Local programming collaborates with and benefits from the following Statewide Initiatives.
4-H Engaging Youth, Serving Community
The grim reality for rural Maine youth living in low-income families and/or communities often includes substandard housing, food insecurity, and a lack of opportunities outside school. Improving life skills, and feeling valued, powerful, and connected to their communities is an important element in helping young people find ways to succeed in light of the challenges they face.
UMaine Extension’s 4-H Engaging Youth, Serving Community (EYSC) program creates youth-adult partnerships through a variety of youth-led community projects. Between January 2012 and September 2013, five rural EYSC youth and adult partnership teams created and completed an anti-bullying campaign; established school gardening programs that garnered statewide recognition; and engaged in an invasive plant abatement project to benefit a community water supply.
Results: Our five EYSC teams of 224 youth and 97 adults contributed 8,669 hours toward solving community issues. The youth gained by participating in leadership decision-making, functioning within planning and working teams, and becoming empowered to create change within their communities. Their work benefited more than 5,900 people directly, and thousands of people indirectly by maintaining local real estate values and protecting the City of Portland’s drinking water quality from Eurasian Milfoil, an aggressive invasive plant. The statewide project received a total of $25,000 in National 4-H Council’s USDA Rural Development funds, yet leveraged more than $216,000 in additional cash and in-kind resources, a return of more than $8 for every $1.00 of federal funds.
Learning to Farm in Maine
Many people interested in starting a farm lack the skills, knowledge, and confidence to investigate their options to start, adapt, and maintain a profitable land-based business.
UMaine Extension conducts ongoing farm business management trainings, many focused on new and aspiring farmers. In 2013 we used webinars to reach 160 people from all counties in Maine and 16 from out of state. Participants learned about agriculture enterprise selection, business planning, record keeping, market research, regulations, and resource identification.
Results: As a result of this year’s efforts, the number of people farming increased from 27 percent to 73 percent. Fourteen people developed a new product or enterprise, 23 people improved their farm financial records, and 26 people improved production records. When asked to rate confidence in their ability to create a viable farm business the majority of attendees had an increase in confidence of 3 steps. UMaine Extension’s ongoing focus on new and aspiring farmers is paying off. USDA’s 2012 farm census showed that the number of Maine farmers aged 34 and younger grew by nearly 40 percent from 2007 to 2012. The 39 percent jump in young farmers—from 396 to 551—far surpassed the 1.5 percent increase in nationally.
Obesity in Maine
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) provides limited-income youth and families with interactive education in homes, small community groups, and schools. During FY13, we provided sequential nutrition education to 377 adults and consecutive education to more than 5,000 youth aged 5-18.
Results: Participants reported an increase in consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean proteins, and healthy oils, and reduced intake of solid fats, added sugars, sodium, and total calories. They also saved money on their monthly food bills; an average of $36 per month per household, which equals to a total household cost savings of $432 per year, even while improving the quality of food consumed. The total estimated cost savings for all graduate households in 2013 was $4,960 per month, for a total annual food cost savings of $59,520.
Kids Can Grow
UMaine Extension’s Kids Can Grow program (KCG) is an adaptable hands-on youth gardening program established for ages 7-12. This year KCG took place in 5 locations throughout Maine, with 108 youth each taking full responsibility for their part of a garden. They learned about plant development, weeds, pests, cooking, nutrition, and food safety, and engaged in regular physical activity while gardening.
Results: KCG participants ate more and different vegetables and learned to understand why that is positive, a practice that will continue to improve their lifelong health. Participants felt pride and built a sense of competency as a result of their gardening success. They experienced positive adult relationships through mentoring, and performed community service by donating some of their harvest. Nearly 98 percent successfully started, maintained, harvested, and ate vegetables. Ninety percent prepared vegetables and learned food safety practices. Eighty-seven percent exhibited improved understanding of USDA’s My Plate program and how and why to make healthy meal and snack choices. Parent evaluations showed that ninety-five percent indicated their child experienced a self-esteem boost.
Maine Harvest for Hunger
The economy’s long, slow rebound from the “great recession” and high unemployment give Maine the highest rate of food insecurity in New England. Forty-three percent of food-insecure people in Maine do not qualify for food stamps or any other government program. It is especially challenging to afford high quality, fresh, nutritious food.
Nearly 500 home gardeners, UMaine Master Gardeners, and other volunteers in about 14 Maine counties collectively logged more than 5,000 hours through UMaine Extension’s Harvest for Hunger Program that grows fresh fruits and vegetables for donation to needy people in Maine. The program’s objectives are to mitigate hunger, improve nutrition and health, and help the recipients develop lifelong positive nutritional habits.
Results: In 2013, our Harvest for Hunger Program donated more than 108 tons of vegetables and fruit to 152 food banks, shelters, and charitable organizations around the state. The value of the produce was over $365,380, based on a market sales price averaging $1.69 per pound. Many recipients also received cooking and gardening lessons offered along with the program helping to build self-reliance and health for the future.