Cooperative Extension Fresno County
University of California
Cooperative Extension Fresno County

Posts Tagged: nutrition education

Five ways NOT to poison friends and family during the holidays

The food-safety danger zone is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.
‘Tis the season for gathering with friends and family and eating. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus for the rest of us, many of us invite people to our homes during the holidays and leave food out to graze. Leaving food out for more than two hours can be hazardous to your health and that of your guests, caution UC Cooperative Extension nutrition experts.

You may be thinking, “My family has eaten food that has been sitting on the table longer than two hours and survived.” Consider yourself lucky.

“We keep learning more about foodborne illness,” says Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor in San Diego County. “We probably did get sick, but we thought it was something else, like the 24-hour flu.”

She added that kids, diabetics, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

For the holidays and all year long, Wooten Swanson offers these food safety tips:

  • Thaw turkey or meat in the refrigerator.
  • Don't wash raw meat or poultry in the sink before cooking.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when meat or poultry is done.
  • Put leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.
  • On the fourth day, throw leftovers away.

Guacamole and salsa shouldn't be left out for longer than 2 hours.
Thawing foods correctly and storing them at the right temperatures is important, said Wooten Swanson.

“Bacteria grow very rapidly,” she said. “From 40 degrees to 140 degrees is what we call the danger zone. We encourage you to get food out of that temperature range as soon as possible. Don't let food sit on the table after you finish eating and go to watch TV.”

While you're watching football, she also recommends not leaving food out the length of a game.

“Chips are fine to leave out,” Wooten Swanson said, “But put the salsa and guacamole in small containers, then put out new bowls at halftime. Take away the original containers to wash or discard.You don't want to refill a bowl that has been out for 2 hours.”

Washing your hands can prevent bacteria from spreading to food.
Food safety begins with clean hands.

“We put an emphasis on hand washing because it can prevent cross-contamination, which helps prevent foodborne illness and can keep us healthy during the flu season,” said Connie Schneider, director of the UC Youth, Families and Communities Statewide Program.

She recommends rubbing your hands together with soap and water for 20 seconds to thoroughly clean them.

The UC Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) teaches hand washing as a food safety practice in its nutrition classes for adults and children. After taking the class in San Diego County, 72 percent of the 340 participating adults improved their safe food-handling practices and 55 percent of 1,231 children improved, said Wooten Swanson, who oversees the nutrition and food safety education program.

For more food safety resources, visit UC Cooperative Extension's  "Food Safety for the Holidays" website and Nebraska and Iowa State Cooperative Extension's food safety website at  For USDA recommended temperatures for cooking meat, visit

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Parents can make healthful eating fun for kids

Guide for parents helps teach kids healthy practices early in life.
New parents sometimes joke that they wish babies, like consumer products, would come with an instruction manual. Because, ultimately, parents want to do what's best to keep their children healthy, but what's best to do isn't always intuitive. To help to make it easier for parents, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers a short guide, called “Healthy, Happy Families” to help parents teach their kids about nutrition.

Studies have shown that we develop our eating habits early in life, according to lead author Lenna Ontai, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Human and Community Development at UC Davis.

“We know that it is not enough to just teach parents what to do. We have to support them in how they can take that knowledge home and use it effectively,” said Ontai.

Healthy, Happy Families provides parents with practical information about how children develop and tips for raising a healthy and happy child. It includes fun and easy activities for parents to do with their preschool-aged children to promote healthful eating.

Children who spend more time with their parents tend to be happier and learn better, the authors write. They recommend eating together as a family to help children learn to make healthy food choices. Letting children help plan and prepare meals helps them develop new skills. Children also learn social skills during family meals such as talking and listening.

Now available in Spanish!
Each of the eight lessons is designed to take 15-20 minutes. The book includes suggestions for encouraging positive behavior and activities such as cooking together. To entice children to try new, nutritious foods, let them explore textures, tastes, colors and sounds of food. Fuzzy kiwifruit, sour apples, red peppers and crunchy celery may pique their interest.

For cooking with kids, they recommend

  • Explaining why it's important to wash our hands.
  • Setting up an area for the child that is away from the stove and oven.
  • Using a low table or safe step stool.
  • Letting the child taste.
  • Using child-sized utensils.
  • And most of all, making it fun!

In a fun way, parents can create a healthy learning environment and teach their children healthful habits that will last a lifetime.

“Helping parents tune into their children's development and supporting positive interactions around food makes a big difference as children grow,” Ontai said. 

The Healthy, Happy Families workbook is available in packages of 10 for $15 in English and is now available in Spanish as Familia sana, familia feliz in Spanish. There is also a companion publication for teachers called the Healthy, Happy Families for Teachers curriculum. All three publications can be ordered at

Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 8:04 AM

At the end of the school year, we celebrate success

As the school year comes to a close, the schools we work with are humming with end of the year festivities. Students are looking forward to summer break, but always ask if we will be on campus teaching nutrition next school year. The answer is an enthusiastic yes!

As we say our temporary goodbyes for the summer, we've been reflecting on all of the wonderful experiences we've had. UC CalFresh staff really enjoy collaborating with teachers dedicated to helping children and families build healthier lifestyles. It's a joy to see children learn to make healthier choices over the school year.

Here are some of the highlights from our work in community nutrition education that we couldn't wait to share!

Teaching Yokomi elementary students how to build a healthy body

Trying new foods at Columbia elementary

Learning about edible plant parts at Sunshine Day

Teaching 3rd graders to choose "anytime" foods at Farm and Nutrition Day

The above images capture just a glimpse  into the exciting world of nutrition education. This year we've celebrated alongside parents who have earned a certificate in our class series, helped establish nutrition corners to promote healthy eating, and so much more! We can't wait to see what next school year holds!

To learn more about the nutrition education happening in Fresno County, visit the UC CalFresh blog.


Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 9:15 AM
  • Author: Shelby MacNab
  • Contributor: Emily Harris, Evelyn Morales, DeAnna Molinar, Shawna Rogers, and Brittanny Zweigle

UC Cooperative Extension supports healthy school environments

When I was in elementary school, an upcoming field trip meant we were selling candy bars. Around the holidays, it was not uncommon to have your pick from five dozen cupcakes at the school party. Now that I am in nutrition education, my eyes grow wide when I think back to all of the high-sugar, high-fat foods we brought into the classroom.

With that in mind, I take a lot of pride in the fact that the UC Calfresh Nutrition Education Program in Fresno County is creating healthier school environments.

A healthy school environment includes:

  • Nutrition education for students and their parents
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy lunches
  • School wellness policies that support healthy fundraisers and celebrations
  • An environment that promotes the benefits of healthy choices

The list can go on and on!

In addition to supporting all of the above, UC CalFresh has been working with school administrators, teachers and food service staff to "brand" the cafeteria and classrooms as healthy spaces. This is accomplished through distributing nutrition corners.

Nutrition corners are essentially the materials to create nutrition bulletin boards in school cafeterias. They are updated regularly with nutrition and physical activity information for students, teachers and parents. Information on seasonal produce, recipes, student work and MyPlate decorate the corners.

Nutrition corners are also posted in classrooms, school libraries, teacher lounges and common areas.

Here are a few of the most recently added corners:


Did I mention students love reading nutrition corners?

A healthy environment that supports nutrition and physical activity is key to the health of the families in the Central Valley. For more information on the way we are creating healthier school environments, visit the UC CalFresh Fresno County blog.


Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:00 AM

What does 'eating right' really mean?

book cover
A vintage food chart graces the cover of "Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food & Health."
These days you can barely pick up a magazine, turn on the TV, or click open Facebook without being told how to eat, what to eat or what not to eat. 

But the truth is, dietary advice is nothing new. Some of our rules for eating date back to ancient times as part of religious teachings, and food traditions are central to our understanding of culture. What is new over the last century or so is the application of science to our diets, so that we can know more exactly what nutrition science tells us is best when it comes to filling our plates.

A new book by a UC Davis researcher argues that modern dietary advice is not merely scientific, but also continues to have cultural, ethical and moral messages attached to it.

Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food & Health” analyzes how modern dietary reform movements in the United States do not just tell us how to eat right, but how to become a good person and a good citizen. Can eating a certain way make us into different, somehow better people? And who defines what sort of people we should strive to become, though improved eating? Author Charlotte Biltekoff calls for changing the way we think about what it means to “eat right.”

The book analyzes four dietary reform movements over the last century:

  • the rise of domestic science and home economics,
  • the national nutrition program during World War II,
  • the alternative food movement, and
  • the anti-obesity movement.

These reform movements cover nutritional advancements such as the science of cooking, the discovery of vitamins, the shift in emphasis from contagious to chronic diseases, and the increasing importance of diet and lifestyle as a part of health. The book examines how dietary ideals have shifted, how social ideals have shifted alongside them — and the relationship between the two. Notions of middle class identity, good citizenship and individual responsibility each have been mixed in with nutritional advice before it is served to the public, according to the author.

Rose Hayden-Smith, leader of UC ANR’s Sustainable Food Systems strategic initiative and a historian of gardening, said she can't wait to read this book.

“This whole idea of both empirical and ethical considerations of food choices really makes sense to me, rooted in the Progressive Era,” she said. “All of these scientific advances don’t matter if people don’t adopt them. So I think it’s really important for scientists to understand the cultural context into which their work is going.”

Beth Mitcham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, was intrigued by a presentation given by Biltekoff at UC Davis recently. 

“This expands my way of thinking about the struggles we have with food choices and the potential for complicating well-intentioned messages,” she said. “We can’t ignore the scientific evidence that food choices have a huge impact on our health, but we must also realize when the things we’re saying are charged with judgments."

In a recent interview on Capital Public Radio, Biltekoff pointed out how analyzing history can shed light on difficult truths.

“History is such a great tool for learning to see things differently,” Biltekoff said. “The history that I tell in the book suggests that we worry so much about what is good to eat because of the social stakes involved in 'eating right.' Because it’s not just about our physical health, but also about our sense of self and about our social standing. There's a lot at stake that we may not be conscious of, but really is part and parcel of the conversation about 'good' food.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 9:06 AM

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This material was funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The USDA does not endorse products, services, or organizations. 

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