- (Public Value) UCANR: Promoting healthy people and communities
Spring is finally here, but unfortunately so are the pests!
While doing your spring cleaning or staying indoors due to our recent rain, you may have noticed some insects and spiders have moved in with you. Many pests are emerging from their winter rest, and taking cover from the cool, wet weather.
If you've found tiny brown, white, and black patterned beetles on windowsills, curtains, or walls near entryways, they may be carpet beetles. Adult beetles are about 1/10 inch and feed on pollen and nectar from flowers like crape myrtle and spirea. They can be brought indoors on cut flowers or they may fly in from nearby plants outside. A few adult beetles inside your home are typically not a problem. However, be on the lookout for their larvae or signs of their damage. Carpet beetle larvae feed on natural fibers such as wool, silk, leather, fur, and pet hair. They can damage rugs and carpets, yarn, clothing, and leather book bindings. Larvae will not feed on synthetic fibers like polyester. You can reduce sources of food for larvae by cleaning up lint, hair, dead insects, or debris. Adults can be relocated to the outdoors, but larvae are more difficult to control. See Pest Notes: Carpet Beetles for management strategies.
Spiders often end up inside while looking for food and if the right conditions are present–dark, dusty, hidden areas–they may stay a while. Some people may not mind the occasional spider, as they feed on other pests like flies, moths, and beetles. It is uncommon for most California spiders to bite you, contrary to what many people think. This includes the brown recluse spider, which does not exist in California. To identify the various spiders you might come across, see the Pest Notes: Spiders.
There are many other household pests you might encounter now and throughout the year. Fortunately, UC IPM has tons of great information on what they are and how to control them! See Pests of homes, structures, people, and pets for more information, or watch UC IPM's webinar recording on Springtime Household Pests.
- Author: Saoimanu Sope
Along Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, atop a small hill, sits a residential community for adults with disabilities. When you get past the gate to Glennwood Houseand look beyond the parking lot, you'll immediately notice the quaint oasis of swinging benches enclosed by vegetables growing in large pots and along walkways.
The garden, which is maintained by the residents, was created in spring 2022 by Monica Mehren Thompson and Robbie Prepas, two UC Master Gardener volunteers of Orange County.
The UC Master Gardeners program is a public service and outreach program of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Through the efforts of more than 6,000 Master Gardener volunteers across the state, the program is a unique driving force of change in local communities.
Thompson and Prepas completed their 16-week Master Gardener training in 2021 and quickly turned to Glennwood House for an opportunity to apply their newly acquired skills. Troy, Thompson's son, was a resident at Glennwood for nine years, making her decision to develop a garden on the grounds an obvious choice.
“This place is truly magical,” said Thompson.
Prepas agreed and shared that the residents play an active role from beginning to end. “We take the residents with us when we buy seeds so that they can choose what they want to grow,” she explained.
The garden has only experienced two plantings so far: spring and fall 2022. When it's time to harvest, the residents eagerly gather to taste the fresh vegetables and herbs. During the week, dinners are prepared by a professional chef, who incorporates ingredients pulled from the garden.
This will soon change, however. Since the residents enjoy the hands-on opportunity to cook so much, they'll now be in charge of preparing lunch and dinner every Friday. To kick start this shift, the residents prepared a huge salad and spaghetti with vegetable marinara sauce. The meal was a big hit and the residents were so proud of their creation.
“This is an all-out, very sophisticated effort with the Master Gardeners,” said Faith Manners, Glennwood House CEO.
Glennwood House is unlike other residential communities for persons with special needs in that it is home to 46 residents. “It's one of the largest supported-living communities in the U.S.,” Manners said, adding that Glennwood has an enormous waiting list.
According to Janet Parsons, development and facility director at Glennwood House, Laguna Beach genuinely embraces Glennwood residents. “When we're out and about, you should just see how warm and welcoming the community is towards our residents. Everyone is always engaging and smiling,” she shared.
Recently, the Laguna Beach Garden Club caught wind of the community garden at Glennwood and made a $1,500 donation to help fund materials.
Janet Chance, president of the Garden Club, credited Glennwood as one of the few places that caters to adults living with disabilities, commending their ability to cultivate a sense of belonging and integrate them into the greater Laguna Beach community.
While Chance regrets not having the time to become a Master Gardener herself, she attends some of the classes they teach in the Laguna Beach community. “The work they do is remarkable,” she said, adding that the club's recent donation was “one of the best” they have ever made.
Parsons said that it's important for the residents to feel independent. Therefore, the administration and the staff prioritize intentional programming. For example, instead of simple activities like coloring, Glennwood hosts advanced art sessions so that interested residents are learning techniques that will strengthen their artistic capabilities.
The same idea applies to the “farm-to-table” experience Thompson and Prepas have established.
“Just because the residents are living with a cognitive disability, it doesn't mean they're incapable of learning new things,” Parsons said. “They will tell you when something is boring or when they're not interested. So, we try to select activities or programs based on skills, personal interests and goals.”
While being recognized for the positive effect the gardeners have on the residents, Prepas quickly interjected that the real positive effect is the one that residents have on her. “I've learned so much from them,” she said. “They're incredible and so much fun to be around.”
Thompson, whose son lived at Glennwood until he passed away earlier this year, describes the Glennwood community as her family. Seeing Thompson's delight while gardening or cooking with the residents, it's easy to understand what she means.
“My husband has always supported philanthropy,” said Thompson. “But he says this feels like so much more than that. Because it is!”
To learn more about the UC Master Gardener program visit https://mg.ucanr.edu/.
In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we'd like to highlight some festive insects that you'll find wearing green for the holiday!
Also known as June beetles or figeater beetles, these large, metallic green beetles are an occasional pest of ripening fruit. While mating, adult green fruit beetles aggregate and feed on apricots, plums, peaches, and other fruits. Their larvae are large (1-2 inch) white grubs that may be mistaken for other white grubs that can damage lawns. Green fruit beetle larvae feed on decaying organic matter instead and are often found in compost piles.
Adult Say stink bugs and southern green stink bugs feed on a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. They can cause significant damage to fruits and sometimes even venture into homes and buildings.
Mantids are among the largest insects (2-5 inches) in California and are usually brown, green, or yellow. The native California mantid can actually be all three colors throughout its life! Mantids are often referred to as beneficial insects, however they are generalist predators. They will eat aphids, but also honeybees, butterflies, and their mates.
Green peach aphids, potato aphids, green apple aphids, and tuliptree aphids all have two things in common: they are green aphids and we hate finding them on our plants! Aphids in low numbers usually won't damage your plants, but their populations can grow rapidly if left unmanaged. Naturally occurring beneficial insects, like ladybugs and parasitic wasps, can help control aphid populations.
- Author: Katherine Lanca
- Editor: Danielle L. Lee
- Editor: Lorrene Ritchie
- Editor: Wendi Gosliner
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated food and nutrition challenges. Many families initially lost access to meals offered by school and childcare facilities, experienced unemployment or work reductions, and faced increasing prices for food and other necessities. National and state policies and programs provided food and cash assistance to mitigate impacts on food security. Researchers at the Nutrition Policy Institute, a research center of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, evaluated safety-net policies implemented during the pandemic to better support families with low incomes in the U.S.
Benefits of universal school meals
The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program meet the nutritional needs of approximately 30 million K-12 students in America each day. Typically, students from families meeting income eligibility criteria receive school meals for free or a reduced price, while others pay full price.
NPI researchers Wendi Gosliner, project scientist, and Lorrene Ritchie, director and UC Cooperative Extension specialist, are co-leading studies of school meals in California in collaboration with researchers from the NOURISH Lab for Health Inclusion Research and Practice, who study school meals in Maine and other states.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress funded school meals for all students at no charge, in order to address the dramatic increase in food insecurity among families with children after schools shut down in March 2020. This federal provision allowing for meals to be free for all students ended after the 2021-2022 school year, but some states elected to continue providing universal school meals with state funding, in recognition of the importance of these meals for student health and academic success.
California was the first state to adopt a statewide Universal Meals Program starting in the 2022-23 school year. To support the program's development, $650 million were invested to help schools improve kitchen infrastructure and provide staff training and technical assistance. Investments include Farm to School programs and other mechanisms to help update and improve school meals. Maine and several other states also have adopted universal school meals at least through the 2022-23 school year.
“States often act as incubators – things that work well in states sometimes get translated into federal policy,” Gosliner said. Identifying the success of the programs – and their challenges – can lead to improvements and help inform advocates and policymakers considering universal school meals policies at the state and national level.
Two of the team's research studies in California and Maine documented the benefits and challenges of universal school meals, as reported by school food authorities. Among 581 school food-service leaders in California who responded to the survey, nearly half (45.7%) reported reductions in student stigma as a result of providing free school meals to all students. Among 43 respondents in Maine, over half (51%) reported lessened stigma related to school meals being free for all. In both studies, nearly three-quarters of respondents reported increases in student meal participation. These and other data suggest that universal school meals are meeting their aim, to increase student participation while providing nutritionally balanced meals.
But when the child leaves campus, the responsibility to put a nutritious meal on the table falls on the caregiver.
“Universal school meals provide food and can ease families' budgets, but for too many families, wages as well as time and other resources are not adequate for access to and consumption of enough healthy foods and beverages,” Gosliner noted.
That is when other public programs are helpful, for example the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC.
Many eligible families do not claim Earned Income Tax Credit
The Earned Income Tax Credit is a national program designed to lift families out of poverty. The supplemental income can contribute up to nearly $7,000 per year for a family. Despite the EITC's known ability to improve participants' health, research shows that many EITC-eligible households in California and across the nation don't receive the benefits for which they are eligible, leaving $2 billion unclaimed in California in 2018 alone.
Gosliner led a study along with Lia Fernald from UC Berkeley and Rita Hamad from UC San Francisco to document levels of awareness, barriers to uptake, and benefits of participation in the EITC. Their recent publication reported that among 411 EITC-eligible California female caregivers, those who were younger, spoke languages other than English, and had less awareness of the EITC were less likely to receive the tax credit.
Developing a user-friendly system for providing safety-net support and, in the meantime, providing information and support to help more EITC-eligible families receive these benefits are suggested to help alleviate financial stressors. In the long term, these strategies may reduce poverty and improve the health of children.
Increasing WIC Cash Value Benefit a boon to health
In addition to universal school meals and EITC, families with low income may be eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. The program supports women and children up to 5 years old through nutrition education, nutritious foods and access to other health and social services.
One component of the WIC food packages, the Cash Value Benefit, provides participants a fixed dollar amount to supplement their family's diet with fruits and vegetables. During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture increased this benefit from $9 to $35 per month, which was later revised to $24 per month per child in October 2021.
Ritchie contributed to a growing body of evidence on the importance and multidimensional benefits of the WIC Cash Value Benefit increase.
“Nine dollars buys only a quarter of what a child is recommended to eat every day,” Ritchie said. “The increase in Cash Value Benefit during the pandemic was an ideal natural experiment to investigate its impact.”
In collaboration with Shannon Whaley and her team at the Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC, NPI launched a longitudinal cohort study of nearly 2,000 California WIC participants. They found that the increased Cash Value Benefit improved WIC participant satisfaction with the program and allowed families to purchase greater quantities and varieties of fruits and vegetables.
“The increased Cash Value Benefit enabled WIC families to expose young children to new fruits and vegetables. Early exposure to a variety of fruits and vegetables is critical to establishing lifelong healthy habits,” said Ritchie.
The researchers found that the benefit increase also reduced food insecurity. It is hoped that the increase in program satisfaction translates into more eligible families enrolling and continuing to receive WIC. In November 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed making the increased Cash Value Benefit a permanent part of WIC.
Knowing the proven benefits of the WIC program, Ritchie and colleagues from the National WIC Association, and Loan Kim at Pepperdine University, also engaged with WIC participants in other states.
In 2021, all state WIC agencies were invited to participate in a WIC satisfaction survey. Of the 12 WIC state agencies that opted to participate, Connecticut, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico added questions on the survey to understand how the increased Cash Value Benefit impacted children's dietary intake.
The study showed consumption of fruits and vegetables by children on WIC increased by one-third cup per day on average, which is sizable when considering the impact across the WIC population.
NPI research on universal school meals, the EITC and WIC constitute a small part of a more comprehensive approach to make healthy food more accessible, affordable, equitable and sustainable for all. The NPI provides resources such as policy briefs, peer-reviewed publications and technical assistance on several research areas such as safe drinking water, childcare and education. To learn more, please visit the Nutrition Policy Institute website.
- Author: Beatriz Adrianna Rojas
- Author: Andra Nicoli
CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL), UCCE Kern County aims to improve health in farm working families by encouraging healthy eating and physical activity. As a result of a partnership with Head Start centers serving migrant communities, youth completed over 140 hours of physical activity and 92% of adult family members intended to use nutrition facts when shopping.
According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, Kern County is ranked among the least healthy counties in California in terms of length and quality of life and a significant portion of residents have one or more risk factors that threaten their longevity and quality of life. For instance, 34% of adults are either overweight or obese, 35% of residents are physically inactive, and 23% are food insecure.
Children and adults with these risk factors are more likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
How UC Delivers
In order to work with residents on early healthy start interventions, CFHL, UCCE Kern County partnered with Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO), which has five migrant Head Start centers in Kern County. CAPSLO provides no-cost childcare and preschool services to low-income families whose primary occupation is agricultural production and harvesting in the Arvin, Lamont/Weedpatch, Wasco, and Delano communities.
CFHL, UCCE Kern has conducted evening adult nutrition education at the centers.
- 94 parents received evidence based lessons from Plan, Shop, Save, and Cook (PSSC) and Healthy, Happy Families.
- Parents learned how to read the nutrition facts label, save money on food and how to start healthy habits with their children. Parents also learned how to incorporate physical activity in their everyday family routine. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2018)recommends moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases among children and adults.
In order to impact families CFHL, UCCE Kern provided CAPSLO teachers with four hour training on Coordinated Approach to Child Health Early Childhood Education (CATCH ECE). CATCH ECE provides children with skill development exercises to develop locomotor, non-locomotor, manipulative skills and nurture their love for physical activity through games and activities. Teachers conducted CATCH 2-4 days per week for 30 minutes.
Seventeen parents who received the PSSC lesson on understanding food labels completed an “Intent to Change” survey. Results of the survey include:
- Of the 12 respondents who did not use the “Nutrition Facts” label prior to the lesson, 92% reported that they will use the nutrition facts on the food label to choose foods the next time they go shopping.
- A parent shared how the workshop helped her family and that they are “eating better and know how to choose foods with better nutrition.”
From August to October 2022, 130 children participated in 143 hours of physical activity through CATCH ECE lessons delivered by 15 teachers at CAPSLO's centers. Research shows that regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity reduces the risk of many chronic diseases among children and adults.
“All my children enjoy the CATCH activities. The CATCH program is fun and beneficial,” one teacher shared. The Center Director said “I really like how teachers and children are physically active with CATCH. The nutrition sessions given to the parents also makes it more impactful for the whole family.”
By motivating and teaching CFHL participants to adopt healthier lifestyle practices, and training ECE teachers to support physical activity, CFHL, UCCE Kern helps create healthier families and communities.