The community garden initiative through University of Illinois Extension Knox County continues to benefit local families at the Cooke Community Garden and the Iowa Court Neighborhood Network Community Garden. Between the two gardens a total of fifteen families are actively engaged in learning how to grow their own food, how to harvest, how to use the produce, and how to grow local food sustainably without the reliance on chemicals through using good cultural practices. Many of the families involved with the gardens are brand new to gardening this year and never realized how easy it was to plant carrots and now are patiently waiting for harvest time. Both gardens are using group plots of tomatoes and sweet corn to provide education into the concepts of crop rotation to help reduce future disease and insect problems in the garden. From bare soil to harvestable produce, the gardens are a success in providing valuable life skills for local families. Crops planted and either harvested or soon to be harvested include: tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers (bell, jalapeno, and banana), collard greens, carrots, mustard greens, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, and green beans. Through a combination of education provide extension staff including horticulture, agriculture and natural resources, and the food and nutrition program, families are learning how to grow their own food and how to eat healthier. Families are already asking to be able to garden with the University of Illinois Extension Knox County and the staff for the 2011 garden season.
Youth who had family members deployed to Egypt from Charlie Battery, Galesburg National Guard, attended a session during a departure briefing. Youth learned about Egypt and had many hands-on activities to participate in. Hero packs were distributed to those participating. Knox County 4-H community club members wrote letters to the youth thanking them for their service to our country.
The Family Nutrition Program in Knox County spent the summer cooking with youth that attended Knox County Housing Authorities Summer Youth Camps. Younger children at McKnight and Iowa Court, and Berrien housing sites learned about choosing healthy snacks. By using simple food items often found in the cupboards, they were given the opportunity to make healthful and great tasting snacks. More than 50 children from the public housing sites learned to make Graham Cracker Smackers, Fresh Salsa, Trail Mix, and Fresh Whole Wheat Bread.
Knox County Housing Authority also offered a camp for young teens. FNP was able to challenge fifteen teens to make better food choices everywhere they go. Snacks are important for teens too, but good meal choices mean they look better, feel better and think better. Choosing Fresh Salsa with their chips instead of high fat dips, Fresh Fruit in place of sugary candy, and preparing quick easy meals like Chicken Quesadillas, were some of the topics the teens learned more about.
Pesticides are just one of the hazards for kids on farms. The various types of pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.) found on a farm are formulated to control target pests; however, their toxic nature can make them harmful to people and animals if mishandled. Extension staff led a lesson on pesticide safety for youth at this year's Farm Safety Day Camp. Youth participated in an "experiment" simulating the potential for pesticide exposure. Later they learned how to recognize pesticide containers by the presence of the universal skull and crossbones emblem. In addition, they were taught what to do if they did indeed become exposed to pesticides accidentally.
In May, over 600 eighth graders participated in the 2010 Welcome to the Real World at Monmouth College. The event is sponsored by U of I Extension in Henderson, Warren and Knox counties and the Delabar Career and Technical Education System. During the simulation with over 100 volunteers participating, youth become 25 years of age, single with no dependents and had to decide upon on a career of their choice. The simulation has expenses for each month such as housing, transportation, clothing, food, entertainment, insurance, etc. Over 450 evaluations were returned with some of the following results on a scale of 1 to 4 with "4" being strongly agree:
3.68 I learned how to write a check correctly.
3.58 I picked a career that matched my interests.
3.55 I learned how to balance a check register.
3.55 Education can help my finances.
3.53 I learned about debit cards.
3.47 I knew information about my career choice.
3.45 Participating in this program will help me in the future.
The one most important thing I will need more information on in the future is budgeting and saving for my future.
Participants at Stone-Hayes Center for Independent Living began ABC's of Cooking series in July. The eight week series is being taught by Family Nutrition Staff. The ABC's of Cooking booklet offers many recipes that use healthy, low cost ingredients. It also offers kitchen safety tips, food safety, and food budgeting ideas. The participants chose one recipe that they prepare and taste each week. Members of the class have varying degrees of cooking experience which leads to good discussions about cooking ideas. The main goal of the series is to provide individuals with helpful cooking and shopping ideas and encouraging healthy eating habits on a small food budget.
An equipment grant was received from the Illinois 4-H Foundation to conduct a video special interest group. Eleven youth and an adult volunteer were recruited to produce a video that is three to five minutes in length. The topic selected was "bullying". The group interviewed adults in the community as well as a renowned researcher on the University of Illinois campus on the topic. The equipment received was a laptop computer, two digital cameras, a tripod and an iFlip camcorder. The video was completed by the August 1 deadline with the evaluations being tabulated with other video grant recipients across the state.
On May 25, 2010, the Entrepreneurial Support Network of West Central Illinois (ESN) hosted its first Annual Small Business Day Celebration. Over 115 local business leaders and community officials attended the luncheon ceremony at the Kensington Ballroom, where ESN "Eagle Awards" were presented in seven categories.
Seven West Central Illinois Businesses were honored at the 1020 Small Business Day Awards Luncheon sponsored by the ESN of West Central Illinois.
The ESN is a collaboration of Small Business Assistance Providers, Governmental and Economic Development Organizations working together "To build an entrepreneurial culture and support system that educates, engages, and transforms individuals, organizations and communities to higher levels of innovation." ESN Members are City of Galesburg, Galesburg Business & Technology Center, Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association, Henderson County Economic Development Partnership, University of Illinois Extension – Knox County, University of Illinois Extension – Mercer County, University of Illinois Extension/ WIEDP – Warren County, Western Illinois University Small Business Develop Center, and Workforce Investment Board of Western Illinois.
Forty-eight youth at the YMCA Summer Camp learned about nutrition in many different areas. In June, it was a new adventure in nutrition once a week learning the food guide pyramid and making a healthy snack. July focused on healthy snacks that could be prepared easily at home. The campers enjoyed making the snacks in particular the fruit parfaits and trail mix was a big hit. Another very healthy snack was fresh salsa. Some of the campers were surprised when they tasted the salsa. It was a very popular snack and a great way to demonstrate how tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro taste good individually but even better together.