Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. Our educators faced the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and pivoted programs to offer life transformative education despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Programming moved to virtual environments through online certificate programs, virtual field days, WebEx meetings, and YouTube videos. Our educators created and released 318 new videos on YouTube. These videos reached 305,200 people and had 39,501 viewers that watched 1,200 hours of Extension instruction.
One of every nine Connecticut residents struggled with food insecurity before COVID-19. For many individuals and families, challenges surrounding food insecurity increased when the pandemic arrived and continued throughout 2020. The stress associated with food insecurity challenges one of the most basic human needs and deepens income and health disparities.
UConn Extension programs addressed the food insecurity challenges that our community members are facing due to COVID-19. Educators coordinated dairy foods donations to help address food insecurity challenges—facilitating the donation of over 160,000 pounds of dairy products statewide.
Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities. We serve thousands of people every year. Our work is in every town and city of the state and the broader impacts make Connecticut a better place to live for all of us.
The human, environmental, and agricultural issues that we face change. The needs of our residents’ change. Our commitment to providing life transformative education remains steadfast.
“Fue de mucha ayuda y ahora lo pongo en práctica. Me ayudo mucho a comer más saludable y a gastar menos dinero comprando comida en ofertas.”
“Tratare de integrar a mis comidas todos los consejos que aprendi en esta clase ya que son muy productivos. Gracias por compartir con nosotras todos sus conocimentos de cocina.”
“Me fijaré más en la lista de nutrición de los productos, para controlar en no exceder en los valores diarios, tratar de poner en práctica las recomendaciones de relajación para cuando tenga mucha presión en mis tareas diarias, consumir comida más sana de manera divertida para mis niños.”
Some words shared by Danbury Head Start parents after completing their EFNEP course.
March is National Nutrition Month! This past year has proven that nutrition and health are more important to all of us than ever. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is UConn Extension’s outreach nutrition program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). Since EFNEP’s inception as a USDA demonstration program in 1968, community educators work with low-income, limited resource families with children to learn how to food shop, prepare and eat more healthily as well as increase physical activity.
National Nutrition Month is a natural connection for EFNEP’s year round healthy lifestyle education. Designated in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this promotion began as a weeklong campaign to promote the profession as well as to communicate nutrition messages to the public. As a result of growing consumer interest, there was a transition to month long event in 1980. Each year a theme is chosen to embody health through nutrition and physical activity.
This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate because everyone is unique in regard to body type, goals, cultural background, taste preferences and experiences. During this unprecedented past year, EFNEP has pivoted along with the rest of the world to social media for connection and engagement with friends, family and acquaintances. Through the EFNEP Facebook page and Extension Instagram and website, messages have included recipes, video short talks and cooking demonstrations to highlight how to Personalize Your Plate. Join us on social media and our websites to learn more about nutrition and healthy lifestyle education.
UConn Extension connects thousands of people across Connecticut and beyond each year, with the research and resources of the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. We are comprised of more than 100 educators and a vast network of volunteers. UConn Extension works collaboratively to build more resilient communities through educational initiatives aimed to cultivate a sustainable future and develop tomorrow’s leaders. The work of UConn Extension connects communities and individuals to help make Connecticut a better place to live, and a better place for future generations.
A Series of Virtual Workshops for Adults the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm.
These workshops are open to any interested adults- volunteers, 4-H leaders, parents, and community members. The opportunity to register will continue through the year. Each presentation is 20-30 minutes long, followed by 10-20 minutes discussion time (so the workshop is done in 40 minutes!).
Click here to register. The Zoom login will be emailed to you, along with any handouts that accompany workshops.
Alli is a social worker, nutrition and health coach, and personal trainer with an extensive back ground in mental health. She works with adults to find their bio-individual balance and achieve goals with nutrition, health, wellness, and lifestyle.
Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns of Connecticut to help solve the problems that our residents, communities, and state face. Connecting people with agriculture, the natural environment, and healthy lifestyles are critical components to a sustainable future. Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities for the next generation.
This time of the year, Connecticut residents are heading outside to enjoy the cool fall temperatures and beautiful New England scenery. Connecticut offers a wealth of outdoor spaces from city parks to rural area trail systems where people can engage in all types of activities such as hiking, biking, and nature watching while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Spending time outdoors is a great way to get exercise, reduce stress, and can be a good educational experience for kids of all ages. Additionally, doing activities outside can increase happiness and wellbeing.
For new trail users, heading onto the trails can seem a bit overwhelming as it can be hard to know what to expect on the trails. Information about what to pack, eat, and how to navigate trail systems is not always widely available. This is why we have launched a new video series called Trails 101 on our Connecticut Trails webpage. This series of four videos explains to trail users everything they need to know before stepping onto the trails. The videos cover topics such as how to prepare for a hike, what to bring, trail etiquette, and the leave no trace principles. Trail users of all levels have a responsibility to know how to respect themselves, others, and the environment when heading out into nature. These videos provide the tools needed for a successful adventure on Connecticut trails.
Other resources available for new trail users include websites such as AllTrails.com, a crowd-sourced website. AllTrails is a great resource to help people locate hikes in their area. On AllTrails, trails can be sorted by difficulty level, length, and type of trail. There is information about features of the trail such as vistas and waterfalls, and accessibility of the trails. The hikes are posted by community members so they do not always include all information available so cross checking with trail managing organizations would also be helpful. The benefit of AllTrails being a crowd-sourced website is that other trail users can leave reviews of the hike and the current conditions to help others decide if the trail is right for them at that time.
Another online resource for finding trails is the Connecticut Forest and Park Association Interactive Map. This map helps hikers find blue blazed trails near them. The website includes an informational video on how to use the interactive map which we would highly recommend watching as it shows just how helpful this interactive map can be.
As helpful as all these online resources can be, sometimes, the best option is a paper map. Paper maps can be printed from the internet, purchased from the organization that maintains the trail of interest, or, sometimes, found for free at trailhead information huts. Since cell service is not always available and cell phones can run out of battery, it’s always good to be prepared by having a paper trail map.
A final resource trail users should explore before heading outside is the Leave No Trace website which provides information on how to be a responsible trail user. On the website, they discuss the 7 principles of Leave No Trace (LNT). These principles outline ways humans can make the least amount of impact on the environment when visiting natural places. We all live in the same environment so it is the job of everyone to help preserve it. These principles are not hard to follow yet they have a huge impact on preserving our wild places. For example, the LNT principles of disposing of waste properly and traveling on durable surfaces are small actions trail users can take to maintain the beauty of the natural environments we all enjoy recreating in.
After watching the Trails 101 video series, looking at websites like AllTrails.com, and reviewing the LNT principles, it’s time to hit the trail, get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. Enjoy exploring all Connecticut has to offer.
Article by Marissa Dibella
These videos were made possible by a generous gift from the David and Nancy Bull Extension Innovation Fund to the UConn PATHS Team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. PATHS is an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health and communities, and implementing a social ecological approach to health education. Our team works in a wide variety of departments and disciplines including public health, health education, nutrition, community development, and landscape architecture.
Written and produced October 2020 by Jenifer Nadeau, Michael Puglisi, Umekia Taylor, Stacey Stearns, Dianisi Torres, Laura Brown, Mike Zaritheny, with review and special assistance from Dea Ziso, Marissa Dibella, Laurie Giannotti, Claire Cain, Kristen Bellantuono, Kim Bradley, and Amy Hernandez.
Visiting an aquarium transports people to another world, an underwater world filled with many different plants and animals. Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut cares for 5,000 animals from over 355 species, from octopus to beluga whales and sea lions. Studying these animals offers a unique opportunity to learn about conserving these species in the wild, in support of Mystic Aquarium’s mission to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research.
Behind habitats that feature brightly colored fish and a diversity of other animals, like beluga whales that appear to engage with visitors, are the professionals – veterinarians, aquarists, trainers, divers, and environmental quality staff – that protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of the animals. The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) in the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is a partner in protecting and enhancing the health of the aquatic animals at Mystic Aquarium and has collaborated with its veterinarians for almost thirty years.
CVMDL partners with Mystic Aquarium on diagnostics and research to advance aquatic animal care and health and shares these initiatives with the larger scientific and educational communities.
The partnership between CVMDL and Mystic Aquarium started with Dr. Salvatore Frasca Jr., the Director of CVMDL. Dr. Frasca’s research focus is on pathology and diagnostics of aquatic animals. Service, through his appointment with UConn Extension and work with CVMDL, has always been a key component of his work.
“I chose UConn because it was close to Mystic Aquarium,” Dr. Frasca says. “I’m proud and pleased that CVMDL, through our service and educational activities, has been supporting Mystic Aquarium for over 30 years. We have a legacy of Extension activities at Mystic Aquarium that many people from both organizations have been part of.”
Dr. Frasca was enrolled in the Residency/PhD program in veterinary anatomic pathology at UConn in the 1990s after earning his veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to that, he had worked closely with Dr. J. Lawrence Dunn, the veterinarian at Mystic Aquarium at the time. The two realized that there was a nationwide shortage of educational opportunities for veterinarians to learn aquatic animal medicine. Together, they wrote a grant to create an internship program at Mystic Aquarium.
Mystic Aquarium’s Internship in Aquatic Animal Medicine and Research teaches veterinarians how to apply and develop their skills for the benefit of aquatic animals and helps veterinarians further develop their expertise with research. It was the first aquatic marine animal veterinary internship ever offered, and Mystic Aquarium’s internship program has since trained nearly 30 veterinarians, many of whom are now leaders in the field of aquatic animal medicine, including two of the veterinarians currently employed at Mystic Aquarium. After receiving the grant, Dr. Frasca was encouraged to apply, and served as the first veterinary intern in the program in 1992. For nearly thirty years the program has continued to train veterinarians in aquatic animal health and has prompted similar opportunities in other locations.
The idea of developing educational experiences in clinical medicine and pathology was the foundation of the original partnership. CVMDL provides the pathology component and Mystic Aquarium has the clinical component. They are parallel tracks that weave back and forth because of the nature of the programs. Veterinarians come to UConn’s residency program in veterinary anatomic pathology, in part, because they want to experience aquatic animals. CVMDL integrates aquatic animals into the fabric of the training material and provides transformational learning experiences.
Enhancing Animal Health and Conservation
Dr. Allison Tuttle is the Senior Vice President of Zoologic Operations at Mystic Aquarium. She was introduced to Mystic Aquarium on a tour with the AQUAVET program, and then served as the Veterinary Intern in Aquatic Animal Medicine and Research from 2002 to 2004. Dr. Tuttle re-joined the aquarium as Director of Animal Care in 2007 when Dr. Dunn retired. In her current role, Dr. Tuttle oversees animal husbandry, animal rescue, veterinary services, environmental quality, the dive program, and exhibit interpretation.
“I fell in love with Mystic Aquarium on that initial tour,” Dr. Tuttle says. “There is a nice balance of opportunities among the programs we have, and we play a key role in wild marine animal rescue for our region.”
Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program manages 1,000 miles of coastline and monitors deceased wild marine mammals and sea turtles to determine their cause of death. The aquarium sends samples to CVMDL for histopathologic analysis, which provides critically important information on what is happening in our oceans. The aquarium submits reports containing this data to federal agencies, and these reports are utilized to shape regulations and policies preventing fisheries and human interaction, which is important for marine mammal and sea turtle conservation.
“Our oceans are changing and there are a lot of unusual mortality events, in particular with large whale species in the greater Atlantic region,” Dr. Tuttle says. “As new issues emerge with the ocean it becomes increasingly important to monitor what is occurring. It’s tremendously difficult to study these whales; the data we collect is sometimes the only information we have on these animals.”
CVMDL’s pathology and diagnostic services have been integral to the health of Mystic Aquarium’s animals as well. They partner on sample analysis for their animals as well as on scientific collaborations. The aquarium sends samples to CVMDL for histopathologic analysis and biopsies on active clinical cases. The results from CVMDL guide care of the animals, important in the management of a healthy, robust population, by informing treatment and allowing for the best animal care possible.
Scientific research is another area where Mystic Aquarium and CVMDL collaborate. Aquatic clinical medicine and pathology go hand-in-hand. For example, Mystic Aquarium worked with CVMDL and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to report Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) infection in a colony of penguins in 2003. EEE is an emerging health concern. Until that report, EEE infection in penguins had not been described. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Mystic Aquarium has a great relationship with UConn and Dr. Frasca,” says Dr. Tuttle. “We have a strong connection with UConn and our conservation and animal care are greatly enhanced through our partnership with CVMDL.”
CVMDL is on the front lines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. The aquatic animal pathology service is one part of their work. Clients include those within the state, such as Mystic Aquarium and The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and clients and aquariums from across the country. The laboratory offers diagnostic testing in support of pathology, including bacterial and fungal culture and molecular testing. The long-standing service history in aquatic animal pathology started with the relationship with Mystic Aquarium and now serves a number of other aquariums nationwide.
“CVMDL is committed to working with Mystic Aquarium, we’ve always known that Mystic Aquarium is a special asset for Connecticut,” Dr. Frasca concludes. “Extension activity is born of confluence and synergy of educational activities. That is exactly what happened with Mystic Aquarium.”
The Fall season brings to us a favorite squash!! Pumpkin! Did you know it’s a squash? Pumpkin and the spices that seem to flavor it best are added to just about everything: pumpkin coffee, pumpkin muffins, and of course, pumpkin pie! As delicious as pumpkin treats are, did you know that the seeds of a pumpkin can also be roasted and enjoyed?
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of many nutrients, including fiber, protein, magnesium, and potassium1. Pumpkin seeds can be seasoned in many ways and are delightfully crunchy when roasted, which makes them a great addition to salads, trail mixes and for a simple snack-in-a-handful!
Check out this simple way to make your own roasted pumpkin seeds:
Get a pumpkin!
Fill a large bowl with warm water
Preheat oven to 275 degrees
Wash your hands!
Carefully, use a sharp knife to cut around the top of the pumpkin around the stem, and then pull on the stem to take off.
Using a large spoon or your hands, pull all of the seeds out of the pumpkin and place the clumps of seeds directly into the bowl of water. This will get messy, but it’s fun! The stringy orange pulp in the pumpkin can be discarded when pulled out with the seeds.
Use your hands to separate any remaining pumpkin pulp from the seeds in the bowl of water. The pulp will sink, and the seeds will float once in the water.
Strain seeds out of the water with a colander, and pat the seeds dry with a paper towel.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place cleaned and dried pumpkin seeds in a bowl. Now it is time to season them! This is the fun part!
For a sweet, pumpkin pie flavor, use equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
For a savory flavor option, use equal parts salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin.
Use your own spice mixture as well!
Once seasonings sprinkled on, use your hands to mix seeds well.
Lay seasoned pumpkin seeds out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake the seasoned pumpkin seeds for 30-35 minutes at 275 degrees. Every 15 minutes, carefully open the oven and using a spoon or pancake flipper, stir the seeds around so they are able to roast evenly.
Once the seeds are lightly browned, remove from the oven and allow to cool on pan.
Store the roasted pumpkin seeds in a sealed container at room temperature.
There are many ways you can enjoy your toasted pumpkin seeds! A few ideas:
Written by UConn Dietetics Masters Student Shawn Lada
We may be having cooler days now, but it is always important to stay hydrated. Keeping your body hydrated helps your heart, brain, muscles, and joints to stay healthy, along with keeping you regular and preventing urinary tract infections! During hotter days and summer months your body needs more fluid because you lose fluid when you sweat. Guess what? Sweating also occurs if you are working out in a gym in the winter! Even if you are not working out, your body loses fluid every day and you may not be drinking as much fluid as you need to rehydrate1.
Bottom line: Be aware of your fluid intake each day and adjust as necessary.
Depending on your activity level, from low activity like washing the car and walking the dog, to high/athletic activity like running a number of miles or lifting weights–and even depending on your gender–you may need around 90 ounces to 180 ounces of water a day. (That is up to almost 1 ½ gallons or 23 eight-oz cups!) The good news is you get around 20% of your fluid intake from fruits and vegetables2. Do you know how water packed they are? Think of sweet juicy watermelon and crunchy apples! That’s water making that ‘crunch’!
The other 80% of your daily fluids come from water, milk, coffee, tea, and other beverages3. Other sources of fluids include foods like plain yogurt, broth-based soups, and popsicles.
For the rest of your hydration needs–and to get into a healthy routine–keep a reusable water bottle nearby, or a glass of water if you are at home, sipping as you go through the day4.
Remember: if you’re feeling thirsty, listen to your body and drink up! By the time you are thirsty, you are probably already on your way to becoming dehydrated. A way of knowing if you are dehydrated is to look at the color of your urine. It should be clear or pale yellow5. If it’s not, it’s time to drink some refreshing water!
Struggling to take a liking to plain drinking water? Try adding sliced fruits, like lemons and limes, and vegetables like cucumber slices, or even some mint!
French, K. A., & James, L. (2020, September 16). Water, Water Everywhere. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://extension.psu.edu/water-water-everywhere
Appel, L. J., M.D, Baker, D. H., Ph.D., Bar-Or, O., M.D, Minaker, K. L., M.D., Morris, C., Jr., M.D, Resnick, L. M., M.D, . . . Whelton, P. K., M.D., M.Sc. (2004, February 11). Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2004/02/report-sets-dietary-intake-levels-for-water-salt-and-potassium-to-maintain-health-and-reduce-chronic-disease-risk
French, K. A., & James, L. (2020, September 16). Water, Water Everywhere. Retrieved September 29, 2020, from https://extension.psu.edu/water-water-everywhere