Master Food Volunteers and Extension Agents Participate in Continuing Education Event at US Foods

On April 18, 2018, Virginia Cooperative Extension sponsored a continuing education event with US Foods in Salem, VA, for our Master Food Volunteers and Extension Agents.  Just like the continuing education event held at Virginia State University on April 10, this event was also designed to help us enhance our food demonstration skills to entice our program participants to try new new foods and news ways of eating.

Our featured chef was Chef Jeff Bland with US Foods.  He has more than 34 years experience as a chef working in various restaurants and foodservice establishments, including Walt Disney and Le Petite France! He is also a Food Fanatics Chef and culinary master and is regularly featured in a variety of cooking shows and events around the country.  We were very fortunate to have him with us for this event.  Click HERE to learn more about the Food Fanatics Chefs at US Foods.

Chef Bland emphasized the importance of keeping our food demonstrations simple so that we can focus more on engaging our audiences.  How can we keep our audiences more engaged?  Ask questions, invite participation from the audience, and when possible, share stories about the foods we are preparing. He also discussed his best practices for being prepared before and during the demonstration and how to recover from mishaps.

Chef Jeff demonstrates how to involve audience participants in a food demonstration.

Chef Bland first demonstrated how to prepare some tasty recipes.  Our menu included baked chicken with a honey and lemon sauce, mixed vegetables with balsamic vinegar, and mixed grains.  Once he demonstrated how to prepare the food, we worked in groups to practice our demonstration skills and prepared our own versions of these recipes.  We were also encouraged to try any different ingredients we could find in the classroom kitchen to really make it our own recipe.

Chef Bland shares his best practices for food demonstrations.

Here are some great pictures of our prepared foods:

Chicken with honey and lemon sauce with fresh parsley.

Mixed vegetables with balsamic vinegar.

Another great example of mixed vegetables.

Mixed grains.

Here are some great pictures of our group demonstrations:

At the end of the event, we recognized the great work our volunteers and agents are doing in our local communities. It was also an opportunity to share new ideas for programs.

It was a another great day, and we wish to thank our Master Food Volunteers and Extension Agents who participated in this training:

We also wish to acknowledge Virginia Cooperative Extension for providing this training opportunity for us; to US Foods for their staff, facility, and resources ; and to Mr. Zeke Barlow and Mr. Tim Skiles with the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications and Marketing for coordinating and taking all of these great photos.

Many thanks to Dr. Carlin Rafie, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise for co-facilitating this workshop with me.  Also many, many thanks to Chef Jeff for sharing his time and expertise with us. We appreciate his valuable tips and techniques that we can use in our educational programs!

From left to right: Dr. Melissa Chase, Chef Jeff Bland, and Dr. Carlin Rafie

Submitted by Dr. Melissa Chase, State Coordinator, Master Food Volunteer Program





Master Food Volunteers and Agents Enhance Food Demonstration Skills at Virginia State University

On April 10, 2018, Virginia Cooperative Extension sponsored a continuing education event for our Master Food Volunteers and Extension Agents at Virginia State University.  This event was designed to help us enhance our food demonstration skills as Extension professionals to spark interest in new foods and ways of eating with our program participants. This event was one of two continuation events held in April, and this blog will be the first of two blogs about them.

For this first event held at Virginia State University, Chef Christal Jett, from Johnson & Wales, was our featured chef.  She shared her best practices for making our food demonstrations more engaging. Chef Jett has more than 25 years experience as a chef, and she has previously owned and operated her own businesses.  We were delighted to have her with us!

Chef Jett started the event with a demonstration of how to make an easy and tasty recipe, Hoisin Ginger Rice Noodles.  She emphasized that demonstration recipes need to be simple, and they need to have maximum flavor and minimal ingredients.  Chef Jett also shared some tips for planning a demonstration, overcoming mishaps, and what do to if we are missing a specific ingredient.

Chef Jett demonstrates how to fix the recipe we will prepare later.

Our Agents and Master Food Volunteers watch Chef Jett’s demonstration.

After Chef Jett finished her demonstration, Ms. Katie Strong, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, showed us how easy it is to use available technology, such as cell phones or iPads with a tripod, a computer, a display monitor on the wall, and a projector, to help us easily view the techniques being demonstrated.

Katie Strong demonstrates the use of easily available technology to enhance visualization of the techniques being taught.

We practiced our demonstration skills in smaller groups while making the Hoison Ginger Vegetable Rice Noodle.  And yes, we got to eat it!

This is a sample of the Hoisin Vegetable Rice Noodles.

We practice Mise en place with the equipment and utensils we used for each group to practice their food demonstration skills.

We observed some great demonstrations in our groups!

Here is another sample of the Hoisin Ginger Vegetable Rice Noodle recipe.

The recipe tasted great, too!

At the end of the day, we recognized the great work our volunteers and agents are doing in our communities. This was also a great opportunity to share ideas for new programs.

Our Agents and Master Food Volunteers share program ideas.

It was a great day, and we wish to thank our Master Food Volunteers and Extension Agents who participated in this training.

We also wish to acknowledge Virginia Cooperative Extension for providing this opportunity for us; to Virginia State University (VSU) for their staff support, training location, and resources for this program; and to Ms. Michelle Olgers and Mr. Paul Meyer with the VSU Department of Marketing and Communications for coordinating and taking all of these great photos.

Many thanks to Dr. Carlin Rafie, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, and Ms. Katie Strong, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, for co-facilitating this workshop with me.

Also many thanks to Chef Jett for sharing her time and expertise with us. We all came away with valuable tips and techniques that we can use in our educational programs!

From left to right: Dr. Carlin Rafie, Chef Christal Jett, Ms. Katie Strong, and Dr. Melissa Chase.

Submitted by Dr. Melissa Chase, State Coordinator, Master Food Volunteer Program





Russell County Extension Collaborates with Russell Co. Health Coalition and Additional Organizations to Coordinate Fundraising Event in Lebanon, VA

This is a story about teamwork at its best!

Donna Meade, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent for Russell and Tazewell Counties, is the current Chairperson of the Russell County Health Coalition.  In 2017, the Coalition sponsored a fundraising dinner to help support their program efforts.

Donna worked with members of the coalition to coordinate the five-course meal for 150 people with locally sourced meats and produce.  In addition, the Town of Lebanon, Mountain States Health Alliance Russell County Medical Center, Black Diamond Resource Conservation Development, Sue Blevins, the Russell County High School Culinary Arts Program, and the Master Food Volunteers are some of the many organizations and volunteers who provided support for this event.

The dinner was held on Main Street in downtown Lebanon.

The tables are set up right through the downtown area.

An example of a place setting for each participant.

Participants are enjoying their five-course meal.

The beef, lamb, and pork were provided by Gent Farms in Southwest Virginia.

Chef Charlie Howard of The Moose Lodge helped to prepare the five-course meal. Jeannie Hubbard assists here with serving the meals.

The entertainment was provided by Adam Bolt & the Wild Roses and the Southwest Virginia Jazz Ensemble.


The Town of Lebanon was recognized for their contribution to this event.

Donna Meade speaks with Tony Dodi, Town Mayor.

Russell County High Schools’ culinary students helped serve food.

Kudos to everyone involved with this wonderful event!

No doubt, there will be more great things to come with this partnership with Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Russell County Health Coalition, the town of Lebanon, and the many organizations, local producers, and volunteers who made this event such a success.

Pictures provided by Heather Powers.



Healthy Recipes for Healthy Meals in Fairfax

Eating well is an important part of overall good health.

Katie Strong, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for Fairfax, and Sue Gonzalez, Master Food Volunteer, recently demonstrated delicious summer salad recipes for Britepaths families and staff to encourage healthy eating habits.

Afterwards, Sue accompanied the workshop participants to a local farmers market so that they could purchase fruits and vegetables to make more healthy recipes at home.

Be sure to click here to read more about this exciting event!


Tips for Master Food Volunteers–The Language of Behaviour: Deciphering a Child’s Emotions


There are many rewarding aspects to being a Master Food Volunteer, including the opportunity to work with children and teens. As with any job, there are challenges. One of these is knowing how to respond to kids’ behavior when we feel it is getting “out of control”.

Stacy Sevy, a Master Food Volunteer from Fairfax, recently attended a program by Robert Kaplow, Director of Arlington Public School’s Extended Day Program, in Arlington, Virginia.  Mr. Kaplow provided an enlightening and powerful seminar entitled, “When Kids Act Like Kids” to convey a full spectrum of behavioral issues that may arise when dealing with this age group and, more importantly, the solutions to them.

As a seasoned professional who has worked with youth for many years, and a father of four, Mr. Kaplow shared what he has found to be the key to learning the language of children: simply taking a vested interest to understand a child’s heart. This is the source of all emotions that become the conduit for children’s nonverbal communication expressed as behavior.  Like a thermometer, adults can observe a child’s activity to detect whether a situation is beginning to boil such as a child who distracts his friends instead of listening to your directions, or there is a cool sense of peace and harmony when smiling teens dig into their citrus salad.

Labeling behavior as “good” or “bad” doesn’t do justice to what’s happening within a child. Rather, Mr. Kaplow prefers to describe behavior as a construct that constantly changes as a response to the child’s world around him/her, even changing from day to day and hour by hour. If one looks at challenging displays of emotion as a symptom of a root problem that needs to be addressed appropriately rather than an annoyance (usually a recurring one), tackling it becomes easier, for both child and volunteer.

Do you want to learn more about  why “kids act like kids” and how you can appropriately address specific behaviors with them your Master Food Volunteer programs?

Click here: MFV Blog The Language of Behavior Deciphering a Child’s Emotions for more in-depth information and tips for success.

Thanks, Stacy, for sharing this with us!

Stacy Sevy is a Master Food Volunteer with the Fairfax County Extension Office.  


Orange County Master Food Volunteer Shares Love of Cooking with 4-H Youth

Mutahara Mobashar, a librarian from Orange County, instantly became intrigued when her colleague gave a presentation on how she trained to become a Master Food Volunteer at an annual library conference. Since Mutahara enjoys educational programming, outreach and working with food, she immediately found a way to get involved. Mutahara was initially informed that the nearest class was going to be in Fairfax County. She found it a little daunting to commit 30 volunteer hours in a county that was out of reach during that time.

Luckily, after a couple of years, the Extension Office in Orange County informed Mutahara that Clare Lillard was their new family and consumer sciences Extension agent, and a Master Food Volunteer training class was offered in Harrisonburg. She was excited to have someone to work with directly and locally. After she completed her training, she became a Master Food Volunteer. During the past two years, she has assisted with health fairs, canning classes and worked with children at school by providing them information on healthy food choices.

In February, she was asked to give a small class to a group of 4H youth on how to prepare and cook something simple. She immediately decided to teach the kids how to make “samosas.” A samosa is a deep fried, triangle pastry that is filled with a savory or sweet filling. As a Master Food Volunteer, she tries to teach healthy eating habits, however, she also tries to make a point to tell children that it is okay to treat themsleves with moderation.

Mutahara wanted to introduce a snack from a different culture that contained some unique spices. The savory samosas were filled with potatoes, ground chicken, onions, salt, cayenne, cumin and coriander. She demonstrated how to make the samosas by making a triangular shaped cone out of a tortilla and then sealing it with flour paste, filling it and then sealing it again. After they were fried, she allowed the children to taste them with a few sweet and sour sauces. Not only did she demonstrate savory samosas, but sweet samosas as well. They were stuffed with home canned apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. After they were deep fried, they dusted the samosas with icing sugar.

Mutahara’s overall emphasis was to encourage creativity and implicitly in the preparation of snack items. She wanted to teach the kids not to be afraid to try new things. Her dedication and hard work has truly made an impact on the kids who attended the 4-H workshop.

Article submitted by Steph Grasso, VT Dept. of Human Nutrition Foods and Exercise

Fairfax Master Food Volunteer Shares Love of Food

Michael Perel has always had a strong interest in cooking and nutrition.

Katie Strong, Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent, highlighted his dedication and willingness to share his love of food through various Extension Master Food projects and events. As a Master Food Volunteer, he has taken initiative from the start when delivering nutrition programs within his community. He volunteers at farmers markets, senior centers and at a Jewish community center to help others establish a healthy lifestyle through nutrition. Michael has developed educational handouts and creative nutritional games that engage the community to learn while having fun.

He reels in community members by challenging them to answer questions from his trivia wheel and rewards them with small prizes. If the trivia wheel is not out, he hands out tasty, nutritious food samples to the public with the recipe attached for them to try at home. Michael has taken his nutrition, cooking and food expertise to a higher level while developing new avenues for helping in the community.

Submitted by Steph Grasso, VT Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise

National Volunteer Week 2017

I always look forward to National Volunteer Week!

Check it out: Within the last year, our Extension agents and volunteers provided 250 programs through our Master Food Volunteer Program with a variety of educational programs, including nutrition education, food safety, and food preservation.

Through these 250 programs, our Extension agents and volunteers reached 8,068 adults and 5,698 youth statewide, contributing 6,355 volunteer hours.

We have a lot to celebrate through these accomplishments!

Many thanks to our volunteers who continually offer a wealth of talent, innovation, creativity, commitment, and leadership.

And, many, many thanks to our wonderful Extension Agents who train, work with, and support our Master Food Volunteers. We could not do this without you.

Thank you for all you do!

Melissa Chase, State Coordinator



Amber Waves of Grain display

On Friday, April 7, 2017, over 60 educators from around Virginia were trained at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Moneta in the King Arthur “Bake for Good” program. This workshop was a train-the-trainer workshop hosted by Susan Prillaman, family and consumer sciences Extension agent, and the Bedford Master Food Volunteers. Paula Gray of King Arthur flour also traveled from Vermont to conduct this wonderful workshop with us.

Over a thousand rolls were distributed to local charities including the Smith Mountain Lake Agape Center, Bedford Christian Ministries, and The Bedford Shepherd’s Table.

Susan Prillaman and the Master Food Volunteers explain how to incorporate tips into our nutrition programs to encourage youth and families to try new kinds of whole grains.

This was a phenomenal educators’ workshop! Not only did we learn how easy it is to make these great rolls, we also had a chance to make a few extra to sample with some locally produced butter and jam!  Susan and her volunteers made us feel so welcome, and everyone had a great time.

We also discussed ways to incorporate additional activities into our nutrition programs to encourage youth and their families to eat more whole grains.

We worked in groups of two people to make our bread dough.

The impact of this workshop will continue throughout Virginia as these trainers share their bread-making skills with the youth in their areas.

Kudos to Susan , Paula, and our Bedford Master Food Volunteers!

For more information about this event and to view additional pictures, visit Bedford County Extension’s Facebook page:  Click here.