IFAS News

University of Florida

Youth potato project plants seeds of STEM careers

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When the Flagler County 4-H members started growing their own potato plants at home, they were a little worried at first.

“They would come to me and say, ‘I don’t see any potatoes on my plant. What’s wrong?’” said Amy Hedstrom, a Flagler County 4-H youth development agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

“That was the day they learned potatoes grew in the ground, not above-ground,” Hedstrom said. ‘“Aha” moments like these really open their eyes to the science behind the food we eat.”

These youth are part of the Tri-County 4-H Potato Project created in 2015 by the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H programs in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties. In addition to growing their own potatoes, youth also participate in planting and harvest field days at the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center facility on Cowpen Branch Road.

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Delectable delights highlight Flavors of Florida

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, Citrus, Crops, Cultivars, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Plants, Research, Vegetables

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — UF/IFAS scientists toil for years creating and enhancing many of the foods we consume and plants we enjoy. When it comes to plant breeding, UF/IFAS is a global leader. In fact, UF/IFAS is ranked as a top-10 horticulture program in the 2017 Center for World University Rankings.

Many of UF/IFAS’ tastiest creations will be available for consumption or on display at this year’s Flavors of Florida event.

Scheduled for April 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the University House, 2151 W. University Ave., Gainesville, Florida, the event offers guests an opportunity to sample foods containing UF/IFAS-developed ingredients prepared by local celebrity chefs. This year’s sample dishes will include citrus, tomatoes, meats, strawberries, blueberries and olive oil to tempt the taste buds. Additionally, non-edible plants, such as a relatively new cultivar of Mexican petunia, also will be showcased.

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Is coconut oil good for you? UF/IFAS experts weigh in

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Google “coconut oil” and you’ll find article after article claiming numerous health benefits. However, consumers looking for heart-healthy foods would do better to look elsewhere, say nutrition experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which, along with trans fat, is linked to heart disease,” said Gail Kauwell, professor of food science and human nutrition. “If you’re following a healthy diet, no more than six percent of your calories should be coming from saturated fat.”

Coconut oil has long been known to have high levels of saturated fat. But in recent years, some have made the case that because of its molecular structure, the particular kind of saturated fat in coconut oil may actually support cardiovascular health.

“Chemically speaking, fats are made of chains of carbon molecules, and these molecules are categorized as short-, medium- or long-chain triglycerides,” said Wendy Gans, a student in UF’s Master of Science – Dietetic Internship Program.

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Nutrients are nice, but produce better pass the taste test

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers want produce that tickles their taste buds and is easy on the eye, but they think quality fruits and vegetables are a matter of luck, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

The fact that consumers purchase produce to satisfy their senses – not necessarily for its nutrients — should prove particularly important for growers and grocers to understand, UF/IFAS researchers say.

“They choose based on aroma and appearance,” said Amy Simonne, a professor in the UF/IFAS family, youth and community sciences department and lead author of this research. “Consumers might want to change the way they choose fruit.”

Jeff Brecht, a UF/IFAS professor of horticultural sciences and a study co-author, said the appearance of produce does not always correlate well with its flavor or aroma.

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Renowned plant scientist to explore relationship between plants, health for 2017 York Lecture

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Can crops be fortified to improve diets and lower the rate of chronic diseases? Cathie Martin, a world-renowned expert on plant metabolic engineering, will discuss that question at the 2017 E.T. York Lecture.

The free event will be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, April 13 in the University of Florida Emerson Alumni Hall. The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting the lecture.

Martin is a group leader at the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom, the leading plant research institute in Europe. Also, Martin is a professor at the University of East Anglia where she researches the relationship between diet and health, and how crops can be fortified to improve diets and address the problem of escalating chronic illnesses. Her work links leading clinical and epidemiological researchers with plant breeders and metabolic engineers.

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UF hosts international symposium for Global Child Nutrition Month

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — April is Global Child Nutrition Month and researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are working to find innovative ways to combat malnutrition worldwide.

According to 2015 UNICEF, WHO and World Bank estimates, approximately 24 percent of children in the world, roughly 159 million in 2014, suffer from chronic malnutrition, and almost half of all child deaths worldwide are linked to undernutrition.

Thus, scientists from across the globe are gathering at UF on March 29 and 30 to share experiences in research and programs, and to discuss ways to improve nutrition through animal-source foods in some of the most impoverished regions in the world. The theme of the Global Nutrition Symposium, is “Nurturing Development: Improving human nutrition with animal-source foods.”

The effects of malnutrition are devastating, said Adegbola Adesogan, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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UF/IFAS to host farmer’s market food safety workshop on April 10

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmer’s markets have been growing in popularity over the past decade, as consumers discover the benefits of buying farm-fresh food from local growers. However, increasing popularity has also raised food safety concerns for produce sold at farmer’s markets.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting a one-day workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, April 10. The workshop will be held at the Power Plant Business Incubator, 2nd floor training room, 405 SE Osceola Ave., Ocala, Florida 34471.

Assistant professor Soo Ahn, in the food science and human nutrition department, and other UF/IFAS faculty will host classes on what matters most to consumers, food safety issues, safety guidelines for growers and vendors, and how to ensure products are in compliance.

Cost of attendance is $40 through March 31 for early registration; $50 starting April 1. Click here to register online. For more information, contact Soo Ahn at sahn82@ufl.edu or 352-294-3909.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

Florida peaches pack a punch as a succulent snack

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida peaches make for a succulent snack, say consumers surveyed by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher.

That’s encouraging news for Florida producers trying to expand their reach, not only in the Sunshine State but nationally, said Joy Rumble, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication.

“I was surprised to see that one of the most common ways people reported eating peaches was as a snack,” Rumble said. “I thought that people would be consuming them as part of a meal such as lunch or in a dish such as cobbler or as a topping, like on yogurt. This finding is encouraging for the Florida peach industry because the Florida peach tends to be smaller than those produced elsewhere. There is an opportunity to position and market the Florida peach as the perfect snack.”

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UF/IFAS Extension agent: Smart eating tips for National Nutrition Month

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — How’s that New Year’s resolution holding up? If you resolved to eat healthier in 2017, you have a second chance during National Nutrition Month, which runs through March.

The theme for this year’s observance is “Put your best fork forward,” according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Experts from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have a few tips to help you get started.

“Putting your best fork forward means making every bite count and getting the most out of our ‘food investment’ —  a forkful of salad gives us a lot more than a forkful of pie,” said Nan Jensen, family and consumer sciences agent in Pinellas County with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program.

“As we celebrate National Nutrition Month, I would encourage everyone to eat a variety of foods from all food groups,” said Lacey Corrick, education and training specialist for the UF/IFAS Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).

Corrick and Jensen recommend starting with small changes that will improve your health over time.

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UF sets Family Fishing Day on March 18

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Always wanted to take the kids fishing, but can’t find the time? The University of Florida IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation will host Family Fishing Day from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 18.

The free, monthly event will be held at 7922 NW 71st Street Gainesville, Florida, 32653. Organizers will provide bait and tackle. Also, there will be a complimentary hot dog lunch.

“It’s a great opportunity to get families together on the side of the pond fishing together,” said Chuck Cichra, professor and fisheries UF/IFAS Extension specialist. “Also, it’s an opportunity to get kids outdoors away from computer games and TV sets, and introduce them to the sport of fishing.”

The event features a raffle for a chance to win stuffed tackle boxes. Proceeds support companion program Fishing for Success, a UF/IFAS program that shares the marvels of aquatic sciences with schoolchildren.

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