The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) is a free nutrition education and obesity prevention program serving low-income adults and youth. It is funded by the Food Nutrition Service (FNS) branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). SNAP-Ed facilitates voluntary adoption of healthy food and physical activity choices and other good nutrition-related behaviors. The local need for SNAP-Ed is great, with Adams County ranking 87th among the 88 counties in the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps and having a 28 percent adult obesity rate. In Adams County, 24 percent of the population receives Food Assistance Benefits and 33 percent of the county’s children live in poverty. In July 2016, OSU Extension – Adams County added a second SNAP-Ed program assistant to meet the growing demand. In 2016, the program reached more than 7,300 contacts through 440 programs teaching basic nutrition and food shopping skills to help families stretch their food dollars, increase their physical activity, and make healthier food choices.
The Adams County SNAP-Ed team works with more than 20 local agencies and schools to reach targeted audiences. SNAP-Ed audiences range from preschool classrooms to senior citizens groups. Most classes are part of a series of three or more to allow participants to make and report greater impacts. Participants indicate on pre- and post-surveys that after participating in the SNAP-Ed program they are choosing water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages and low-fat dairy foods more often. They also report eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and worrying less about running out of food. One teen in a juvenile court program reported he made a chicken stir-fry recipe for his family after learning about nutrition and basic cooking skills through SNAP-Ed and was encouraging the rest of his family to eat healthier. Another teen realized her poor food choices were putting her at risk for diabetes and heart disease, issues she had seen in other family members. As a result, she was striving to eat more fruits and vegetables and limit fats and sugars in her diet.
The program assistants also work in the community to encourage policy, system, and environmental changes, promoting healthy choices through work with the Adams County Health and Wellness Coalition. During a holiday basketball tournament, SNAP-Ed worked with athletic boosters and other members of the Coalition to offer healthier concession items at a local high school. In all, 270 people chose grilled chicken over pizza or a hotdog, and approximately 50 servings of trail mix, 25 granola bars, and 70 pieces of fresh fruit were purchased during the tournament as a result of this effort.
According to the Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Strategic Plan, released May 2013, the jobs of the future are STEM jobs. One goal of the plan is to “Increase and Sustain Youth and Public Engagement in STEM through the support of a 50 percent increase in the number of U.S. youth who have an authentic STEM experience each year….” 4-H is cited in the plan as a collaborating agency that can integrate STEM into existing informal learning environments. In Adams County, providing youth with hands-on authentic STEM focused experiences is a priority. Youth participate in these activities through the 4-H Tech Wizards program, as Cloverbuds, at the region’s STEM Camp, at the Maker Festival, and more.
Adams County received 4-H National Mentoring Program year six funding in the amount of $20,500 to continue the 4-H Tech Wizards program. Four adults and seven teens mentored 34 youth at two schools with the goals of increasing their scores on standardized science tests and encouraging them to pursue post-secondary education and training in the fields of science and technology. Participants were mentored weekly, engaging in a variety of STEM activities including an overnight educational field trip to the Cincinnati Zoo, participating in the annual 4-H National Youth Science Day Experiment, and assisting with Cloverbud activities at the fair.
A new and related event held in collaboration with Shawnee State University and 4-H Tech Wizards from four southern Ohio counties introduced participants to the Maker Movement. Funded in part by a grant from the Ohio 4-H Foundation, this Maker Festival engaged more than 65 youth in authentic experiences at a variety of Maker stations. Youth also took part in tours of the chemistry, plastics engineering, and gaming simulation departments at Shawnee. They learned about a variety of careers and related educational requirements and engaged in meaningful STEM focused activities, learning and practicing a number of skills including engineering design, soldering, how to complete electrical circuits to make music and light LEDs, and more.
A recent research study discovered that the structured out-of-school time learning, leadership experiences, and adult mentoring that young people receive through their participation in 4-H plays a vital role in helping them achieve success. 2016 membership in Adams County 4-H included 668 youth enrolled in 27 community-based 4-H clubs. Nine adults completed the volunteer screening process, bringing the number of advisers to 143. Based on a minimum 35 hours contributed annually by each volunteer, the estimated value of their service to Adams County exceeded $111,411. In addition to developing positive relationships with caring adults, members had opportunities to strengthen their project skills at clinics and the sixth annual Kids College, complete required animal quality assurance and skillathons, and participate in the annual Adams County fair.
With the continued high costs involved in starting a family farm, the need for business transition from one generation to the next may be greater than ever. The value of both land and equipment that heads of household accumulate over their life span can be astronomical. Two estate planning programs were held with experts explaining several options of transitioning the family’s agricultural business to the next generation. A total of 88 people representing 57 operations in the tri-county area participated, and Adams County had 14 farming operations represented. The knowledge gained included the use of trusts, wills, LLCs, and long-term health care, and how life insurance can be utilized.
The Small Farm College held in Brown County used a traditional curriculum to help small farm landowners identify opportunities for their land. This class included 50 percent women, five veterans and two high school students. Fourteen of those attending were from Adams County. The number one response to the question “What is the motivation for farm ownership?” is lifestyle (39.4 percent), and retirement was second (20.1 percent). Evaluations indicated that 65.5 percent of participants developed or changed their farm property plan as a result. In all, 59 percent of participants in the three small farm colleges held in southern Ohio indicated these were the first Extension programs they had attended, proving Extension is still reaching new audiences with this program.
Adams County 4-H is one of nine county programs that own and operate Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp. In 2016, 11 Adams County teens served as camp counselors at regional camps, and 63 county youth ages 5-14 participated as campers, learning and practicing independent living, communication, problem-solving, and other skills. This year, alumni, staff, 4-H families, and businesses from a 10-county area raised more than $99,000 through the Raise the Roof campaign. Monies raised will be used to complete maintenance projects, including four new roofs on camp buildings, in an effort to keep facilities viable for future generations. A $40,000 matching grant from Farm Credit Mid-America kick-started the campaign.
Providing relevant, timely, research-based information to clientele is a major part of what Extension does. With recent technology, many are able to get such information via the Internet. However, in Adams County there is still a need for more traditional communication. Evaluations indicate that 79 percent of those attending face-to-face programs are at least 60 years old, and many do not have access to the Internet. To reach this audience, the educator writes a weekly column for nine newspapers in the tri-county area, including three weekly Adams County papers. In addition, the educator is featured on local radio programs five times each week. Frequent calls come to the office based on what was on the radio or in the column.
Water quality issues continue to be front page news, and Extension is involved in working with farmers to improve the use of nutrients involved in the production of crops and masterstock. Teaching producers to utilize nutrients to reduce the impact on the environment and increase their own bottom line is a win-win situation, and Extension’s Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training is designed to do both. Through the training, producers are informed of practices that include improving the rate of nutrients applied, the right timing of the application, use of the right product, and the correct placement of the nutrients. In 2016, 168 producers from the tri-county area, including 38 from Adams County, participated in training. Of those, 87 percent indicated that this training improved their knowledge about nutrient management, and many producers expected to save money and improve yields by better utilizing their dollars.