IFAS News

University of Florida

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.

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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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UF/IFAS Extension Lee County to host Tropical Fruit Fair on June 25

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables
Persimmons. Photo taken 10-3-15

Persimmons

MYERS, Fla. — Julie Falconer, walked through the teeming aisles of the “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” in Ft. Myers, Florida, and popped a piece of jackfruit in her mouth. She savored the sweet, pungent taste of the fruit usually found in south and Southeast Asia.

“Everyone in our family is a gardener, and I grew up on a farm in Michigan with tons of fruit trees,” said Falconer, who lives in St. James City, Florida. “Now, we are trying to learn what grows in Florida, because we love to eat fruit and want to grow our own tropical fruits.”

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Lee County office hosts the ninth annual “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” on June 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will be held at Gate Ministries, 1735 Jackson Street, Fort Myers, 33901. Admission is $2; children under 12 are free.

The fair, a collaboration between UF/IFAS Extension Lee County and the Coloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, draws more than 3,000 visitors each year. Young and old taste everything from mangoes to gooseberries to jack fruit.

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UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program celebrates 20 years of serving Floridians

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

A family having a picnic for the Healthy eating calendar and IFAS branding images.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — At first, Sheila Bryant was skeptical about the cooking class offered by the University of Florida’s UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program. The program was started 20 years ago to help low-income families make better food choices to prevent chronic diseases.

Bryant, who attended the “Cooking that Matters” class in Gainesville, Florida, believed that decades of eating her own cooking was probably good enough. But she walked away a convert to healthier eating.

“Oh my, I learned so much: how to cut down on fat, incorporate more vegetables and lean meats in my meals, and how to make better choices,” Bryant said. “Now, instead of ordering Chinese food, I make my own stir-fry and invite my neighbors and friends over for a feast. I’ve spread the gospel of the Family Nutrition Program to anyone I meet.”

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UF/IFAS study: Nutrition labels may lead to buying more raw seafood

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

Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If grocers put nutrition labels on packages of raw fish — a good nutrient source for cardiovascular health — parents may be more likely to buy the fish, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Xiang Bi, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics, worked with her colleagues to survey 1,000 people online to gauge consumer reactions to raw fish with nutrition labels. Until 2012, federal rules only required nutrition labels on processed and commercial foods. That year, the federal government started requiring raw meat and poultry products to carry nutrition information on their labels. 

In the new study, researchers focused on three types of information: nutrition, health and a combination of nutrition and health. By putting the same nutrition label on raw seafood packages as consumers can find on raw packages of meat, consumers are more willing to buy the raw seafood, the study found. This finding may interest the seafood industry, grocers and policy makers, the study says.

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