Obesity, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity disproportionately affect minority and low-income citizens. Of the estimated 375, 432 residents living in Stark County, 19.4 percent of families with children lived in poverty. In an effort to reduce this disparity and improve the health and well-being of Ohioans, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) teaches an eight-lesson nutrition education series to low-income families with children and youth. EFNEP, funded by USDA-NIFA, contributed $95,000 this year to our county, funding 4.5 FTE staff in the OSU Extension – Stark County office.
EFNEP professionals serve on the Stark County Health Department Advisory Committee to assess and develop strategic planning addressing the Stark County Community Health Improvement Plan.
In 2016, the program demonstrated a 43 percent increase in new adult sites and 16 percent new youth sites. A total of 2,164 family members were impacted by EFNEP. The 401 graduates significantly increased knowledge and improved behaviors in diet quality (93 percent), food resource management (72 percent) saving $6,134.33, food safety (43 percent) resulting in Stark County residents making healthier choices. A total of 1,160 youth participated in EFNEP in 2016 in second to 12th grade. After completing six lessons, youth reported significant increases in knowledge and positive behavior changes in the areas of diet quality (86 percent), food safety (53 percent), and physical activity (75 percent).
Youth need a clear understanding to manage their finances. The school enrichment program Real Money. Real World. provided financial education to 170 Stark County high school students through hands-on simulation. Participants gained financial knowledge during a real-life simulation of occupation, salary, family and budget balancing, utilizing more than 35 community professionals as volunteers.
Women in Agriculture: OSU Extension – Stark County works cooperatively with 11 other counties in the area to coordinate the East Ohio Women in Agriculture Conference. Conference participants (140), speakers and vendors, representing 27 counties, participated in the daylong event held at the RG Drage Career Technical Center in Massillon, OH. The event consisted of 16 breakout sessions covering six tracks: finance, livestock, special interest, food and family, partner agencies, and youth.
4-H club, 4-H project work, and 4-H activities: More than 1,404 youth experienced hands-on learning through more than 60 4-H clubs and 4-H activity groups, participating in more than 2,280 projects and activities. The 4-H experience also provides a “safe, fun and educational environment.” The program encourages youth and parents to work as a team to problem solve, building skills for resiliency. Parents are involved in participation at club events and are encouraged to learn along with their children.
Life skills, problem-solving, and decision-making techniques were fostered through the guidance of more than 253 dedicated volunteers, donating more than 90,000 volunteer hours. These 4-H volunteers help prepare our “leaders of tomorrow” to become productive, competent, caring, and capable young adults.
Quality assurance training: More than 635 youth completed quality assurance training, a requirement for Stark County junior fair participation in market and lactating project areas. This program enabled 4-H and FFA members to participate in the 2016 junior fair livestock auction, which provided Stark County with more than $850,000 in sales. This money was then reinvested locally by Stark County 4-H and FFA youth. This year, 34 youth, eight 4-H teen mentors and 12 4-H volunteers participated in the 2016 Stark County 4-H Cloverbud day camp. Participation in the camp program contributes to a caring community environment and improved social and physical development. Pizza Science was the hands-on theme. 5-8 year olds, learned where ingredients of pizza come from, learned nutrition fun facts through games and activities, participated in gardening activities, explored friendly worms and soil components, took plants home for their own garden, made homemade dessert pizza, and participated in reading activities.
Horse Safety/Ethics Programs: More than 54 horse youth successfully completed the required horse safety and ethics program. The program was planned at the county committee level. Importance of safety, ethics, and good sportsmanship were emphasized topics.
WeGrill: This five-year USDA/CYFAR grant started in late 2013 and funds the efforts that will address local concerns on the importance of active fathering and the nutritional health of targeted youth and adults in Stark and Hardin counties. More than 20 fathers and youth participated in nutrition, grilling, 4-H, EFNEP, and relationship building activities in Canton. Program learning themes included compassion, commitment, forgiveness, gratitude, identity, leadership, preparation, responsibility, and respect.
Private Pesticide Applicator Education and Certification: Helping Stark County residents maintain their business income, jobs, and family farms, as well as increase environmental quality, while ensuring employee and public safety, the Stark County Agriculture and Natural Resources program provided 48 private applicators with recertification and continuing education.
Agricultural Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training: Widening concerns over water quality and recurring harmful algal blooms led to the creation of the new agricultural fertilizer applicator certification program for producers applying commercial fertilizer on 50+ acres of farmland. OSU Extension – Stark County contributed by training 36 private pesticide applicators in one educational program in 2016. At least 91 percent of participants reported that their knowledge about nutrient management was improved and recognized that farm field phosphorus loss is a significant problem to our water resources.
The Northeast Ohio Farm to School Workshop was held in Stark County. A total of 75 participants benefited from 15 sessions targeting classroom, cafeteria, and the community. As a result of the workshop, a regional learning network will be established to assist Ohio Farm to School enthusiasts with their work connecting school, farm, garden, food, and community.
Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) of Stark County: MGVs help Extension share research-based information with all types of gardeners and local residents through the Garden Information Line. The line is available to all county residents one day per week, March through October. In 2016, a mobile garden information line was utilized at eight farmer’s markets across the county to extend the reach of services. More than 25 volunteers serving this line delivered more than 200 hours of service. Many residents were assisted with home horticulture questions and extended educational outreach via calls, emails, and walk-ins. Heirloom Seed Library is a collaborative project of the Stark County District Library Main. MGVs secure seed donations from certified seed companies. MGVs then sort and label donated seeds into seed packets for distribution. Additional education is provided by MGVs who instruct gardening and seed saving programs offered through the library. In 2016, more than 16,000 seed packets were distributed by the project and utilized for growing by the Stark County community and library patrons.