Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
Clayton County is plagued with many chronic health diseases. Forty percent of adults in Clayton County are obese —10% more than Georgia state average. Adult obesity can lead to many other chronic health diseases including heart disease and diabetes. Clayton County Cooperative Extension is combatting obesity through many programs including our Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education (SNAP-Ed) program. Our SNAP-Ed program offers three nutrition education courses: Food Talk, Food Talk: Better U, and Food Talk: Farmer’s Market. Through our work in the community, we hope to decrease the likelihood of chronic health diseases afflicting Clayton County residents.
CLAYTON FRESH MOBILE MARKET
Clayton Fresh’s mission is to increase awareness of the benefits of a balanced diet, promoting the practice of trying new foods and increasing knowledge of Georgia’s agriculture for Clayton County’s youth. In 2020, our Clayton Fresh programming had to move to a virtual platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Camp Gracy, an intensive week long cooking camp hosted over sixty-four 4th to 12th grade students from across the United States. Participants learned everything from knife skills, table manners, and participated in a cooking competition. The Gracy Series, typically an in-school field trip for fourth grade classrooms called Learn. Eat. Grow., reached more than 20 classrooms virtually. Through a mix of virtual lectures and virtual field trips and hands-on activities, students learned about the five main food groups, the farm to table process, and the benefits of the MyPlate system. Our annual UGA Pizza Farm activity was also moved to a virtual platform. Over 100 youth participated in our two virtual Pizza Farms learning about the various parts of a pizza and its connection to Georgia agriculture.
AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
The demand for horticulture education in Clayton County continues to grow with an expanding population. With the assistance of Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEVs), the agricultural and natural resources staff was able to target clients in need of agricultural education. To date, over 800 participants attended 33 virtual educational programs that included participants from Alabama, Florida, Texas, California, Australia, New Jersey, the United Kingdom, and the Bahamas. Program topics included hydroponic gardening, fruit tree production, vegetable gardening, attracting beneficial pollinating insects, tomato production, blueberry production, composting, herb gardening, soil management, composting, wheat production, and meat production. Additionally, over 200 research based publications were sent virtually as well concerning these topics. Also, participants were able to attend these programs free of charge. MGEVs also provided a total of 320 hours of volunteer service to Clayton County citizens in 2020.
4-H Youth Development
We know that 4-H volunteers are essential to our county offices and our ability to provide learning experiences to youth. Through intense recruiting, the 4-H staff has secured volunteers who share their talents and expertise in a variety of ways. In 2020, even during the pandemic, our 4-H volunteer leader for the Horse Club doubled membership. In addition to the Horse Club, Clayton County 4-H provides two other specialty clubs: Garden Club and Cooking Club.
The 4-H team worked hard to transition its community club to an online platform that allowed youth to express themselves and their emotions in a safe environment. This includes our first book club, our virtual chat on the green, and the special meet & greets with community leaders. Additionally, the staff continued in-school, fifth grade club meetings virtually. In 2020 alone, Clayton County 4-H had a total reach of 14,065 youth. Our programs reached 12 elementary schools through workshops, club meetings, and public speaking competitions.
Research indicates that, as a result of participating in 4-H, members are more engaged in their academic studies, less likely to be involved in risky behavior, and more likely to graduate from high school and continue their education. This is why we put so much energy into our 4-H program. We want our youth to become, community-driven, knowledgeable, fiscally-responsible, healthy citizens.