Monthly Archives: May 2013

VCE’s Family Nutrition Program at “The Winner’s Circle”

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program made the trip down to Concord, NC last week for their Multi-State Conference. The conference was hosted by North Carolina’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and offered a variety of entertaining and informative sessions.

Opening Luncheon and Keynote speaker Jump with Jill, The Rockstar Nutritionist using a rock ‘n roll approach to communicating a healthy message.

Opening Luncheon and Keynote speaker Jump with Jill, The Rockstar Nutritionist using a rock ‘n roll approach to communicating a healthy message.

Haregowin Tecklu, Arlington Adult Program Assistant, claims she learned a great deal about antioxidants, diet and metabolic diseases. She states, “It’s a great idea to talk about how eating more fruits and vegetables could save your health bill in the long run. I plan on sharing this idea with my WIC and Early Head Start parents.”

Megan Mauer, Northern District Nutrition Outreach Instructor, enjoyed her first Multi- State Conference and finally having the chance to meet everybody throughout the state. What was really valuable to Megan was hearing how others approached teaching a healthy lifestyle within their programs. “I got a sense that everybody at the conference was very passionate about their work, but also appreciative and supportive of others.” Overall the conference was a success and Hareg and Megan look forward to applying their new skills to some of their local programming.

Conference Table Setting

How much sugar is hiding in your drink?

Did you know that the average American consumed 44 gallons of soda last year?

Master Food Volunteers (MFVs) in Arlington and Fairfax joined 173 other groups of health advocates across the state to raise awareness about the dangers of sugary beverages.

Rev Your Bev” day, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, sensitized citizens about the high sugar content in popular beverages and encouraged them to lower consumption of these drinks. MFVs set up tables in Fairfax and Arlington County Extension Offices, displaying the amount of sugar in various beverages, including sodas, sports drinks, sweet tea, and energy drinks.


This photo of the Rev Your Bev display shows the sugar content of some popular drinks.

Interested bystanders were asked to fill out a survey to gauge their knowledge of the issue and the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages in their diets. The MFVs talked with people about the astounding statistics on sugar consumption in the U.S. and offered strategies for making healthier beverage choices.

  • For each sugary drink consumed per day, a child’s risk of becoming overweight increases by 60%.
  • It takes over an hour of walking to burn off the 240 calories in a 20-ounce bottle of cola.
  • By drinking just one 20-ounce cola per day, you could gain 25 pounds in one year.

Why were MFVs so interested in educating the public about these beverages, which some health practitioners have called “sugar delivery systems”?  Sugar sweetened drinks are a primary cause of the obesity.  Yet, it is difficult for many people to avoid over consuming them because they are cheap, ubiquitous, and tasty. And, many drinks are marketed as healthful—promising improved sports performance, vitamin and mineral delivery, etc.—yet packed with sugar.


Kristin at the Fairlington Community Center

To help reduce sugar in your beverages, buy smaller portion sizes, buy lower calorie drinks, and of course make water your default beverage. You can also make your own drinks, such as coffee, tea, or water sweetened with a splash of fruit juice. Adding a teaspoon of sugar to these drinks only adds 15 calories. In contrast, a 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 240 calories or 16 teaspoons of sugar. 


Melanie at the Pennino Building

For more tips on making smart beverage choices, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet, Make Better Beverage Choices.

–Mike Perel, Master Food Volunteer

One Week, Two Awards

During the week of May 13 we learned that the Arlington VCE office was the recipient of not just one, but two state awards. Our Extension Leadership Council (ELC) came in first place for the ELC programming excellence award in Marketing and Jennifer and community partners received a state award for achieving excellence in New Initiatives. Both awards were announced at the annual meeting of the Virginia Extension Service Association and both come with monetary awards to use for program support or professional development.

The ELC is truly deserving of this honor because the volunteer members have worked hard over the past year to help introduce initiatives that spread the word about VCE’s programs and successes. ELC members helped staff create our new blog, networked with schools and the Arlington Credit Union to increase the number of Kids Marketplace and Reality Store events that we do each year, increased our presence at Arlington Chamber of Commerce events, facilitated a full-page article about VCE in the Chamber newsletter, organized the Energy in the Community forum, formulated public value statements to better inform legislators about the economic, social, and environmental impact of VCE’s programs on the community, and much more. Staff are very grateful for the dedicated work of ELC members.

Along with recently winning a Green Giant award from the Washingtonian Magazine, Senior Extension Agent Jennifer Abel and community partners Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment and Arlington Thrive (the new name of Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs) won the Northern District and State awards for excellence in New Initiatives for the Energy Efficiency Education Program. Started in 2011, this is the program through which we train Energy Master volunteers to make energy- and water-saving improvements in low-income Arlington apartments. To date volunteers have performed retrofits in 232 apartments and we are starting to collect data about energy savings that have been realized. Staff and volunteers truly appreciate the recognition of this exciting program. The next training for new volunteers will begin on September 26 with applications due July 1st. Contact Jennifer if you are interested in applying:

New Arlington VCE 4-H agent

On May 10 Samantha Nagurny joined the Arlington office as the new 4-H agent. Sam graduated in 2011 from the University of Tennessee with a degree in animal science and has a deep background in 4-H. She has been going to 4-H camp and has participated in 4-H clubs and activities since she was 9 years old, spent two summers working as an intern for the 4-H agent in Fairfax County, and leads a 4-H club in Fairfax. Most recently Sam worked at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon where she helped visitors learn more about the park’s many farm animals. Sam is looking forward to leading a group of Arlington children and teens to 4-H camp this summer in Front Royal and to starting many clubs, after school programs, and other enrichment activities for youth in Arlington.

My Favorite Savings Technique

By Megan Kuhn, Master Financial Education Volunteer

When I decided to buy my first home*, I discovered what is now my favorite savings technique.

My goal was to increase the funds for my down payment. Every time I went shopping, I would ask myself, “Would I rather buy this $85 handbag, or would I rather put more money toward my housing fund?” If I didn’t purchase the $85 handbag, I would move $85 from my checking account to my savings account. I labeled the transaction something like “victory for the house.” I did this for big and small items, even the iced coffees I resisted.

Spending money is more than splurging on a handbag or snapping up a clearance deal. It is about opportunity cost. If I buy the $85 handbag or the $3.50 iced coffee, I miss the opportunity to save (or spend) that money for something else.

*Something else I found is the fabulous first-time residence buying class that Arlington Public Schools offers through its Adult Education Program. The one-time class meets for a couple hours, and is well worth the registration fee. After the class, I felt prepared to tackle the home buying process.

It’s the Start of Cicada Season!

The buzzing insect drone of summer time is either a welcome harbinger of memories of warm evening picnics and summer fun or a frightening reminder of the destruction and damage to tree branches caused by the annual and periodic cicada. Every year as the weather heats up into mid May or June and continuing into August, we will hear the droning whine of these large insects as they go about their business of mating and laying eggs. Only the males make the sounds by rapidly flexing an abdominal tymbal muscle that rattles two hardened tymbal membranes against each other. Each species has a distinctive sound.

Although often called ‘locusts’ they are more closely related to leaf hoppers and spittle bugs. In some parts of the world they are eaten and the females are preferred for being ‘meatier’. Sometimes called ‘dog day’ cicadas, some annual cicadas that live from 2-5 years, hatch every year emerging from the soil as nymphs to climb up into trees shedding their exoskeletons as they mature into winged adults. While most species of cicada are what we call annual or unsynchronized, there are 3 species of 17 year periodic cicadas in the genus Magicicada that are common in northern areas. These synchronized periodic cicadas, or broods as they are called, belong usually to one of three species: M. septendecim, M. cassini, and M. septendecula. This factsheet contains maps that show the anticipated spread of the 2013 hatch. Brood II, while concentrated west of here, may result in increased numbers here in Northern VA. Brood X is the biggest hatch in the Northern VA-DC-MD region and is not due again until 2021 unless a phenomena called ’straggling’ occurs and then we might get part of that hatch 4 years early in 2017.

Damage by both annual and periodic cicadas is done mainly by the nymphs feeding on roots and by the female using her ovipositor to cut open a place to lay her eggs. Up to 400 eggs are typically laid 2-12 to a site at 40-50 sites. While not highly selective, trees often chosen for oviposition include maple, oak, hickory, beech, ash, dogwood, hawthorn, magnolia, willow, apple, peach, cherry and pear. Flowers, vines and shrubs include: Rose of Sharon, rose, raspberry, grape, black-eyed Susan, hollies, spirea, rhododendron, viburnum, junipers, and arborvitae. Branches ¼”- ½” in diameter are generally chosen and the damage usually results in ‘flagging’ or, the death of the end of the branch. After 6-10 weeks, eggs hatch and the ant sized nymphs fall to the ground to dig burrows 6-18” deep.

Control of damage to young trees is important and difficult to achieve. Netting to exclude the adult cicadas is helpful. Delay setting out new young trees up to 2 years before a major hatch of periodic cicadas. Remove egg masses as you find them and prune damaged branch ends after the invasion is over.
Virginia Tech has this publication geared towards fruit producers but contains good info for all. If you would like to see maps of various brood hatch locations and photos of what cicadas look like here:
Ohio State has good information here on controlling damage from cicadas here:

Virginia cicadaAdult-14W
Arlington Cooperative Extension staff can provide more information about these and other summer outdoor insect pests. You can get help finding your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office here:

New Financial Volunteers complete Training

On April 27 a group of 16 new Master Financial Education Volunteers completed their training and will join the more than 200 other financial volunteers currently working to provide financial counseling to individuals, teach money management classes, and help with youth financial simulations. The new volunteers are Femeia Adamson, Teresa Germann, Tyrone Grandberry, Angell Green, Jennifer Lanouette, Janet MacLaughlin, Erin Pounders, Esperanza Powers, Cyndi (Cyn) Rowan, Geri Schweider, Carol Stalun, Jack Stevens, Sandra Terronez, Johana Vargas, Brittany Woodard, and James Yap. They come with rich and varied backgrounds and a great deal of enthusiasm for helping people to become wise and successful managers of their money. If you see them out in the community please say hello and welcome them to their roles as our newest Extension volunteers. The next training for financial volunteers will be October 19 and 26, so if you are interested in signing up please contact Jennifer at

Wendy Peichel receives Accredited Financial Counselor certification

Wendy Peichel, the Financial Education Program Associate in the Arlington office, recently completed all of the requirements to become an Accredited Financial Counselor. This professional designation is given by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education and requires a rigorous program of study, along with 1,000 professional service hours and recommendations from peers. The AFC credential adds to the credibility of the hard work that Wendy performs for Extension’s financial education programs. Wendy joins Jennifer Abel in holding this designation. Jennifer became an Accredited Financial Counselor in 2006. Congratulations to Wendy for this great achievement!

Master Food Volunteers Present Salad and Spice Workshops

Fairfax County administrative professionals picked up new spices and hearty salad ingredients as they shopped for groceries this weekend, inspired by Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Food Volunteers.

Extension Agent Katie Strong answers questions after audience samples a Smoky Black Bean and Corn Salad prepared during Fairfax County Administrative Resource Team Conference workshop.

Extension Agent Katie Strong answers questions after audience samples a Smoky Black Bean and Corn Salad prepared during Fairfax County Administrative Resource Team Conference workshop.

Held during the last week of April in conjunction with National Administrative Professionals Day, the annual Administrative Resource Team (ART) Conference brings personnel from throughout Fairfax County together for a day of workshops. This year’s conference, held on April 26 at the Government Center, featured two workshops by VCE.

“Healthy Cooking for Busy Families: Hearty and Versatile Salads,” featured a cooking demonstration. VCE Extension Agent Katie Strong prepared Smoky Black Bean and Corn Salad while Master Food Volunteers Sue Lagon, Mike Perel, Julia Schneider and Sue Gonzalez dished up and served samples to nearly 80 participants. Strong recommended that families prepare healthful, filling salads on Sunday evening for lunches and snacks throughout the week.

The highlight of the “Herbs and Spices Master Class” was a spice tasting contest. Using unsalted pretzels dipped in olive oil, more than 70 attendees sampled and tried to guess the names of six spices. Strong then delivered a fast-paced tour of the world of herbs and spices. The goal of the program was to encourage participants to try alternatives to sodium, which is far too prevalent in the typical American diet.

Fairfax administrators participate in spice tasting contest during workshop aimed at reducing sodium intake by increasing awareness of healthier seasoning alternatives.

Fairfax administrators participate in spice tasting contest during workshop aimed at reducing sodium intake by increasing awareness of healthier seasoning alternatives.

Master Food Volunteers Sue Lagon and Mike Perel discuss the outcome of the spice tasting contest. To their surprise, none of the participants were able to identify all six of the spices – basil, cumin, dill, oregano, sage and thyme.

Master Food Volunteers Sue Lagon and Mike Perel discuss the outcome of the spice tasting contest. To their surprise, none of the participants were able to identify all six of the spices – basil, cumin, dill, oregano, sage and thyme.

In addition to getting a well-deserved break from their workday routines, conference participants picked up a wealth of healthy cooking ideas to share with their families and friends this weekend.

Sue Gonzalez, Master Food Volunteer