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.
4-H RESPONDS TO INCREASED NEEDS
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.
In response to increased participation, the 4-H Club has recruited and trained seven new teen leaders and added a STEM Ambassador who serves as a teen leader for the STEAM club. For the cooking club, we utilized past years’ club graduates as teen leaders for the new club cohort and developed an advanced club for graduates who have received their Youth Food and Nutrition Certificate. Two additional cooking club sessions were started, which allows more youth to receive the Youth Food and Nutrition Certificate.
Because of the new developments, 10 out of the previous 19 cooking club graduates are members of the advanced cooking club and five out of the 10 graduates serve as teen leaders for the new club cohort. Several cooking club graduates have commented, “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.”
NEW COMMUNITY GARDEN PROVIDES NEEDED PRODUCE
By focusing our efforts on production and consumption of fresh produce, Douglas County Cooperative Extension helps citizens to live healthy lives and prevent chronic diseases. In response to this need, Extension is developing Food Garden Mentor volunteers to share UGA best practices in the community. The county Master Gardener Volunteers’ (MGEVs) Plant a Row for the Hungry garden has seen a decline in volunteers, and this provided an opportunity to transition to a community rented-space garden. Extension staff and the volunteers developed a renter agreement outlining the function, management and responsibilities of all involved. The agreement included such topics including general information and environmental, safety and behavioral rules. In addition, the new program and agreement was presented to the county management and the Board of Commissioners and was approved by all. Five Garden Mentors were trained on rules and procedures and were encouraged to reinforce them with garden participants. The training emphasized the need for renters to log their gardening inputs and harvest. The data collected will help promote the value of the rented-space garden. The new garden is open seven days a week and mentors are available weekly to assist gardeners. So far, mentors have recorded a total 154 volunteer hours at an estimated value of $3,547. Kathy Speer, Master Gardener and Garden Mentor stated, “I enjoy the sharing and learning that takes place at the community garden.”
SENIOR CITIZEN NUTRITION EDUCATION
Due to the prevalence of food insecurity and poor health, Douglas County Cooperative Extension provided nutrition education and outreach to senior citizens. In 2019, 18 low-income senior citizens enrolled in the UGA SNAP-Ed Food Talk: Better U program. The program is a series of four 90-minute classes. Of the participants, 65% showed improvement in planning meals, comparing prices and using grocery lists. Participants also reported significant improvement in reading labels and drinking fewer sugary beverages.