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.
Family and Consumer Sciences
The Gilmer UGA Extension Family and Consumer Sciences program serves the citizens of Gilmer County in a variety of topics related to chronic disease prevention, food safety and preservation, low-income nutrition education, and financial literacy. During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the FACS program focused efforts of the program to educating families who were sheltering-in-place by offering virtual programs and education through social media and virtual platforms. The “Less Stress Meals” campaign was created in collaboration with other Extension colleagues. This campaign focused on educating families on how to prepare healthy meals on a budget while sheltering-in-place. Topics included meal planning and preparing strategies, stocking the pantry with essential ingredients, reducing food waste and more. In total, 19 posts including 1 video were created and shared by the UGA Extension team on Facebook. The campaign reached 12,990 with 1,318 direct engagements through weekly postings. This campaign gained the attention of other Extension faculty and was featured on the UGA Extension webinar series titled “Nutrition & Meal Planning”. The series continues to be used by other UGA Extension faculty and staff as a resource for their programming.
During the shelter-in-place, the FACS Agent continued offering impactful programming in chronic disease management including the Prevent T2 program. The program is aimed at helping those at risk to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes through diet and lifestyle change. Prevent T2 began in Gilmer County in early 2020 and due to the pandemic was converted to a virtual program in April. Program participants continued to meet weekly, bi-weekly and monthly as the program progressed throughout the 2020 calendar year. Participants logged their weight and physical activity minutes and shared these with their “coach” (Gilmer FACS agent) at meetings. In this program, participants combined for an average weight loss of 10.4% of their initial body weight and logged over 4,500 minutes of physical activity. Participants also self-reported with non-scale victories such as being able to fit into smaller clothes sizes and receiving positive health reports from their medical care providers.
The Gilmer UGA Extension FACS program also encompasses the UGA SNAP-Ed programming in Gilmer County. This program converted regular in-person classes to virtual programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SNAP-Ed program offered 4 virtual Food Talk series in 2020 and included 21 participants across these sessions. The 6-week series included lessons on meal planning, lowering sodium intake, eating a variety of foods daily, food safety and physical activity. Participants commented on their willingness to try recipes that were demonstrated in the class sessions as well as learning about making healthier food choices.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
During Georgia’s shelter-in-place order brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals were home seeking information on growing food crops. While an abundance of information was shared with the public on how to grow vegetables, resources on fruit production were scarce. Thus, the agent collaborated with UGA Extension colleagues and faculty from other universities to engage the public through the "Backyard Fruits Webinar Series," a 4-week online program that covered how to grow various small fruits and tree fruits across the Southeastern United States. The Series launched on May 13 and ran twice a week through June 5, 2020 for a total of eight sessions. Each session included approximately one hour of instruction coupled with a 20–30-minute question-and-answer session at the end. The agent served as both a presenter and program host. To improve accessibility, the program was offered during the lunch hour from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EDT. Participants could register for any of the eight sessions that interested them at no cost.
Over the course of the program, 2,152 client contacts were made, 28 states were reached, and attendance ranged from 85 to 74 percent of those who registered, which was an average of about 269 participants per session. Certificates of Completion were furnished to 43 participants who attended all 8 sessions, many of which were educators who needed the professional development. Each session was recorded and uploaded to the UGA Extension YouTube Channel. After the program was completed, participants were invited to provide feedback. Regarding the overall management and delivery, 100% of the program participants reported that they were satisfied. When asked about the program being delivered online versus an in-person format, 84% of participants preferred the online learning option over in-person.
Additionally, 100% of the participants who attended all 8 sessions of the program reported they gained a better understanding of the major factors that impact successful backyard fruit production and planned on using the information presented throughout the program. Participants not only lauded the program’s content, citing “the presenters were very knowledgeable and gave excellent information,” but also its accessibility during a time where face-to-face interaction was not possible. One participant stated, “It was fabulous. The online platform is so much better for increasing public access!” Remote accessibility to the program proved a critical factor for the program's overall participation. Approximately 50% of program participants indicated that their attendance was in some way related to COVID-19, as one participant reported, “I was furloughed due to the virus and was looking to gain knowledge for enjoyment and purpose.”
The Series continues to benefit the public and has amassed 3,506 total views to date. Recordings are free and available for viewing on the UGA Extension YouTube Channel, with one participant stating “I watched the recorded version (on YouTube) of the Blackberry session that you presented. I found your presentation clear, well organized, and complete. The key aspect that made it so well done was its focus on the areas of interest to the homeowner. Thus, I give it an EXCELLENT rating. Thanks for your work on the Blackberry session and your efforts on organizing the entire webinar series.”
4-H Youth Development
Focusing on S.T.E.M. related career fields and “soft skill” development, Gilmer County 4-H provides educational programs to assist youth in acquiring knowledge in a variety of career choices helping them learn the requirements to reach their goals. In 2020, 384 (4th - 6th) grade students participated in “Hands-on” S.T.E.M. lessons. 98 Middle and High School students engaged in leadership and career related “soft skill” development utilizing “Manners Worth Millions” and “Skills to Pay the Bills” curriculum. More than 75 students prepared a 3 - 5 minute presentation showcasing their public speaking skills. The 4th – 6th grade students were surveyed and 93% responded that in 4-H they learned new things about science and 84% of the students indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that “because of Project Achievement I am more confident speaking in front of people and I am better at preparing a presentation." 100% of the 7th – 12th grade students indicated that “they are better prepared for a job interview because of their participation in Project Achievement.” They also indicated that “developing their cover letter and portfolio for Project Achievement will help with writing a cover letter when applying for a job.” 12 students served as active teen leaders and 2 students served as 4-H Healthy Living Ambassadors for the 2020 program year. Gilmer County 4-H is preparing kids to take an active role in their community as the future leaders of tomorrow.