Bristol

Extension EFNEP Programming Positively Impacts Participants

Heather and a volunteer in their masksOur Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) shifted during the pandemic, just as everyone did. Last summer I had the opportunity to work with Bristol and New Britain HRA programs teaching their summer youth employment program. Their Program Director asked me to create a five-week virtual class, with 16 hours’ worth of work per week for their students. We had 20 students on each program. The program started three weeks after I received the request and I had to quickly think about how to best teach EFNEP nutrition education virtually to teenagers!
I was lucky to have a UConn student intern, Autumn Blasi, to help with the program! Although we never met in person, we worked together virtually to create a one of kind program!
I learned and used  Google classroom to create meaningful lessons for students. Each week students had to watch videos,  research, and complete project-based assignments. Students had to photograph their gardens each week to show progress. Students researched how to do different exercises and had to create beginners’ guides. Every week we had a virtual WebEx class.
Each week of the EFNEP/HRA program was theme-based on the growth of a plant. Week one was seeds and roots, week two was stems, week three was leaves, week four was flowers, week five was fruits and vegetables. Each week students had to find foods and recipes based on the week’s theme. They also had to research and report on nutrient and calorie content, selection, and storage of foods from the weeks theme.  I decided to do three “distribution” days every other week, that gave the students the tools to do hands-on, project-based learning at home.  I also divided the program into four concentration areas: gardening, nutrition, fitness, and future self with four hours of work in each. We had the students create SMART goals for each concentration area. Students had to photograph their gardens each week to show progress. Students researched how to do different exercises and had to create beginners’ guides. Every week we had four separate virtual WebEx classes with different groups of students. On distribution weeks we had a hands-on virtual class where we made recipes together.
In the beginning of the process I thought students would want connection to other students and tried to create group projects. I also thought students would want to be “seen” through the process, but they usually did not want to have their camera on. It was always their choice! It seemed that they liked the affirmation of the grading process best. They strived to do the work and wanted to make sure I SAW it. They were polite and engaged and asked for more work! They would ask for the  next weeks work if they finished the present weeks work. They started to become more confident and comfortable with the process over the last weeks. I  learned a lot during the process. I am grateful for the project!
On week one, we scheduled a safe, socially distanced distribution to students. Each student received a “EFNEP cooking kit”- with a meat thermometer, measuring cups, recipe books, and an insulated grocery bag. They also received a “container pizza garden”- students had a chance to identify each plant and plant their containers, it was like 40 – 10 minute lessons from afar! These distribution were done in the community at two different locations.
On week three we distributed the ingredients for overnight oats, and a fear factor food (spinach) to do our online recipe together. We had many technical difficulties that day and our intern stepped in to “show” the recipe because I lost video! We had the students “use your oats again,” and use your fear factor food and post the pictures. The students did an amazing job!
On week five we distributed prizes and the ingredients for our last WebEx virtual recipe, ” Salsa Pasta.” I had hoped to use the vegetables from the student’s container gardens, but the plants the agency provided were very small. I had to replace some students’ plants during the program due to critters eating them! This was my most successful video and audio! I finally figured out how to just use my office for the recipe. I made the recipe four times – two groups on Wednesday and two groups on Thursday. I also gave students other ways to make the recipe into soup and macaroni and cheese.
I heard from parents who said they benefitted from the class, in addition to their child. Especially downloading a step tracker and food diary app. They liked the SMART goals and saw improvement in some of their children’s behavior and confidence.
Our student intern, Autumn added so much to the program! She added assignments for the students on body image, diabetes, how to dress for an interview, and critiquing nutrition information on social media.
Article by Heather Pease, UConn EFNEP Educator

“Ruins Reborn” – Revitalization Strategies

“Ruins Reborn”, Hugh Bailey offers revitalization strategies

Posted on September 26, 2015

By John McDonald, Extension Intern

Bristol Babcock
Former Bristol Babcock complex in Waterbury. Photo: John McDonald

Hugh Bailey, urban planner, columnist for the Connecticut Post, and member of UConn class of 1999, will be speaking on the issue of the post-industrial challenges posed by the numerous abandoned buildings in Connecticut’s urban areas. His presentation, “Ruins Reborn: Revitalizing Post-industrial Cities”, was in October at the Waterbury campus of the University of Connecticut, tackled this issue in a fashion which would integrate historical preservation and community economic development. The harsh realities of the post-industrial decline hit Connecticut’s cities in the 1970s. Many communities have never fully recovered. The legacies of our reliance on heavy industry have included fiscal insolvency and environmental degradation. While underutilized, polluted buildings and land abound, it is important to remember that the scale of the problems we currently face are lesser than they once were.

I was born in Waterbury in 1973. My first inkling of the post-industrial decline came with my father’s layoff in 1980. Food stamps soon supplemented our meager income. We bounced back somewhat during the Reagan years, but another recession was around the corner. I left high school in the thick of it, with no concrete plans for my future. I became a college student only recently, after a lengthy odyssey that included Job Corps, an apprenticeship, and many low-paying service jobs. My memories of post-industrial Waterbury are vivid and my experiences in this landscape shaped my environmental attitudes, in this case meaning my enduring orientations to the physical environment. I remember riding in my parent’s minivan along Silver Street, en route to the Naugatuck Valley Mall on Wolcott Street. I looked out the window in awe at the derelict Scovill Brass buildings. This massive complex covered nearly 200 acres. I remember some ten years later, walking down East Main Street, still in the shadow of the Scovill buildings.

Waterbury’s landscape has already been greatly altered. The Brass Mill Center currently occupies the former Scovill site. True to my blue-collar roots, I worked as an apprentice electrician, wiring a few of the stores in the new mall which was completed in 1996. Other industrial sites in Waterbury have since been demolished. There are similar instances throughout the Naugatuck Valley. Naugatuck has also been transformed as the former U.S. Rubber complex has largely been razed. Those familiar with the region’s industrial heyday are no doubt surprised to see how much of the built environment has been changed. Mr. Bailey advocates a different sort of approach than widespread demolition, which sometimes results in polluted lots sitting vacant for years, or conversion to retail space, which would further dissipate the area’s limited consumer base. In his article, which has been published in UConn Magazine, Mr. Bailey discusses other ways to deal with the problems posed by abandoned factory buildings.

One of Mr. Bailey’s suggestions is to link the proposed Naugatuck River Greenway with factory complexes restored as industrial heritage sites. As Mr. Bailey reports, this strategy has worked well in the Ruhr Valley of Germany, one of Europe’s most heavily industrialized areas. Mr. Bailey also discusses instances where factory complexes have been converted into successful mixed-use developments. Mr. Bailey believes that these type of developments can help post-industrial cities regain their lost identity by connecting their rich past to their uncertain future. In this sense, these cities can be reborn, as the title of Mr. Bailey’s lecture suggests.

From my experience assisting with the economic impact study of the Naugatuck River Greenway, I understand that these sort of projects can be costly and may not provide the type of economic boost Naugatuck Valley municipalities are looking for. They are long-term solutions to a pervasive problem whose benefits will accrue over time and ultimately create stronger communities. The Naugatuck Valley cities and towns must be made aware of such concepts as amenity value, preservation value, and social capital; intangibles that are often difficult to quantify. That may prove to be as big of a challenge as restoring factory buildings that have been abandoned, in some instances, for nearly 40 years.

 

Mr. Bailey’s article: http://magazine.uconn.edu/2015/04/ruins-reborn/