The unveiling of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines in early January led to multiple county programs on the newest recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The primary focus of the Dietary Guidelines is disease prevention and health promotion. Previous recommendations centered on individual components of the diet, such as food groups and nutrients. However, the revised focus centers on healthy eating patterns.
As the cornerstone of the USDA nutrition assistance programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s goal is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP (food stamps) will make healthy choices within a limited budget. Erie County has been part of this grant-funded educational outreach since its inception in 1992. The SNAP-Ed program assistant provides research-based information and healthy food tasting to children and low-income adult participants being serviced by various social service organizations, food pantries, and/or school districts (if more than 50 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunches).
Youth need a clear understanding to manage their finances. The school enrichment program Real Money. Real World. provided financial education to 155 Erie County students in eighth to 12th grade through hands-on lessons and a real-life simulation. The program consisted of four parts: Pre-simulation preparation (including lessons on managing a check book, understanding a paycheck, and lifestyle/career choices), a hands-on budget management and decision-making simulation, and a post-session evaluation of choices made. Participants gained financial knowledge during a real-life simulation of occupation, salary, family and budget balancing. These youth commented, “Clothing costs way more than I thought.” “I really had to spend my money responsibly.” “Childcare is so expensive.” “You must get your needs before your wants.”
County-wide nutrition education helped more than 3,500 residents make improvements to their health. An emphasis this year on the body and microbiome was shared with program participants to: 1) raise awareness of the healthy bacteria in our bodies; 2) help participants comprehend how those “good” bacteria influence the immune system, risk for chronic diseases such as colon cancer, and digestive disorders including Crohn’s disease and colitis; and 3) how to choose foods that support a healthy microbiome. Program participants report that they are fascinated by the topic and willing to make better food choices to improve their “gut bugs.”
In Erie County, 141 adult volunteers and 52 youth volunteers work directly with youth, ensuring positive 4-H youth development experiences. The volunteers provide leadership in the 4-H program, and each adult volunteer donates approximately 100 hours per year and youth volunteers around 50 hours. At the current Ohio rate of $22.14 per adult volunteer hour, this equates to $312,174 worth of adult volunteer support and at a minimum wage of $8.10 per youth volunteer hour, that’s an additional $21,060. This is a grand total of $333,234 hours of time given to our youth by the volunteers supporting 4-H. Support for their efforts includes initial screening/background check, fingerprinting, orientation to the role and continuing training provides a safer, caring environment to nurture youth. Every volunteer received on-going education in recognizing and report child abuse and neglect.
The Erie County 4-H program profile for 2016: The 4-H program had 597 4-H members participated in 21 community clubs. More than 141 adult volunteers and 52 youth volunteers gave their time and talents to leading 4-H experiences. The shooting sports program expanded with the addition of 2 newly trained volunteers to bring us up to 4 total trained shooting volunteer in the past 2 years. This has helped our enrollment in shootings sports and gun safety projects double from 2015 to 2016. 4-H CARTEENS, a traffic safety programs for first-time juvenile traffic offenders, continues to thrive with 131 participants. CARTEENS is a partnership with OSU Extension, the Erie County Juvenile Court, Firelands Regional Medical Center, and the State Highway Patrol.
The Orchard Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program provided monitoring of insect pests to 17 regional orchards again this year. However, six of the orchards participated in a pilot program to provide training to orchard staff so that they could scout their own orchards rather than rely on an outside service. Initial training and set up was done under the supervision of OSU Extension staff and several field visits were made throughout the season to assure the scouting program was on track and the results accurate. This pilot program enhanced the sustainability of IPM scouting by making it more affordable to the small and medium sized grower. IPM scouting protects the environment by making a spray program more effective by accurately matching the application to pest pressures in the orchard.
The Erie County Master Gardener Volunteers have taken the lead in a program with the Ohio Veterans Home (OVH) in Sandusky. The Veterans Home operates a small greenhouse for the use of its residents. This 5000 square foot structure had been underused in recent years and fallen into disrepair. The Master Gardener Volunteers have worked with the OVH to install three hydroponic growing units in one section of the greenhouse. The hydroponic units are used to grow greens, tomatoes, peppers and herbs for use by the residents and the OVH cafeteria. Though OVH residents have been slow to participate, there is a small group that regularly comes in to help, harvest or just enjoy a few moments in the greenhouse. Also, the regular presence of OSU Extension and Master Gardener Volunteers has engaged some residents to be regular users of the greenhouse and the expertise of Master Gardener Volunteers and Ohio State. Participating residents are becoming more active in greenhouse and garden activities and also benefiting from the fresh produce grown in the greenhouse.
Two new programs developed in 2016 focus on environmental concerns. The first, Bags, Bottles, and Beyond, is an introductory program used to help participants gain awareness of chemicals transmitted through food packaging. “Is the Periodic Table in My Food?” is the second part of the series, focusing on chemicals in food (the good, the bad, and the ugly). County residents are increasingly concerned about chemical exposure through food, and these programs help bring awareness and knowledge about the topic.
Erie County continues to participate in a region-wide program to provide training to pesticide applicators. This is the second year that Fertilizer Certification Training (FCT) was provided to meet new regulations. Team-teaching these sessions provides farmers with the expertise of several educators, each teaching within their area of specialization. 885 hours of pesticide certification were provided to area farmers. Additionally, 924 farmers were trained for their FCT requirement—this amounts to 2772 hours of training to meet fertilizer certification requirements for area farmers. FCT programs were provided at no additional cost in cooperation with Ohio Department of Agriculture. Erie County also coordinates a program for commercial pesticide certification and provided 134 hours of training to commercial nurseries, greenhouses and landscape businesses in the region. Pesticide and fertilizer training results in best management decisions for the improvement of environmental quality in the region.
OSU Extension – Erie County participated in field research to monitor for spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) and brown marmorated stinkbug (BMSB). This year, Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) were trained to monitor traps at one orchard. Training MGVs made it more practical to trap at multiple locations and also provided the volunteers with additional skills in entomology and invasive species identification. Trap results are forwarded to a state research team and also are reported to the orchard owners to assist in their pest control decisions. Monitoring for new invasive pests reduces crop losses and can prevent application of unneeded pesticides.