UD Extension educates Delaware youth on food safety

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension nutrition assistants have been travelling to summer camps to educate Delaware youths ages 8-12 on the importance of food safety as part of their Are you Up for the Challenge: Don’t Bug Me curriculum.

The curriculum is divided into five hour-long sessions that focus on microbes, or ‘bugs’ such as bacteria and viruses, and the important role they play in food safety.

The courses are part of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’ s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is geared towards low-income families with children.

Last year, the programming reached about 1,200 youths and the programs are expected to reach a similar number this summer.

Sue Snider, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and a food safety and nutrition specialist with Cooperative Extension, explained that the children learn how there are good bugs and bad bugs.

“In the first lesson, called Bugs: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, we introduce the concept that microbes, particularly bacteria and mold, are used to produce food products like cheese and yogurt. There is also the fact that we have about a trillion microbes in our body and they help keep us healthy,” said Snider. “Then the bad are the bugs or the microbes that spoil your food, that make it smell bad and make it a poor color. Then there are the ugly, which are the pathogens, those are the ones that cause you to get sick.”

There is some food preparation involved with the first lesson featuring a salad with orange dressing, something from all of the food groups and blue cheese which is made from a ‘good bug.’

The second lesson is called The Bug Express and focuses on how microbes get from one place to another. The food prep with the second lesson involved chicken nachos where the nutrition assistants explained to the children that they want to use different cutting boards when preparing their chicken and their vegetables. They are also taught about how to properly wash their vegetables before adding them to the salad.

The third lesson focused on the importance of hand washing, the fourth dealt with temperature control and how to keep foods hot or cold so bacteria won’t grow on it and the fifth lesson was a wrap up highlighting how viruses and parasites get into the body and how they latch onto the cells or the stomach lining.

“It’s also a wrap up where they do a quiz kind of game,” said Snider. “They work in teams and it’s called Bugs Be Gone. One of the nutrition assistants shared with me that she was very impressed because the kids got so many of the answers right.”

The courses were either spread out over the course of a week or delivered once a week for five weeks.

The program is run in conjunction with 4-H Up for the Challenge, which is overseen by Karen Johnston, statewide extension educator and the 4-H grants manager, and teen health ambassadors who go to most of the locations and work with the nutrition assistants.

“We’ve been doing that particular combination since around 2013 and it’s great. The kids relate to the young people and the teens get a lot out of it,” said Snider.

The staff involved with the classes include Carmella Johnson, Kim Silva and Michelle Ernst Voegele in New Castle County; Jennifer Seabrook and Anita Cooper in Kent County; and Wanda Taylor and Mary Edwards in Sussex County.

There were also two Extension Scholars—Amanda Venuto and Emma Newell—working on the project.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

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