We all can do our part for the planet

Granby 4-Hers Experiments Flew into Space on a NASA Rocket

Granby 4-H members in front of rocket launch
Granby 4-H members in front of rocket launch

Eight youth from Granby 4-H along with one leader, Rachael Manzer successfully launched three experiments into space on a NASA rocket. The three experiments included “Bees in Space” where honeycombs were launched, “Rubber Bands in Space”, and “Gallium in Space”, all of which were proposed by the 4-Hers themselves. Cubes in SpaceTM, a global competition designed to help students ages 11-18 launch experiments into space on a NASA rocket at no cost made this opportunity possible.

It took the 4-Hers approximately four months to write their experimental proposals based on their interest, long hours of research, and thinking. These proposals were then submitted electronically to Cubes in SpaceTMwhere experts reviewed all applications. After making it through the first round, 4-Hers answered questions, revised their proposals, and resubmitted them for a second review. After months of waiting, final decisions were made. All three Granby 4-H proposals were selected as part of the 80 experiments selected out of the 450 total proposals submitted.

The “Bees in Space” experiment studied if honeycomb changes shape during flight. Club members took pieces of honeycomb from the club bee hive to design the experiment. The “Rubber Bands in Space” group evaluated how rubber bands are affected by a microgravity environment by creating a rubber band ball. By placing a solid piece of Gallium in the cube with padding the “Gallium in Space” group studied if Gallium changes into a liquid state during space flight.

Granby 4-H presentation on experiment at launch
Granby 4-H presentation on experiment at launch

All participants of the 80 selected experiments were invited for the launch at NASA Wallops Center where they presented their experiments to an audience of 300 people.

Members gained valuable experiences through participating in the Cubes in SpaceTMproject. 4-Hers learned the importance of working together, how 4-H and STEM fit together, and learned the process of doing research. Members note that the experience provided them with the opportunity to practice problem solving skills, answer their own questions, embrace their curiosity, and have experience in the world of STEM.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including citizenship and healthy living. To find a 4-H club near you visit 4h.uconn.edu or call 860-486-4127.

Article by Jen Cushman and Yutin Zhao (‘20)

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Erin Morrell: 4-H Alumni

Erin MorrellHometown: New Haven, CT

Involvement: New London County 4-H Alumni

Education: Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s Degree from Fairfield University

Current Employment: Associate Dean at Albertus Magnus College

 

What did 4-H teach you?

Listen to others and be a better presenter and public speaker, as that is something I use regularly in my professional job every day. There is always something to be done or someone you can help, so there shouldn’t be time for you to complain about things or people. Just learn to be a team player! I’ve gained leadership skills that I’ve used beyond high school, into college, and in my professional life.

How do you keep the 4-H motto—“To Make the Best Better”—now?

I’m always striving to be the best person and professional that I can be for myself and my students. I try to make sure their voices are heard and encourage them to put

Erin Morrell as a 4-H member showing her dairy project.
Erin Morrell as a 4-H member showing her dairy project.

their best foot forward and create programs and events that are better than the previous ones. This allows them to grow and make the best better.

How did 4-H contribute to your leadership skills?

Being involved with 4-H was the first time that I had held leadership positions, first in my local club, and later on in the New London County Fair Association. It taught me how to work with others on projects, delegate, and achieve a goal. It also helped me understand some budgeting and historical record keeping skills.

Why should young people join 4-H?

It is a great way to get involved in the community and give back. 4-H also teaches you many life skills that can carry over into your personal life and professional life down the line. I still keep in touch with many people that I met through 4-H.

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How to test water quality? Low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing

A multi-compartment bag with a colorimetric reagent for E. coli testing
using a most probable number approach.

Photo credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Water quality is central to the challenge of ensuring safe water for all. Here we present the third entry in a three-part blog series on low-cost, low-tech water quality testing. In previous posts, we discussed options for measuring physical and chemical aspects of water quality. In this final post, we explore low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing.


Microbial testing is arguably the most important factor when monitoring the quality of drinking water. Without noticing anything strange, a single glass of cool, refreshing water could contain billions of microorganisms. Just a few dozen of these organisms could be enough to make you very sick.[1] According to estimates from the World Health Organization, diarrheal disease from contaminated drinking water causes more than half a million deaths annually.[2]


The holy grail

In a recent presentation, Dr. Mark Sobsey, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, outlined the ideal characteristics of a microbial test for water quality monitoring on a limited budget:

It should be portable, low-skill, self-contained, lab-free, and electricity-free. It should be available globally at a cost of less than $0.10 (USD) per test, and it should be easy to interface with data reporting and communications technologies. It should also be integrated into education programs to mobilize stakeholders. To this we might add that (semi)quantitative results should be available quickly, without a 12 (24, 48, etc.) hour incubation period.

This “holy grail” test does not yet exist.

Waterborne viruses, protozoa, and helminths (worms) can all be harmful to human health. However, testing for a large number of different pathogens is infeasible. A more practical solution is to test for an “indicator organism,” which acts as a sign of fecal contamination. According to the WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, Escherichia coli (commonly abbreviated as E. coli) is the preferred indicator organism.[3] The target concentration is 0 organisms per 100 mL sample.


The substitutes

There are a large number of microbial testing options available today, but they are not perfect. Selective media and enzyme-based assays that detect E. coli’s beta-glucuronidase enzyme are often well-suited for low-resource settings.[4] Overall, these microbial water quality tests take one of three approaches:

  • Presence-absence (P-A): P-A tests don’t provide quantitative information about microbial water quality. Instead, they change color to tell you whether or not microbial contamination has been detected. Test kits are comparatively inexpensive, but often involve adding a powdered nutrient mixture and allowing a 24-hour incubation period for organisms to grow. P-A tests are suitable for screening in situations where microbial contamination is not expected (e.g., deep groundwater).
  • Most probable number (MPN): MPN tests are semi-quantitative. Several samples of the same water are tested in tubes, plastic bags, or small plastic plates with multiple “wells.” The user adds a nutrient solution (“culture media”) and waits 12-48 hours for organisms to grow before counting the number of positive samples, indicated by a color change. The user then converts that number of positives to a statistical estimate of bacterial concentration, as per the instructions for the particular test.
  • Membrane filtration: Membrane-based tests are the most quantitatively accurate. In general, a 100 mL water sample is forced or vacuumed through a small, round filter paper (the membrane) using a little hand pump. All the bacteria in the sample are caught on the filter as the water passes through. The filter is then incubated with some sort of culture media. Each bacterium caught on the filter will multiply into a little colony. After the incubation, the user counts the colonies – possibly with the aid of a magnifying glass – to determine how many “colony-forming-units” were present in the original 100 mL sample. Due to the filtration step, membrane-based tests are more difficult when water samples contain a lot of suspended material, and they can take a bit of time.

When selecting a test, it is helpful to consider not only the quantification needs and the cost, but also factors like the sample volume, the format and stability of the culture media (e.g., powder, liquid, agar, films, absorbent pads), the incubation time, and the ease of reading results. Incubation temperature is also an important practical consideration: Some tests require a warm incubator, while others can handle ambient (warm climate) temperatures. A few small-volume tests are even designed to be incubated with the user’s own body heat (e.g., in your pocket)!

As previously mentioned, the “holy grail” of microbial testing does not yet exist, and all of the currently-available testing options have drawbacks. Fortunately, researchers are working on the problem from a number of angles, including immunogenic, chemical, and molecular approaches. These efforts to advance low-cost, low-tech microbial testing are essential. The harmful – even deadly – effects of waterborne disease are felt across the developing world, particularly by the most vulnerable people. Advances in microbial testing will make it easier to meet the challenge of safe water for all.

Thank you for following along in our water quality testing series!


Additional resources

 

[1] The WHO defines highly-infective microorganisms as those for which an “infective dose” of just 1-100 organisms are enough to make you sick. Viruses, protozoa, and helminths are usually highly infective. Bacteria are usually less infective, which is to say that you have to ingest more of them (thousands, perhaps millions) before you get sick.
[2] In contrast, naturally-occurring chemical contaminants are usually present at levels that become problematic only after chronic exposure. And water affected by acutely dangerous levels of (human-caused) chemical contamination is likely to be unappealing.
[3]The topic of indicator organisms is an area of active research. More discussion is available in the WHO Guidelines document, and in the CAWST manual in the links section. Older testing methods have used thermotolerant coliforms (TTC) or total coliforms (TC) as indicators of fecal contamination.
[4] For detailed discussion and comparison of specific microbial testing products, please refer to the resources links at the end of this post.

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No Place Like Home: Black Bears are Back

Tracy Rittenhouse and Mike Evans
Tracy Rittenhouse, assistant professor of natural resources and the environment, and Michael Evans, a Ph. D. student of natural resources at a barbed wire pen created to collect hair from bears on Sept. 18, 2013. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Connecticut is bear country. It may sound strange, but western Connecticut is home to a growing population of American black bears. While bears may at times look out of place in the fourth most densely populated state, black bears living around humans is becoming more and more common not only in Connecticut, but across North America. This new reality has instigated new research to understand how bears respond to development, and may require a shift in human perspective to coexist with bears.

Tracy Rittenhouse, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, focuses her research on how wildlife responds when habitat conditions change. Rittenhouse is interested in key questions about how wildlife interacts in their habitat and what happens as Connecticut becomes a more exurban landscape, defined as the area beyond urban and suburban development, but not rural.

Rittenhouse wants to see from a management perspective what species are overabundant and what are in decline in exurban landscapes. She is interested in looking at the elements of what is called “home” from the perspective of a given species.

In Connecticut, 70 percent of the forests are 60 to 100 years old. The wildlife species that live here are changing as the forest ages. Rittenhouse notes that mature forest is a perfect habitat for bears and other medium-sized mammals as well as small amphibians.

Black bears like this mature forest because they eat the acorns that drop from old oak trees. Forests are also a preferred environment for humans. Exurban landscapes that are a mixture of forest and city are becoming the fastest-growing type of development across the country. The mixture of the city on one hand and the natural environment on the other is positive for humans, but it is not yet clear if wild animals benefit from this mixture.

Exurban landscapes are ideal places for species that are omnivores and species that are able to avoid people by becoming more active at night. Species that shift their behavior to fit in with variations in their environment survive well in exurban locations.

Rittenhouse collaborates with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Wildlife Division on real life wildlife issues. “Working with DEEP is my way of making sure I am asking research questions that are applicable to real world situations,” she said. “I often try to identify actions that wildlife management professionals or urban planners can take that will allow a species to live in an area. The action is often simple, often a slight change, but we hope that a small change may keep a species from declining or becoming overabundant.”

“We studied black bears by collecting hair samples. Collecting black bear hair is not as difficult as it sounds, as bears will use their nose to find a new scent even if they need to cross a strand of barbed wire that snags a few hairs. The hair contains DNA and therefore the information that we used to identify individuals. For two summers we gathered information on which bear visited each of the hair corrals every week. In total we collected 935 black bear hair samples,” Tracy says.

As Connecticut residents revel in the open spaces of exurban lifestyles, Tracy Rittenhouse and her students keep watchful, caring eyes on the effects of human behavior on wild animals that have no voice. Home may be where the heart is or where one hangs one’s hat, but for the wild critters of Connecticut, home may be a precarious place as they adapt to change.

Article by Nancy Weiss and Tracy Rittenhouse

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Tick Testing 101

tick testing at UConn
Photo: UConn Communications

If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examinedunder a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, and next day testing is available for an additional fee.

How to send in ticks: Please send ticks in sealed zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.

For more information contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at cvmdl.uconn.edu or 860-486-3738.

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Money from waste? Revamp your view on sanitation

As an undergraduate student in Kampala, my head was full of thoughts about how I was going to make a living after my studies. Back then Rich Dad Poor Dad was still a best-seller, and I thought to myself: I can become a billionaire if I sell a billion of something to a billion people. Needless to say, it would have to be something that anyone can afford, like toothpaste or chewing gum.
 
So, I wondered, what does every human need? It dawned on me: everyone needs water, food, and energy, every day. The next question was how I could make valuable goods from all the three as a civil engineer.


A fascination with sanitation

Over the course of my studies, I became interested in the intimate connections between water, food, and energy. I learnt about the water and nutrient cycles, and how we can recover resources from waste and use them to fertilize crops and generate energy.

The world’s population is rapidly growing, and much of this growth is happening in low- and middle-income countries. Most people now live in cities, and this proportion is likely to increase with time. These cities are going to be thirsty, hungry, and energy demanding, and we will need to become much more efficient in the ways we manage our resources if we are to meet their demands.

Looking at the supply side, each of us generates about 1.5 litres of excreta daily – all together, a huge amount of waste. We can, of course, flush it down the drain and into our rivers, lakes, and oceans; or we can turn our pee and poo into valuable resources, like power and protein.

Such resource recovery cuts the costs we all have to bare from emissions of pathogens and pollutants. For instance, consider Lake Victoria – a mammoth source of fresh water not only for Kampala, where I come from, but for several other cities in Kenya and Tanzania. Releasing waste into Lake Victoria not only drives the treatment costs of drinking water up, but it also amplifies risks to public health arising from water-borne diseases. Additionally, the abundance of organic matter in excreta chokes life in water, affecting fish stocks and other aquatic animals.

A resource recovery approach to sanitation and waste management brings water, food, energy, and health systems together. And extracting value from waste can be a lucrative business. For one thing, the raw materials are cheap, and a steady, abundant supply is guaranteed as long as humans exist.


Wasted opportunities

In 2014, while working on my master’s thesis, I met Kim Andersson and Arno Rosemarin, who have devoted their careers to sustainable sanitation and resource recovery (in SEI’s EcoSanRes programme and SEI Initiative on Sustainable Sanitation, among others). It was around this time that the concept of “shit flow diagrams” (SFDs) gained prominence in the sanitation discourse.

Shit-flow diagram for Kampala, Uganda
Source: Eawag/Sandec 2016


SFDs show the status of excreta management in a city, representing the flows of excreta from where they are generated all the way to their final destination. The green arrows in a shit-flow diagram are the safely managed excreta flows; the red arrows represent the flows of excreta that end up in the city environment, poorly treated, or not treated at all.

SFDs are designed to warn of potential pollution. But Kim and Arno saw in these red and green arrows missed opportunities, since excreta contain nutrients, organic matter, water, and energy that are rarely recovered, even in the most advanced treatment systems. That is how the idea for the REVAMP (resource value mapping) tool was born.
 

REVAMP – unlocking the sanitation transformation?

Essentially, REVAMP uses the information about a city’s excreta flows (adding food waste, animal manure, and other organic waste) to estimate the potential monetary (and other) value the city could get from them. The tool is created to assist cities in development of common vision for resource recovery initiatives, based on the city’s real needs.

REVAMP is now in beta version, but over the next three to four years we want to turn it to a more robust and comprehensive tool. We want to co-develop the tool together with the people who will be using it in the future, like those working in municipal authorities, managers of urban waste systems, energy and water planners, and food and agricultural planners.

As a decision-support tool, REVAMP will show what options are available for resource recovery from waste and what they could be worth based on local market prices for similar products. After that, it is up to decision-makers in a city to decide what resource recovery option to choose.

We hope REVAMP will bring different stakeholders to the table and help them reach holistic solutions for water and resource ownership and management in their cities. In this way, REVAMP could help break the silo thinking that so often obstructs information exchange and collaboration between those working with energy, water, agriculture, sanitation, and waste management.

The REVAMP team is setting up projects in Naivasha, Kenya and Chia, Colombia, and we have received interest from stakeholders in Durban, South Africa and Stockholm, Sweden. We hope to better understand what resource-recovery options are most attractive to local decision-makers and businesses. Equally important, we will learn about social acceptance, and about the institutional and regulatory environment needed to make the options work.

While my dreams of becoming a billionaire may have faded along the way, the idea of helping billions of people meet their everyday needs has stayed with me. And who knows, maybe one day every city in the world will be using REVAMP to understand how to make value from waste, while keeping people and the environment safe and sound.

Daniel Ddiba is a Research Associate with Stockholm Environment Institute. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Bank.

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Safeguarding Health Through Diagnostics

Heidi and Scott Morey
Veterinarians Heidi Morey ’05 (CAHNR) and Scott Morey ’06 (CAHNR) with Jonathan XIV at Fenton River Veterinary Hospital in Tolland on June 21, 2017. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn safeguards animal and human health. Faculty and staff fulfill their mission through veterinary diagnostic laboratory services, professional expertise, and collaboration with state and federal agencies to detect and monitor diseases important to animal and human health, as well as detecting newly emerging diseases.

CVMDL is committed to providing current, timely, and personalized expert service to our client veterinarians, animal owners, producers, academic collaborators, and partner agencies. The laboratory is housed within the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, and develops new approaches to disease identification, investigation, and prevention while educating students, including veterinarians, seeking advanced training in disease related studies.

CVMDL incorporates the land grant university mission of service, teaching, and research in its daily practices, and is the only laboratory in New England accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. Services offered include: histology, immunohistochemistry, mastitis, microbiology, molecular diagnostics, pathology, parasitology, serology, and virology.

“We send a lot of our clients to CVMDL for the necropsy service,” says Dr. Scott Morey ’06 (CAHNR) of Fenton River Veterinary Hospital in Tolland. “We want a necropsy done in the proper environment, where better diagnostic samples can be obtained and processed, as opposed to what we can collect in a field necropsy. Most of the time we’re mainly looking for infectious disease so we can change what happens for the other animals left on a farm.”

Necropsy services can also be used for small animals. Dr. Heidi Morey ’05 (CAHNR) handles the small animal end of the veterinary practice, while Scott primarily works with large animals. “We had one young dog die suddenly on a client, and CVMDL helped determine it was most likely a heart attack,” Heidi mentions.

“We do a surprising amount of chicken work,” Scott continues. “CVMDL completes efficient and timely necropsies on chickens. We also utilize them for rabies testing, and Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) test for small ruminants. Clients who own sheep and goats want their animals to be CAE negative, and need proof of that. We send the samples to CVMDL.”

Tick testing is part of the molecular diagnostics section. A single infected deer tick can transmit anywhere from one to four illnesses simultaneously. CVMDL is the only laboratory in the state that will test a deer tick off humans or animals. CVMDL also tests other common species of ticks. The lab tests deer ticks for Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti, and Borrelia miyamotoi. Dog ticks are tested for Francisella tularensis, Rickettsia rickettsia, Ehrlichiaspecies. Lonestar ticks are tested for Ehrlichiaspecies, Francisella tularensis, and Borrelia lonestari. Brown dog ticks are tested for Rickettsia rickettsiaand Ehrlichia species.

Residents, doctors, veterinarians, and public health officials utilize tick testing services to make proactive and informed decisions regarding human and animal health. In 2017, 397 ticks were tested.

Connecticut is home to a number of large dairy farms, and CVMDL provides mastitis testing and environmental pathogen testing, in addition to Brucellosis, Johnne’s, and other diseases. Rabies tests on animals that may have come in contact with a human are also sent to the Department of Public Health for confirmation testing. All other rabies testing in Connecticut is done at CVMDL.

The laboratory is on the frontlines of safeguarding animal and human health in Connecticut. Each case that arrives in Storrs is different, and provides the team at CVMDL with another opportunity to teach students and clients, develop new tests and procedures, and monitor disease and health issues.

Article by Stacey Stearns

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Tuna Burger Recipe

tuna burger recipe
Photo: North Carolina Extension

TUNA BURGERS

Makes 6 servings

Serving size: 1 patty

 

Ingredients

  • 2 (4.5-ounce) cans low-sodium tuna
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, divided
  • 1 cup low-fat cheddar chese, shredded
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup non-fat ranch salad dressing
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Drain tuna, separate into flakes using a fork
  2. In a medium bowl, combine tuna, ½ cup bread crumbs, cheese, egg, salads dressing, and onion.
  3. Form six patties; coat each side with remaining ½ cup bread crumbs.
  4. Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray; heat to medium heat.
  5. Cook patties 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Nutrition Information Per Serving

230 Calories, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 4g, Protein 17g, Total Carbohydrate 20g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Sodium 430mg. Good source of calcium and iron.

 

 

TORTITAS DE ATÚN

Rinde 6 raciones

Tamaño de la ración: 1 tortita

 

Ingredientes

  • 2 latas (4.5 onzas) de atún bajo en sodio
  • 1 taza de pan molido, dividido en dos porciones
  • 1 taza de queso tipo cheddar bajo en grasa, rallado
  • 1 huevo, ligeramente batido
  • ½ taza de aderezo para ensalada sin grasa tipo ranch
  • ¼ de taza de cebolla finamente picada
  • Aceite en aerosol antiadherente para cocinar

Instrucciones

  1. Escurra el atún y desmenuce con un tenedor.
  2. Combine en un tazón mediano el atún, la ½ taza de pan molido, el queso, el huevo, el aderezo y la cebolla.
  3. Forme seis tortitas y empanice cada lado con la ½ taza restante de pan molido.
  4. Rocíe el sartén con aceite en aerosol antiadherente para cocinar y deje que se caliente a fuego medio.
  5. Cocine las tortitas entre 3 y 5 minutos de cada lado o hasta que se doren.

Informaciόn nutricional por cada raciόn

230 calorías, Total de grasa 8g, Grasa saturada 4g, Proteína 17g, Total de carbohidratos 20g, Fibra dietética 3g, Sodio 430mg. Buena fuente de calcio y de hierro.

Recipe: North Carolina Extension

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The shape of water for development

This post originally appeared on High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development website on July 9, 2018.
 

From July 9-18, more than 2,000 representatives from governments, businesses, civil society organizations and UN agencies gather for the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. 


Water touches nearly every aspect of development. It flows through and connects the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by driving economic growth, supporting healthy ecosystems, cultivating food and energy production, and ensuring access to sanitation. We cannot achieve the SDGs without our collective action on water.

Yet today water represents a silent emergency and a risk to our goals of building shared economic progress and sustainable development. The challenges include gaps in access to water supply and sanitation driven by growing populations and rapid urbanization, more water-intensive patterns of growth, increasing rainfall variability, and pollution, among others. The forthcoming SDG 6 Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation captures the current situation rather succinctly: “the world is not on track” to achieve our water goals embedded in SDG6.

Billions of people around the world still lack safe water, sanitation and handwashing facilities. An increase in wastewater in many parts of the world is affecting quality. National governance structures remain weak and fragmented. Rapid urbanization has put enormous stress on agricultural production and water supply. Financing remains insufficient and data gaps in monitoring are abundant.

The World Bank Group is working with our country partners in a number of ways to address these challenges and ensure that water is used wisely to help achieve the SDGs and a water-secure world for all.

To continue reading the blog post, visit HLPF website for the original post: “The Shape of Water for Development”.

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Cooking with EFNEP at Morris Street School

EFNEP graduation photo Since, 1969, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has helped families in Connecticut learn about healthy eating, physical activity, cooking, and shopping on a budget. Despite being an affluent state, nearly 1 in 5 families with children in Connecticut is food insecure, or does not have adequate access to healthy food. Many urban areas in Connecticut are amongst the poorest in the country. Additionally, access to healthy food is a challenge in rural areas where transportation is a barrier. EFNEP staff work in these areas of greatest need in Connecticut, striving to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

Heather Peracchio and Juliana Restrepo-Marin from UConn Extension EFNEP in Fairfield County teamed up with Danbury’s Morris Street School Family Resource Center to provide a series of classes on healthy eating, exercise, cooking and food safety to new mothers. The classes covered topics such asportion sizes, recommended servings for different age groups, and how to use MyPlate Daily Checklists. Access to vital emergency food resources, like food pantries and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were also discussed. Participants learned how to make smart drink and breakfast choices, how to read nutrition labels and compare nutritional facts, and how to shop smart and find the best value. The educators completed hands-on cooking demonstrations with the group, using healthy, affordable and easy-to-prepare recipes from the Cooking With EFNEP cookbook. The class also discussed how to incorporate more physical activity into the day, with a Zumba class that was led by a participant that was a certified instructor.

Upon lesson completion, participants were given the opportunity to comment on the course and what they learned. Overall, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Here’s what some participants had to say:  “I learned many things, such as: how to control sugar portions, I learned about oil, food prices and how to incorporate seasonal fruit in my recipes.”

“I loved this class very much. I learned how to eat healthier, buy better food, check the products’ labels and how to add fruit in my meals.”

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to learn in this nutrition course. Thanks to Viviane for organizing this class and making it possible. I would also like to thank Miss Heather and Miss Juliana for teaching us how to cook healthy meals for our daily lives. I learned a lot from you and I hope this is not the last time you teach us.”

“I would like to thank teacher Heather, Juliana, the translator and Viviane for this great effort and support to all of us with the nutrition classes. This has been very helpful. We learned how to eat healthy.”

For more information on how you can become involved in UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, or to see our recipes, and other information, go to efnep.uconn.edu or find us on Facebook at UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program- EFNEP or Twitter at @UConnEFNEP!

Article by Madelyn Zanini

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