When we think of environmental education (EE), we might think of connecting youth to nature, increasing student academic achievement, and developing the next generation of environmental stewards. These are all excellent and proven benefits of EE. But EE that specifically empowers youth and adults towards environmental actionin their community can also lead to direct environmental and community benefits.
Goal:I set out to assess collective environmental & community impact of conservation projects carried out by teen-adult volunteer partnerships participating in UConn’s Natural Resources Conservation Academy.
NRCA comprises programs that provides place-based, environmental action programs for teens & adults
Teen & adult volunteer teamsformed
Trained inconservation science&technology during field experience or workshop
Teams identify &address a local conservation issue(projects tailored to individual circumstances & community need)
Participants share projects atregional conferenceQuantifying impact:I assessed impact of167projects carried out by308teens and adults participating in two UConn NRCA programs (Conservation Ambassador Program and Conservation Training Partnerships).
The challenge: develop a systematic protocol to quantify metrics fromdiverseconservation efforts
UConn 4-H, the youth development program of Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is organizing Operation Community Impact. This afternoon, 4-H members and volunteers are working with community partners and the UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to deliver 7,200 half-gallons of milk donated by Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) through their local facility, Guida’s Dairy in New Britain.
Operation Community Impact has two primary goals: to address community food insecurity issues and to reduce the amount of surplus milk that is being discarded due to the COVID-19 crisis. Background information on the project includes:
Because 30% of the fluid milk usually gets sold to restaurants, schools and institutions that are now closed; therefore, there is a huge surplus of fluid milk on the market that cannot be expeditiously processed into more shelf stable products like dried milk and butter.
The price of milk for the farmers have dropped from $19.00 per hundred pounds to $13.00 per hundred pounds because of this surplus.
Cows continue to produce milk at the same rate. As a result, hundreds of dairy farms across the country are now forced to dump their milk because the dairy plants have such a surplus, they have no room at the plants to store and process the milk because of the drop off in demand.
Meanwhile, food pantries are in desperate need of more food to help provide nourishment for the increasing number of individuals with food insecurity, due to the pandemic and more people losing their jobs.
DFA has generously agreed to donate 15 pallets of half-gallons of whole milk on Monday, May 4th, equaling 7,200 half-gallons, to be shared with food pantries across the state. UConn 4-H members and volunteers are distributing the milk in Litchfield County, Fairfield County, Hartford County, New London County, Tolland County and Windham County.
“DFA Northeast farm families are pleased to donate milk processed at our Guida’s facility to provide nutritious dairy for family tables across Connecticut,” says Jennifer Huson of Dairy Farmers of America.
UConn 4-H and EFNEP educators are connecting with local food pantries in each county to deliver the milk. 4-H members and volunteers, Extension educators, and EFNEP program partners deliver the milk from a central drop off location in each county. Other businesses and partners are donating refrigerated trucks and space to assist with Operation Community Impact.
“I am thrilled to be able to help coordinate this effort because I know firsthand how hard all farmers work to produce food for the rest of us,” says Bill Davenport, the UConn Extension educator coordinating Operation Community Impact, and the Litchfield County 4-H coordinator.
“When I heard about dumping milk because of the supply issue due to the school and restaurant closures, I decided we need to try to get some of this milk out of the surplus to help farmers stay in business and into the hands of families who are food insecure,” Bill says. “It makes no sense that we are dumping milk while there are people who desperately need food. Over 1,200 truckloads of milk are being dumped each day across the country so I decided to involve our amazing 4-H youth and parents to help connect the dots since the distribution of the milk is where the system is falling apart and need help. I hope that our actions will increase awareness of the issue and encourage others to help do the same across Connecticut and the region so that we can help move more milk out of the surplus and into the refrigerators of people who desperately need it.”
This is the third UConn 4-H dairy product distribution effort in two weeks. At the end of this effort, they will have helped secure donations and distributed 8,640 half-gallons of fresh milk and over 28,000 pounds of yogurt and sour cream from the dairy surplus inventory to families across Connecticut. The yogurt and sour cream were donated by the Agri-Mark Cooperative and Cabot.
“Hartford County 4-H is excited to deliver this fresh milk to individuals and families throughout Hartford County. The actions of our 4-H members and volunteers, truly exemplify the words of the 4-H pledge “hands to larger service,” states Jen Cushman, a UConn Extension educator and coordinator of Hartford County 4-H.
Community service is a key component of civic engagement in 4-H. This project provides 4-H members the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of consumers and dairy producers. We hope to secure more donations of milk and other dairy products so we can continue this effort over the next few weeks, or as long as it is needed. Bill Davenport, Litchfield County 4-H UConn Extension Educator, who grew up on a dairy farm in Litchfield and owns dairy cows in his brother’s herd in Ancram, New York, came up with the idea after learning about the milk surplus and that some farms had to dump their milk due to the challenges in the supply chain during the pandemic. Bill spearheaded this effort by securing the donations.
Operation Community Impact would not be possible without the efforts of many community partners, volunteers, food pantries and businesses in each of the six counties that the project is serving. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to everyone helping to connect those in need with the milk and dairy donations.
About Dairy Farmers of America
Dairy Farmers of America is a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative focusing on quality, innovation and the future of family dairies. While supporting and serving more than 13,000 family farmers, DFA works with some of the world’s largest food companies to develop ingredients that satisfy their customers’ cravings while staying committed to social responsibility and ethical farming. For more information, please visit dfamilk.com.
About Guida’s Dairy
Since 1886, Guida’s Dairy has been providing high-quality dairy products to consumers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Northern New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and eastern New York. In 2012, the company became a part of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a national, farmer-owned cooperative, based in Kansas City, Kan. Guida’s Dairy offers an extensive line of products, including fluid milk, cream, ice cream mixes, fruit drinks, orange juice and a variety of other dairy products. For more information about Guida’s Dairy and our products, visit guidas.com.
About UConn 4-H
4-H is a national program with six million youth participating in various project areas who learn life skills, supervised by over 500,000 volunteer leaders. UConn 4-H serves over 17,000 Connecticut youth each year.
The 4-H program is organized into four program areas including Agriculture, Civic Engagement, Healthy Living and STEM. These themes all overlap throughout the 4-H experience, with emphasis placed on creating well-rounded individuals. 4-H is the youth development program offered through the UConn Extension system within the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. The purpose of UConn as Connecticut’s land grant university is to provide the citizens of Connecticut with educational opportunities through teaching, research and extension programming. For more information about 4-H and how to join visit 4-H.uconn.edu.
Today’s Drop Off Locations
Hartford County: Hartford County’s allotment of 1,368 half-gallons to over 21 food pantries throughout Hartford County, on the afternoon of Monday, May 4, 2020 at approximately 1 PM at the Windsor Park and Ride (just of rt. 291/91) where it will be offloaded into waiting vehicles owned by 4-H member families. Those vehicles will each then drive directly to their designated food pantry and safely deliver the milk to be handed out to food pantries. Contact: Jennifer.Cushman@uconn.edu or 860-409-9074.
Litchfield County: 1 PM at Litchfield Community Center – 421 Bantam Rd, Litchfield, CT 06759 – Contact William.Davenport@uconn.edu or cell number: 860-459-6753
Extension programs cover the full spectrum of topics aligned to the CAHNR strategic initiatives:
• Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
• Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
• Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate
• Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of the 169 municipalities across the state (see map). The “by the Numbers 2019” highlights some of our key impacts from these initiatives.