AgIsAmerica sat down with De’Shoin York, Dr. Fatemeh Malekian, and Stephanie Elwood from the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center in anticipation of our Twitter Town Hall. Read their answers to learn more about all the great things they do for Louisiana! 


Questions for De’Shoin York:

Q: Tell us more about the Youth Cooking Camps. What does a typical day look like?

A: “Creating Healthy Enjoyable Foods” (C.H.E.F.), Cooking camps are for the youth ages 9-18. The camps are designed to teach youth basic cooking principles and nutrition education based on the USDA’s, “My Plate” food guidance system and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

Q: Why is it important to reach youth in rural areas?

A: It’s important to reach youth in rural areas because in many instances access is an issue.  Many rural residents do not have access to programs and services that urban clientele do.

Q: How many residents has the SU Ag Center reached through EFNEP and FF-News, and how have Louisiana’s residents benefited from the SU Ag Center’s  EFNEP and FF-News programs?  

A: The Southern University Ag Center’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is designed to assist limited-resource youth with the skills to develop nutritionally sound diets. This program is available to youth in Avoyelles, Evangeline, Rapides, Lafayette, and St. Landry Parishes. For 2015, EFNEP has reached 1,605 Louisianans.

The SU Ag Center’s Families First – Nutrition Education and Wellness System (FF-NEWS) program teaches individuals who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance how to make food selection and preparation choices that will enhance their health status. The program is available in: Avoyelles, Evangeline, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Ascension, St. James, St. Tammany, Orleans, East Carroll, and West Carroll Parishes. The FF-NEWS Program has reached 7,543 this year. 


Questions for Dr. Fatemeh Malekian:

Q: How do you define food safety?

A: Food safety is defined as the conditions and practices that preserve the quality of food and prevent, eliminate and/or reduce contamination and as a result prevent food borne illnesses.

Q: With the holidays in full swing, what food safety tips can you share?

  • Wash hands properly for at least 20 seconds before starting any food preparation or cooking/serving (watch the SUAREC YouTube)
  • Clean and sanitize all the kitchen counters, sinks and utensils with proper cleaning and sanitizing (chlorine bleach) solutions before starting cooking.
  • Cook foods to proper minimum internal temperature (For example hamburgers must reach 155ºF for at least 15 seconds.)
  • Cool the leftovers properly by dividing the large portions into smaller portions, letting the food cool down within 2 hours, covering the food, labeling the container and then storing it either in the refrigerator or freezer if it is not consumed within 24 hours. 
  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before consumption.

Q: What topics are you currently researching, and why?

A: Currently, the Southern University Ag Center is conducting research on food science/new product development and nutrition specifically in the area of obesity/childhood obesity.

Q: What agency has been funding these research projects? 

A: We have received funding from USDA/NIFA.

Q: What are the objectives of the USDA/NIFA projects?

A: The objectives of the projects are to incorporate Whey protein and resistant starch into products such as shakes/smoothies and health/breakfast bars, in conjunction with nutrition and physical activity, that can be consumed for breakfast to lower body weight.

Q: What is Whey Protein? 

A: There are two forms of protein found in cow’s milk: casein protein and whey protein. The makeup of milk is 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein. Of the two, whey proteins are higher quality proteins than casein.

Q: What is resistant starch?

A: Resistant starch (RS) is an insoluble fiber that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the large intestine.


Questions for Stephanie Elwood:

Q: How long has the SU Ag Center been supporting the Fast Track Gardening Program?

 A: The Fast Track Gardening program began in May 2011.

Q: What crops do you typically plant, and how are they used by the facilities?

A: Tomatoes, Hibiscus, Green beans and Mustard greens are some of the crops that are planted at the facilities. We rotate the crops with the seasons. Crops harvested from the gardens are cooked and served to the youth either as a snack, taste test or in the facilities cafeterias.

Q: How have you seen this program affect its participants? 

 A: A large majority of the youth in the program have never gardened before. After participating in the Fast Track Gardening Program, 85% of the youth said they will start a garden of their own, 65% said the program has helped them with teamwork, 88% said the program positively change their behavior and 90% agreed the program helped them to understand the importance of eating healthy.

Questions for all Extension educators:

Q: How does the SU Ag Center serve and link the citizens of Louisiana? 

A: The researchers, cooperative extension agents and specialists of the Southern University Ag Center link the citizens of Louisiana to opportunities for success by providing solutions to the economic, social, technological and agricultural challenges they face. Watch for additional information.

Q: What does Cooperative Extension mean to you? 

 A: Cooperative Extension means community outreach and service. It means teaching and sharing of knowledge that I’ve learned with individuals and community to enhance their quality of life.

Q: What is your favorite Cooperative Extension story?

A: There are too many to choose just one. From watching youth learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) during 4-H Youth Science Day, to small business owners and small farmers receiving resources to successfully grow their businesses, teaching youth and adults how to make better food choices and assisting parents in understanding the importance of  effective parenting. All extension programs are of value to the citizens of Louisiana.  I enjoy all of the programs.

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