IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers show potential market for locally grown Asian vegetables

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research, Vegetables

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian-Americans in three East Coast states, including Florida, yearn for more of their native vegetables, and those crops can be grown in the East, say two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Gene McAvoy, a UF/IFAS Extension vegetable specialist, and Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS plant pathology associate professor, were among a group of 17 researchers from four land-grant universities who surveyed Asian Americans’ preferences in Asian vegetables. Then the researchers tested the crops in various states to see how well they would grow.

There’s a market for locally grown Asian vegetables, researchers say.

In Florida, Asians account for 2.8 percent – or 557,000 — of the state’s 19.8 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population of Asian Americans has jumped by 32 percent from 2000 to 2011, according to the census bureau. Asians are expected to make up about 40 million Americans by 2030. On the East Coast alone, there are 5.8 million Asian Americans in 2014, according to the study.

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UF/IFAS Extension Specialist: Time to keep those New Year’s resolutions

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s almost a new year, another chance to make resolutions. But will they stick this time? Or will you see your determination peter out by February?

An Extension specialist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences offers tips on how you can develop good habits and keep those New Year resolutions. “It can be tough to start a new habit, and there are a lot of things that can get in the way. Change is not easy, and sometimes we’re just not ready,” says Heidi Radunovich, associate professor, human development specialist, and UF/IFAS Extension program director for UF Engagement. She offers a few suggestions for success:

  • Work on getting the resources you need. For example, you want to exercise regularly, but you can’t afford a gym membership. Schedule regular walks, use community facilities, or buy some used and/or inexpensive equipment or videos.
  • Think carefully about attitude. We have to believe that we are capable of making the change. It can be hard to stick with something if we don’t truly believe we are capable, or even if we have doubts. Make sure to give yourself a pep talk and search for examples of others who have been successful.

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UF/IFAS early career scientists to use grants to study greening, pests, environmental issues, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Conservation, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Nutrition, Pests, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Front- John Bonkowski lab assistant, Anne Vitoreli Laboratory manager

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fifteen early career scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Scientists have been awarded grants to help solve global issues such as thwarting invasive pests, improving crop varieties, battling citrus greening and preserving our environment.

The faculty members will receive about $50,000 each as part of UF’s Early Career Scientist Seed Fund program to help develop new faculty research, said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. UF/IFAS works with the UF vice president for research on the program.

“This year’s competition was highly competitive, with 25 early career scientists presenting excellent proposals,” Burns said. “After a rigorous review by a panel of UF/IFAS scientists, I am pleased to announce 15 awards. The research projects represented by these awards demonstrate the breadth of UF/IFAS research programs.”

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UF/IFAS Extension Peanut Butter Challenge tackles hunger in the Panhandle

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Thanks to a partnership of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Florida Peanut Producers Association, food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello will receive thousands of jars of donated peanut butter this December.

“The Peanut Butter Challenge not only raises awareness about the important contribution of north Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, but also helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to food-insecure families in northwest Florida,” said Libbie Johnson, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.

Since 2012, the Peanut Butter Challenge has collected jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties, Johnson said. This year, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 3236 jars of peanut butter.

In addition to these donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association also contributes, supplying more than 3000 jars each Challenge, Johnson said.

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UF/IFAS Extension helps Floridians ‘take charge’ of diabetes

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition

Nancy Gal, standing, Marion County extension agent with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, discusses diet selection with participants in her Take Charge of Your Diabetes class. Those participating in the class include, from left, Herman Boykin, Elzatie Miller, Edward Sugarman and Marcella Spencer. Take Charge of Your Diabetes is available from Extension offices throughout Florida. (UF/IFAS photo by Marisol Amador)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Diabetes affects 29.1 million people in the U.S. — 9.3 percent of the population — and is the seventh leading cause of death in the country, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In Florida, 9.4 percent of adults have been told by a medical professional that they have diabetes, and this doesn’t count those who have diabetes and don’t yet know it,” said Linda Bobroff, professor and UF/IFAS Extension nutrition specialist with University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Bobroff is director of the Take Charge of Your Diabetes program, a series of classes that helps those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes better manage their condition.

“Take Charge of Your Diabetes covers most aspects of diabetes self-care, and is offered by UF/IFAS Extension county faculty in collaboration with local health professionals who specialize in diabetes management. Participants attend nine weekly sessions and at least two follow-up meetings to encourage their continued adherence to best practices for good blood glucose control and to check their progress,” Bobroff said.

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UF/IFAS Extension Desoto County combines library and agriculture to draw youth to 4-H

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables
Kristie Popa. Photo taken on 9-2-15

Kristie Popa

ARCADIA, Fla. — Families in Desoto County who visit their local library could walk away as gardeners and healthier eaters. That’s because the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Desoto County has implemented a program that creates a garden at the local library.

The Family Learning and Literacy Garden was started in 2015 via a partnership between UF/IFAS Extension Desoto County and other community organizations, said Kristie Popa, a UF/IFAS Extension 4-H agent. So far, eight families have successfully completed their first growing season, she said. They are currently preparing their plots for their next crop, she said.

The idea was to educate youth and their families about gardening, health, nutrition and agriculture, Popa said. “We wanted to immerse families in books to encourage a love of reading, while engaging young people in 4-H who may not have had the opportunity before,” she said. “So, gardening at the library gave us the perfect opportunity to engage families in literature and in healthy living.”

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UF/IFAS study documents nutritional risk in Florida’s older adults

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

4H at the Senior Citizens Center

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Older adults who eat at congregate meal-serving sites may come to the meals with significant nutritional deficits, according to a new study by a researcher at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Congregate meals are delivered through the Area Agencies on Aging, administering state and federally funded meal and nutrition education programs with outreach services. Collectively, about 425 congregate sites in Florida serve thousands of meals daily.

In the study, Kelly Springstroh, an undergraduate in the UF/IFAS food science and human nutrition department, wanted to determine if handgrip strength predicts nutritional risk in older adults.

This study showed that handgrip strength alone was a weak predictor of nutritional risk but may be useful as a component of a nutritional risk screening tool.

The nutritional risk was due mainly to inadequate servings of recommended food groups, rather than problems with appetite, chewing or swallowing or significant weight loss, according to the study, led by Springstroh, under the supervision of Wendy Dahl, a UF/IFAS associate professor of food science and human nutrition. Congregate meals have high standards for meeting nutritional quality, Dahl said. They’re often served five times a week, but some people don’t come to the meals every time. Thus, the nutritional risk may stem from the quality or quantity of their other meals, Dahl said.

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UF/IFAS Extension program has five tips for fresh, healthy holiday eating

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Nutrition

A table of fresh fruit and produce at a farmer's market.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Want to eat healthy and save money this holiday season? Including fresh, seasonal produce in your family meals and party platters may be a good place to start.

“Fruits and vegetables that are in season tend to be less expensive, making them a smart choice for families on a budget. Try visiting your local farmers market or the supermarket produce section to find low-cost inspiration for your holiday appetizers, snacks, meals and desserts,” said Amber Ward, Sarasota County program coordinator for the Family Nutrition Program (FNP). The program offers free nutrition education to SNAP-eligible participants in 43 Florida counties through the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

“FNP equips individuals and families on a limited budget with the skills to make healthful food choices, aiming to promote healthy weight maintenance, decrease chronic disease, and optimize quality of life,” Ward explained.

“Parents aren’t the only ones who can learn to savor fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Ward.

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‘Dine In’ with family, friends and co-workers on Dec. 3

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Between work, school and afterschool activities, finding time for a homemade meal can be a challenge for many families. But mealtime is more than just a chance to hear about one another’s day. According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences experts, sharing food around the dinner table also helps us feel more connected, make healthier choices and save money along the way.

UF/IFAS Extension is encouraging families, friends and coworkers to experience the benefits of “dining in” by share a meal together on Dec. 3 for National Dine In Day, an initiative started three years ago by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS).

“Family and consumer sciences is all about helping people live more healthful lives through the relationships we nurture, the food we eat, and the money we spend and save,” said Michael Gutter, associate dean for UF/IFAS Extension and 4-H youth development, families and communities program leader. “The family meal is at the center of all of these choices.”

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UF/IFAS study: Food safety knowledge – or lack thereof — passed from one generation to next

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

A tomoato being hand-washed in a kitchen sink.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Most people learn how to cook and safely handle food from their parents. Then they pass along their food knowledge and behaviors – right or wrong – from generation to generation. This cycle may prevent young people from learning all they can about food safety, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

But the UF/IFAS researcher leading the study says the findings present teachable moments. Joy Rumble and her research colleagues suggest more interactive and online instruction in food safety procedures, supplemented by social media outreach.

The real issue, as Rumble found in her newly published study, is that few Floridians bother to find out the safest ways to prevent food-borne illnesses.

And it’s not that they don’t care, said Rumble, an assistant professor in agricultural education and communication. “They’ve just never had a reason to care. They don’t know they are doing something wrong, or they’ve never knowingly gotten sick from something they made.”

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