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Food Industry Office Hours to Answer COVID-19 Questions from the Cornell Food Safety Extension Team

Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
In the light of the recent coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic Cornell’s Institute for Food Safety has created a comprehensive website for commercial processors: Food Industry Resources for Coronavirus (COVID-19). As part of the Resources a Frequently Asked Questions for the Industry section was created that initiated a large influx of questions from the industry. In effort to address these questions Cornell’s Institute for Food Safety together with partners from the NYS Agriculture and Markets Food Safety and Dairy Division are hosting a series of Food Industry Virtual Office Hours to Answer COVID-19 Questions. Food Industry Office Hours will be hosted starting this Monday, March 23, 2020 at 4:00pm (EST). The Monday session will be open to the public while on the following two sessions will require prior registration. Registration will allow participants to submitting their questions in advance to make sure they get addressed during the sessions. See below information on individual Office Hours and how to register.
Monday, March 23, 2020 – 4:00pm (EST)
Faculty Participants:
Dr. Sam Alcaine, Assistant Professor
Dr. Olga Padilla-Zakour, Professor
Dr. Martin Wiedmann, Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety
Officials from NYS Agriculture and Markets Food Safety and Dairy Division
Or dial by your location:
1-877-369-0926 US Toll-free
1-855-880-1246 US Toll-free
Meeting ID: 736 487 627
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 – 12:00pm (EST)
Faculty Participants:
Dr. Sam Alcaine, Assistant Professor
Dr. Olga Padilla-Zakour, Professor
Dr. Martin Wiedmann, Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety
Officials from NYS Agriculture and Markets Food Safety and Dairy Division
Friday, March 27, 2020 – 8:00am (EST)
Faculty Participants:
Dr. Sam Alcaine, Assistant Professor
Dr. Olga Padilla-Zakour, Professor
Dr. Martin Wiedmann, Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety
Officials from NYS Agriculture and Markets Food Safety and Dairy Division

Resources for supporting children’s emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic

The latest from child trends

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently reports that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is low for young Americansresearch on natural disasters makes it clear that, compared to adults, children are more vulnerable to the emotional impact of traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives. This resource offers information on supporting and protecting children’s emotional well-being as this public health crisis unfolds.

Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, everyday life has changed and will continue to change for most people in the United States, often with little notice. Children may struggle with significant adjustments to their routines (e.g., schools and child care closuressocial distancing, home confinement), which may interfere with their sense of structure, predictability, and security. Young people—even infants and toddlers—are keen observers of people and environments, and they notice and react to stress in their parents and other caregivers, peers, and community members. They may ask direct questions about what is happening now or what will happen in the future and may behave differently in reaction to strong feelings (e.g., fear, worry, sadness, anger) about the pandemic and related conditions. Children also may worry about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones, how they will get their basic needs met (e.g., food, shelter, clothing), and uncertainties for the future.

While most children eventually return to their typical functioning when they receive consistent support from sensitive and responsive caregivers, others are at risk of developing significant mental health problems, including trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression. Children with prior trauma or pre-existing mental, physical, or developmental problems—and those whose parents struggle with mental health disorderssubstance misuse, or economic instability—are at especially high risk for emotional disturbances.

In addition to keeping children physically safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important to care for their emotional health. Below, we summarize recommendations for promoting the emotional well-being of children in the face of these types of adversities and provide a list of helpful resources. Because broader environments play an important role in supporting an individual’s resilience to childhood adversity, this list supplements resources specifically for children and their families with those intended for educators, communities, and states, territories, and tribes.

Recommendations to support and protect children’s emotional well-being during the pandemic:

Understand that reactions to the pandemic may vary.

Children’s responses to stressful events are unique and varied. Some children may be irritable or clingy, and some may regress, demand extra attention, or have difficulty with self-care, sleeping, and eating. New and challenging behaviors are natural responses, and adults can help by showing empathy and patience and by calmly setting limits when needed.

Ensure the presence of a sensitive and responsive caregiver.

The primary factor in recovery from a traumatic event is the presence of a supportive, caring adult in a child’s life. Even when a parent is not available, children can benefit greatly from care provided by other adults (e.g., foster parents, relatives, friends) who can offer them consistent, sensitive care that helps protect them from a pandemic’s harmful effects.

Social distancing should not mean social isolation.

Children—especially young children—need quality time with their caregivers and other important people in their lives. Social connectedness improves children’s chances of showing resilience to adversity. Creative approaches to staying connected are important (e.g., writing letters, online video chats).

Provide age-appropriate information.

Children tend to rely on their imaginations when they lack adequate information. Adults’ decisions to withhold information are usually more stressful for children than telling the truth in age-appropriate ways. Adults should instead make themselves available for children to ask questions and talk about their concerns. They might, for example, provide opportunities for kids to access books, websites, and other activities on COVID-19 that present information in child-friendly ways. In addition, adults should limit children’s exposure to media coverage, social media, and adult conversations about the pandemic, as these channels may be less age-appropriate. Ongoing access to news and social media about the pandemic and constant conversation about threats to public safety can cause unnecessary stress for children.

Create a safe physical and emotional environment by practicing the 3 R’s: Reassurance, Routines, and Regulation.

First, adults should reassure children about their safety and the safety of loved ones, and tell them that it is adults’ job to ensure their safety. Second, adults should maintain routines to provide children with a sense of safety and predictability (e.g., regular bedtimes and meals, daily schedules for learning and play). And third, adults should support children’s development of regulation. When children are stressed, their bodies respond by activating their stress response systems. To help them manage these reactions, it is important to both validate their feelings (e.g., “I know that this might feel scary or overwhelming”) and encourage them to engage in activities that help them self-regulate (e.g., exercise, deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation activities, regular routines for sleeping and eating). In addition, it is essential to both children’s emotional and physical well-being to ensure that families can meet their basic needs (e.g., food, shelter, clothing).

Keep children busy.

When children are bored, their levels of worry and disruptive behaviors may increase. Adults can provide options for safe activities (e.g., outside play, blocks, modeling clay, art, music, games) and involve children in brainstorming other creative ideas. Children need ample time to engage in play and other joyful or learning experiences without worrying or talking about the pandemic.

Increase children’s self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is the sense of having agency or control—an especially important trait during times of fear and uncertainty. Children often feel more in control when they can play an active role in helping themselves, their families, and their communities. For example, children can help by following safety guidelines (e.g., washing their hands), preparing for home confinement (e.g., helping to cook and freeze food), or volunteering in the community (e.g., writing letters or creating art for older adults or sick friends, sharing extra supplies with a neighbor).

Create opportunities for caregivers (which may mean yourself!) to take care of themselves.

Children’s well-being depends on the well-being of their parents and other caregivers. Caregivers must take care of themselves so they have the internal resources to care for others. To this end, adult caregivers can engage in self-care by staying connected to social supports, getting enough rest, and taking time for restorative activities (e.g., exercise, meditation, reading, outdoor activities, prayer). Seeking help from a mental health provider is also important when adults struggle with very high levels of stress and other mental health challenges.

Seek professional help if children show signs of trauma that do not resolve relatively quickly.

Emotional and behavioral changes in children are to be expected during a pandemic, as everyone adjusts to a new sense of normal. If children show an ongoing pattern of emotional or behavioral concerns (e.g., nightmares, excessive focus on anxieties, increased aggression, regressive behaviors, or self-harm) that do not resolve with supports, professional help may be needed. Many mental health providers have the capacity to provide services via “telehealth” (i.e., therapy provided by telephone or an online platform) when in-person social contact must be restricted.

Emphasize strengths, hope, and positivity.

Children need to feel safe, secure, and positive about their present and future. Adults can help by focusing children’s attention on stories about how people come together, find creative solutions to difficult problems, and overcome adversity during the epidemic. Talking about these stories can be healing and reassuring to children and adults alike.

Resources

From Child Trends
Improving the lives and prospects of children and youth through high-quality research

AGM/DOH Interim Guidance for food manufacturing plants & retail stores

To help prevent spread of COVID-19, procedures and supplies should be in place to encourage proper hand and respiratory hygiene as well as routine cleaning and disinfection of high-risk locations. This guidance is provided for any food manufacturing facilities, food distribution centers or food retail stores so that owners, operators and other individuals can incorporate these procedures into their facility protocols.

Handout

Building Farm Resilience in this Crisis

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Offering ideas on how we can take care of ourselves, our farms, and our local communities.

Never before has our work as farmers and stewards been so important.

In times like these — when uncertainty upsets the daily rhythms of our communities — we agriculturists have the opportunity to tap into timeless rhythms of a new season and deliver on a call to action.

Whether you farm, homestead or garden, you can grow more food.

We have a history of rallying to grow more food during times of national crisis. During WWII, the U.S. channeled citizens’ energy into practical action by encouraging Victory Gardens. By doubling efforts at home and on the farm, we strengthened our communities and provided hope in a time of stress.

Now, we need Resilience Gardens.

Your farming and even gardening efforts are, by nature, optimistic! Through hard work, you turn sunshine into real food for your community. Ramping up your production efforts is a practical step you can take to feed more of the people around you.

What else can we in agriculture do now to further support our communities over the next year?

Here are some are a few ideas about how you can take care of yourself, the farm, and your local community. Please add more to our list of ideas for how we can work better together using the form below. We will collect and share all of our ideas about how we can come together to get through this time of crisis.


  • Take care of your farm’s most important asset: you. Wash your hands more frequently and make sure you are getting adequate sleep. We need our strength these days.
  • Don’t think social distancing means social isolation. We are being asked to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, but we have many ways to keep and grow our connections with each other. Call someone. Stay connected to those around you. Ask for help. Offer help. We are in this together.
  • Reach out to farmers and community members around you that you know are having challenges. Now is the time to strengthen the fabric of our own communities by increasing our social connections. Pick up the phone and call them. It is that simple.
  • Release stress. In times of stress, it helps to take a pause and slow down. Do what works for you, such as:
    • Laugh, pray, dance, meditate, chat with friends.
    • Practice tactical breathing. Inhale, count to five, and then exhale slowly to help clear your head and steady your hands.
  • Intensify or expand your production plans, where you can. In the face of possible shifts in our global food system, eating locally will be an important strategy to respond to potential disruptions.
  • Bring extra farm product to food banks, or work with gleaning organizations. We have always had people in need in our communities, but this pandemic could make things worse for those most vulnerable. As a producer, you have the ability to help ease some of that suffering.
  • Revisit your farm’s food safety plan, especially the health and personal hygiene plan. Keep yourself and your employees in good health.
  • Make a plan for running your farm if you, your family or employees get sick. Consider the scenarios of 10, 50 or 75% of farm labor out sick for 2 weeks and try to be realistic. Involve the whole farm team in this conversation. Reach out to neighbors or other farm friends who might be able to help. Here are some questions to consider:
    • What farm operations must go on? What would be cascades or ripple effects if that activity stopped? Who would be responsible, and what happens if they are not available?
    • What operations or activities could be put on hold?
    • How can we cross-train our team now to better cover our bases and be more resilient?
    • Who is willing to pitch in and help if you are out of commission for two weeks? Anyone off the farm you could call upon?
    • Could you step up to help a neighbor?
  • Prepare for market changes. We are already seeing impacts of this pandemic on wholesale and direct markets and getting calls from farmers who are concerned. Customers may shy away where there are crowds. What creative solutions could help address these concerns and keep customers connected to our locally-grown food?

As farmers and gardeners, we have tremendous biological wealth. While we may not always have cash, we have access to soil, plants and animals that are the foundation of life. We can share that wealth and help lead our communities through this time of struggle.

Please share with us your ideas about how we as a farming community can prepare and respond to become more resilient in the face of crisis. We will be keeping in touch with you and sharing ideas and strategies over the next several weeks.

Reach out to us if you need help. We may not have all the answers, but we can listen with compassion and try to connect you with resources. Please also share your stories of hope!

We are in this together.

/Cornell Small Farms Program

All 4-H Events Postponed

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Dear 4-H leaders, volunteers, and members,

Due to the evolving corona virus situation Cornell Cooperative Extension Administration is recommending that in addition to suspending all 4-H sponsored programs, meetings, and events; all 4-H club activities must also be suspended for 30 days. This means that all 4-H club leaders cannot hold club meetings or activities that would bring the club members together until after April 15th.

Our Executive Director Jeanne Darling is working closely with Cornell University and our CCE Delaware County Board of Directors to monitor the corona virus situation and will advise us on how to proceed in regards to resuming club meetings and other 4-H sponsored activities and events after April 15th.

In addition due to guidance from Cornell we will have to postpone the following events:

*District Horse Bowl, Hippology, and Dairy Bowl (was March 14)
*4-H Reusable Bag Sewing Class (was March 14)
*District Public Presentation Help Day (was March 17)
*4-H Quilters (was March 18)
*4-H Dairy Judging (was March 25)
*District Public Presentations (was March 28)
*4-H International Night (was April 3)
*STARR (was April 24-26)

These events will be rescheduled to a later date TBD.

Please feel free to contact us at 607-865-6531 if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
John, Emily, and Pam

Catskills Youth Climate Summit at Frost Valley a Big Success

122 youth and teachers from 14 area schools attended a 2-day leadership training on being environmental stewards at Frost Valley YMCA, Claryville, NY on October 9-10, 2018.  The summit was organized by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County and an advisory group of science teachers and students from South Kortright and Margaretville Central Schools, teachers from Andes School and Manhattan Country School, The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program, with summit funders: the Catskill Watershed Corporation, NYC DEP, Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District and Frost Valley.

Danielle Eiseman, Program Manager of Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, started off the summit with a keynote presentation about youth being the future leaders in a changing climate.  Morning and afternoon workshops included Understanding Solar, Geoengineering the Planet, How Mushrooms Will Save the World, Theater Art Survival Camp, Sustainable Bedroom Furniture, Home Heating, Composting Big & Small, and What’s Your Climate Story?

Youth enjoyed thought provoking and team building activities presented by Kurt Hahn Expeditionary School in Brooklyn and then watched a documentary about the health and environmental effects of bottled water called Tapped.  The evening ended with a bonfire and s’mores by the lake.

Day Two started with a poster session featuring school environmental projects and area organizations and businesses focusing on climate change.  Students from the Adirondacks next presented the Climate Action Plan for each school to plan ways to make a change in their school and community.  School developed action plans focusing on composting, recycling, reducing single use plastic beverage containers, and solar energy.

“I thoroughly enjoyed every activity available to me,” commented one student participant.  “We look forward to planning another successful Catskills Youth Climate Summit in 2019,” added Jeanne Darling, Executive Director at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County.”

Taking action against ticks at 4-H Camp Shankitunk

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County is the proud operator of Camp Shankitunk, the oldest continuously-operating 4-H camp in New York State. Situated on the Delaware River, the 165 acre camp features beautiful woods and open recreational areas. The cool, moist mountain setting is ideal for camping, but is also conducive to tick activity.  Each year, the camp serves over 700 campers ages 6 to 16. The majority fall into the 8-13 year age bracket, which coincides with the population that is most at-risk for tick-borne diseases. In Delaware county, reported cases of Lyme disease doubled between 2014 and 2016.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. The New York State IPM program uses current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is
used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

With funding from NYS IPM, horticulture and natural resources educator Carla Crim, camp director Corrine Tompkins, and 4-H team leader John Hannum implemented innovative tick control strategies at our camp. We also developed fun and effective educational resources for three target groups: campers, camp staff, and parents.

 

Control Strategies

Habitat Elimination: The staff at Camp Shankitunk take pride in maintaining a clean, open campground. Well before the season, grounds- keeping begins. The perimeters of the cabins and common buildings are kept free of weeds and brush. Leaves are raked away from wooded gathering areas and trails.

 

Life-Cycle Disruption: The majority of ticks require three different hosts to complete their development. Ticks go through four stages of life – egg, larvae, nymph, and adult. A female lays several thousand eggs at a time, which hatch into the larval stage in the summer. Mice, which live in the woods and can carry disease, are a common host for larval ticks. We are utilized “tick tubes” as a mechanism to kill ticks at the larval stage. The bio-degradable paper tubes contain permethrin-treated cotton which mice readily steal for their bedding. Permethrin, which is considered quite safe for humans, kills ticks on contact, disrupting the life cycle.

 

Hundreds of tubes were deployed around the grounds by a licensed pesticide applicator from Pestech Pest Solutions in the late spring and the late summer.  We used commercially-available Tick Tubes from Damminix.  The applicator, Brandon Scutt, is actually an alumnus of 4-H Camp Shankitunk and quite familiar with the grounds.

Education:

In the IPM Pyramid, prevention is the first line of defense in the control of pests.  In addition to the control strategies employed to reduce tick populations, we relied on an educational approach to prevent exposure to disease. With resources and support from NYS IPM and Delaware County Public Health, we engaged camp staff and parents to maximize the delivery of tick education to campers.

Parent/Caregiver Education:  We developed an informational brochure that was mailed to camp families prior to the season.  The infographic-style brochure will contained facts and information to encourage packing and pre-treatment of appropriate clothing, as well as recommendations for selection and use of insect repellents.  Most importantly, it contained instructions for doing a tick check.  Because tick checks are a private matter, we felt that parents were best suited to discuss the details of this process with their children. We also asked that they encourage their campers to shower to 1) wash away unattached ticks and 2) have opportunities to check for ticks.  Note: At the end of this post, we have included links to download a zip file that contains editable versions of these materials for use at other camps.

We also included a letter from the camp director.  This letter served to not only inform the parents about the project and encourage them to play a role in camper education, but also reinforced our commitment to camp safety. Click here for a full-sized pdf version of the letter.

Just before we sent our mailings, NYSIPM published a series of infographics as part of the “Don’t Get Ticked NY” campaign.  We felt that the infographics about permethrin clothing treatment and insect repellent usage were particularly relevant and included them in the packet.  To view/download these infographics and many others related to tick awareness and prevention, visit the NYSIPM website.

 

Staff Training:  Educators from Delaware County Public Health services gave an in-depth training to staff during orientation week. Activity directors, counselors, nurses, and kitchen staff were in attendance. Topics covered were tick-borne diseases, tick removal, and repellent usage. Staff were instructed to send all potential tick encounters (attached or not) directly to the nurse on duty. Subsequently, protocols for proper removal and reporting were reviewed with the nursing staff.

 

Camper Education: Each week at camper orientation, Carla and Corrine gave a brief presentation about ticks.  Afterward, a group of counselors put on a skit to demonstrate “tick-safe” and “tick-risky” behavior.  Squeaky stuffed tick dog toys were used as props and the cast incited uproarious laughter while getting the message across.  Throughout the week, counselors reminded their campers to use repellents, shower, and do tick checks.  Signage and handheld mirrors were placed in restrooms and shower stalls to prompt campers to conduct frequent tick checks.

 

Outcomes:

The combination of good groundskeeping practices and chemical intervention likely reduced the population of ticks at camp, however this is difficult to quantify given the already low tick population as determined by pre-season monitoring.  In 2017, ticks were removed from six counselors.  This year, ZERO counselors reported tick bites, indicating that preventative measures were successful.  Conversely, four campers found ticks on their bodies (three attached, one unattached) as opposed to zero in 2017. We suspect that campers did indeed encounter ticks in 2017, but were not as likely to be checking for them on their bodies.  This year, the three tick attachments were noticed at very early stages of attachment (no engorgement) and safely removed by camp nurses, greatly reducing the chance of disease transmission.

The majority of parents surveyed indicated that they took at least one proactive measure in terms of packing and preparing their children for camp.  Over 60% discussed tick checks with their campers, and more than 50% talked to them about each of the following: wearing protective clothing, proper use of insect repellent, and what to do if a tick bite is suspected.  Over one-fourth of the parents surveyed said that the educational materials strongly influenced them to pre-treat clothing with permethrin.  Almost all of the all of the parents surveyed encouraged their campers to shower during the week, which increases the likelihood of thorough tick checks.

Over the period of 5 weeks, 700+ campers and 45 staff were educated at orientations, and continuously received “tick check” prompts in the restrooms and shower stalls.  They will likely carry this knowledge beyond camping season and will be more apt to take protective measures in other outdoor settings.  We also created a display for the county fair, where we talked to community members and visitors about ticks and distributed tick ID cards.

Downloadable Materials:

We developed our materials with the hope that other camps will put them to use in delivering tick education.  We had the brochures and IPM infographics printed (and folded) through printdirtcheap.com.  Depending the size of your order, the cost may be equal to or less than printing in-house, and the results are very professional.  The brochure is available in two formats: generic (ready to print) and customizable (can be personalized with organization names and logos).  The tick check poster (generic or customizable) is designed to be printed on 11 x 17″ paper, and we recommend lamination. The letter from the camp director is provided in Word and Rich Text formats so that you can add your return address and a picture of the camp director.

Prepare to be Tick-Free Brochure:

Letter from the Camp Director:

Tick Check Poster:

 

Festive Holiday Kissing Balls

Kissing balls add warmth and beauty indoors and out.  On December 2nd, CCE Delaware county hosted not one but two workshops on kissing ball creation.  Using freshly sourced local greenery, over 40 participants made gorgeous kissing balls for their homes and loved ones.  Our primary material was Norway spruce, which is abundant around here.  Once a framework was established, bits of blue spruce, pine needle clusters, and Rhododendron leaves were added.  Pine cones were added for the finishing touch.

Couldn’t make it to the workshop, but want to make a kissing ball? You can download full instructions by clicking here!

 

Packed House!

 

Executive Director Jeanne Darling demonstrates the insertion of greens into foam.

 

Works of art in progress!

 

Ta-da!  Our youngest participant shows off her gorgeous creation.