October 20, 2010

Sustainable Floridians Master Volunteer Program

Mary Campbell, Extension Director, Pinellas County Extension

Are you interested in living a green and sustainable lifestyle? Pinellas County Extension is launching a new University of Florida led program to teach you about green and sustainable practices. This intensive training program creates knowledgeable and motivated volunteers ready to support sustainable education programs in Extension. Volunteers will share this information in the community through programs, events, schools and outreach activities. A required number of volunteer hours (30) are necessary for completion of the program and certification. This can be accomplished through many community activities in partnership with Extension Agents.

The Sustainable Floridians Program will benefit those who complete the training by providing ways to incorporate sustainable practices into their daily lives. The program will provide information to motivated individuals to connect personal decisions with information about sustainable practices. The seven week course combines group discussions, weekly action exercises and resource materials for an interactive and informative program. Participants will be provided with course materials, books, energy conservation devices for the home, and other products that relate to sustainable living. Each week participants will meet for a half-day session to learn about topics such as energy conservation, local foods, land use issues, water conservation, ecological footprint, and community leadership.

Sustainable Floridians is an action program directed at volunteers who want to continue to promote sustainable practices through activities such as outreach events, supporting educational programs in schools, participating in the new Pinellas Green Home and other exciting programs provided by Extension. The newly developed program follows along the lines of the Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs. The program is designed to be interactive and brings in local knowledge, creates group discussion, and promotes lasting behavior change. The program involves participants in record keeping for key indicators of sustainability: energy and water usage and vehicle miles traveled. In addition, weekly hands-on exercises are included that provide opportunities for implementing changes discussed in weekly topics. The final activity is the creation of a personal sustainability action plan.

Be a part of the first Sustainable Floridian program! The program is provided at no cost in 2011 and all resources are provided.

It will be held in three locations:

January 20 – March 3, 2011
Brooker Creek Preserve
3940 Keystone Road
Tarpon Springs, FL

April 7 – May 26, 2011
Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center
1800 Weedon Drive NE
St. Petersburg, FL

September 15 – October 27, 2011
Pinellas County Extension
12520 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL

If you are interested in this new and exciting program, please provide us with your name and e-mail address and you will be contacted (not all applicants will be selected for the program – only 12 participants per class) .

For more information contact:

Mary Campbell


Ramona Madhosingh-Hector

October 18, 2010

Trick or Treat? The Sweet Truth about Sugar

10/18/10 |
Amanda Bachman, Dietetic Intern, Bay Pines VA Health Care System, Pinellas County Extension

With Halloween and the holiday season right around the corner, families are bombarded with candy, treats, and sugar filled parties. How can these sweet treats impact your family’s health? Let’s take a look at the truth about sugar.

Risks of Too Much Sugar
Despite what popular diets may say, the body does actually need carbohydrates to function. Sugar, a form of carbohydrate, is found naturally in healthy options such as fruit and milk, but is added to many products, such as:
  • Regular Soda
  • Punches, Lemonade, Fruit Drinks
  • Sports Drinks
  • Cakes, Cookies, Brownies
  • Candy
  • Ice Cream
  • Toaster Pastries, Sugary Cereals

Excess added sugar in your family’s diet from items, such as those listed above, add extra calories with no nutrient benefits. While in moderation treats can have a place within the diet, high intake of added sugar can ultimately lead to unwanted weight gain. Children also consuming sugary treats and beverages, such as excess juice and soda, instead of fruit, vegetables, and milk can be at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiency.
ADHD and Sugar
Although it has been rumored that too much sugar leads to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and can cause children to “bounce off of the walls”, research has shown that this belief is actually a myth. ADHD has shown to be a result of genetics and environmental sources such as cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy. However, a diet low in added sugar is suggested for all children for optimal health.

Sugar Addiction

There has also been suggestion that a diet high in added sugar can be classified as an addiction, or rather a sugar-dependency. Research shows that eating high amounts of excess sugar can actually trigger the same areas of the brain as addictive drugs. What does this mean for your child? A diet high in added sugar could lead to a slippery slope of a strong liking and dependence on sugary options. Therefore, the key is to prevent or stop such habits while your child is young.
How to Reduce Sugar Intake

To help your child avoid acquiring a strong liking for sugary foods, encourage a well balanced diet filled with 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy, and whole grains on a daily basis. Save high sugar items for special occasions keeping in mind small portion sizes. Sugar substitutes can also provide a healthy alternative for those with a strong desire for sweetness. Overall, these products have shown to be safe, however, use caution since “sugar free” products may not always be a nutritious choice. For instance, diet soda and reduced sugar beverages should not take the place of milk and water, and items marked as “sugar free”, such as cookies, candies, and prepackaged snacks, can still be very high in calories and fat. 
So how do you tackle the large jack-o-lantern of candy after Halloween? Here are a few tips:
  • Feed your child a healthy meal prior to trick-or-treating to avoid overindulgence on candy when the night is over.
  • Have your child select 3-5 miniature pieces of candy that they will enjoy that night.
  • Establish a plan for what to do with the leftovers
    • Keep the candy out of sight and accessibility
    • Decide with your child how many pieces will be allowed per day, such as 1-2 piece
    • Divide the leftovers into plastic bags to portion out a small daily trea
    • Give the candy away to others (friends, family, co-workers)
    • If overindulgence is a major concern, consider throwing away the leftovers

October 11, 2010

National 4-H Week

10/11/10 |
Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, Pinellas County Extension

October 3-9 is National 4-H Week and the perfect time to look at the state of 4-H today.

4-H is alive and well in Pinellas County, the state of Florida, and throughout the United States. Nationally, there are six million youth involved in 4-H. These youth live in urban and suburban neighborhoods, as well as rural communities. The 4-H program continues to thrive and grow in large part due to 540,000 volunteers who lend their experience and expertise to make a difference in a child’s life.

In Florida, there are over 244,000 youth participating in 4-H activities with 15,842 adult volunteers. 4-H youth participated in over 306,000 projects including public speaking, robotics, environmental education, theater arts, and leadership.

In Pinellas County, youth participate in 4-H community clubs, 4-H afterschool clubs, and 4-H partnership schools. There are 22 community clubs and five afterschool clubs with over 400 members. The grades with the highest number of 4-H members are the 5th and 6th grades. In the community clubs, the most popular projects are horse, gardening, and dog. The afterschool clubs focus on cooking, performing arts, and photography. The project choices for all 4-H members range from Aerospace to Workforce Preparation. There are approximately 80 adult volunteers working with the club program, in addition to the episodic volunteers who may judge or help with certain events.

To showcase the positive outcomes of 4-H, whether the youth are involved in the traditional agricultural projects or the newer urban program projects, here are the results of a comprehensive research project. Tufts University released a study in 2008 called the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. This research began in 2001 and has surveyed over 5,000 youth in 34 states. The results show youth engaged with 4-H are:
  • 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families, themselves, and their communities
  • Nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school
  • More likely to see themselves going to college
  • 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors
In the 2008 data collection, the researchers added questions regarding science, engineering and computer technology interests and attitudes. They surveyed 1,309 4-H participants and 788 non-4-H participants in the10th grade. Key findings show that 4 H youth are more likely to:

  • Participate in programs science, engineering and computer technology programs
  • Perform better in subjects related to science compared to their classmates
  • Plan to pursue careers in science
  • Have higher levels of female involvement in science programs 
4-H can consistently produce these outcomes through a variety of delivery methods and project areas because it is the goal of the national, state, and county 4-H programs to ensure all participants in 4-H experience the Essential Elements of 4-H youth development. They are:
  • Belonging – to have a sense of connection and relationship with a caring adult
  • Mastery- to experience success in meeting challenges and building self-confidence
  • Independence – to know one can influence people and events through decision making
  • Generosity – to have a connection to the community and knowing one’s life has purpose

Those of you who were 4-H members as children may want to think back and find how your 4-H memories fit into the Essential Elements. Then think about how 4-H fits into your life today. 

For more information on 4-H research and the Tufts study:

To learn more about the Florida 4-H Program: