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.
Douglas County 4-H creates opportunities to keep youth connected
Over the past year, the Douglas County 4-H Club has seen an increase in its out-of-school participation, which has created a need for more support for specialty clubs and general activities.
Without adequate support, there is the likelihood of the 4-H club minimizing its ability to accommodate the influx of interested participants, resulting in a decline in participation and opportunity to make an impact. Georgia 4-H carries a reputation for enabling youth to be knowledgeable and responsible young leaders. According to the Search Institute, "young people who have a sense of purpose feel good about themselves," and establishs "a sense of identity".
In response to our increased out-of-school participation, the Douglas County 4-H Club has increased the number of teen leaders by 7, added a S.T.E.M. Ambassador who functions as a teen leader for the S.T.E.A.M. club and offers assistance during afterschool programming at a local elementary school. For the Cooking Club, we utilized past years Cooking Club graduates as teen leaders for the new Cooking Club cohort and developed an Advanced Cooking Club for graduates who have received their Youth Food & Nutrition Certificate, to expound on the interest and participation in 4-H. Lastly, we developed a spring and fall cooking club session, which allows more youth to participate and receive the Youth Food & Nutrition Certificate.
As a result of the new developments, 10 out of the previous 19 cooking club graduates are members of the Advanced Cooking Club and 5 out of the 10 Cooking Club graduates are serving as teen leaders for the new club cohort.
"I'm in the Advanced Cooking Club because it helps me express my knowledge of food to my friends and the new Cooking Club kids. Learning about things like cross contamination and seeing how the younger aged Cooking Club kids are unaware of that makes me want to help more."
“I like being in the advanced cooking club because I have my own freedom in the kitchen. After getting my certificate I felt good, and I want the new cooking club kids to feel that way, which is why I help as a teen leader. I believe being a teen leader makes kids want keep doing 4-H because they have someone a little closer to their age to talk to.”
"After learning how to safely handle knives and make healthy dishes, my mom lets me cook more at home. I believe the younger Cooking Club kids will have the same appreciation for this club. My favorite thing to help them learn is experimenting with different recipes by choosing a healthier option."
Douglas County Extension expands food garden mentoring program into a county rented garden space
Extension, over the past five years, has continued to address numerous vegetable, fruit and herb gardening questions from the public, as well as, managing supporting local schools, homes and community gardens. As oc October 2018, USDA data shows an approximate 4 square mile food desert in Douglas County which includes much of the City of Douglasville. According to Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief organization, Douglas County has a 17% food insecurity rate which equals 23,400 adults and children. Of this group, 33% of them are above the threshold (185% poverty) for other nutrition programs. Douglas County Extension recognizes the potential impact we can have on nutrition related chronic diseases by focusing our efforts on the food production, harvest, safe preparation and consumption of fresh produce. Additionally, by teaching sustainable practices to food producers, Extension can assure proper stewardship of water and soil resources.
In response to the need and public demand, UGA Extension is developing volunteers, Food Garden Mentors, to share UGA research based information with the community. UGA Extension Douglas County Master Gardener's "Plant a Row for the Hungry" garden has been challenged with limited volunteers, thus providing an opportunity to transition to a rented garden space and move volunteers to Food Garden Mentors.
Transitioning the Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Garden to a community rented garden required developing a management structure. The rules and procedures of the garden had to be established in order to avoid future misunderstandings. UGA Extension Douglas County staff and the volunteers developed a renter agreement outlining the function, management, and responsibilities of all involved. The agreement included such topics as: general information and environmental, safety, and behavioral rules, as well as, acceptable pesticide use. UGA Extension Douglas County Agents met with the garden leadership, county manager, and safety manager seeking recommendations and approval of the program. In addition, the program and agreement was presented to the Board of Commissioners and was approved by all.
Five Garden Mentors were trained on the rules and procedures outlined in the agreement and were encouraged to reinforce them with garden participants. The training emphasized the need for renters to log their inputs, such as; soil amendments, fertilizers, and pesticide use. In addition, renters are required to log their harvest by date, space number, item and weight. The data collected will help promote the value of the rented space garden and serve in future management decisions
The garden is open from sun up to sun down seven days a week and the mentors are currently available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M to assist garden participants. The mentors volunteer a minimum 12 hours a week, with 2 volunteers available each of the three days. Currently the mentors have recorded a total 153.75 hours in MGLOG with an estimated value of $3547.00.
The rented garden space provides ease of entry into food gardening by providing: prepared soil, mentor assistance, tools, water and five training classes. The training classes are offered and include: community garden orientation and safe food harvest. The other 3 classes are selected based on the needs of the gardeners and may include such topics as: soil amendments, soil development, composting, cover crops, planting, companion planting, crop rotation, plant pest, weed control and pollinators.
The newly transitioned rented garden space has been worked by the local Master Gardener extension Volunteers for the past 25 plus years, producing about 3500 to 4500 pounds of produce annually. The soil has reaped the benefits of compost/soil development on a regular basis. The transition of the garden took place in July of 2019, and we have already experienced the excitement and enthusiasm by participants and mentors. Kathy Speer, Master Gardener, Garden Mentor and participant stated: “she enjoys the sharing and learning that takes place at the community garden”.
Since that time participants have produced 390 pounds of food for personal use and have assisted with producing 1198 pounds of food donated to the Plant a Row for the Hungry.
The garden offers 2695 square feet of rented space (770 lineal feet X 42” wide) of which 885 square feet has been rented to 6 participants thus far and another 357 square feet has been donated to the local 4-H and garden mentors for a total of 1242 square feet being used, leaving a remainder of 1453 square feet or 415 lineal feet to be rented. The garden is small, but with the training and distribution of mentors, it is far reaching.
Building Food security with Nutrition Education for Senior Citizens
Due to the prevalence of food insecurity, chronic disease, and poor health, the Douglas County Extension office provided nutrition education and outreach to senior citizens with classes, fairs and collaborative planning.
The UGA Extension SNAP-ed Food Talk: Better U is a series of four classes geared toward nutrition, physical activity, and obesity prevention. Each ninety-minute class included interactive physical activities, a cooking demonstration, and taste testing. Participants receive a take home booklet, a cooking utensil related to the lesson, and at the end receive a certificate of completion.
In 2020, 18 low-income senior citizens enrolled in the UGA SNAP-Ed Food Talk: Better U program in Douglas County. Twelve (66%) of the Food Talk: Better U participants completed the course. In total, participants completed 72 hours of classes.
- Of the participants, 85% were minorities, 65% earned an income less than 185% of the federal poverty limit, and 56% received at least one public assistance including SNAP,
- 80% of participants were overweight or obese.
- 65% of participants showed improvement in one or more food resource management practices (i.e., plan meals, compare prices, does not run out of food, or uses grocery lists).
- 58% of participants reported improvement in one or more nutrition practices (i.e., using “Nutrition Facts” labels to compare foods, preparing foods without adding salt).
- 85% of participants reported improvement in one or more diet behaviors (i.e., eating fruits and vegetables, drinking fewer sugary beverages, drinking more water).
- 40% of participants increased their daily physical activity (30+ min.) by at least one additional day per week.
In addition to this series of classes, Douglas County Extension offered education to seniors at 3 public fairs. They collaborated with public health and geriatric professionals to offer more education, cooking demonstrations, and 120 $10. food vouchers. Plans are to offer 2 series of Food Talk Better U classes to seniors at risk of food insecurity in 2021.