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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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the holidays approaching, you want the turkey and stuffing – or whatever you’re preparing – to be safe to eat, and consume again as leftovers. To help you, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences food expert gives tips to make your culinary delights safe.
Amy Simonne, a professor in family, youth and community sciences at UF/IFAS and a nationally recognized food safety expert, says you should keep in mind many food-safety tips, including the following:
- The safe internal temperature for turkey and other poultry is 165°.
- Cook stuffing and turkey separately.
- Understand that while you may get cooking advice from television, you should research multiple sources for these tips to ensure you get all the accurate information you need.
- Avoid eating raw dough.Simonne also advises against washing any raw meat or turkey. “It is not recommended because it causes more contamination in your kitchen,” she said. “Minimize handling those products in the kitchen before cooking.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In less than 30 years, 3,000-year-old oyster reefs off Florida’s Big Bend coastline have declined by 88 percent, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
For residents who depend on the fishing grounds and other coastal resources protected by these reefs, it’s a worrying trend.
Now, thanks to an award of up to $8.3 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a UF/IFAS research team will work to restore these shrinking oyster reefs and help coastal ecosystems — and economies — become more resilient in the face of climate change and rising tides.
“This grant is one more way UF/IFAS can help foster sustainable communities and ecosystems on the Nature Coast,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This work also dovetails with efforts by our state and local partners to conserve land and water resources in our coastal areas,” he said.
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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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the election behind us and the holidays ahead, many are probably wondering how to avert conflicts at upcoming family gatherings — events that are often already a source of stress, no matter the year, says a human development expert with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“The increase in togetherness with family members during the holidays can be wonderful, but being with people you don’t normally see for extended periods of time can only increase the likelihood of clashes,” said Heidi Radunovich, associate professor of family, youth and community sciences and UF/IFAS Extension program director for UF Engagement.
For those apprehensive about spending the holidays with family, Radunovich has these tips for making the visit go more smoothly.
Edward “Gilly” Evans
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Edward “Gilly” Evans, a longtime agricultural economist at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Tropical Research and Education Center, has been named interim director of the center as the unit is hiring seven new faculty members.
The new scientists include an agro-ecologist (a combination of agronomist and ecologist) who will study, among other things, how production systems can remain profitable while conserving natural resources and protecting the environment. Other TREC hires include one of two hydrologists, two crop breeders, and a plant stress physiologist. A biogeochemist and a hydrologist will be hired in the near future.
Evans credits recently retired TREC director Chris Waddill for laying the groundwork for the seven new faculty positions. Once the new faculty are on-board, Evans will be supervising 100 full-time center employees, which will include 17 faculty members.
“It’s an exciting time for us because this will mark the beginning of a new chapter in TREC’s history that will bring us to a new level of excellence,” said Evans, a professor in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “More and more, growers are looking to us to help with the many challenges they face, including increased foreign competition, a barrage of pests and diseases and climate change sea-level rises that threaten the quality and quantity of water resources in Florida. My emphasis over the coming year will be on completing the new hires and getting our scientists the help and tools they need to be more effective in doing their jobs.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and in cooperation with a broad international partner group, published in the prestigious journal Science.
“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems,” said study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of wildlife, ecology and conservation. “Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean.”
During this research, Scheffers, a conservation ecologist, collaborated with a team of researchers from 10 countries, spread across the globe. They discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change.
“Some people didn’t expect this level of change for decades,” said co-author James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia. “The impacts of climate change are being felt with no ecosystem on Earth being spared.“
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People who know a lot about genetically modified foods are inclined to agree with the scientific consensus that such foods are safe to eat. But, those who know plenty about global warming are cautious about the science that says humans cause the phenomenon, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.
Furthermore, the study showed some people still make what researchers call “illusionary correlations,” such as “genetically modified foods cause autism.”
Perhaps science communication should address people’s perceptions about illusionary correlations versus their knowledge of global warming and genetically modified foods, said Brandon McFadden, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and author of the study. Merely providing people with information is insufficient to change behavior, McFadden said.
A tropical bed bug
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the first time in 60 years, a tropical bed bug has been confirmed in Florida, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers urge the public to send them samples of suspected bed bugs for identification.
For decades, pest control professionals kept common bed bugs mostly at bay with various chemical treatments. Then scientists saw a resurgence of those bugs in the late 1990s and 2000s. The same thing may be happening with the tropical bed bug. It hadn’t been confirmed in Florida since the 1930s and 1940s. In 2015, a family in Brevard County reported tropical bed bugs in their home, said Brittany Campbell, a UF/IFAS doctoral student in entomology.
UF/IFAS scientists confirmed the bug finding, and so far, that’s the only confirmed case in Florida. But researchers think it’s possible they’ll find the bug in other parts of Florida and, in fact, the South because it lives in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Other than its geographic preference, the tropical bed bug is similar to the common bed bug, which is found in all 50 states.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When veterinarian Bill Bennett first bought his 1,200 acres of land in Levy County, he wasn’t sure what he would do with it. “I didn’t know anything about working the land, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said.
Bennett heard about the Florida Forest Stewardship program—a collaboration of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and various state agencies—and decided to give organizers a call. Chris Demers, a UF/IFAS Extension program manager who oversees the university’s participation in the program, suggested that Bennett attend workshops to gain knowledge.
“I knew I loved pine trees, but I had absolutely no knowledge of how to go about building a pine tree plantation,” Bennett said. “Everything I know, I learned through the stewardship program or through other participants. It has been invaluable to my success as a landowner.”
The Florida Forest Stewardship program was created in 1990 by the U.S. Forest Service to encourage private landowners to manage their forest resources for multiple benefits, said Demers, who is with the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “UF/IFAS’ role is to coordinate educational programming and outreach,” he said.