UConn EFNEP

UConn EFNEP Celebrates National Nutrition Month

vegetables on a white dinner plateMarch 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.

National Nutrition Month Video Topics:

March is National Nutrition Month: English https://youtu.be/b-nDAgkU9ks
                                                        Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GpfOweLl-s
What is EFNEP: English https://youtu.be/9NeSq0Tk2es
                           Spanish https://youtu.be/fRh7QoiyX3Q
                           Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGE3HrSJ30Y&feature=youtu.be

Article by Umekia R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN; UConn Educator/EFNEP Supervisor

Reference

Denny S. National nutrition month: a brief history. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106 (3):365-366.

CT Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Member Spotlight: Heather Peracchio MS, RDN, CD-N

Heather Peracchio MS, RDN, CD-N

Heather at Daily Bread

Do you have a current/past  position with the CT AND Board?

I have been many positions on the CT AND board but currently I am the Food Security and Sustainability Co-Chair.

 

What inspired you to become a RDN?

My first year at UConn I found the course ‘The Science of Food’ fascinating and was inspired to take more classes in Nutritional Sciences. I have had an interest in food and cooking from a young age. In fact, my mom taught after school cooking programs for elementary age students and I was her assistant. 

 

Where do you work now and where have you worked in the past? 

I currently work as an Assistant Extension Educator at the University of Connecticut based out of the Fairfield County Extension office.  I have been faculty at UConn since 2008, first working in the Department of Allied Health Sciences as a community nutrition preceptor (2008-2012) and then transferred to my current role and office in Bethel, CT (2012-current) as my husband and I settled in nearby Brookfield and started our family.  I also worked part-time as an outpatient dietitian at Community Health Center, Inc. covering Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford locations 2012-2018. 

 

What is your favorite recipe/food?

I could never pick just one! I love cooking and have many favorites. I especially enjoy sharing recipes with friends and clients that are delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare.

 

How is food related to your culture?

My parents and grandparents valued food and its origin.  My grandparents on my fathers side were farmers and very much connected to the land. My grandfather grew up on a dairy farm, Quinnequack Farm in Northeast Connecticut and my grandmother as the daughter of a dairy owner, Arrow Lakes Dairy in Cranston, RI. My grandparents on my mothers side were avid gardeners and wonderful cooks. Growing up my parents and grandparents shared many stories and recipes that had been passed down to them.

 

General tip for improving diet?

Make half your plate fruits and veggies! I am always sure to share this simple tip in presentations as it can easily shift one’s diet in a more healthful direction. 

 

If stranded on island-what one food or beverage you would want an unlimited supply of?

Coffee

 

What is the best part of your job?

I love my job because each day is different. At times I am working on research projects or writing grants, other times I am connecting with community partners such as emergency food sites or I might be in the field giving presentations or attending health fairs. No two days look alike.

 

How has Covid-19 changed the way that you do your job?

The majority of my work has shifted to telecommuting, spending much of my day in virtual meetings or chatting with colleagues on Microsoft teams. My nutrition presentations and class series have transitioned to a virtual format. Also all data collection tools that were traditionally pen and paper have been transitioned to online survey formats.  It is certainly different but I am still doing what I love.

Where do you want to see the RDN/NDTR profession in 10 years?

I would love to see RDNs working more in primary care.  In my role at CHC I saw the value and appreciation for RDNs in primary care and enjoyed working as part of an interdisciplinary team.  I hope that model of care expands and RDNs work more in primary care clinics as well as alongside pharmacists in community pharmacies.  Pharmacies are quickly becoming the go-to resource for primary care and will become more important as vaccination efforts increase. I feel this could be a great place for multidisciplinary work and a great way for RDNs to connect with patients. 

Original Post

Tropical Smoothie – A Healthy Recipe with Dianisi Torres

Dianisi Torres of our UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) makes a healthy tropical smoothie with you using ingredients from the Dollar Store. The presentation is in English and Spanish.

Dianisi Torres, de nuestro programa Educación Alimentaria y Nutricional Expandida de la Extension de UConn, conocido como EFNEP, hace un licuado tropical saludable con usted usando ingredientes de la tienda de Dólar. La presentación es en Inglés y Español.

 

Velazquez Answers Nutrition Questions on Radio Amor in Bridgeport

Zoraida Velazquez talks about MyPlate on Radio Love in BridgeportThe global pandemic is challenging everyone. It’s made many of us more conscience of the threats surrounding us every day. Many people are more aware of the food they eat and health impacts of their nutritional choices. Extension educator Zoraida Velazquez is answering questions for Bridgeport and residents of surrounding communities each Friday morning on Radio Amor/Radio Love 690 AM. Her nutritional advice and guidance are helping the community improve their health and wellbeing.

Zoraida joined UConn Extension in 1978. She’s an educator in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (UConn EFNEP). EFNEP helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. She began her career in UConn Extension’s New London County office before moving back to the New Haven County office. Zoraida grew up in New Haven and is well-known among the community.

“I’m always involved in the community because I love working with people in need,” Zoraida says. Zoraida has served as a pastor for the last 43 years, in addition to her work with EFNEP. She and her husband are currently pastors in Wallingford.

Zoraida began working with Radio Amor in 2015. She had a weekly ten-minute spot called Salud y Nutrition where she answered listeners’ questions. The station manager initiated the program with the goal of bringing services to the community.

Keyla Negron was a nutritional science in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. She heard the program in 2016 and called our Extension office to learn more. Keyla went down to the New Haven County office during her summer break and helped Zoraida with the radio show as a volunteer. They prepared answers for each week’s questions and resources to share with listeners.

The program remained popular with listeners. Then, there were administrative changes at the station in 2017. The station discontinued Zoraida’s program, along with many others.

In January of 2020, Javier Cabrera, the new manager of Radio Amor, reached out to Zoraida. “He remembered hearing the program and told me that it was very informative to the Spanish community, and he wanted to bring back this and other programs for the listeners to benefit from,” she says. “Radio Amor is a Christian radio station, but it’s open to the community with no discrimination to color or race.”

The show quickly resumed with the first episode airing on March 6, 2020. COVID halted it for a second time. It took a couple of months, but in mid-May, Radio Amor had adjusted to the challenges created by the pandemic. Zoraida is back on the air for twenty minutes a week, answering nutrition-related questions for listeners.

“I started in March with MyPlate,” Zoraida says. “I wanted to go back to the basics with the listeners. Then we progressed into the importance of families eating together at the table, I encouraged moms to take advantage of helping their children with healthy eating.”

Other popular topics include stretching the food budget and learning what to make from products that are on hand. Zoraida recalls one person calling in to say that they used to make arroz con leche when things were tough, and white rice with just eggs because there was not enough money for other food products.

“Zoraida Velazquez has been such a blessing to Radio Amor for many years,” says Javier Cabrera, the Operations Manager at Radio Amor. “Pastor Velazquez shares very helpful and important information with our audience, educating them on how to stay healthy. Radio Amor is honored to have Pastor Velazquez as one of our educators empowering our community with the necessary resources to help them stay healthy.”

Zoraida’s 20-minute radio show is rarely long enough to answer all the questions. It regularly becomes a 45-minute segment. Zoraida stays on the air until she’s answered all of the questions.

“When I came back on air in May after the break because of coronavirus, food safety was understandably a hot topic,” Zoraida explains. “We started talking about foodborne illness. Questions I received included whether or not it was okay to leave food out, understanding what to do if there is food recall because of E. coli or salmonella. Other people wanted to know where they could go for food assistance, or how they could participate in EFNEP. Parents want to know how to get their children to eat more vegetables.”

Topics continue evolving, and Zoraida caters each program to the needs of her listeners. She did a segment on the importance of keeping the body hydrated since many of her listeners admitted that they didn’t like drinking water unless it was flavored. She’s received numerous questions about energy drinks and Zoraida encourages parents not to let their teenagers consume energy drinks because they can be harmful.

UConn Extension’s EFNEP staff work statewide to empower participants and provide knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits. Although in-person programming is currently limited, all our EFNEP staff continue working in their communities and serving residents.

Zoraida exemplifies the spirit of service and community assistance that the EFNEP program is known for. Zoraida and other EFNEP staff understand the needs of the communities they are serving because they live and work in these communities.

“Salud y Nutrición is one of the best segments we air weekly understanding the need of health education in our community,” Javier continues. “We want to thank UConn Extension for allowing Pastor Velazquez to share her knowledge and years of experience as a Nutrition Educator. Today, we can say that thousands of our listeners have benefited from her knowledge. Radio Love is here to help and serve our community and Pastor Velazquez has been a vessel to our community.”

Questions related to food and nutrition will continue to arise. Zoraida is ready and waiting for them each Friday morning on Radio Amor, or through another channel with UConn EFNEP. Additional resources from the EFNEP program are available at https://efnep.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Article by Stacey Stearns