a lifetime. There are lots of ways to get involved! Please note, your volunteer experience and/or opportunities may be happening virtually or in-person. Contact UConn 4-H for more information and apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus.

Help youth lead a club

  • Assist a youth club leader with organizing meetings, speakers, and other logistics.
  • Assist and/or mentor a 4-H volunteer who is serving as a project leader.

Teach a skill

  • Organize a club, or share your skills by teaching a club meeting workshop, devoted to your area of specialty.

Judge projects

  • Serve as a judge for 4-H exhibits, competitions or performances, providing encouragement and suggestions for improvement.

Plan or help at an event

  • Volunteer at a county/state special event; from set-up or clean-up to serving food or taking registrations, there are a lot of ways to get involved.

Serve on an advisory board/committee

  • Sit on a local advisory or county governing board to help determine program priorities.

Help with a specific 4-H project

  • Advise a 4-H member in their project work: help youth identify and set goals, create and implement a plan, and reflect on what they learned and would do differently next time.

Assist with program delivery

  • Volunteer at an after school program, a summer program, camp program event or club meeting.

Volunteer on a fair organizing committee

  • Volunteer at a local fair – be inspired by the talents and creativity of the next generation while promoting the country’s largest positive youth development organization!
  • Work in the food booth or help in the 4-H exhibit hall or at the 4-H show ring.

Utilize your professional skills

  • Share your technical skills and knowledge to develop subject matter for curriculum/project sheets.
  • Utilize your professional skills to assist with with creating marketing tools, graphic art, word documents, webpages, videos, online training modules, etc.
  • Intern at your local Extension office with the 4-H program, a great resume builder.

Share your experiences

  • Share your hobby/passion – inspire a young person as a guest speaker or short-term instructor.
  • Share your career path – invite a 4-H’er to shadow you for the day.
  • Share your educational path/give a testimonial – how did you get to where you are? (If you are a college student – how did you choose your school, what are you pursuing, what are you aspiring to do?)

Apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential through UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages five through 18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of their families and communities.

UConn 4-H uses the thriving model in our Extension youth development programs, and these align with all the strategic initiatives in CAHNR. These include climate adaptation and resilience; promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; enhancing health and well-being; ensuring sustainable agriculture and food systems; and fostering sustainable landscapes at the urban-rural interface. Learn more at s.uconn.edu/4-H.

Help Wanted: Become a UConn 4-H Volunteer

UConn 4-H is Accepting Volunteer Applications

student in garden
A youth member at Auerfarm.

UConn 4-H provides youth with life-changing experiences from flying rockets into space with NASA to organizing national conferences for other youth, and everything in between. These experiences are possible because of thousands of adult mentors and volunteers who work throughout the state and guide youth to reach their potential.

Volunteer opportunities include club leaders, county fair advisors, mentors, project leaders, project evaluators, advisory committee members, and workshop presenters. 

If you enjoy working with children, have a willingness to share your time and talents with young people in the community, like to have fun, learn new skills, and make a difference, then being a 4-H volunteer is for you.

“UConn 4-H is the best organization ever for my daughters and me. Both, they, and I, learned and grew with the involvement in 4-H. It has provided me with the ability to give back to other young folks up in coming in 4-H. The Trice girls swear by 4-H,” says Ken Trice, a UConn 4-H volunteer from Tolland County.

4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth reach their potential. Volunteers help youth learn leadership, civic engagement and life skills through projects and activities. Hobbies or interests such as photography, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, robotics, or something else can be shared with youth through the 4-H program.

“UConn 4-H helped me develop a set of skills like; teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, dependability, leadership which I use every day in my career,” says Rachael Manzer, a nationally awarded educator, and UConn 4-H alumni and volunteer.

Volunteer training and recognition is conducted at local, state, and regional levels. New 4-H volunteers participate in a general orientation with UConn Extension. Meetings are held throughout the state several times each year to help new leaders and volunteers. 

“4-H has been one of the most important aspects of my life and has shaped me as a person in more ways than I could ever imagine. Through this organization, I have been educated on necessary life skills, the significance of helping my community, and the key elements of leadership, just to name a few. But, most of all, 4-H has taught me the utter importance of responsibility,” says Ava, age 15, a UConn 4-H member from Fairfield County.

Just as we recognize the efforts of youth, the UConn 4-H Program recognizes and acknowledges its volunteers for their efforts at the local, state, and national level. The biggest reward is watching the transformation in youth and seeing them grow into engaged adults making a positive contribution. Apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential through UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages five through 18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of their families and communities.

UConn 4-H uses the thriving model in our Extension youth development programs, and these align with all the strategic initiatives in CAHNR. These include climate adaptation and resilience; promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; enhancing health and well-being; ensuring sustainable agriculture and food systems; and fostering sustainable landscapes at the urban-rural interface. Learn more at s.uconn.edu/4-H.

ConnCAP and SNAP-Ed/EFNEP

Riley holding a MyPlate in front of a white board with nutrition tips

Article by Riley Courtney

In July, Heather Peracchio, RDN and summer Extension intern Riley Courtney visited UConn’s Stamford campus for the purpose of providing nutrition and healthy eating education to teen members of the ConnCAP program. To start off, the two instructed the group on some principals of nutrition using the USDA’s MyPlate as a centerpiece. From there, they covered budget friendly tips on choosing the least expensive, healthiest options when perusing the aisle to spicing up typical college dorm go to’s with extra nutrition. Teens used photos of common foods to come up with healthy meal combinations that included more fruits and vegetables. As a culmination of this effort, a brief cooking demonstration and tasting was offered featuring a quick and easy yogurt parfait recipe including whole grain oat cereal, fresh and frozen fruits, and fat-free vanilla yogurt. All in all, the SNAP-Ed team had the class covered.

Comments on the Workshop:

  • Most Useful
    • Eating better on a budget handout
    • Getting more creative with leftovers
    • Being more creative with food
    • Combining unhealthy with healthy foods
    • Meal planning and budgeting tips
    • Eating fruits and veggies in season
    • Using food photo cards to create a nutritious meal
  • Tips to Use Going Forward
    • Knowing what foods mix well with others
    • Being more creative
    • To meal plan
    • To eat more fruits/veggies
    • Try new foods
    • How to save money
    • Compare and contrast technique
    • Looking at the unit prices of foods
  • Helpful Info for Future Workshops
    • Working out and more info about nutrients
    • Making new foods, food/cooking demos
    • Making foods already eating healthier

Summer Program Updates

Empowering Connecticut Communities 

Extension programs are in full swing this summer, both in-person and online. we are here to serve and empower our Connecticut communities, while co-creating solutions to the critical issues that residents and communities are facing. Programs focus on the expertise of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) and incorporate UConn’s research. These areas include agriculture and food, climate adaptation and resilience, enhancing health and well-being, and sustainable landscapes at the urban-rural interface. All programs incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, as we strive to empower all Connecticut residents.

There are opportunities for you to become further involved with Extension programs this summer. Our UConn 4-H program is preparing for the new 4-H year that begins on October 1st and we need help statewide implementing these programs. Volunteer opportunities include one-time commitments and ongoing involvement. Extension is hiring in different locations at our statewide offices. This summer, we welcomed 17 interns to work on various programs and extend our knowledge further while providing them with life transformative educational opportunities. Finally, we continue adding to our suite of online programs that are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. We look forward to working with you on our various programs and initiatives.

Learn about all our updates.

Community Nutrition Outreach with Kate O’Brien

Kate O'BrienHi! My name is Kate O’Brien, and I’m one of the summer interns with UConn CAHNR Extension. I’m currently working in clinical and community nutrition with organizations such as Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and Auerfarm under Sherry Gray. At UConn, I am a rising senior majoring in Nutritional Sciences, with a concentration in the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). On campus, I have been involved with Husky Programs and Husky Reads where I taught nutrition education to preschoolers and developed my love of working with kids and nutrition. I am also involved with Nutrition Club and Habitat for Humanity. 

This internship has given me a variety of experiences. At Connecticut Children’s Genetics Clinic, I have been able sit-in on patient appointments and learn about metabolic disorders and their dietary treatment. It has been so interesting learning about how to approach such specific conditions with unique dietary needs while trying to allow the child to live a normal daily life. I am also working with the education specialists for Hartford County EFNEP to co-create and teach a summer nutrition education course. I have been building coursework that focuses on fitness, nutrition, and social media. Soon I will begin working at Auerfarm’s summer camp where I will teach high school transition students with disabilities about nutrition, food safety, and food preparation. It has been such a great experience being a part of the Hartford County Extension office, meeting the other people who work for UConn Extension, and learning about the different programs they are a part of such as Master Gardeners and the PATHS trails programs. I have learned so much already and I can’t wait for the rest of the summer!

Take Extra Care in Extreme Heat

man wiping sweat off his headDuring times of high temperatures, it is wise to take some extra precautions for your health. The UConn Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) would like to share some information from its USDA-NIFA funded project called Shelter from the Storm: Preparedness Education for Vulnerable Populations. The project is focused on reaching people who are unsheltered or at risk of housing insecurity with basic information about how to be better prepared to deal with four weather conditions—extreme heat, strong winds, severe flooding, and extreme cold. The resources developed include brief videos, info cards, infographic sheets, and coloring pages. They provide helpful reminders to all and can be found at: https://eden.uconn.edu/shelter-from-storm/