The following Agriculture & Natural Resources and Family & Consumer Science articles originally published in the 2017 Report to the People and reprinted in the 2017 Winter edition of the Oldham County Extension Newsletter.
Food Safety in Oldham County
Oldham and surrounding counties are home to many farmers markets, roadside farm markets, and community supported agriculture sites. Additionally, some farms sell to grocery stores and restaurants. A concern for producers and consumers is safe production, harvest, handling, and storage of food to minimize risk of microbial and other contaminant-related sicknesses.
The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and Kentucky Department of Agriculture developed Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) guidelines to reduce the likelihood of produce contamination. It focuses on safe techniques and inputs on all levels of the farm to fork food chain. Farmers that utilize GAP principles in their production proactively take steps to reduce the possibility of producing unsafe food products. County Extension Offices provide GAP training to producers throughout the state.
From 2008 to 2017:
- Oldham County Extension has provided 15 GAP training sessions to 56 producers.
- These producers sell products in at least 44 markets, community supported agriculture sites, grocery stores, and restaurants.
- These producers sell in Oldham, Jefferson, Henry, Shelby, Trimble, and Barren counties.
At a conservative estimate of 500 consumers reached through each market, this represents a minimum of 22,000 consumers purchasing foods that have been safely produced by local farmers. GAP is an ongoing training program offered periodically throughout the year at Oldham County Extension, with training verified through the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Oldham County Extension also targets food safety during canning classes. Following Canning Boot Camp in June 2017, twenty-five Oldham Countians reported that they could identify research-based methods for home food preservation, safe methods of canning low and high acid foods, and signs of spoilage in home canned goods. Participants with intermediate to skilled canning experience indicated plans to increase the amount of food that they canned.
Stretching Your Food Dollars
Although Oldham County is one of Kentucky’s healthiest and wealthiest counties, over 5,100 residents live in poverty. Struggling Oldham County residents learn food budgeting tips at the Oldham County Extension office.
Over the past year, the FCS agent taught a series of seven Economical Entrée classes for Extension Homemakers and the general public. This “train the trainer” program reached more than 1,533 people in Oldham and surrounding counties. Post-lesson survey results showed that 99% of participants understood the entrée’s role according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 95% could identify economical proteins, and 94% felt confident planning meals using economical entrees. A six month follow-up survey revealed 89% of participants use new skills to prepare economical entrees at home and estimate saving $25.00 or more on monthly food expenses.
Extension programming emphasizes utilizing available resources to help provide nutritious food for a growing family. In 2013, Sheila N. attended a series of “Cooking on a Budget” classes that were held at the Oldham County Extension office. Her husband being an avid hunter, Sheila was looking for ways to make meals with the wild game that her family would find more appealing. Along with meal planning and money-saving strategies, the FCS agent provided easy and economical recipes that included venison and other wild game. Recently, Sheila reported that her family now boasts that they have the most delicious meals using wild game. Plus, Sheila has been able to be a stay at home mom and provide care for her children.
To help support individuals and families in tough economic times, Oldham County Extension partners with the Dare To Care Food Bank to provide economic cooking and nutrition classes using the foods donated to the mobile pantry. Participants learn about preparing healthy recipes, meal planning, buying vegetables and fruit in season, and other ways to stretch a food budget. Of the 70 plus families that receive supplemental food each month, more than 40% report using recipes and tips to save an average of $20.00 a week.
Inmates Pursue Healthier Lifestyles
The National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts that successful addiction treatment helps an addict become drug-free, stay drug-free, and be productive member of the family. In an effort to address the latter, the Oldham County Extension EFNEP assistant partnered with Roederer Correctional Complex to bring nutrition education to their substance abuse program. Lessons from the Healthy Choices curriculum focus on helping prepare inmates for a healthier lifestyle upon returning to their families.
Since the fall of 2016, approximately 60 participants have learned how to use nutrition labels to find healthy food choices for their families, proper food safety techniques, and stretch food dollars. Extension also provides low-salt, low-sugar versions of common recipes, such as Bean and Corn Salsa for healthier tailgating.
Multiple participants noted the importance in keeping a daily food journal, especially in the case of previous health issues. One man expressed his hope that his diabetic wife could use this strategy to improve her eating habits.
Written by Chris Duncan, Oldham County Extension Family & Consumer Science Agent; Lauren State Fernandez, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant; Traci Missun, Oldham County Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent; and Sherry Ragsdale, Expanded Food and Nutrition Program Assistant.