IFAS News

University of Florida

‘Local food opinion leaders’ can help bridge gap between farmers, consumers

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

Buying and selling at an outdoor farmers' market

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“GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As consumers increasingly desire local food, opinion leaders can encourage others to eat healthier food and, in doing so, improve the local economy, according to new University of Florida Food and Agricultural Sciences research.

“Opinion leaders” are those who influence others via the respect they earn from those around them, said Alexa Lamm, associate director of the UF Center for Public Issues Education (PIE Center) and the leader of this research.

“Opinion leaders could be critical in bridging the gap between locally grown food and consumers. That’s important because local food sales totaled $6.1 million in 2012, up $1.3 million in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But another study showed only 7.8 percent of U.S. farms targeted local consumers.

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UF/IFAS scientists find top 10 muscadine grape varieties for health, taste, smell

Topic(s): Agriculture, Cultivars, Economics, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Muscadine grapes 062915

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You may eventually tempt your palette with more muscadine grape varieties, and they’ll be good for you, with new findings from University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Muscadine grapes are known for their health benefits and other nutritive values – even for potential preventive measures against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The fruits are rich in antioxidants such as a ellagic acid and resveratrol.

Although scientists have done much research extracting and identifying these health benefits, the studies have looked at few commercial varieties. The new UF/IFAS study examined those benefits in 58 of the approximately 100 muscadine grape varieties.

UF/IFAS scientists, led by former post-doctoral researcher Changmou Xu, put the muscadine varieties through various tests over two growing seasons to see which ones passed muster for health, taste and smell genes.

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Nutrition survival tips for college students and avoiding weight gain

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

New Trans Fat info on labels.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you get to college, and you’re trying to eat well, there are so many temptations and challenges — fast foods and late-night pizza, navigating the dining halls, limited transportation to grocery stores. For most college students, this is the first time living away from home. This new found independence is exciting, but comes with challenges, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher and UF/IFAS Extension specialist.

Poor nutrition habits can have a negative impact on health, body weight, and, behaviors formed during this initial period of independence can last a lifetime, said Anne Mathews, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science. While the so-called “Freshmen 15” is a bit of an exaggeration, most college students gain excess weight. On average, college students gain about 7 pounds during the first year, and many continue to gain weight at a slower rate throughout college.

Mathews works as an investigator on a national project that’s trying to get college students to live healthier lifestyles, says you can eat healthy meals in college just by paying attention to a few details.

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A UF/IFAS guide to eating healthy foods at school

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

School cafeteria to promote the My Plate and YUM nutrition programs.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Children have lots of food and beverage choices when they return to school this fall. Parents can take an active role in ensuring their children eat healthy foods at school, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

Also, some parents may be reassured by standards established by the federal government four years ago — the first major changes to school nutrition standards in 15 years, said Gail Kauwell, a UF/IFAS professor of food science and human nutrition.

Parents can encourage their children to eat good food at school, instead of throwing it out.

“Discussing the importance of fruits, vegetables, and proper nutrition with your child can help them understand the importance of eating their fruits and vegetables whether they are eating at home, school or somewhere else,” Kauwell said. “If you pack your child’s lunch, you can put a ‘fun twist’ on the fruits and vegetables. Making kabobs (place chunks of fruit and vegetables on skewers) or ‘bugs on a log’ (celery, cucumber, or carrot sticks (the ‘log’) topped with peanut butter and dried fruit (the ‘bugs’) are ways to make the fruits and vegetables more fun.”

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UF/IFAS study: Few people know mushrooms’ health benefits

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

 

Variety Mushrooms at the farmers market downtown union street market.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Relatively few people are aware of the health benefits of mushrooms, according to a new national survey by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Only 18.5 percent of survey respondents said they knew the health benefits of mushrooms, according to the online survey of 674 consumers.

“Potentially, increasing knowledge about health benefits would be useful to the mushroom industry,” said Lisa House, a UF/IFAS professor of food and resource economics and an investigator for the study.

Sue Percival, a UF/IFAS professor and chair of the department of food science and human nutrition and principal investigator for the study, published a study last year that documented how shiitake mushrooms can boost immunity. They’re also low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low in sodium, and they’re the leading source of the antioxidant selenium in the produce aisle, according to the National Mushroom Council.

The study, to be presented at a national conference next week, revealed many other clues about consumers’ mushroom-buying habits.

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UF/IFAS, Pinellas Sheriff’s office create urban farms in Pinellas County

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

Loften Center students learning about gardening and nutrition on Thursday, May 21st, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Residents in a county on Florida’s Gulf Coast are getting the help they need to access healthier foods via a collaboration between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League. The two entities have teamed up to create an urban farm in Pinellas County.

Urban farms promote an abundance of food for people in need while raising awareness of health and wellness. “It is an opportunity to teach families and children the values of nutrition and establish a level of commerce for produce distribution,” said Mark Trujillo, a public health regional specialist for UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program.

Trujillo introduced the executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s PAL, Neil Brickfield, to an empty U-Pick farm in Lealman, Florida, Pinellas County. After discovering the potential that the farm had to help the county, Brickfield then began to work with UF/IFAS to identify the needs of the farm and community.

Because Lealman, Florida is considered a food desert, the idea of an urban farm was essential for the area, Trujillo said. According to Brickfield, the citizens in Lealman are more than a mile from a local grocery store. “So, the urban farm is an opportunity for people to have fresh produce readily available,” Brickfield said.

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UF survey shows most Floridians want to know more about genetically modified foods

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, New Technology, Nutrition, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While almost half of Floridians acknowledge buying genetically modified foods, a recent survey by the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida reveals that most people want to know much more about those foods.

“The study shows that Floridians believe they don’t know much about genetically modified foods and their benefits,” said Joy Rumble, assistant professor in agricultural education and communication at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Many people are favorable to supporting research, and they think it’s essential that government support it. Floridians see a place for GM foods, but they do have hesitations.”

The PIE Center surveyed 500 Floridians on their perceptions of genetically modified foods. Respondents were largely unsure about the potential benefits of genetically modified food, with more than 40 percent neither agreeing nor disagreeing that food technology such as GMOs allows people to live longer or better lives.

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Blueberries’ health benefits better than many perceive

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

Blueberry bush.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers know some of the benefits blueberries provide, but they’re less aware of the advantages of reverting aging, improving vision and memory, a new University of Florida study shows.

Shuyang Qu, a doctoral student in agricultural education and communication at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, led the study. Joining Qu were Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, and Tori Bradley, a master’s student in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. Rumble’s Florida Specialty Crop grant gave the opportunity to examine consumers’ knowledge of blueberry health benefits.

Qu and her colleagues wanted to determine how much consumers know about blueberry health benefits and see if there’s a knowledge gap with blueberry health benefits among demographic groups. Using their findings, they will identify promotional opportunities for Florida blueberries.

Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 people in 31 states – mostly on the East Coast and in the Midwest – to see what they know about the health benefits of blueberries. Most were aware of the benefits of blueberries in warding off cancer and lowering the risk of heart disease. The UF/IFAS study also found that low-income populations tend to know less about blueberry health benefits.

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UF/IFAS, Pinellas Sheriff’s office create urban farms in Pinellas County

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

Loften Center students learning about gardening and nutrition on Thursday, May 21st, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Residents in a county on Florida’s Gulf Coast are getting the help they need to access healthier foods via a collaboration between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League. The two entities have teamed up to create an urban farm in Pinellas County.

Urban farms promote an abundance of food for people in need while raising awareness of health and wellness. “It is an opportunity to teach families and children the values of nutrition and establish a level of commerce for produce distribution,” said Mark Trujillo, a public health regional specialist for UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program.

Trujillo introduced the executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s PAL, Neil Brickfield, to an empty U-Pick farm in Lealman, Florida, Pinellas County. After discovering the potential that the farm had to help the county, Brickfield then began to work with UF/IFAS to identify the needs of the farm and community.

Because Lealman, Florida is considered a food desert, the idea of an urban farm was essential for the area, Trujillo said. According to Brickfield, the citizens in Lealman are more than a mile from a local grocery store. “So, the urban farm is an opportunity for people to have fresh produce readily available,” Brickfield said.

(more …)

Survey: Most Floridians concerned about food waste, safety

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

Displays of fresh vegetables and produce. Photo taken 10-01-15.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Often without much thought, Americans throw out more than one-third of all food grown in the United States each year. However, a majority of Floridians acknowledge food waste is a major concern.

­­­Sixty percent of Floridians agreed or strongly agreed that they are concerned about food waste in their household, according to a recent food waste survey of 500 Florida residents conducted by the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Florida. The PIE Center is part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

It was also discovered through the survey that fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products most often go to waste. Oppositely, beverages, spices and seafood are the food items that go to waste least.

The survey also captured public perceptions on food safety.

Results from the survey revealed that 42 percent of Floridians feel that food safety is a major concern and 68 percent feel responsible for their own food safety.

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