A recent study at The Ohio State University showed the average cost of foodborne illness to Mahoning County could be $37 million to $59 million per year. Preventing these costs through education is significant for Mahoning County families. To combat the issue, more than 40 individuals participated in home food preservation trainings and had their pressure canners tested for accuracy.
According to USDA, children who eat full, nutritious meals have improved cognitive function, higher test scores, and better attention spans. To help area children strive through better nutrition, OSU Extension has been working with Ohio’s Smarter Lunchroom pilot project to create sustainable and healthy options in eight local schools. Strategies were designed to improve healthy options in the lunchroom and reduce food waste. Improved consumption of fruits and vegetables was achieved by 65 percent of students, along with an 80 percent reduction of food waste in the school cafeteria.
In Mahoning County, 145 sites and organizations partnered with OSU Extension on community nutrition programs, EFNEP, and SNAP-Ed. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) served 8,790 low-income residents in 2016. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) provided 454 hours of food and nutrition education to 1,378 participants ages 5-60+ years in Mahoning County. Classes were comprised of 53 percent female and 47 percent male participants.
A total of 1,165 family members were impacted by EFNEP. The 158 adult graduates significantly increased knowledge and improved behaviors in diet quality (88 percent), food resource management (75 percent), and food safety (65 percent), resulting in Mahoning County residents making healthier choices.
A total of 923 youth participated in EFNEP in 2016, in kindergarten to 12th grade. After completing six lessons, youth reported significant increases in knowledge and positive behavior changes in the areas of diet quality (90 percent), food safety (75 percent), and physical activity (52 percent).
Food safety concerns continue to grow, as do requirements placed on food handlers to improve safety practices and awareness. ServSafe, the nationally recognized food handlers program, was offered to 15 participants who attended Level 2 trainings. After the program, 86 percent passed the exam, with an average score of 88 percent. Level 1 (Safe Food Handler) training was attended by 95 Mahoning County food service employees. Participants learned about foodborne illness, utilizing time and temperature control effectively, preventing cross-contamination, cleaning, sanitizing, and pest management. Six participants were opening new food establishments in Mahoning County: a barbeque restaurant, a drive-through, a pizza shop, a bakery, a food truck, and a deli within a gas station.
In partnership with Youngstown Neighborhood Development, 34 entrepreneurs participated in the Bright Ideas to Business Plan class series. Participants developed business plan sections each week, culminating in a prepared presentation about their business at the end of the eight-week series.
Leadership and teamwork were the focus of our week-long 4-H camp, where 10 certified teens worked with 47 youth to build new skills for their future endeavors.
As part of America’s largest youth development program, 246 certified adult volunteers led activities and events with 1,051 4-H club members in Mahoning County. These youth took 3,460 individual projects in 2016, ranging from rocket science to animal science and beginning archery to vegetable production. An additional 670 youth in urban schools participated in STEM-based education on seed germination and plant growth.
A youth financial literacy program (Real Money. Real World.) was introduced to 87 youth at Campbell High School. Students learned the impact of education on their potential income and how to create a spending plan. More than 80 percent of the students reported an increased understanding of a spending plan, and 75 percent reported an increased understanding of the importance of saving money.
In 2016, 70 active and intern Master Gardener Volunteers wrote nearly 100 articles for the Valley Grows page in the Youngstown Vindicator, sharing their skills and knowledge with the public and improving the public’s understanding of horticulture and nature.
In partnership with Mahoning County Farm Bureau, 146 area farmers attended six Lunch and Learn programs to discuss and learn about new topics relating to sustainability – from farm safety to addressing public concerns about farming practices.
Illnesses relating to fresh produce are a growing problem, affecting farmers and concerning the public. OSU Extension trained 37 farmers on good agricultural practices (GAPs), including writing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act.
From monarch butterfly concerns to colony collapse disorder, more Ohioans want to know how they can help with new and emerging issues affecting their backyards. OSU Extension trained 30 residents on pollinator awareness and 33 residents in first-detector diagnostics. These participants gained new knowledge in ways to promote and protect pollinators and how to diagnose plant issues and diseases.
This year, 52 active Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) offered programming throughout Mahoning County, engaging 169 residents in active management of their lawns, landscapes, and gardens through the Coffee with the Master Gardeners series.
Seven teen leaders addressed traffic safety issues with 308 teen traffic offenders through our 4-H CARTEENS programs. Participants stated the peer-to-peer program improved their awareness of safety issues.
Direct food and ag marketing offers increased income for farms. Five marketing classes were offered in 2016, including a cottage foods workshop, where 29 people gained new knowledge about Ohio’s laws relating to cottage foods, how to scale up production, and labeling requirements.
Nine farms and community gardens in Youngstown opened their locations for hands-on sessions all summer. The program, called Local Flavor, attracted 349 inner city growers. Through the program participants reported new skills and knowledge gained, including understanding the need for soil testing, improving crop yields, adopting practical weed control, and sharing gardening skills with others.
Also, 11 teams of volunteers led 244 Youngstown inner city youth through a summer of vegetable production in the Good Natured Garden Partners. Youth and volunteers gained new skills in growing and producing vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
Runoff from fertilizer applications is part of the growing concern of environmental quality in Lake Erie and all of Ohio’s water resources. In Mahoning County, 131 farmers participated in fertilizer certification programs, increased their knowledge of Ohio laws, improved their understanding of effective soil testing, and learned to combine yield goals with environmental concerns.
Fertilizer use on home lawns and landscapes are part of the concern relating to the environmental impact of nutrient runoff. OSU Extension partnered with Mahoning County Farm Bureau to provide three workshops in the Mill Creek Watershed, where 62 homeowners gained new knowledge in the areas of soil fertility, understanding fertilizer product labels, and plant nutrition.
Protecting pollinators and reducing exposure to themselves and the environment were some topics taught to 105 farmers through pesticide safety programs. As a result, 100 percent of participants improved pesticide handling through attending the program, and 94 percent have improved practices that protect the environment.
Diversifying weed control strategies combats weed resistance and saves farmers from economic losses in crop production. OSU Extension addressed concerns in these areas through two field days. Afterward, 100 percent of the 63 farmers who attended said they were better able to address weed issues in crop production.