Tag Archives: outreach

Virginia Cooperative Extension awarded nearly $1.1M to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Virginia Cooperative Extension nearly $1.1 million to expand prevention training to help tackle to the commonwealth’s rural opioid addiction problem.

The two-year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded (SAMHSA) Rural Opioids Technical Assistance Through Virginia Cooperative Extension project will build upon two current USDA-funded Cooperative Extension projects to expand training and technical assistance on opioid prevention through the implementation of evidenced-based curricula targeting students in nine additional rural Virginia counties.

Rural communities are disproportionately affected by prescription opioid misuse and abuse. Of 134 counties or independent cities in Virginia, 53 are designated as rural.

Virginia Cooperative Extension, the outreach program for the state’s two land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, is well-positioned to address these technical assistance needs through its network of local offices throughout the state, its focus on bringing evidence-based information to local communities, and strong existing relationships in rural communities. There are at least six rural counties in each of the four Extension districts: Southwest, Central, Northern, and Southeast. Two or three counties per district will participate.

In addition, a project coordinator will be hired and housed in each district. Each will coordinate the project, facilitate community engagement, and implement programs with community partners.

A total of approximately 5,000 seventh-grade students and 1,000 sixth-grade students across nine counties will receive the opioid-prevention training over the two years of the program. In addition, the electronic High-Risk Patient Education Program developed by the Virginia Rural Health Association for the USDA-funded Rural Health and Safety Education project will be disseminated to hospitals and health care facilities in four more rural counties per year.

Extension agents will work closely with staff from community services boards on the implementation of evidence-based prevention programs for middle school students and their families. Additional partnerships will be formed through existing collaboration between the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and a statewide coalition of universities that has developed a menu of options for technical assistance to community service boards related to prevention, treatment, and recovery for opioid misuse and addiction.

Virginia Cooperative Extension has two current USDA-funded projects that address the opioid crisis. In June, Extension received a $1.28 million grant for collaborative opioid work through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to reach four Virginia counties. Awarded by the USDA-NIFA Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk program, the five-year grant supports health education initiatives spearheaded by Extension aimed at preventing opioid abuse among vulnerable communities in Virginia.

That initiative is overseen by co-project directors Crystal Tyler-Mackey, an Extension specialist in community viability, and Virginia State University’s Maurice Smith, a 4-H Extension specialist with the university. This work is a continuation of a $321,638 NIFA Rural Health and Safety Education grant awarded last fall to Virginia Cooperative Extension for work in Henry/Martinsville and Grayson counties. Karen Vines, an Extension specialist and assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, serves as the project director.

The SAMHSA funding will expand Extension’s reach to nine counties in addition to the six already being served by the projects administered by Vines, Tyler-Mackey, and Smith for a total of 15 counties across the three projects.

Kathy Hosig, director for the Virginia Tech Center for Public Health Practice and Research and a specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension, will serve as project director.

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2018 Virginia Farm to Table Conference to be held Dec. 5 and 6

cornucopia

If you’re interested in local and regional food and agriculture, dealing with farming stressors in healthy ways, practical applications of soil health, value-added products, farm profitability, and other food and agricultural system topics, plan to attend the 2018 Virginia Farm to Table Conference on Dec. 5 and 6 at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Development Center, Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is partnering with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Agua Fund, Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and many other community partners to bring in engaging and inspirational speakers with broad experience and knowledge of food, farming, and the environment.

This year, speakers will offer their perspectives on the theme “Nourishing Farming, Community, and Hope” and will include Mike Rosmann, a clinical psychologist/farmer from Iowa, who helps farmers deal with stress and anxiety related to the unpredictability of farming; Rev. Heber Brown III of the Black Church Food Security Network, who will provide lively discussion on nourishing local communities; Penn State specialists who will take High Tunnels to the next level and discuss managing soil and pests; Rachel Armistead of Sweet Farm, who will discuss how fermentation may add value to your agricultural products and demonstrate how it’s done; and Dave Montgomery and Anne Biklé, renowned authors who will share the importance of microbial soil health and its relationship to human health.

PLEASE NOTE: There is a free community event open to the public on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the BRCC Plecker Workforce Center. Enjoy an evening talk and conversation with authors David Montgomery and Anne Biklé on the important role that soil ecology plays in restoring land and health. Books will be available for sale and signing.

“We invite everyone interested in food and agriculture to the Virginia Farm to Table Conference,” said Kathy Holm, USDA-NRCS assistant state conservationist for field operations. “People leave this conference feeling inspired by thought-provoking speakers, stimulating panel discussions, networking opportunities, and wonderful locally sourced food from A Bowl of Good.”

Visit the conference website at conference.virginiafarmtotable.org to review the detailed agenda of conference offerings

Participants can select from concurrent session tracks in which producers and practitioners share their local and regional expertise: agroforestry and livestock management, justice and equity in the farming and food system, growing your niche, voices from the field, value-added food production, and practical applications of soil and water health.

Early bird registration pricing is available until Nov. 30, and rates will increase significantly after this date. More details regarding the conference registration are available at: https://tinyurl.com/VAFT2018. For questions, or if you need assistive devices to attend, call (540) 232-6006 or 6010 at least five days prior to the event.

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Virginia Cooperative Extension employees increase colorectal cancer screening rates by 20 percent

Colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed and third-most fatal cancer in men and in women in the United States and Virginia. New screening methods have allowed for both the early detection of colorectal cancer and its prevention through the removal of intestinal polyps before they become cancerous. Early detection of colorectal cancer is crucial to successful treatment and increases survival rates from 13.1 percent, when discovered at an advanced stage, to 90 percent, if detected at an early, localized stage. In addition to screenings, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a healthy eating pattern, and appropriate weight maintenance is pivotal to decreasing risk of colorectal cancer.

Eighty by 2018 emblem

In February 2016, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) joined the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable’s “80% by 2018 Initiative” to eliminate colorectal cancer as a public health issue. Conducted for VCE employees, a colorectal cancer awareness campaign urged eligible members to get screened for colorectal cancer and encouraged everyone to adopt healthy lifestyle practices that reduce colorectal cancer risk. The campaign’s key message is that “colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable.”

The campaign resulted in healthful changes in diet, exercise, and screening. VCE staff reported increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat every day and substituting white meats for red and processed meats. Half of those asked said they had started exercising, and many increased the time or intensity of their exercise. Most importantly, the actual colorectal cancer screening rate among all VCE employees increased from 52.7 percent in fiscal year 2016 to 73.3% in fiscal year 2017 — a 20.6 percent increase in screening.

The goal within VCE is to reach a colorectal cancer screening rate of 80 percent by 2018, but we are going beyond just educating ourselves. Extension agents are introducing the initiative to the communities they serve. Agents will work with employers in their counties to conduct the “Colon Cancer Free Zone” worksite campaign, which increases employee awareness of colorectal cancer as a preventable disease and helps move them to action. If we work together, we can reach the goal of 80 percent colorectal cancer screening of all eligible Virginians by 2018.

If interested in conducting the “Colon Cancer Free Zone” campaign at your worksite, please contact Carlin Rafie at crafie@vt.edu or 540-231-3162.

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Interns gain experience while serving the community

Each summer, Virginia Cooperative Extension offers more than 40 college students and recent graduates the opportunity to work on a team that changes people’s lives and betters communities.

Aldyn Abell, a 2015 Extension intern, spent her summer at the Extension office in Orange County. Among her numerous responsibilities, she helped plan and deliver ocean-themed lessons at 4-H Cloverbud Day Camp.

Aldyn Abell, a 2015 Extension intern, spent her summer at the Extension office in Orange County. Among her numerous responsibilities, she helped plan and deliver ocean-themed lessons at 4-H Cloverbud Day Camp.

Through the 10-week program, interns work alongside Extension faculty members gaining experience in youth development, agriculture and natural resources, and family and consumer sciences.

Thomas Vasilopoulos, a 2015 intern, spent his summer with the Extension office in Arlington County. Although he was double majoring in integrated science and technology and Spanish, he found himself doing all sorts of tasks within the office, including helping to design programs and teach children at three different schools.

“They didn’t really hesitate to give me a lot of responsibilities,” Vasilopoulos said. “Extension hired me to make a positive impact in this office, and that’s what I wanted to do.”

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Symposium addresses growing crisis of food insecurity in Richmond

In the City of Richmond, Virginia, 40,020 residents are food insecure and lack access to enough food for an active healthy lifestyle — roughly 20 percent of the total city population.

In July 2011, Richmond’s mayor established The Food Policy Task Force to “ensure all residents have access to healthy foods and an understanding of the impact this has on both an individual’s health and the health of the community at large.”

Virginia Cooperative Extension agents served on the task force and found that 20 to 60 percent of Richmond’s population – or between 40,000 to more than 120,000 of total residents – are going hungry or are at risk of food insecurity due to lack of healthy food access or consumption.

In 2014, the Richmond Extension office hosted the Urban Food Desert Symposium at Fifth Street Baptist Church, a church located in one of the 25 food deserts across the City. The First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, gave opening remarks.

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