Union County Cooperative Extension receives awards

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Rutgers Department of Family and Community Health Sciences was bestowed with a prestigious Culture of Health award from YMCA Alliance in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation during the Culture of Health conference in December.

Karen Ensle was also among the faculty members recently honored by a “Team Award Best of the Best” recognition by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, a statewide program that has branches in each county. She is also the co-author of “Small Steps to Health and Wealth.” It includes information about healthy diets and how to cook nutritious foods on a budget.

In addition to co-authoring a book, Ensle has written numerous articles on the subject of health such as, “Preparing Meals — Is The Time Worth It?,” “Is it Healthier to Cook at Home?,” and “Dine In to Save Money Today and Tomorrow.” In the first article, she refers to the “Barilla Study” that found that families that ate together were less likely to be overweight than those that did not eat together as a family. In the second article, she examines the difference of eating in versus eating at a restaurant or grabbing take-out. The article explains that by eating at home, it’s easier to cut calories and control portions than when ordering food at a restaurant.

Ensle’s other article discusses the cost of eating healthy. This is a challenge for most people because the healthier foods almost always seem to cost more money. She notes that according to the Department of Agriculture, about one third of the money in the U.S. is spent toward food services. Ensle explains not only how much money can be saved by eating at home, but how much money can be made that way, too.

“A key take-away is that the money people save by eating more meals at home is just the beginning of their potential savings. For additional financial impact, this money could be invested and allowed to grow over time. Through the magic of compound interest, small dollar amounts can grow handsomely,” said Ensle.

Health and agriculture are the two subjects on which Rutgers Department of Family Health Sciences program aims to educate and enrich the youth throughout Union County. They aim to get students and teachers to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. They also have handicapped-accessible gardens for teaching tools.

The Rutgers Family and Community Health Sciences faculty were awarded for their initiative in schools throughout Union County. The Union County location in Westfield is run by Ensle, who was honored with the recent recognition. The Rutgers Department of Family and Community Health Sciences recognized March as National Nutrition Month and urged students to pay attention to the warning of fad diets. In November, thanks to 35 members of Union County’s 4-H Clubs and the Tree Stewards, trees were planted in Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield. The Union County Tree Stewards were recently awarded with an environmental award at the Wild Earth Fest in Mountainside.

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County belongs to a national network of more than 3,100 county offices and research institutions, including Rutgers University, organized under the U.S. Department of Agriculture to foster youth development and community health. It was established more than 100 years ago to help improve rural communities. Today, it embraces both urban and suburban life and has expanded its influence to families throughout Union County.