Many families in Lorain County receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) support for food purchasing. To ensure that benefits-eligible individuals make informed and healthy decisions related to food purchases, the SNAP-Ed program in Lorain County provides families and youth with information about nutrition and food choices. By incorporating evidence-based and behaviorally-focused strategies, more than 330 programs in Lorain County in 2016 have reached more than 6,700 individuals. These participants report choosing healthier beverages and trying new fruits and vegetables as a result of these programs.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are areas of study that are driving some of the best careers of individuals entering the workforce. These are also areas in which many local students struggle to perform. To address the need for STEM enrichment through hands-on activity in the classroom, the Lorain County 4-H program hired a full-time STEM Pathways Program Assistant. As a result of the activities and day-camps that have reached more than 950 youth, students have a greater understanding of the importance of STEM to careers that may be of interest.
Lorain County 4-H served 2,031 youth through 65 4-H clubs in both rural and urban portions of the county. These clubs and programs are led by 355 volunteers who model leadership, teamwork, and commitment to the youth participants. Youth also gain the opportunity to develop leadership and communication skills as they serve as club officers and complete projects. The results of these programs are youth with a heightened awareness of their value and potential within the community.
Teamwork, trust, and communication are some of the most valuable critical skills for students to learn to become successful adults. During 2016, 30 teen 4-H counselors participated in team-building activities. Based on evaluations, 90 percent of the teens increased their ability to work with others and trust their peers, and 83 percent observed an improved ability to communicate, both verbally and non-verbally. Additionally, 100 percent of the participants reported an increase in their leadership skills.
Students who face challenging family or economic circumstances often struggle with behavioral and academic challenges. To offer these at-risk youth an opportunity to share their life experiences and develop positive self-images, the 4-H Tech Wizards mentoring program has been established in Lorain County. During the 2015-2016 school year, 64 youth, as well as several adult mentors, were involved in this program. Students were involved in a variety of technology and STEM activities, as well as being able to interact with a caring mentor who was willing to listen to the challenges the youth face. Youth developed positive attitudes and outlooks while learning how to cope with difficult situations as a result of this program.
Based on the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture (2012), the value of crop sales from Lorain County totals more than $160 million. A variety of pests and diseases impact the production of fruits, vegetables, and row crops in Lorain County, potentially reducing the revenue of local producers. During 2016, on-farm research as well as group and individual teaching with more than 400 individuals provided a way to monitor pest pressure as well as to help growers understand the most economical ways to control insects and diseases on their crops. While it is difficult to estimate the value of these efforts, comments from affected growers makes it clear that these are important concepts to understand to help ensure the continued success of Lorain County agriculture.
Reduce, reuse and recycle practices are good for the environment. Through programming in Lorain County, old and waste products are being converted back to new products which results in saved resources and less trash in the landfills, thereby reducing air and water pollution. More than 715 youth and adults in Lorain County have learned about good environmental practices, with topics ranging from managing animal waste to repurposing materials by creating paper from junk mail/leftover office paper and designing jewelry from old denim.
Many headlines in recent years have focused on environmental and water quality concerns across Ohio and our country. At the same time, a renewed focus on reducing landfill waste has created the need for composting education in Lorain County. In the past year, a variety of demonstrations, programs, and handouts have helped more than 800 residents learn about the use of compost to improve soil fertility, reduce fertilizer use, and limit the amount of waste that enters our county landfill.