The program will provide $43 million to the California Department of Social Services, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Public Health, and the California Association of Food Banks to purchase and distribute locally grown food from underserved producers with the intention of reaching approximately 250,000 underserved California families.
During his visit, Vilsack toured the Yolo County Food Bank and provided a brief speech to launch the program.
California Department of Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and California Department of Social Services Director Kim Johnson also spoke at the event, highlighting the importance of this program to improve nutrition security and increase local procurement.
MaryAnn Mills, nutrition program coordinator for the CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California Program, attended the event along with state and local government officials, policymakers, local farmers, board members and nonprofit leaders.
“The innovative LFPA program will increase access to local, healthy foods for vulnerable Californians and improve market opportunities for underrepresented farmers, while strengthening the resiliency of local food systems,” Mills said.
To be successful, CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE (CFHL, UCCE) community education staff require a wide variety of skills and expertise in topics ranging from community nutrition, classroom management, and growing food, to conducting needs assessments and youth and community engagement. Onboarding new staff or supporting the professional development of experienced educators can be challenging since new staff may not be fully aware of the skills required, and experienced staff may not be fully aware of areas where growth and development are needed.
To address these issues, we convened a working group of CFHL, UC and CFHL, UCCE staff and academics from across the state to develop the Community Education Specialist Self-Assessment Tool (CESSAT). The CESSAT is a tool for supervisors to use in collaboration with community educators to self-evaluate current knowledge and skills and identify areas for professional development. This tool can be used with new hires and/or experienced educators to:
1) identify gaps in knowledge and skills and prioritize training accordingly
2) identify areas where growth or development is needed
3) inform the probationary and/or performance review process
4) identify opportunities for peer-to-peer support and informal mentoring
Over the course of 16 months, the workgroup met to review existing tools for community and nutrition educators, develop the skill and competency areas the tool should cover, draft self- assessment questions for each skill area, and divide skill areas between entry level and advanced. Once we had a complete working draft, we sent the CESSAT to subject matter experts in each of the skill areas for review and feedback. The current draft of the CESSAT reflects the input received from multiple partners and stakeholders.
We launched the CESSAT during a Feb. 24, 2022, webinar with CFHL, UCCE supervisors, managers and academics. We will collect feedback from this cohort of professionals as well as other program supervisors over the next six months. We plan to revise the CESSAT as needed to reflect the evolving nature of community education competencies and as additional skill areas are requested.
The CESSAT, if used broadly, can support the development of a highly skilled workforce, and help to identify training needs across the state. Our goal is that the CESSAT will support supervisors with access to a targeted self-assessment that they can use with new and experienced educators to support the training and development needs of every CalFresh Healthy Living program.
To access the CESSAT, click on this link: https://ucdavis.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2tyQ5AeYoaLpbFk. You will be asked for your contact information so that we can follow-up with a short feedback survey.
“The topic of addressing food access through community and school gardens has never been more relevant than in today's COVID and post-COVID environment,” said Kamal Khaira, director of the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program, at the November ANR town hall. “Today, we are highlighting work from Riverside County where our CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE team has made significant progress and contributions in fostering garden-enhanced nutrition education in three distinct communities – two urban settings and one rural Native American reservation.”
“This is one important aspect of our community work which brings all ages together in low-resource environments to learn, build and accomplish – delivering avenues for health and wellness both through work with the soil but also through connecting and sharing the harvested food together.”
Jackie Barahona, nutrition educator for CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Riverside County, continued the presentation.
“As you can see from the video, our work with communities in planning and developing community gardens is one that enhances our overall CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE objectives of supporting health and wellness,” Barahona said.
“In 2013 the Riverside team began work with the Community Settlement Association in Riverside through a community grant that funded garden reinvigoration. During the pandemic, over 50 pounds of harvested produce from the garden have been donated to the local food pantry. Garden Club activities occurs twice a month and enhances educational work in the community.
“Our work with Riverside Faith Temple began in 2019. Food harvested from Riverside Faith Temple community garden is donated to parishioners and community members. Our team has continued to host monthly virtual garden club meetings in partnership with the UC Master Gardener Program in Riverside County. We plan to resume in-person garden activities this winter.
“Since 2013 CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Riverside has fostered a growing relationship with the Torres Martinez Tribal Community in Thermal. Based on this long-standing relationship, in 2020 the CFHL, UCCE Riverside team worked with a group of three youth and six seniors from the Tribal community to establish a garden at their senior center. This community garden brought elders and youth together to plant and harvest fresh vegetables and herbs. As an intergenerational project, it was a great success. Since that time our team, with support from the CFHL State Office, has assisted Tribal Leadership in establishing a Community Wellness Committee, which consists of youth, elders, and tribal council members. We are working with this committee to inspire initiatives that will lead to sustained health outcomes through physical activity, garden-enhanced nutrition education, direct education and other activities.
“Altogether, learning experiences in the garden provide many benefits – physical activity, an area to socialize with others in the neighborhood, and a reinforcement of what we teach about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables being part of daily meals. Due to the garden work, our nutrition lessons are not only enhanced but harvested fresh food is available for community tables.”
For more information about the program, read “UCCE building oasis of health in ethnic urban communities” at https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=46096.
- Author: Andra Nicoli
CalFresh Healthy Living, UC and its UC Cooperative Extension community educators work in schools and community settings to give low-income children and families the opportunities and resources they need to eat right, stay active and lead healthy lives.
As California's unemployment rate rises due to COVID-19, their efforts have never been more important, nor more challenging, but how do you provide in-person services during a pandemic?
“We pivot,” said Kamaljeet Khaira, director of CalFresh Healthy Living, UC. “To meet the new remote learning needs of schools and communities, we shifted our nutrition, physical activity and garden-based education interventions to online platforms. We are transforming the delivery method of 19 different curricula.”
CalFresh Healthy Living, UC is based at UC Davis in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. It is one of four California agencies funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide educational services to low-income Californians eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. It is the largest nutrition education program in the nation.
Local offices of CalFresh Healthy Living, UC are part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Cooperative Extension network. CalFresh Healthy Living, UC administers the program in 32 counties through local offices that provide evidence-based, nutrition programs combined with physical activity and policy, systems and environmental change initiatives. Led by educators, volunteers, nonprofit organizations and state and local agencies, the services are comprehensive in nature to stimulate sustainable change.
Before COVID-19, that meant meeting at schools and with families and adults, educating and inspiring them to reach for fresh produce and other nutritional foods. With the help of teachers, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC brought nutrition education to the classroom and encouraged schools to develop “smart” lunchrooms that put fresh food and beverages front and center. They spearheaded community and school-based gardens where children and parents worked together to plant, harvest and prepare nutritious meals. They also offered training in physical activity through the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) curricula, such as creating playground stencils to help students build a foundation for a lifetime of active living.
“When you start early, children get accustomed to physical activity, as well as food and drinks with less sodium and sugar, and this has the potential to initiate a lifetime of healthy choices,” said Andra Nicoli, strategic initiatives program and policy analyst with CalFresh Healthy Living, UC. “We try to surround children in an environment of healthy living. There are many spokes on the wheel to improving a child's health, and we work to address them.”
Starting this fall, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC will switch to a hybrid approach to learning. When they can meet in person with participants using masks and social distancing, they will. In addition, much of their training will be available online to those in California who are SNAP-eligible. This requires looking at program delivery and collecting feedback for continuous quality improvement in a new way.
“We're designing online curricula delivery models to re-engage students using a fresh approach, like offering interactive physical activity breaks and mindful moments with instructive audio-visuals,” said Tammy McMurdo, who leads curricula and direct education for CalFresh Healthy Living, UC. “Bringing online content right into students' homes makes it available to parents, grandparents and everyone living there, which is important to sustaining healthy eating practices.”
Some examples of new remote learning include:
- More than 60 online lessons are under development for children prekindergarten through eighth grade that emphasize healthy eating, active living and gardening. For example, in Imperial County, CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE collaborated with Carmen Hernandez, a third- and fourth-grade teacher at De Anza Magnet Elementary School, to pilot a 30-minute remote lesson of My Amazing Body that includes book reading, an interactive PowerPoint, a physical activity break, and a lesson discussion via Zoom. “It was something different and the students were engaged,” Hernandez said. “We really enjoyed it!”
- CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE county programs are developing the online delivery of five adult curricula, including the UC-developed Plan, Shop, Save and Cook and Making Every Dollar Count that provide food resource management tips, as well as ideas for how to stay active and feed your family healthy food on a limited budget. These lessons are particularly valuable at this time of high unemployment.
“We're finding new ways to connect and engage with the children and families of California,” Khaira explained. “Along with our many partners, we continue to strive for a California where everyone is nourished, active and healthy.”
You can learn more about CalFresh Healthy Living programs at http://calfresh.dss.ca.gov/healthyliving/home.
If you are a staff employee, you should be receiving UCnetwork — a monthly e-newsletter for UC staff systemwide.
Under Campus Buzz, the May edition features UC Master Gardener Program for offering useful resources online for home gardeners and donating vegetable plants to schoolchildren in Alameda County.
Delivered directly to your inbox each month, each issue contains:
- Tips for maximizing UC's generous benefits — including those you may not be aware of
- Resources to support your professional development and career goals
- Stories and profiles of UC's remarkable staff
- Ways to stay healthy, on and off the job
UCnetwork is sent the second Wednesday of each month to all staff employees and contract staff. Send suggestions, story ideas or feedback to email@example.com. If you are a nonacademic staff member and have not received UCnetwork, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.