Posts Tagged: nutrition
After serving Californians for over 22 years as a UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Riverside County, Chutima Ganthavorn retired from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources July 1. Ganthavorn credits her success in improving nutrition education for Inland Empire residents to community partnerships, reliable funding and leadership support.
Ganthavorn earned her bachelor's degree in food and nutrition at UC Berkeley. After taking on a work-study opportunity at Cal, Ganthavorn was inspired to pursue food and nutrition further, which later led her to earn a Ph.D. in food science from Washington State University.
When Ganthavorn joined UC ANR as the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Riverside County in 1999, one of the first major responsibilities she was given was to build successful programs for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program, now known as CalFresh Healthy Living, UC. This proved to be quite a challenge since there were no program supervisors and limited statewide office support at the time.
“It was a job that involved having a passion for helping others, especially low-resource families that were in need of better health,” said Ganthavorn.
Early on in her career,Ganthavorn worked with Southeast Asian farmers, grandparents raising grandchildren, and Latino youth from migrant families. During her time at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources,Ganthavorn has collaborated with many UC Cooperative Extension staff and academic colleagues as well as community partners, all in an effort to help build healthy families and communities.
Patti Suppe, a Loma Vista Middle School physical education teacher and Alvord Unified School District's wellness leader who worked with UC Cooperative Extension on gardening and nutrition projects until she retired two years ago, expressed her appreciation to Ganthavorn.
“Thank you so much for all you have done for UC Cooperative Extension and wellness in general,” Suppe wrote. “I especially want to thank you for all that you did for Alvord and especially Loma Vista. There is no doubt that we would have never received the recognition from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation without your hard work and continual support.”
Later in her career, Ganthavorn also became involved in nutrition projects serving Native American and African American communities. In 2006, Ganthavorn partnered with UC Master Gardeners, a partnership that deepened over the years and subsequently led to community garden and school garden development and garden-based nutrition education.
“Ganthavorn is a selfless, thought-provoking partner on projects,” said Michele Nicole Tabor, program representative III in the statewide CalFresh Healthy Living, UC office at UC Davis. “She has been a pivotal figure in developing strong relationships with people throughout the communities she has served, such as members of the Torres Martinez Tribal community. Her amazing work ethic and calm spirit are inspiring. Her absolute dedication to positive community health outcomes in the Riverside and San Bernardino communities has made a difference in people's lives.”
By 2015, her responsibilities expanded to include overseeing EFNEP in San Bernardino County. As a result of efforts with Ganthavorn and EFNEP educators to create a healthier environment for students and parents, Juanita Blakely Jones Elementary School in San Bernardino received an award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy School Program in 2018.
“A common thread I found in all my interactions over the years is that there are plenty of dedicated and passionate people – ANR staff and academics as well as community partners – wanting to build healthy families and communities,” said Ganthavorn. “The keys to success are partnership, funding and leadership support. It has been a joy working with everyone I have encountered and a memorable journey for me.”
During her retirement, Ganthavorn, who has been granted the prestigious emeritus status from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, plans to continue assisting the Torres Martinez Tribe with their Advancing California Opportunity to Renew Native health Systems (ACORNS) project. She also looks forward to spending more time with her family, sleeping in, exercising, reading more, and hopes to travel soon.
“Her quiet, unassuming character over time moves mountains and builds deep trust in all who have the honor to know and work with her. She will be missed immensely!” Tabor said.
University leaders, faculty and students from across the U.S. and around the world are working together to tackle a complex set of challenges that prevent millions of people from getting enough of the right foods. In March 2021, UC Davis, the UC Global Food Initiative and the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute, in partnership with the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University, hosted a summit for members of Universities Fighting World Hunger, where more than 500 attendees from 22 countries sought solutions to the tragedy of world hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition that results in chronic diseases and obesity.
The 16th annual summit, held virtually for the second time, introduced a new way to address hunger by focusing on its connections to global climate change and the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic.
Opening keynote speaker Bill Dietz, director of the Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University, called the multiple threats to human well-being a “syndemic” driven by political power, capitalism, social norms and structural racism.
He suggested triple-duty solutions to the syndemic. For example, for U.S. populations, increasing plant-based foods and reducing beef consumption leads to (1) healthier diets that reduce obesity, diabetes and cancer; (2) improves nutritional quality and food security; and (3) lowers greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and cattle production.
“I don't mean to say we eliminate beef,” Dietz said. “Beef can be healthy if grass fed and contains micronutrients. We need to reduce it. I don't pretend that's an easy lift. There is resistance at the highest levels of government. But we need to generate the political will to turn that around.”
Dietz recommended the development of local and regional food systems for food resilience, health, equity and environmental sustainability. Regional systems are more agile and not devoted to monoculture, such as that found in the U.S. Midwest where great swaths of land are managed exclusively for corn production.
“The question is not what we need to do, but how to do it,” Dietz said. “We need to act now. We need to build political will. We need to hold leaders accountable.”
A new Green Revolution
On the world stage, increasing access to food must address poverty, inequality, wars and politics, said Rattan Lal, distinguished professor of soil science at Ohio State University.
The projections that the earth will have 2 billion more residents by 2050 means there's a need for a new “Green Revolution,” Lal said. In the 1950s, fears that food production was lagging behind population growth were rampant. The fears were not realized due to the mid-century Green Revolution, in which research and technology boosted agricultural production worldwide with advances in variety selection, irrigation, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Yields rose exponentially.
“This miracle saved hundreds of millions from starvation,” Lal said. “Despite all that progress, there is still hunger.”
To meet food demand anticipated in 2050, the new Green Revolution must be different.
“Rather than input based, it must be natural resources based,” Lal said. “The strategy is to produce more food from less land, less water, less fertilizers and less energy.”
Managing agricultural land with regenerative principles – such as maintaining year-round soil cover, eliminating tillage and applying integrated nutrient management – leads to healthy, sustainable and productive soils that lock up carbon and minimize greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.
“Something I hope to see protected in the new Farm Bill – the rights of soil,” Lal said. “Soil is a living entity. It has rights. We have a Clean Air Act, a Clean Water Act. It is time for a Healthy Soil Act. I hope it will be in 2022 or 2023. That involves policy translating science to action.”
The benefits of soil health are research-proven, but not yet widely implemented on farmland around the world, an example of a dichotomy shared by summit keynote speaker Jeffrey Sachs, an economist with the Center for Sustainable Development. He quoted the well-known observation of science fiction writer William Gibson, “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.”
“There are solutions. I call them pathways. They are not gimmicks,” Sachs said. “Our work is to build the public understanding and awareness of the importance of these pathways.”
Sachs encouraged summit attendees to advocate locally and at the state and federal levels to promote new food systems approaches.
“Write blogs, op-eds and suggestions. What can corporations commit to? What should governments commit to? What can the food industry commit to?” Sachs said. “A lot of agricultural policies promoted by large commercial interests neglect environmental objectives. What we need is a one-world approach to move beyond the narrow view of a powerful corporate lobby and move to ecosystem sustainability in agriculture, carbon storage, healthful diets and a culture of appreciation of agriculture and healthful food.”
A role for land grant universities
Lorrene Ritchie, director of UC's Nutrition Policy Institute, said she believes UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and other land grant institutions can help direct humanity along a pathway of human and planet health.
“We have nutrition programs, dairy and beef research, irrigation, pest control, production, and natural resources expertise, and are well positioned to work together,” Ritchie said. “As a nutrition researcher, I can bring expertise on human dietary needs, while others can identify the crops that are most environmentally sustainable in different ecosystems. How we can get the best nutrition with the smallest environmental impact is the key question to address.”
Consumers can also help protect the planet's health with information to make educated decisions about their food choices.
“I would like to see food labeling not only for nutrition, but also on the product's sustainability,” she said.
Impacts from food on the planet's health involve production, water use, transportation, packaging and other factors.
“It kind of makes you dizzy to think about balancing impacts to human health and planet health. At UC ANR, we have the expertise and we can contribute to making progress in California and beyond in that regard. Complex problems will require multiple solutions – the time to act is now,” Ritchie said.
UC ANR partners with state and local organizations to improve urban communities. This story is one in a series about the impact of these partnerships.
The Farmworker Institute of Education and Leadership Development (FIELD), founded by Cesar Chavez in 1978, is dedicated to strengthening communities and the lives of farmworkers and immigrants in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys.
In Kern County, they are partnering with UC Cooperative Extension's CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program to ensure families have the knowledge and skills they need to buy and prepare food that will help prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and prevent obesity.
Each year, UCCE nutrition education supervisor Beatriz Rojas and UCCE nutrition education specialist Bea Ramirez present students in the program with eight free lessons on nutrition, physical activity and healthy living. Beginning in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, participants attended classes online, and the Kern County CalFresh Healthy Living, UC staff adapted their classes to an online platform.
FIELD requested nutrition classes for their 32 adult students during the summer session.
“We provided the students with lesson packets and followed up with one-on-one calls to review each lesson,” Rojas said. “The participants received vital information on how to keep themselves and their families fit and healthy, save money at the grocery store, make healthy food choices and prepare tasty meals.”
In one of the phone calls, a participant mentioned that she started to incorporate 30 to 40 minutes of stationary bike riding in her daily routine and started her family on this activity as well.
“Ever since I started the nutrition class, it has taught me how to read the nutrition facts label when I go to the store, also how to choose the right oil, meat and dairy,” the student said. “My family and I do a lot more physical activity at home and we eat healthier.”
The CalFresh Healthy Living, UC program and other UC ANR statewide programs rely on donor contributions. To learn more about CalFresh Healthy Living, UC and how to support programs in your area, visit the UC Youth, Families and Communities program website.
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.
The first study of California law that requires schools to test tap water for lead found that the majority completed the testing on time, and only 3% reported any tested taps with lead in the water higher than the state's 15 parts per billion (ppb) limit. About 30% of the 240 randomly selected public schools in the study didn't report their results within three months of the deadline.
The study, Water Safety in California Public Schools Following Implementation of School Drinking Water Policies, was published in the January issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online publication.
“Because we strongly encourage people to drink water rather than sugary beverages, we need to have confidence that tap water is safe,” she said. “But this is a complex issue with shared responsibility among public water systems, school administrators and regulating agencies.”
Access to safe drinking water in schools is essential to help avoid the developmental and health consequences for children associated with consuming contaminated water, under hydration or excessive intake of sugary beverages.
Schools that get water from public utilities can expect the water they receive to meet federal and state water quality standards. However, 16% of study schools received water from a utility that violated health-based standards, such as elevated levels of contaminants or failure to adhere to disinfectant protocols. When water flows into buildings through pipes that contain lead – such as those made entirely of lead, or galvanized iron or leaded brass, or connected with lead solder – and especially when water sits stagnant in lead-containing plumbing, lead may leach into the water before it flows from the tap.
In October 2017, California passed Assembly Bill 746, which mandated that public water utilities sample and test for lead in tap water of public schools that were built before 2010. The law is designed to identify and mitigate sources of lead in water. Funds to upgrade school drinking-water plumbing were also earmarked in the state budget. Working with their local water suppliers, the schools selected taps for sampling. The number of taps that released water with lead was very low, and even those sources are not necessarily unhealthy for drinking, Hecht said.
“When we test tap water, we're not talking about every drop of water that comes from the tap,” she said. “We test the first water that comes out of the tap after it has been stagnant in the pipes. Once the taps are in use and water is flowing, the lead level should drop dramatically.”
Although few schools (3%) had even one tap in violation of California state standards for lead, violations increased to 16% when the federal Food and Drug Administration standard for bottled water was applied. The FDA requires that bottled water not exceed 5 ppb of lead.
The 174 schools in the study collectively tested 1,238 independent water sources – such as playground, hallway and gym drinking fountains, classroom faucets, food service areas and restroom taps in 2019. Some of the tests took place in locations that serve staff, such as teachers' lounges, nurses' stations, distribution sources and maintenance areas. Without detailed guidelines to follow, some schools tested only 1 tap; others tested as many as 76.
“Testing only a subset of taps in a facility prevents full identification of which schools need to undertake lead remediation actions,” Hecht said.
Hecht and her co-authors – Isioma Umunna, Anisha Patel and Lauren Blacker of Stanford University, Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, and Emily Altman of UC Berkeley – conclude that, in the future, states should require schools to test to nondetectable levels of lead for maximum data collection and require that at least one water source in food service areas be tested.
The information and recommendations from the study are already informing California legislation designed to protect children from lead exposure from water. A new law, Assembly Bill 2370, will require all licensed childcare centers to test taps for lead by 2021 and every 5 years thereafter. The inconsistencies experienced in AB 746 compliance revealed the need for detailed guidelines on the number of taps facilities should test, the required locations for testing, clear naming conventions to identify taps and reporting procedures.