Monthly Archives: February 2015

Alexandria Students Highlight Savings Stories in Essays

A new pair of Timberland boots. A new computer. An emergency fund. These are some of the things that Alexandria high school students have saved money for and that they wrote about as part of new essay contest that culminated in an awards ceremony on Feb. 26th at Fairlington Community Center.

The contest was organized by Virginia Cooperative Extension as part of America Saves Week, a national social marketing campaign that encourages people to save toward specific goals. Ten Alexandria students submitted essays and first, second, and third place winners received cash prizes of $650, $400, and $200, respectively, thanks to grants from the Consumer Federation of America (the group that created America Saves) and Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union.

“My father always told me that it’s not how much you make that’s important, it’s how much you keep,” James Lander, director of Military Saves and Chair of the Arlington County School Board, told the assembled students and their families at the awards ceremony on Thursday. “You all are well on your way to being successful savers and your peers could learn a lot from your example,” Lander said.

First prize winner Amir Shareak wrote his essay about how he sold portraits that he drew so that he could establish an emergency fund to be prepared for the unexpected. Second and third place winners were Cobie Johnson and Matiza Sacotingo, respectively.

VCE hopes to repeat this contest next year and to include students from more schools. To learn more about America Saves, visit the local site at: and take the savings pledge.

Essay winners and those receiving honorable mentions gather with essay contest judges Diana Yacob, Bill Guey-Lee (both Master Financial Education Volunteers), and Megan Kuhn--VCE Arlington's Financial Education Program Associate.

Essay winners and those receiving honorable mentions gather with essay contest judges Diana Yacob, Bill Guey-Lee (both Master Financial Education Volunteers), and Megan Kuhn–VCE Arlington’s Financial Education Program Associate.

Warm Up with Winter Soups and Stews

Arlington residents are keeping warm and learning to cook healthy soups and stews at Langston-Brown Senior Center. You can, too! Load your homemade soups with winter vegetables–especially bright red and orange–and reheat leftovers for quick meals throughout the week. Sure, canned soups are convenient. But, they can be high in salt and hard on your heart. By making soups yourself, you can lower the salt to a healthy amount without sacrificing flavor.

Here are some tips for boosting flavor without salt.

1. Start with a flavorful vegetable base. Heat a small amount of oil and cook diced onion, carrots, and celery over medium-low heat until soft.

2. Intensify with spices. Add spices to the hot oil and cook until fragrant. Try cumin, curry, garlic, or smoked paprika. Fresh herbs and garlic cloves will have a bolder taste than powdered.

3. Use a low sodium broth. Check the nutrition facts label and choose the broth or stock with the lowest sodium. Or, make the stock yourself without using salt.

4. Finish with a splash of acidic flavor. A few tablespoons of vinegar or citrus juice at the end will brighten the flavor and round out the taste. If using cooking wine as the acid, add this to the vegetable base before the broth and allow it to cook for a few minutes. Try this healthy Root Vegetable Stew recipe tonight for a meal your whole family will love!

Find more VCE senior nutrition and cooking classes in the Arlington 55+ guide.

By Laurie Van Dyk, Virginia Tech Dietetic Intern 2014-2015

Russian Delegation Visits VCE Arlington

At the end of January, VCE Arlington had the pleasure of hosting a delegation from Russia and showing them the valuable work that Extension does in our community. The visit was sponsored by the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Program and funded through a grant that Extension was jointly awarded from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The two day visit was packed with activities.

The visit began with a volunteer showcase where Extension and partner organization volunteers talked about their programs and volunteer experiences. Presentations were given by volunteers and leaders from Master Gardeners, Master Food Volunteers, Master Financial Education Volunteers, Energy Masters, Master Naturalists and 4-H. Hard to believe that all of those organizations are affiliated with VCE Arlington!

After a lunch prepared by our own Master Food Volunteers, our guests visited officials from an important Extension partner, Arlington County, and continued to see Extension in action with a visit to the Save the Earth 4-H Club at Barrett Elementary School.

Saturday’s activities included a visit to see the work done at AFAC where Master Food Volunteers give regular healthy food demonstrations. The agenda continued to be food as they attended a training for the upcoming 4-H Food Challenge. They rounded out the day with a visit to Wakefield High School for the ACE Energy Journey Game.

Our agents and volunteers appreciated the interest and feedback from our Russian visitors and we hope that the visit was a valuable one for them as well.

They are on to further US travels in Ohio and Utah to meet with nonprofits in those states and we wish them safe (and hopefully warmer) travels.

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

MFEV Bill Guey-Lee talking about his experiences

Volunteer Showcase

Volunteer Showcase

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club

visit to the Barrett Elem. 4-H Club