- (Condition Change) Improved food safety
CFHL, UCCE and 4-H team up in Kern County to offer comprehensive food and nutrition education to farmworker families. Participants improved their food resource management and nutrition practices, contributing to UC ANR's public value of promoting healthy people and communities.
Shafter Healthy Start Family Resource Center (FRC) is part of the Richland School District in Shafter, CA. Shafer is a rural city located 18 miles northwest of Bakersfield. In order to proactively support families in creating healthy lifestyles, administrators and staff at Shafter Healthy Start FRC collaborated with CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE Kern (CFHL, UCCE Kern) and the Kern 4-H Program to provide family-centered virtual nutrition and cooking education from April 28 to May 19, 2021.
According to KidsData, Kern County has a food insecurity rate that is higher than the state average at 23.8% compared to California's overall rate of 18%. Forty-four percent of children were drinking one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day, and only 34.8% of children ate five or more servings of fruits & vegetables a day. Obesity rates are also high, with nearly 50% of children and 74% of adults being either overweight or obese.
How UC Delivers
To provide comprehensive services to the 12 enrolled families, CFHL, UCCE Kern collaborated with the 4-H Program. Both parents and children received virtual lessons through Zoom to reduce obesity through healthy nutrition. Food resource management lessons from the Plan, Shop, Save, and Cook curriculum were taught in Spanish were also provided for families, with sessions held in the afternoon to accommodate farm working schedules. During the lessons, parents were taught how to plan their meals, read and understand food labels, save money on food, and ensure food safety. Physical activity breaks are incorporated in the lesson plan to illustrate the importance of active living for health and wellness.
The Kern 4-H Family Cooking Academy provided families with virtual cooking demonstrations using the Teens as Teachers model. A teen volunteer facilitated the food demonstration to the younger peers. Families received a bag with all the ingredients needed to follow along during the food demonstrations. Recipes chosen followed MyPlate recommendations and included various infused water recipes. During the demonstrations, food safety principles for both youth and adults were discussed. All food costs were covered by the Kern Family Health Care Community Grant that Shafter Healthy Start FRC received.
Families shared their enthusiasm to prepare food they had never tried before like tofu and quinoa. Some children seen on video gave a “thumbs up” after tasting the meals they helped create. Many shared that they would be willing to serve the recipe again to their families.
Plan, Shop, Save, and Cook (PSSC) adult participant evaluation survey results indicated that:
- 6 out of 7 participants reported improvement in at least 1 of the 5 food resource management behaviors (plan, prices, shop, think, facts).
- 6 out of 7 participants reported shopping with a grocery list more often.5 out of 7 participants reported planning meals ahead of time more often.
- 4 out of 7 participants reported that they use "Nutrition Facts" on the food label to make food choices more often.
- 4 out of 7 participants reported using MyPlate to make food choices more often.
- 4 out of 7 participants reported running out of food before the end of the month less often.
- 2 out of 7 participants reported comparing unit prices before buying food more often.
- 1 out of 7 participants reported that when deciding what to feed their family, they thought about healthy food choices more often.
The majority of these participants responded “Most of the time” (n=2) or “Almost always” (n=5) on the pre survey – leaving little room for improvement during the post survey.
Through this local partnership, CFHL, UCCE Kern and Kern 4-H demonstrate UC ANR's commitment to healthy people and communities, helping to improve the budgeting, nutrition knowledge and skills of farm working families in rural agricultural areas that would otherwise receive limited services of this type which can help influence future health outcomes.
"The nutrition classes have helped families try new healthy alternative ingredients that they normally do not buy or know much about. Having this partnership has given us the opportunity to educate children at their level of understanding, as well as parents. Shafter Healthy Start parents and students had a great experience during the class with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Thank You!" - Shafter Healthy Start FRC
- Author: Ali Montazar
UC ANR research on drip irrigation shows potential to reduce downy mildew incidence while improving water quality and resource-use efficiency, contributing to increased water-use efficiency and improved food safety.
Spinach is a leafy green quick-maturing, cool-season vegetable crop. Downy mildew on spinach is a widespread and very destructive disease in California. It is the most significant disease in spinach production, causing crop losses in all areas where spinach is produced. Most conventional and organic spinach fields are irrigated by solid-set or hand-move sprinklers. However, overhead irrigation may contribute to the speed and severity of downy mildew epidemics within a field when other conditions such as temperature are favorable. It is postulated that new irrigation management techniques and practices in spinach production may have a significant economic impact to the leafy greens industry through the control of downy mildew.
How UC Delivers
The main objective of this study was to explore the viability of adopting drip irrigation for organic and conventional spinach production. Field experiments were conducted at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center and three commercial fields in the low desert of California over four crop seasons (2018-2021). Several treatments and comprehensive data collection were carried out to optimize drip system design, irrigation and nitrogen management strategies, planting method, and evaluating the effects of drip on plant growth and downy mildew incidence, and seed germination by drip irrigation.
The results of this multi-year study demonstrated that drip irrigation has the potential for producing profitable spinach in the California crop production system. No significant yield difference was observed among sprinkler treatments and most drip treatments in the 2021 trial. An overall effect of the irrigation system on downy mildew was observed, in which downy mildew incidence was two-to-five times lower in plots irrigated by drip when compared to sprinklers. The likely mechanism for reducing downy mildew incidence is the reduction in leaf wetness resulting from drip irrigation. Leaf wetness is a critical factor for infection and sporulation by the downy mildew pathogen.
The findings of the aforementioned study show that adopting drip irrigation for high-density spinach plantings can reduce incidence of downy mildew and related food safety risks and crop loss. As a result of participating in research trials, a cooperative grower reported a considerable cost reduction of $300 per acre due to less/no water treatment applications for downy mildew control and food safety issues in conventional spinach under drip irrigation. The findings of this study show that adopting drip irrigation for high-density spinach plantings can be a solution to reduce food safety risks and losses from downy mildew, conserve water and fertilizer, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A lower energy cost of $200 per acre is estimated for spinach producing under drip irrigation.
Several factors influence appropriate drip irrigation management in spinach including system design, soil characteristics, and environmental conditions. Drip irrigation offers the potential for precise water management, as well as the ideal vehicle to deliver nutrients in a timely and efficient manner. However, achieving high water- and nutrient-use efficiency, while maximizing crop productivity requires intensive and proper management, particularly in organic baby spinach. The knowledge-based information and findings of this study have been shared with growers and stakeholders through several media interviews, presentations in workshops/webinars, and extension and peer-review publications, contributing to UC ANR's public values of resource conservation and safe, sufficient food for all. The following links are some of the publications associated with this study in Western Farm Press, the Desert of Review, the Holtville Tribune, California Ag Today Radio, Vegetables West, California Organic Farmer, Journal of Agriculture, Agricultural Briefs, and UC ANR Knowledge Stream:
- Author: Chutima Ganthavorn
- Author: Katie Panarella
- Contributor: Shyra Murrey
EFNEP delivered food safety lessons to over 4,000 participants last year, with nearly 2,500 reporting improvements in food safety knowledge and practices. EFNEP's work contributes to UC ANR's public value of safeguarding sufficient, safe, and healthy food for all Californians.
The foodborne illness burden in the U.S. is estimated at 48 million cases, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3000 deaths each year (CDC.gov). This burden will likely increase during the coronavirus pandemic since more families are now cooking and preparing meals at home. With limited consumer knowledge about food safety, the likelihood of foodborne illness increases. Moreover, today's consumers often rely on the internet for health information. Studies have found inaccurate food safety advices on TV cooking shows and recipe blogs. A recent study reveals misinformation abounds on social media and internet question and answer websites.
How UC Delivers
Food safety is one of the four core areas of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). California EFNEP, a statewide program of UC ANR, teaches food safety and safe food handling practices as part of the nine-lesson nutrition series for limited-resource families in 19 counties. Adult participants, mostly those responsible for preparing meals for the family, learn reliable food safety information based on research such as food safety basics, the four core practices to prevent foodborne illness, safe minimum cooking temperature, and proper storage of leftovers. In addition to teaching concepts, EFNEP educators demonstrate proper handwashing and other safe food handling practices during recipe demonstration. Youth participants in lower grades (K-2) learn about when and how to wash hands. EFNEP educators use the Glo-germ demonstration, which illustrates proper handwashing. Youth in upper grades also learn about food safety basics and how to store and handle food safely. During the pandemic, EFNEP quickly pivoted to offer classes virtually so that food safety lessons could continue. During the 2020 program year, EFNEP statewide delivered food safety lessons to 2,981 adult participants and 1,323 youth.
The pre/post EFNEP Adult Questionnaire utilized to evaluate the effectiveness of EFNEP shows 85% (1850 of 2187) of participants improved in one or more food safety practices, such as washing hands before preparing food, washing all items and surfaces after cutting raw meat or seafood, not thawing frozen food at room temperature, and using a meat thermometer. Thawing frozen food at room temperature is not recommended but appears to be common among EFNEP participants; only 29% met this recommendation before the training. After the EFNEP lesson, 65% of participants indicated they now less often thaw frozen food at room temperature. Among youth participants from grades K-12, 55% (733 of 1323) of children and youth gain knowledge or use safe food handling practices more often. Research shows that these food safety practices can reduce the prevalence of foodborne illness. Therefore, these outcomes demonstrate how EFNEP contributes to improved food safety and the public value of safeguarding sufficient, safe, and healthy food for all Californians.
- Author: Beatriz Adrianna Rojas
Thirteen participants improved nutrition practices after attending Kern EFNEP workshops with Mexican American Opportunity Foundation partner, contributing to UC ANR's public value of sufficient, safe, and healthy food in our communities.
According to County Health Rankings & Roadmap, Kern County has a higher food insecurity rate than the state average at 23.8% versus 18%, respectively. Food insecurity is defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources. In addition to issues of food access, almost 74% of Kern County adults are considered overweight or obese.
We know that healthy food access and food preparation skills are key to preventing obesity. Food safety skills are also essential for preventing foodborne illness, which leads to 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year (CDC.gov).
How UC Delivers
To proactively address food insecurity and obesity, the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) collaborated with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), UCCE Kern County, to provide evidence-based nutrition lessons to adults on an annual basis. MAOF, established in 1963, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide for the socioeconomic betterment of the greater Latino community while preserving the pride, values, and heritage of Mexican-American culture. MAOF, EFNEP, and UCCE Kern County staff provided 13 participants with a nine-week class using lessons from the Eating Smart, Being Active (ESBA) curriculum. ESBA is based on the latest research findings from the Dietary Guidelines and Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and offers information on physical activity, healthy lifestyle choices, food preparation, food safety, and food resource management. Participants received vital information that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Seventy-seven percent of participants showed improvement in one or more food resource management practices (i.e., cook dinner at home, compare food prices, plan meals before shopping, look in refrigerator or cupboard before shopping, or make a list before shopping) and 62% of participants reported having enough money to buy food, which demonstrates improved food security.
All participants improved their healthy lifestyle practices. Significant changes among participants were documented using our Adult Questionnaire Survey, including improvement in one or more diet quality indicators (i.e., eating fruits, red, orange, and green vegetables, drinking less sugar-sweetened beverages and cooking dinner at home; b) 85% of participants showed improvement in one or more their physical activity behaviors (i.e., exercising for at least 30 minutes, doing workouts to build and strengthen muscles, or making small changes to be more active); and c) 85% of participants showed improvement in one or more evidence-based food safety practices (i.e., washing hands before preparing food, washing all items and surfaces after cutting raw meat or seafood, not thawing frozen food at room temperature, or using a meat thermometer), which can lead to a decrease in food borne illnesses, as stated by the CDC. Through this course, MAOF and EFNEP, UCCE Kern County are providing knowledge and skills that extend beyond participants to their entire families, which bolsters UC's public value of healthier families and communities.
“They all [participants] benefit from the information. They are more aware of what they are spending and how they can improve their budget and still eat nutritiously. Some participants have shared they recreated some of the recipes done in class.” - Two MAOF instructors.
These outcomes help UC ANR achieve improved food security and food safety in our communities, and represent the UC ANR's public value of safeguarding sufficient, safe, and healthy food for all Californians.
- Author: Mary L Blackburn
- Author: Katherine Uhde
At risk seniors at three low-income housing sites in Alameda County strengthened their food safety skills, reducing their chances of foodborne illnesses.
Seniors with diminished learning and retention capacity, physical impairments, on multiple medicines, and with weakened immune systems are less able to fight foodborne pathogens. Adults over 60 years are more likely to have complications, be hospitalized, and die because of foodborne infections. About 80% of the seniors in the US have at least one chronic condition and 50% at least two. In California, at least 55% of seniors over age 65 suffer from hypertension; 24% from heart disease; 17% diagnosed with cancer; nearly 15% with diabetes, and 10% with asthma. UCCE Alameda Advisor Mary Blackburn's research found up to 40% of low-income housing seniors living with multiple nutrition and lifestyle related chronic diseases. Safe food handling by consumers in their homes and community is among the nutrition recommendations for adults over age 50, and is integral and necessary for a comprehensive healthy living program.
How UC Delivers
In 2014, UCCE Alameda Advisor Mary Blackburn, with a specialist and other advisors, published research on the Make Food Safe for Seniors initiative from ten counties assessing the food safety practices and food behaviors of seniors living with multiple chronic diseases. They developed food safety materials addressing the identified needs, and pilot tested it with over 700 seniors, caregivers, and senior volunteers. In 2019, a UC ANR Master Food Preserver and UC CalFresh Healthy Living staff person conducted safe food handling workshops using the Make Food Safe for Seniors materials with pre- and post-tests. The training reached 80 seniors in three low-income housing sites. Overall, nearly 86% of participants said the training was helpful, and would share food safety information and handouts with friends and neighbors.
Research shows seniors have lower levels of knowledge retention compared to young adults, however the results were positive, and showed that Make Food Safe for Seniors participants increased knowledge in multiple areas.
- 32% knew produce, raw meat, poultry, unwashed hands, and insects are sources of harmful bacteria -- compared to 7% at the start
- 32% understood appearance, odor, and taste do not correctly determine if food is safe to eat -- an increase from 14%
- 36% knew washing meat and poultry is not recommended -- an increase from 7%
- 54% knew to use a thermometer to check temperatures of cooked food -- compared to 28% at the start
- 54% knew to leave perishable food un-refrigerated for 2 hours when the room temperature was less than 90 degrees -- compared to 14% at the start
- 67% knew the correct refrigerator temperature (< 40 degrees Fahrenheit) -- an increase from 14%
- 71% knew raw food should be stored below ready-to-eat foods in the refrigerator -- compared to 14% at the start
- 75% knew to leave perishable food un-refrigerated for ONLY one hour when the room temperature was 90 degrees and above -- compared to 46% at the start
Additionally, most participants agreed that in the future they would defrost meats in the refrigerator instead of on the counter or in the sink, clean their hands, use refrigerator and freezer thermometers, cook and store food properly, and check food temperatures. These measured changes demonstrate improvements in understanding and intent to change food handling behaviors. Similar research showed that food safety education improved safe food-handling practices among low-income elders participating in congregate meal programs and home-delivered meal programs. As workshop participants implement the practices they learned it should help reduce incidences of foodborne illness amongst this vulnerable population. In this way, UC ANR is contributing to improved food safety and safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians.