The joyful reunion of two 4-H children, Leia and Caroline Carrico, with their parents after spending 44 hours lost in the Humboldt County wilderness in early March has raised awareness about the benefits to youth involved in the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program.
Established more than 100 years ago, UC Cooperative Extension launched 4-H to teach children research-based agriculture and rural living skills. Over time, it has evolved dramatically, reaching children in urban centers, inner cities, suburbs as well as rural communities with leadership opportunities, life skills, nutrition education and other information to help them grow into resilient adults.
The Carrico children, ages 5 and 8, had participated in a 4-H outdoor training training program. They lived in a rural area and were well acquainted with the redwood forest surrounding their home. Recalling lessons they learned, the sisters stayed in place when they realized they were lost – a key survival skill, said Yana Valachovic, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. There were more things they learned from 4-H project leader Justin Lehnert's teaching that helped them survive unscathed.
“Justin told them to leave signs. Searchers found granola bar wrappers and deep boot marks. They knew that they should shelter in a dry place,” Valachovic said. “They knew to keep positive and how to find safe drinking water without endangering themselves by drinking from a creek.”
The 4-H program in Humboldt County has been inundated with calls for a curriculum that can be used elsewhere to teach these valuable skills. The UC 4-H Youth Development advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, Dorina Espinoza, is working with Lehnert to develop a project sheet so the survival skills used by the Carrico sisters can be made available in 4-H and other settings to young people throughout the U.S.
The sisters' odyssey and its happy conclusion shows the hoped-for result of the research-based 4-H learning model, Espinoza said.
“The sisters are smart girls,” Espinoza said “They attribute their application of survival skills to family camping trips, movies about people who get lost and 4-H adventures. 4-H reinforced new or existing skills. We know kids learn with multiple exposures. 4-H is a hands-on approach to learning that other settings don't offer.”
In 4-H, children choose “projects” they are interested in. The projects are led by adult volunteers from the community.
“What's different about 4-H is we have adult volunteers who develop partnerships with youth. They partner in learning, leadership and decision making,” Espinoza said. “That's a beautiful part of 4-H.”
Lehnert is a 4-H parent and volunteer who operates a business in Humboldt centered on enjoying the outdoors.
“Justin brings years of personal and professional experience, having completed a Wilderness First Responder Course of the National Outdoor Leadership School. He studied outdoor recreation at Feather River College and has been an outdoor recreation enthusiast for years,” Espinoza said. “We are so very grateful to Justin for sharing his expertise with our 4-H community.”
Californians can find UC Cooperative Extension 4-H projects near them at http://4h.ucanr.edu.
The UC 4-H Youth Development Program, UC Master Gardeners, UC Master Food Preservers and the California Naturalists are parts of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) that rely on the generous contributions of time and talent by thousands of volunteers.
During National Volunteer Month, UC ANR honors people who help us deliver our research-based information and educational experiences to residents throughout the state.
The UC 4-H Youth Development program has 6,557 youth volunteers and 14,068 adult volunteers.
4-H volunteers serve in many roles, such as club and project leaders, sharing research-based information in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; agriculture; healthy living; civic engagement and leadership. Their compassion, skills and knowledge are improving the lives of California youth and preparing them for success in adulthood marked by health and well-being, economic stability and civic engagement.
“We would like to thank our volunteers for their dedication, passion for the program and youth, and most of all for giving their time to help develop the next generation of true leaders,” said Shannon Horrillo, director of the Statewide 4-H Youth Development Program. “Our volunteers are the inspiration our state's youth need to thrive.”
The UC Master Gardener Program has trained 30,983 volunteers and currently has 6,116 active volunteers who serve as agents of change in their communities, connecting people to research-based information and sharing skills to help them grow food, protect the environment and meaningfully connect with nature.
UC Master Gardener volunteers staff telephone and email “hotlines,” where residents can get answers to their gardening questions. Many UC Master Gardener programs around the state manage demonstration gardens that serve as outdoor classrooms for presentations and hands-on workshops. UC Master Gardener volunteers can also be found throughout communities at farmers markets, libraries, and garden centers providing answers to questions about home gardening. These efforts have wide ranging impacts, helping people conserve water, reduce green waste, manage pests safely, grow food abundantly, and more.
“We are so grateful for our volunteers' generosity, commitment and passion to providing the public with information they can use to maintain their gardens that protect and support a healthier environment,” said Missy Gable, UC Master Gardener statewide director.
In 17 counties across California, 400 certified UC Master Food Preservers provide food preservation education to the public, ensuring a safe food supply, increasing food security and reducing food waste.
“Currently, a third of the world's food is wasted. Our Master Food Preserver volunteers make a difference at the household level in reducing food waste,” said Katie Panarella, director UC ANR's nutrition, family and consumer sciences program and policy. “To maintain public safety and avoid foodborne illness, the program teaches techniques for freezing, canning, drying and fermenting food safely.”
The California Naturalist program certifies volunteers to serve as informed stewards of California natural resources, docents of public lands, and citizen scientists gathering data about the natural world and wildlife. After completing 40 hours of training in ecology, geology, wildlife conservation, energy, environmental issues and other topics, most of the certified naturalists serve as volunteers with land conservancies, museums, gardens and organizations that deliver workforce education to young adults at the urban core. See the complete list of partners here. Since its inception in 2010, the program has certified 2,855 Naturalists.
“We have a diversity of groups who partner with UC ANR to offer this training program to their existing, new, or potential volunteers,” said Sabrina Drill, interim director of the California Naturalist Program. “The volunteers share the wonders of California's unique ecology by interpreting at parks and nature centers, and taking part in the study and stewardship of the state's natural resources.”
4-H has come a long way from its rural roots – now encompassing projects that range from mathematics to mindfulness, robotics to rock climbing. But it's not about to toss out the projects that have built character and confidence in 4-H members since the program's inception more than 100 years ago.
Most people don't sew their own clothing these days, but fashion and textiles are not dying art forms. That was clear at the March 4-H Fashion Review in Fresno County. Dozens of 4-H members modeled their creations, which represented their sewing skills, financial smarts and creativity.
“The Fashion Revue project gives kids the opportunity to gain skills and also to show and compete with their final products,” said Tracy Newton, 4-H Youth Development program representative in Fresno County. “It brings a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
Many 4-H members enjoy traditional sewing projects, in which they showcase sewing skills and the ability to coordinate an outfit. Participants can take on additional challenges, including the “box challenge,” which this year involved sewing one or more garments that contain three colors – red, white and blue – and items in the box, such as buttons, zippers and trim. Other challenges are the “make it mine challenge,” in which the 4-H participants alter a commercial pattern or make their own pattern; and the “retro/historical challenge,” in which the outfits they make are inspired by a pre-2000 design.
Twelve-year-old Atianna Marquez of Fairmont 4-H made a red, white and blue romper with buttons, buttonholes and bias tape from the “box.”
“This romper is special to Atianna because it is the first piece of clothing she has ever made,” Newton said. “She had fun learning how to make button holes, especially learning to cut the fabric with a seam ripper.”
Gabbie Hall of Fairmont 4-H, who has been sewing for three years, wanted a challenge. She selected a skirt pattern with box pleats in order to learn something new. The skirt is fully lined and has deep hidden pockets within the pleats.
“Gabbie complimented the skirt she made with her copper tank top to give her outfit a charming mix,” Newton said. “She plans on wearing this to dinner with her family or to special occasions.”
The most popular challenge at the Fresno County Fashion Revue in March was the consumer science challenge. The participants each put together outfits with the total cost not to exceed $40.
“This part of our fashion review teaches the participants they can be thrifty and stylish,” Newton said. “I like that many of them shop in consignment stores or thrift stores and see value in that. They are learning to appreciate the value of a dollar.”
Ella Hood of Fairmont 4-H started her search for an outfit at the Hinds Hospice Thrift Store. She found a white lace dress in her size for just $4.20. She splurged on a pair of fancy light pink dress shoes for $16.20, and found a necklace and earring set in light pink to complete the look.
“She will wear this proudly to church and dressy events,” Newton said.
Emmalee Balch of Fairmont 4-H modeled a trendy spring outfit she put together for $36.97. Balch purchased a new off-the-shoulder jumpsuit for $14.99 and natural brown high heel sandals for $17.99 at Ross. The outfit came together with a rose gold bangle bracelet and matching stud earrings that cost just $3.99.
Lone Star 4-H member Diana Flores used her great eye for yard sale bargains to put together a designer outfit for under $40. She modeled an Abercrombie and Fitch beige turtleneck paired with light blue Lucky Brand jeans. She completed the look with Lucky Brand riding boots and a pearl necklace with matching earrings to highlight the colors of the shirt.
“She loves wearing this outfit to school because it's within dress code and stylish,” Newton said.
Six-year-old Ashley McCann paired a black and white checkered sundress with white sandals. She accessorized her ensemble with a jeweled cat ear head band, dangle heart earrings, glittery silver choker and, to add a pop of color, lemon yellow sunglasses. The total came in at $33.66.
Following the fashion show, Newton handed out awards. Winners at the county level will have the opportunity to compete in the 2019 State 4-H Fashion Review June 1 in Olson Hall in Davis.
The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture presented awards to two California women for their role in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). EFNEP participant Johana Zacarias of Yolo County and Leah Sourbeer, the UCCE EFNEP Supervisor, where honored at the 50th Anniversary celebration at the National EFNEP Coordinators Conference in Virginia, March 11-14.
Zacarias, a young mother of four children, participated in EFNEP at Cedar Lane Elementary School in Olivehurst, Calif. EFNEP educator Sonia Rodriguez suggested participants check with their doctors before making changes to their exercise and dietary habits. Zacarias visited her doctor and discovered she had early stage fatty liver disease.
Zacarias decided to change her eating habits and walk with her family fives day a week to avoid using medication for her condition. She eliminated sodas from her diet and began drinking more water. She cleaned unhealthful foods out her pantry and began organizing her grocery shopping using a list.
“I was 220 pounds, never exercised, nor controlled my diet,” Zacarias told an EFNEP educator. “Because of the changes I made coming to EFNEP, using the Walk Indoors CD, I now weigh 166 pounds, and my liver is normal.”
Zacarias said she enjoyed every class and is telling everyone in her family, friends and neighbors about her story and the opportunity to participate in EFNEP.
Sourbeer is the supervisor of seven EFNEP educators in two urban counties – Alameda and Contra Costa.
“She is highly respected by her staff, academic advisor, UCCE colleagues and outside partners,” wrote her colleagues in nominating Sourbeer for the honor.
Sourbeer developed online systems to enable educators to capture outcome data and success stories. She is proactive in seeking out professional development opportunities for herself and staff to enhance evidence-based nutrition knowledge, teaching methodologies, and social determinants of health.
“Leah demonstrates exceptional programmatic skills,” her nomination said. “She often mentors other EFNEP supervisors and represents EFNEP staff on two university-wide committees.”
For 50 years, UC Cooperative Extension EFNEP educators have taught Californians in their communities, at community centers, schools, Head Start preschools, churches and, sometimes, in their own homes how to lead a healthy life.
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is an essential resource in the fight against poverty, malnutrition and obesity. It was implemented to teach healthy eating habits to the most vulnerable in the country: children, and their adult caregivers, such as single mothers and fathers, immigrants, unemployed, and elderly grandparents. EFNEP helps people who, in the ups and downs of life, face a time without enough money for food.
The EFNEP has many success stories to tell:
One day, just over two decades ago, Peru native Nelly Camacho, an EFNEP nutrition educator, met a young immigrant who was looking for a food bank.
In the City of Hayward in east Alameda County, the immigrant went to an EFNEP nutrition workshop where she was welcomed and invited to participate. Hesitating, she refused at first, claiming that she could not learn because she was illiterate.
"You do not have to know how to read and write, you can look and listen, and you'll learn to save money on food purchases," Camacho said. The immigrant not only learned about nutrition, but she also felt proud of herself. “It's the first time, in my whole life, that I have received a certificate,” she recalled the woman saying.
With the EFNEP workshops, families have learned to plan nutritious meals, increase physical activity, save money when buying food, practice safe handling of food, and prevent obesity with healthy lifestyles.
EFNEP now celebrates 50 years of service, and nutrition educators who teach classes to the community in schools, churches and community centers recollect stories that touch the heart. There are women, men and children who have learned to lead a healthy life because of EFNEP. Such as the case of a man in San Joaquin County who, on the verge of having heart surgery, found in healthy eating and exercise his best allies to elude the scalpel. And the child in a primary school in Contra Costa County, who after attending the nutrition workshop, remembered to put into practice what he learned. As soon as he ran into his nutrition instructor eating his vegetables, he said to himself: "Oh, I do not have any fruit or vegetables!" and ran to the salad bar.
The movement to teach healthy lifestyles is part of a major national effort whose seeds were planted in the late 1960s.
"The EFNEP program was piloted by the USDA in 1968, in response to increasing awareness of the link between poverty and malnutrition, and its deleterious impacts on the nation's children,” said Rose Hayden-Smith, UC Cooperative Extension advisor. “The EFNEP program sought – and still seeks – to influence in positive ways the nutrition and physical activity of low-income families, particularly those with young children. From the outset, EFNEP has used an innovative peer-education model that is embedded in communities.”
A professional historian, Hayden-Smith points out that EFNEP was conceived as part of President Lyndon Johnson's “Great Society” movement, an ambitious set of domestic programs which sought to eliminate poverty, increase racial equity, and improve the environment. Although the EFNEP program is directed by the USDA, it sought not only to reach rural families, but also families who lived in the nation's growing urban areas.
"Based on the success of the pilot programs, EFNEP was funded permanently in 1969, through Smith-Lever funds included in the nation's Farm Bill," Hayden-Smith said.
So, in the middle of the Apollo 11 era and when man first landed on the moon, EFNEP was born. It is delivered in the Golden State by UC Cooperative Extension.
Alameda was one of the first counties where the EFNEP program began, and for its implementation, it recruited nutrition educators, most of whom were homemakers who received training from the UCCE experts.
"They originally thought that advisors could do that program, and then they realized that they really needed community people, who know the community, who can relate to the people in the community and could speak their language and were aware of certain cultural sensitivities, and that is when they started actually hiring what they called in those days nutrition aides. They designated at that time that these educators should be from the community, familiar with the community and could relate to the community, and also be role models for other people in the community," said Mary Blackburn, a nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor.
EFNEP is currently considered one of the most successful preventative health programs. Research indicates that for every dollar invested in the nutrition program, $8.34 is saved in health care costs.
"As an EFNEP educator, I worked with people who were in a drug rehabilitation program. One day between the fifth and sixth classes, a man approached me and said, 'You know I'm thrilled that you came to this class; I had heart problems, blocked arteries, and I had been told that I would need surgery, but the doctors said that if I continue with these changes I might not need the operation," said Anna Martin, a San Joaquin County nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor who started as an EFNEP educator 30 years ago. "I do not know what happened to that man, but the important thing is that he learned that his health depended on the changes we talked about in class."
When EFNEP started there were no communication tools like those of today. There were no computers in homes, no cell phones in the pockets. Educators started knocking on doors in their neighborhoods, something they still do today.
"The first challenge was to get to know the community and build trust," Martin said. "Developing that trust means you need to go out and meet the directors of the programs. You need to work at health fairs. You need to get your face, your name and who you are out in the community. And then, when you give classes, you must make sure that you are always doing it consistently, giving the participants a certificate at the end and later checking to see how they are doing."
EFNEP continues to be relevant to the audiences it serves, and it continues to be a community program taught by educators who live in the communities where they work.
"I live near the areas where I taught,” said Adán Osoria, an EFNEP educator in Contra Costa County. “You can see me in stores, when I'm eating. They know that I am a real person in the community, and I have similar experiences with which they can relate,"
Osoria is bilingual, a recent college graduate and he is taking the nutrition message to elementary and high school students full of energy. It's not easy, but he manages.
"(The children) are enthusiastic about what they are learning, they talk with their parents about what they have learned and give out the brochures I give them. And in public places, they ask me, ‘Oh, are you the nutrition educator? My son always talks about this and what he likes,'” Osoria said.
EFNEP currently has 10 advisors, 8 supervisors, and 35 nutrition educators. The workshops are offered in 24 of California's 58 counties. It is a comprehensive program, and educators must learn several lessons that have catchy names: “Eating Smart, Being Active,” “Let's Eat Smart and Play Hard Together,” “My Amazing Body,” “Happy Healthy Me.”
"One of the biggest challenges I had when I started was to review all the curricula we had to offer. There are more than 20 lessons only for elementary school. So, at the beginning, I felt it was a lot, but the more I studied, the more I learned them and now I know them like the back of my hand," Osoria said.
In the promotion of healthy eating, battles have to be fought on different fronts, and for that, a team of UCCE experts is conducting surveys and evaluating the factors that prevent people from eating healthy.
"One of the challenges I face when I work with students is that I am essentially talking about healthy foods, but as soon as the bell rings and they leave school, the communities in which we teach are surrounded by fast food. Whether it's a liquor store or convenience store where the healthy foods we talk about in the nutrition workshops are not an option," said Eli Figueroa, a nutrition educator in Contra Costa County.