Posts Tagged: EFNEP
UC ANR, local nonprofit grow community health in Inland Empire garden
A volunteer recovering from a drug addiction gives time regularly to help stay sober. An older person uses outdoor spaces to stay active, physically and socially, despite mobility issues. And a mother of four strives to teach her children what carrots look like before they become capsules in plastic bags.
While these San Bernardino County residents enjoy their hours within their community garden, the lessons and inspiration they derive travel much farther – forming the branches and roots of a stronger, healthier community.
Hence the name of this unique place in Ontario, the Seeds of Joy Community Garden.
“The goal is to not just grow in the garden, but to grow the community outside the gates as well,” said UC Master Gardener Elizabeth McSwain, whose nonprofit, Caramel Connections Foundation, has nurtured this project from its beginnings in 2018 as a small plot within the Huerta del Valle Garden.
The programs and classes were so well-received that McSwain and her partners and volunteers opened in April 2021 a much larger, 1-acre space within Anthony Muñoz Hall of Fame Park.
As a self-described “green heart with a brown thumb,” McSwain said the success of the garden would not be possible without the support of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) staff and volunteers.
McSwain, a restaurant owner, founded Caramel Connections Foundation in 2016 to offer culinary and healthy eating classes at the local Boys & Girls Club. During her first-ever visit to a community garden to attend a “herbs as medicine” class taught by UC Master Gardener Valerie Dobesh, McSwain had a life-changing conversation at an information table.
Maggie O'Neill, the UC Master Gardener program coordinator for UCCE in San Bernardino County, patiently answered McSwain's many questions about the program, which trains volunteers to spread research-based knowledge on home horticulture, pest management and sustainable landscape practices.
“In regards to planting the seed in my heart, I can never say enough about Maggie,” McSwain said, “because Maggie's passion and her knowledge about gardening made me feel like…even though I didn't have the skill set, she made me feel as if I would be a good candidate for the Master Gardener program.”
McSwain graduated from the program in March 2021, equipped with the expertise to better support the volunteers and participants in an ever-blossoming variety of programs that serve a broad swath of the community.
“One of the key founding principles of this garden from the very beginning has been inclusivity and making sure that all community members feel welcome, celebrating many cultures, ethnicities and religions,” O'Neill said. “Elizabeth has made sure that the partners and organizations that are supporting this garden are equally diverse and inclusive so that the community members are able to see themselves represented in the people who are helping to bring this garden together.”
Seeds of Joy now features a Zen garden with succulents to raise drought awareness, a Read in Color Little Free Library emphasizing diverse cultural connections, a composting/vermicomposting bin system to highlight waste diversion (with a small orchard), a story time area for children, an outdoor classroom, a space for yoga classes, and an outdoor community kitchen that helps produce meals for facilities serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
“With food insecurity being such a major problem for San Bernardino County in general, even prior to COVID, the current epidemic of poor nutrition in our children is weakening the strength of our community,” McSwain explained. “We hope to play a part in helping to fix that in some way – healthy food and fitness are powerful essentials that are often overlooked.”
Residents of low-income housing units across the street will have priority for reserving plots in the heart of the garden – approximately 30 raised beds for growing fresh, organic produce. Although completion of those beds has been delayed due to COVID impacts, applications have already been coming in.
“Ultimately our goal is to teach Inland Empire families what's involved in maintaining an edible garden,” McSwain said. “We provide them with the basic tools.”
In addition to UC Master Gardener-led classes, other UC ANR programs are contributing to this educational hub within a historically underserved neighborhood. The Master Food Preserver Program volunteers will be offering workshops on how to safely preserve the community garden's harvests, while EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Program) educators will teach about eating nutritious, delicious food in a budget-conscious way.
“Our programs are a great complement to the garden and to each other because we teach people how to grow their own food, then teach them how to preserve it and how to make lifestyles changes for healthier, happier families,” O'Neill said. “With all of these classes offered free to the community through the UCCE, we are able to add incredible value to an already great project.”
Already, O'Neill has been showing community members how to “companion plant” – maximizing the limited space residents have to work with, by placing ecologically compatible plants next to each other so that they can mutually flourish.
Companion gardening is a fitting analogy for the power of collaboration – with local officials, community and corporate partners, and organizations such as UC ANR – in growing spaces and resources for the benefit of the entire community.
“Partnering with the Master Gardener program and the Master Food Preserver Program and EFNEP is the perfect partnership in that we're all trying to do the same thing,” McSwain said. “We're trying to help people make better choices and to give them the tools so that they can live better lives, and not necessarily have to rely on spending $500 at the grocery store to get organic products, and making a choice between paying your light bills or buying food.”
McSwain welcomes all community members to participate, engage, and visit the Seeds of Joy garden, located at 1240 W. Fourth St. in Ontario.
“I don't want it to be a secret garden,” she said. “We want the community to know that it's there for them, that it's there to enhance their life – to reduce the disparities in our community and to be able to just spark a love of gardening and bring joy.”
In addition to support from UC ANR programs, Seeds of Joy is made possible by the City of Ontario (Mayor Paul Leon, City Council, and former City Manager Al Boling), American Beverage Association, Beola's Southern Cuisine, CalRecycle, Huerta del Valle Garden, Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP), Inland Empire Resource Conservation District, Kellogg Garden Products, Mercy House, San Bernardino County, SLJ Pro Audio Services – among a host of other community partners.
UCCE Tulare helps participants save food dollars: Small changes make big impact
Lin Fraker graduated from the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program in Tulare County after completing the four-week virtual curriculum, UCCE Connects 2U. Online classes were led by Mariana Lopez, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator.
After participating in the plan, shop and save lesson in the second class,Fraker shared that she had made a grocery list and found that it helped her save money when she went grocery shopping. She had never made a list before, and when she planned her week's menu and made a grocery list, she saw that her usual bill of almost $200 per shopping trip went down to $89! Even making small changes in grocery shopping practices can make a big impact.
In the video below, Lopez converses with Fraker, who expresses her enthusiasm for the EFNEP class in Tulare County and wants to share the information with her mother-in-law to improve her health.
Federal nutrition programs respond to COVID-19
In the spring of 2020, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC (CFHL UC) Program faced the unprecedented experience of shelter-in-place and school closures due to COVID-19. Both federal nutrition education programs relied on in-person contact by UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education staff as a means of building and sustaining relationships with community members, stakeholders and partners serving vulnerable populations.
CFHL UC and EFNEP state office staff, in collaboration with the Center for Nutrition in Schools, reacted quickly to serve their clientele's needs. The coordinated effort of state office teams resulted in the dissemination of a staff needs assessment, which culminated in the training of over 150 educators and supervisors to quickly pivot lessons for online and distance learning. State staff and educators began designing online curricula delivery models to re-engage students, creating a library of virtual lessons with distance-learning strategies. This included using Zoom, social media platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube, and learning platforms such as Google Classroom. To provide quality assurance, reach and outcome measures also began undergoing adaptation for this new learning environment.
Examples of new remote learning capabilities include:
More than 60 online lessons under development for children pre-kindergarten through 8th grade that emphasize healthy eating, active living and gardening.
CalFresh Healthy Living, UCCE county programs are developing the online delivery of five adult curricula, including 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 purchase healthy food on a limited budget. These lessons are particularly valuable at this time of high unemployment.
EFNEP's Technology and Social Media Plan includes a pilot of ‘blended learning' using mail, phone and video chat for our UCCE Connects to You Series. CFHL UC also utilizes mailings and phone call follow-ups with this curriculum.
Further, CFHL UC educators are offering lessons and short educational segments online, maintaining school gardens, working at food banks (with the permission of local county directors) and, in partnership with school meal programs, offering complimentary nutrition education and physical activity take-home lessons and resources to students and families at meal pick up locations. Youth engagement projects continue to engage student leaders online through Youth-Led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) projects.
In response to COVID-19, the EFNEP and CFHL UC state and county staff continue to build and enhance the skills of our educators while serving California's most vulnerable communities. These efforts are critical to maintain trusted relationships, which both programs successfully established over decades of service to promote healthy people and communities in California.
UC and community partners provided virtual hands-on cooking demonstrations
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Tulare County conducted virtual nutrition education and cooking demonstration classes last fall, empowering families to support their health with knowledge and skills to adopt healthy behaviors. The training covered nutrition/physical activity, food resource management, food security and food safety.
Step 1: EFNEP integrated virtual food demonstration in nutrition education classes
EFNEP Tulare collaborated with Native American Tribal organizations and Tulare Adult School to provide virtual food demonstration classes integrated with nutrition education to parents with children. Mariana Lopez, bilingual EFNEP adult nutrition educator, led the classes in English and Spanish in four 60- to 90-minute sessions over four weeks.
Step 2. Planning, preparation and implementation of virtual food demonstration
Community partners provided the ingredients to the participants. Lopez found ways to make the virtual food demonstration successful by planning and preparing ahead of time. Participants engaged in hands-on learning about cost-effective cooking at home. Participants learned about food planning, budgeting and shopping, healthy foods, food safety practices and physical activity.
Step 3. Family engagement during virtual food demonstration
Lopez conducted virtual nutrition education classes with 48 families; 38 families graduated.
Community partners expressed their gratitude and willingness to continue with the collaboration.
“The participants really enjoyed the class and wished it was longer. They looked forward to meeting each week and getting their food and cooking together with the nutrition teacher and their families.” - site manager
Participants engaged their families to enjoy the virtual food demonstration classes.
“Thank you. Class was fun being able to cook with my girls and I learned so much.”
~ class participant
Overall, EFNEP Tulare created excitement with virtual nutrition education classes through food demonstrations, promoted family engagement, strengthened community partnerships, and empowered families to be resourceful, eat healthy on a budget and live a healthy lifestyle.
Creating family home cooking memories with love and gratitude
Growing up in a traditional Asian Indian household, home cooking was a part of the daily routine and a cultural practice. At the time, acquiring cooking knowledge and skills was an expectation and considered normal. When I moved to the United States, I added new knowledge about diverse cultural values and norms surrounding food and home cooking practices.
Today, with millions of people nationwide facing stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines, home cooking has found new meaning for many families. Navigating through this new normal, I feel blessed to have the cooking knowledge and skills that empower me to cook basic pantry food items into diverse cultural food recipes from across the world. Thanks to my family for keeping the passion of home cooking alive.
As the UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family, and consumer sciences advisor and a researcher trying to understand and identify strategies to support healthy lifestyle habits among children and families, I feel this commitment has never been stronger than it is right now. I decided to meaningfully inform the ways families can work together with children in the kitchen. In this process, I examined the strategies used by UCCE nutrition education programs of Tulare and Kings counties in the past year, along with current research and best practices that promote home cooking, age-appropriate kitchen tasks, and meal preparation activities.
What is cooking and why it matters?
Cooking is a learned skill that is broadly defined as the ability and capacity to prepare meals. Cooking at home is a practice that encompasses a range of activities to include nutrition and age-appropriate kitchen tasks from food planning, preparation, safety, consumption and much more. Children can acquire cooking skills at home with adult guidance and supervision. There are many benefits of cooking at home.
Cooking at home improves health and well-being
Families that prepare meals at home eat a healthier diet. Studies have reported more fruit and vegetable consumption and low consumption of convenience and processed foods among families who cook at home compared to families who cook irregularly or not at all. A study reported that adolescents with cooking ability indicated better nutritional and mental health and stronger family connections. Among adults, cooking at home has indicated improvements in health status, dietary intake, self-efficacy, self-esteem, mood and affect.
Cooking at home strengthens family resource management
Food resource management involves meal planning, shopping, and budgeting. Studies have shown preparing meals at home saves time and money and helps families eat healthy on a budget.
Cooking at home increases family mealtimes
Having basic cooking skills set the foundation for family mealtimes. Research shows when families cook at home, they are more likely to eat at home most days of the week, make healthier food choices, and save money.
Cooking at home promotes family cultural tradition
Families pass on their cultural tradition when they include children in every aspect of the meal preparation, from choosing the food menu and ingredients, to setting the table to making the meal, talking and eating together. Research shows such practices may differ from family to family, however, it creates lifelong knowledge and memories.
Cooking at home contributes to lifelong healthy habits and life skills
Cooking together as a family helps children learn useful life skills of reading, teamwork, planning and organization, communication, problem-solving, creativity, imagination, cleanliness, and gratitude. Children can apply math, science, nutrition, culinary, and geography lessons to understand where the food comes from, how to read a recipe, how to measure ingredients, healthy vs. unhealthy foods, foods from around the world, seasonal foods, nutrition aspects of the food and much more.
Promoting healthy families and communities through UC Cooperative Extension
The University of California Cooperative Extension administers CalFresh Healthy Living, UC and the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program in Tulare and Kings counties
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nutrition education is an integral component of these programs. Increasingly in recent years, there is a focus on improving lifelong practical skills using age-appropriate learning approaches.
In the past year, the UCCE nutrition programs in Tulare and Kings counties have empowered children, youth, adults, and families with knowledge and skills to make the healthy choice the easy choice.
Participants learned about handwashing and food safety, age-appropriate cooking basics, growing a vegetable garden, reading a recipe, eating healthy from five food groups, healthy and seasonal foods. Through food demonstrations and taste tests, participants enjoyed foods from all food groups, including new fruits and vegetables, and showed a willingness to try them at home.
Additionally, adult learning also included food planning and management, selection, preparation, cooking, and eating on a budget.
How can families engage children in age-appropriate home cooking activities?
Now is the time to create family home cooking memories with love and gratitude
Try a few of the activities listed below, and set goals to adopt small healthy living changes. Soon, you'll be proud and happy to see your children pick up these skills and habits.
Age-appropriate kitchen tasks. Children are great helpers. Parents can delegate and guide children with Age-Appropriate Kitchen Tasks . Age-appropriate tasks are recommended based on what children can do at each age. Effective parental practices can help children stay healthy and safe (Child Development Milestones & Parenting).
Cooking appliances, tools and accessories.Be a kitchen tour guide to your children and help them get to know the kitchen layout and appliances. Show them cooking tools and accessories that you frequently use in the kitchen. Provide age-appropriate cooking tools to encourage children to get involved in the kitchen.
Handwashing. Help children understand the importance of washing hands before, during, and after handling food, cooking, and eating. Help children develop handwashing habits by following Five Steps to Handwashing. Handwashing can be a fun family activity.
Food safety. Explain to children the science behind food handling, cooking, and storage using guidelines about Food Safety in Your Kitchen and Food Safety Fun Learning Family Activities. To get guidance on safe handling, preparation, and storage of food and beverage items, download Foodkeeper App.
Food menu planning. Involve children in Food Planning Activities & Resources. Create a Sample Two-Week Menuto minimize trips to grocery stores. Ask children to help you create a family food menu. During grocery shopping, fill your cart with healthy options and consider shelf-stable and budget-friendly items from each food group with Food Groups Tip for Every Aisle.
Cooking with new foods, herbs and spices.Walk the talk about the importance of eating from five food groups and drinking water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages by doing so yourself. When creating a food menu and food recipes, include foods from five food groups - fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains and dairy from MyPlate and Seasonal Produce Guide. Add flavor to your food with Herbs & Spices. You can also Grow Your Own Herbs & Spices Indoors .
Food recipe cookbooks. Involve children in creating healthy food recipe cookbooks for breakfast, snacks, lunch, appetizers, and dinner. Think about building traditional family food recipes, food recipes from around the world or by culture, quick and easy food recipes, cooking with herbs, slow-cooker recipes, and much more. Family friendly recipe ideas can be found at MyPlate Kitchen, Healthy Recipes from the Whitehouse to You, Meeting Your MyPlate Goals On A Budget, Healthy Eating on a Budget Cookbook.
Food demonstration and taste test. Food demonstration and taste test can be a fun family kitchen activity during weekends. Encourage children to create a fun recipe to cook, and ask them to use their five senses to describe the flavors, ingredients and the food used in the recipe. Try to blend the food from many cultures to create new recipes. Share family food stories with children to keep the family tradition alive.
Family mealtimes. Family mealtime is an opportunity to eat, talk, connect, communicate, and learn. Visit MyPlatePlan to learn what and how much to eat within calorie allowance. Eating together as a family gives the children an opportunity to learn and practice their table manners, social and communication skills.
Reduce food waste. Family meal preparation time is a great opportunity to educate children about how to Recycle & Compost food waste. Recycling food helps save money and reduces the amount of food going to waste.
Food- and kitchen-related COVID-19 informational resources.The USDA Food and Nutrition Service and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has useful nutrition and food safety tips and activities for families managing the challenging conditions of the COVID-19 outbreak. Find these organizations here:
- USDA Food & Nutrition Service Information Link
- Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Link
- Videos on Kitchen Topics
- Social Media Kitchen Related Topics for Families
- Games, Activities, & Tip Sheets