REPOST: ‘Make Fruits Available to All’ program, addressing food security on the Eastern Shore

University of Maryland Eastern Shore Extension’s Well Connected Communities along with Horticulture and Fruits programs celebrated their first harvest since 2017. The program called “Make Fruits Available to All” is teaching college students and and community members young and old to grow and care for an orchard.

Dr. Virginie Zoumenou, Professor of Dietetics and Nutrition and State Extension Nutrition Specialist, University of Maryland Extension and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

A project three years in the making is now ready for harvest. This is part of the efforts to address the food security problem here on the eastern shore. 

The work was featured on ABC Channel 47 on June 7, 2021. Visit their website to watch the news segment.

National 4-H Council Joins White House COVID-19 Community Corps

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced additional measures to encourage vaccinations and increase vaccine confidence as part of the next phase of its COVID-19 public education campaign. The Administration is launching the COVID-19 Community Corps – a nationwide, grassroots network of local voices people know and trust to encourage Americans to get vaccinated. As part of the launch of the Community Corps, Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will meet with founding members on Thursday, April 1, as she begins championing the next phase of the public education campaign from the White House.

National 4-H Council joins the Community Corps, which is comprised of trusted voices in communities across the country. The Administration will regularly share updated public health information and resources for the corps members to use with their communities to help get friends, family, and followers vaccinated.

Read the full press release from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Creative Health Communications in Tennessee

When it was clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was continuing into 2021, Well Connected Communities program assistant Susan Holloway was looking for new outreach methods in her community of Jackson, Tennessee. The local crime newspaper, CrimeSEENExaminerNews, was also looking for ways to upgrade its publication with new and different articles. Holloway suggested that she could make contributions around the “crime” of health inequity and partnership was born.

CrimeSEENExaminerNews features local crime, community, health, education, social, sports, entertainment, political news, as well as classifieds, and legal notices. The paper is distributed to several counties in West Tennessee including Madison, Gibson, Crockett, Haywood, which are home to nearly 179,000 residents. Among them are the residents of Denmark and East Jackson, which the University of Tennessee – Tennessee State University Well Connected Communities program specifically wants to reach.

Each Thursday, more than 18,000 printed copies of the paper are distributed throughout the area, including racks at Dollar General and Walgreen stores. Without fail, they are quickly snapped up.  (Holloway says that the newspaper is so popular that straggler copies can only be found through the weekend in the north of the county.) A PDF edition is also made available online on Wednesday evening before the papers go out. 

Holloway was introduced as a contributing writer to CrimeSEENExaminerNews in January 2021 with a monthly column entitled, “It’s a Crime to Be Unhealthy!” Her first column introduced Well Connected Communities and urged residents to get their yearly wellness visit. Holloway provided information about ways to do this with or without insurance and different facilities that provide the check-ups. She also reminded readers that Emergency Room care is among the most expensive. The article was so popular that it had over 600 hits in four hours. According to the newspaper, this is an unprecedented response to a single article. In February, Holloway suggested nutritionally and financially healthy meal options to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Holloway will be contributing to CrimeSEENExaminerNews for a total of ten months. Check out the January and February issues that feature her contributions.

4-H, Norris Square Community Alliance promote food security in Philadelphia

Jack Ouligian August 04, 2020

Lauren Perez, a 4-H program coordinator in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, delivers food and other items to a family. Image: Lauren Perez

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa — 4-H, a nationwide youth-development program administered in Pennsylvania by Penn State Extension, empowers and educates children and young adults across the commonwealth — a mission that naturally attracts generous, caring and dedicated employees.

“Their passion is not just limited to office hours either,” said Deborah Dietrich, an area 4-H extension educator who is responsible for 11 counties, including Philadelphia. “They make an impact in local communities both in and outside of the job.”

These qualities were displayed in early June, when Lauren Perez, a 4-H program coordinator in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, told her colleagues about riots that had taken place in the community recently and the impact that civil unrest had on families.

“My 4-H kids’ access to food had been disrupted on an epic scale,” Perez said. “There was devastation and destruction on Kensington Avenue. People were afraid to leave their homes, and no organizations were going into the neighborhood because looting was going on.”

On June 1, Perez met with a representative from the North Square Community Alliance, with which 4-H has partnered through the Well-Connected Communities program, a collaboration among Penn State Extension, the National 4-H Council and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Well-Connected Communities is designed to support coalition-building in Norris Square to help set a direction for positive change around health challenges in this community.

Perez explained the situation in Philadelphia to her fellow educators. “I showed them pictures and told them a little bit of backstory,” Perez said. “In the course of three days, they had raised money, shopped, prepared food and delivered it to my house by Friday.”

Donations came entirely from staff members, business acquaintances and family. Thanks to her colleagues’ aid, Perez visited 30 of her 4-H families June 5, bringing not only enrichment materials, but also bags of food and “Messages of Hope” — letters written by other 4-H members across the commonwealth.

“We wanted them to know that there were fellow 4-H members out there,” said Dietrich. “Their experience might be different from, say, a kid in Lancaster County, but we wanted them to know that they were a part of something bigger, and that this something bigger cares about them.”

While Perez continued delivering food to families every Friday for a few weeks, 4-H and the Norris Square Community Alliance began to deepen their collaboration. Together, they created a plan to feed all the youth who were going to receive food through the Norris Square Community Alliance’s summer programming, a group that included the 4-H members with whom Perez works.

The funding for the food distribution came from the pool initially set up by the Penn State Extension 4-H educators, and 4-H worked alongside the Norris Square Community Alliance to address issues related to food preparation, social distancing and COVID-19.

“We saw a need, and we realized that it was not efficient to keep delivering 60 lunches in a community every Friday,” said Dietrich. “There were better ways to do it. We don’t just make short-term commitments to communities; we make long-term commitments, and we wanted to make sure that our plan had organization and follow-through.”

In the days after Gov. Tom Wolf designated Philadelphia County as a “green” zone, 4-H helped the Norris Square Community Alliance switch to an on-site food delivery program, feeding youth in a Norris Square Community Alliance building while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

In addition, the organizations offered socially distant, in-person programs focused on mental health and indoor gardening. And while these programs were switched to a virtual format following an order from city government, the Norris Square Community Alliance continues to feed youths on-site with guidance and funding from 4-H.

“We had planned on doing youth development with the Norris Square kids in their summer programs, so we already had a connection with the organization,” said Dietrich. “But this has grown into something more. We’re not just giving out food or money, we’re working with the community to show them how they can organize and meet their own needs, to set an example that the community can follow.”

Although 4-H, in normal times, provides key resources to schools and communities through clubs, projects and leadership activities, this partnership has allowed for moments of growth and understanding in both organizations.

“The most remarkable thing here is that these organizations have collaborated and communicated together so effectively,” Perez said. “Sometimes people with good intentions get frustrated with the people they are helping because they do not understand the community that they are helping, while the community that they are helping does not know what to do with the resources that they have been given.”

But here, she pointed out, the experience has shown each group a unique perspective and has led to “a wonderful moment where people realize that, if you bridge that gap between each other, it can lead to much greater success.”

More information on Penn State Extension’s 4-H programming can be found at

Understanding Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change

Photo: Clint Adair via Unsplash

Health is created in the places where we live, work, learn, and play. Our ability to make healthy choices is dictated by the conditions of those places. Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) change can influence health by changing the conditions within communities– making the healthy choice the easy choice. PSE changes often stretch beyond the benefits of programs to create population level impacts.

Explore the rich set of resources below to help to grow your community’s capacity to understand and advance policy, systems, and environmental change.

Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Overview

PSE 101: Building Healthier Communities through Policy, Systems and Environmental Change

Moving from Programs to Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes

What is Policy, Systems and Environmental Change (PSE)?

Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Resource Guide

Partnering4Health: Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) Approach to
Improving Access to Healthy Food and Beverage Through Community Food Systems

Policy Change

Policies are written statements created and adopted by organizations, agencies, and stakeholders intended to achieve specific health goals. Policy change is a tool used by communities across the country to improve population health by advancing initiatives that can affect the behaviors of entire populations more efficiently than other tools. For example, a policy that places restrictions on unhealthy food and beverage marketing in schools reduces exposure and consumption of unhealthy food in school cafeterias.

What is Policy?

5 Ways Public Policy Impacts Health

Getting Started with Policy Change

Worksheet: Getting Started with Policy

Increasing Fresh Produce in Kansas City, MO via Urban Agriculture

Utah New Roots Food Access Program

Systems Change

System change involves transforming and redesigning the practices and structures within organizations, institutions or networks to promote better health outcomes. System change addresses problems on a fundamental level and often works hand-in-hand with policy change. An example of a systems change is the creation of a Farm-to-School initiative that creates processes to rebuild healthy food systems in school by serving local produce in the cafeteria and instituting food education opportunities in the classroom.

Systems: Action for PSE Change

Fostering Systems Change

Community Approaches to Systems Change

Food as a Catalyst for Change

Food Procurement as an Opportunity to Improve Local Food Systems

Environmental Change

Environmental change involves transforming the economic, social, or physical contexts in the lived-environment that affect health outcomes. Environmental change strategies are often used in conjunction with other strategies to improve population health. An example of an environmental change would be to increase the number of community garden plots on vacant land to grow community engagement and improve food security. 

Physical Environment: County Health Rankings Model

How does where we live, work, and play affect our health?

What impact does the environment have on us?

Community Success Stories: Rural residents find grassroots solutions to life in a food desert

Authors: Robyn Garratt (Institute for People, Place, and Possibility) and Stacy Wegley (Community Initiatives)

From Territorial to Transformational: A New Framework for Master Volunteer Engagement

Meaningful volunteer engagement depends on the Extension professional’s volunteer management philosophy, training, and organizational support for using volunteers. Volunteer development and leadership development are typically absent from management-focused volunteer models used in Extension. Professional development of the Extension professional, beyond discrete management tasks, is lacking but is needed for authentic volunteer engagement through master volunteer programs. A volunteer engagement framework is described to guide a shift from volunteer management to engagement, including use of principles of the community-based participatory approach. The volunteer engagement framework can help professionals identify and self-assess the skill set needed for authentic and sustained volunteer involvement in support of Extension. Read more…