Making A Difference in Our County in 2022
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents in Fulton County. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
Fulton Fresh Kids Day Camp: Building Balanced Plates
Summary: Fulton Fresh Kids Day Camp is a five-week themed summer program that helps teach rising 4th to 6th graders basic life skills, including healthy eating and cooking. Fresh fruits and vegetables were provided by the Fulton Fresh Mobile Market (FFMM) and served at mealtimes to encourage their consumption.
According to a previous study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 93% of kids do not eat enough vegetables and 60% do not eat enough fruit. In Fulton County, 56% of children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to eat less fresh produce and more highly processed foods. Low consumption of plant-based foods increases the risk for diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. Barriers to eating more fresh produce include cost, availability, parental modeling, as well as the child’s own taste preference and liking of these foods. Studies have shown that children are more likely to eat foods that they help prepare than those who do not. Furthermore, repeated exposure is important when introducing new foods to kids but forcing them to eat them will only increase their aversion to that food in the future. Whether a child or an adult, serving unfamiliar foods with dishes they are already comfortable with is helpful in creating these better eating habits.
Whole fresh fruit, donated by the FFMM, was provided each morning for breakfast and readily available the entire day if kids were hungry. As a part of their daily curriculum, campers were in charge of following planned recipes to create their own afternoon snack. This helped expose kids to different ways to prepare their fruits to help increase appeal. For example, fresh peaches could be eaten whole, added to fruit smoothies, or incorporated into a yogurt parfait. Grapes were frozen and served in place of popsicles.
In addition to breakfast and snacks, campers were provided with lunch. For the first two weeks, campers were taken to a local elementary school to participate in the summer free school lunch program. However, campers often complained about the food and would often throw their meals away, relying on the camp snacks for satiety. In an effort to actually feed them, the family and consumer sciences (FACS) agent began preparing lunch for them, incorporating vegetables from the Fulton Fresh Mobile Market. Unsurprisingly, most of them were resistant to the idea of anything green being on their plate. A rule was implemented that each kid must have the vegetable on their plate, but it was their choice whether they would eat it.
Campers began to volunteer to help cook in the kitchen, enthusiastic to play a role in their own meal prep. On hot dog day, campers made a cabbage coleslaw, but instead of using mayonnaise, Greek yogurt was substituted to reduce the calories, saturated fat, and sodium. On hamburger day, instead of the traditional side of French fries, sautéed fresh squash and tomatoes with garlic and Parmesan were served with homemade sweet potato souffle for dessert. Caramelized onions and bell peppers, as well as fresh tomatoes and spinach, were snuck into a traditional spaghetti of noodles, sauce, and meat meal.
Campers stated that some of the vegetables introduced during camp were new to them or were prepared in ways that they had never been exposed to before. Although some campers were adamant in their refusal to eat vegetables, many were open to at least trying them and had overall positive responses to the taste. The kids were shown how easy it could be to prepare dishes they had only seen adults cook, making cooking seem less daunting and more easily accessible to them. Since the kids cooked these dishes with minimal help from the FACS agent, they helped promote their consumption at the lunch table, encouraging their fellow campers to eat what they prepared
Some voiced that they had previously disliked a vegetable but changed their minds due to the new preparation. One camper stated that she wanted to be a dietitian when she grew up because a lot of her family members suffer from diet-related chronic diseases, and she wanted to improve their health. The FACS Agent helped show her how to make small, nutritious changes to traditional meals without having to compromise on flavor. A round table discussion was conducted to evaluate what campers enjoyed and disliked about camp to help guide future programming. Mealtime was considered a favorite component of their experience.
Feeding Food Insecure Families in Fulton
Fulton County Government seeks to improve the overall health of citizens by reducing food insecurity in households and communities. Food insecurity occurs from the following: lack of quality grocery stores in neighborhoods, job loss, lack of education, and the reduction of income in households. According to the USDA, food insecurity refers to the lack of access to enough nutritionally adequate food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Hunger in Georgia reports that many Georgians are one job loss or medical crisis away from food insecurity, but some people including children, seniors, and rural Georgians are at a greater risk.
Last year, nearly 2 in 10 households in Fulton County experienced food insecurity. Food insecurity is not unique to metro Atlanta, it is an issue UGA Extension is addressing throughout Georgia. Food insecurity is linked to numerous health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and depression.
Each year, Fulton County Extension operates a Fulton Fresh Mobile Market for citizens residing in food-insecure communities. This year, a 5–week spring Seniors’ Market was added in addition to the 15-week summer and fall markets. Fulton Fresh Market host site application is advertised on social media several weeks before opening day. Local agencies apply and 18 agencies are selected based on distance from mainstream grocery stores, population density, household income, vehicle ownership, and USDA food desert map. The regular market is divided into three 5-week sessions. The mobile market visits 6 agencies 5 times each for a total of 90 market stops during the regular season. Nutrition program assistants and agents provide a 45-minute nutrition education session coupled with food demonstrations at all sites. Market participants complete an evaluation and take home 8-10 lbs of fresh produce, recipe cards, and educational extenders.
Fulton County Extension SNAP-Ed nutrition program assistants and FACS agents continue to educate Fulton citizens on the importance of eating healthy. In-person attendance and participation at nutrition sessions are both required for citizens to receive educational instructions and 8-10 pounds of fruits and vegetables. Fulton Fresh Mobile Market distributed 105,734 pounds of fresh, in-season produce to 10,574 Fulton County residents during the market season and 90 invited outreach events. The fresh produce distribution created an alarming 52,867 meals for families of 4. Market evaluations revealed 72% of participants planned to eat more fruits and vegetables in the next week and 89% agreed with the statement, “I plan to make healthy changes based on the information I learned today.”