Wednesday, July 30, 2014

CNDH: Director's Message

By Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord, Ph.D., RD, LD

The Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health (CNDH), a program within the University of the District of Columbia's College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES), is most pleased to present this feature regarding our offerings and activities. The following reports show the progress and and impact that CNDH has made toward improving consumer awareness and health sustaining behaviors among District residents and the professionals serving them through education projects related to food, nutrition and health.

Throughout the year, the Center focused its efforts on assisting District residents to acquire and improve knowledge, skills and behaviors associated with health and well-being throughout the life cycle and with utmost cultural sensitivity. Attention was dedicated to finding ways to address the needs of families to cooperate as holistic interdependent units to build and maintain healthy lifestyles. We remained tethered to a motto of: "healthy persons, families and communities in D.C. must eat well to live well." We also attempted to promote the idea that healthy adjuncts to preventive care and self-management of good food and nutrition always include practicing food safety, drinking water and getting adequate amounts of outdoor physical activity.

CNDH: Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program

By Helen Naylor

 From its inception in 2011 with the pilot program consisting of 380 patients in six sites across four states, the success of the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) is quite evident, having expanded to 12 sites in 7 states and Washington, D.C. in just one year.  So what is the FVRx program?  Exactly what the name suggests.  It is a collaborative and integrative program through the “WeCan!” initiative where healthcare providers and farmers markets partner together to provide increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables, measuring the impacts of increased consumption among underserved community members.

Each week, FVRx participants receive prescriptions (that cover the cost) for fresh produce that they can redeem at local farmers markets, some of which can be found on site at the healthcare clinics.  The idea is that the weight of a legitimate prescription by a healthcare practitioner, which also covers the cost of $1 per day per family member (about $120 per month), would incentivize participants and mitigate some of the barriers to eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

UDC Students Invent Automated Tomato Tower

 Meet Colin Gelinas and Michael Benton. Both are students in the Department of Computer Science of the University of the District of Columbia and have created an automated system that makes it possible to grow vegetables virtually anywhere.

Due in part to the limited growing capacity of urban environments, the two budding inventors created the Tomato Tower, a small, low-cost computing system that anyone could use in their homes. Their invention could potentially allow those in cities or food insecure areas to have access to nutritious, affordable and sustainable food. Not only that, but growing food in one's own homes and neighborhoods would decrease the amount of fresh produce that is transported in a manner which is both unsustainable and that decreases nutritional value of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“This project assumes agriculture as a process that has huge barriers to entry and requires different things, such as being in an urban environment where people don’t have access to land or equipment,” Michael explains. “Whereas, anyone could have this type of unit in their home, which we see as very empowering.”

High Profile Visitors to Muirkirk Farm

UDC's Muirkirk Farm was honored to welcome three high profile groups: a group of ANC Commissioners; a group from the State Department Foreign Press Centers, and a group of African diplomats as part of a Leadership Africa USA visit.The tours were led by CAUSES Dean Sabine O’Hara, Associate Dean of Landgrant Programs, William Hare, Farm Manager Che' Axum and UDC Professor of Environmental Science, Tom Kakovitch. Guests toured the aquaponics and hydroponic greenhouses, the photovoltaic solar system, the ethnic crops field, microgreens plots and greenhouses, the rice field, orchard and the future site of the organic composting facility.

Photo courtesy of Ed Jones, UDC TV.

On June 28 CAUSES hosted its first ANC open house at Muirkirk Research Farm. This was the first official tour for advisory neighborhood commissioners. ANCS, who serve two year terms, consider a wide range of policies and programs affecting their neighborhoods including traffic, parking, recreation, street improvements, liquor licenses, zoning, economic development, police protection, sanitation and trash collection, and the District's annual budget. Dean O’Hara believed that extending the invitation would present a unique opportunity for the ANCs to see and experience the farm’s growing operations first hand and the opportunities urban agriculture can offer them. Read more about the visit and ANC testimonials at the Forest Hills Connection and from ANC 3D01 Commissioner Kent Slowinski. Additional photos are available on our Facebook page.

CNDH: Farmers Market Demos

The Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health has a big presence at farmers markets around the District of Columbia. The Farmers Market Nutrition Education Program provides nutrition education at point-of-purchase for market goers. The program also provides on-site food demonstrations using fresh produce from the market, recipes and nutrition data for foods sold at markets.

Food demonstrations provide interactive instruction on healthy cooking techniques, modifying favorite recipes to include healthier ingredients. And of course, who doesn't love a free sample? You can always find Tyrome “Chef T” Henson at the UDC Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Our market offers fresh and local food to the Van Ness neighborhood in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Here's what's been happening around CAUSES!
1. Dr. Xiaochu Hu joins CAUSES
2. 2015 European Architecture Tour
3. Ethnic Crops Research Pilot Focus Group
4. Washington Mystics Donate Tickets to 4-H!
5. WPP Youth Workshop

1. Dr. Xiaochu Hu joins CAUSES
We are pleased to announce that Dr. Xiaochu Hu has joined the Center for Sustainable Development as a Project Specialist focusing on Applied Economic Evaluation (Sustainability Economics). Dr. Xiaochu Hu received her Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Mason University in May 2014. Her research fields include economic development, labor markets and immigration policy. Dr. Hu's dissertation evaluated the economic impact of immigration on U.S. metropolitan economic growth. Prior to joining CAUSES, she worked as a graduate research assistant for the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University for five years. Dr. Hu holds a master's MA in Applied Geography, a MPA and a BS in Computer Science. She also received the 2013 AEA-CSWEP Summer Economics Fellowship and the 2012-13 Philip Dearborn Doctoral Research Fellowship from the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Contact Dr. Yu at

2. European Architecture, Anyone?
Have you been working on a home project this summer that seems to be taking much too long?  Let's go to Barcelona and visit a basilica that has been under construction since 1882!  Tired of sipping on Kirkland Signature purified drinking water during dinner? How about a nice Rose' with a four course meal? Want to see first hand an amphitheater with a capacity of 24,000.....built in 100 AD? Join the UDC Architecture Department in June 2015 as they tour Barcelona, Southern France and the Italian Riviera. The 12 day trip is $3,749 and only requires $300 to reserve your spot. For more information contact Professor Genell Anderson, AIA, or visit

Upcoming Events

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events!
1. Food Security Forum 

2. Free Health Class for Chronic Conditions
3. Volunteer with Bread for the City at the Orchard!
4. DPR Invasive Plant Class5. Invasive Plant Class with Casey Trees
6. Green Living Expo and Back to School BBQ
7. EcoDistrict Summit 2014
8. Bioretention Summit
9. UDC Walking Tour

1. Food Security Forum - August 6
On Wednesday, August 6, the United Planning Organization will hold its 5th Public Policy Forum on Poverty, Food Deserts, and Food Insecurity. As a poverty fighting community action agency, UPO recognizes the extreme impact that food deserts and insecurities have in our community. These insecurities not only contribute to malnutrition, along with other health problems, but it impacts the public health. Dean O'Hara will serve as one of the panelists, discussing solutions on how to end poverty by focusing on hunger and creating opportunities to combat food deserts. She will also share the impacts of CAUSES programs that are being provided to the community. The forum is from Noon - 2:00 p.m. at the National Building Museum located at:  401 F St NW, Washington, DC 20001. RSVP to Help spread the word!

2. Free Health Class for Chronic Conditions - Tuesdays and Thursdays
Do you have diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, cancer, or any other chronic condition that is impacting your quality of life? The DC Department of Health and the DC Office of Aging are offering free classes on living with chronic conditions. This free six-week workshop will help you learn how to 1) Decrease stress, fatigue and/or frustration; 2) Manage your symptoms effectively; 3) Communicate better with your doctors; 4) Make informed decisions about your treatment; 5) Set and meet realistic personal goals 6) Learn healthier eating habits. Tuesday classes will be held from 4:00-6:30 p.m. at the DC Department of Health, 899 North Capital St NE #407. Thursday classes are offered from 9:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m. at the DC Office on Aging, 500 K St NE. For more information, contact 
Nita Sharma at (202) 442-9129.

3. Volunteer with Bread for the City at the Orchard!
Join Bread for the City and help them tend to City Orchard, which is located on Muirkirk Farm. The group heads to the orchard every Wednesday around 10:30 a.m. Bread for the City also invites you to join their monthly 'weed-n-greet' event called Crop Mobs on the second Saturday of every month until October. Groups welcome. Contact Zacharei Curtis, BFC's Manager of Sustainable Agriculture & Community Engagement, at (202) 386-7031 x8819.

Bodywise featured on international morning show!

Bodywise, a popular program offered by UDC's Institute of Gerontology designed to promote health, wellness and fitness for DC residents over 60, was recently featured in this exercise news story for the “Saudi Good Morning” program! Watch below!

Monday, July 28, 2014

CNDH: Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program

Through a partnership with District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), CNDH offers workshops to teen parents. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is a research-based nutrition program funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the USDA and offered free for those who are eligible. The program teaches healthy lifestyle choices to low-income youth and families with young children.

New Heights Teen Parents Program, 
Anacostia Senior High School

One of our partners in this program is Anacostia Senior High school in Ward 8 where CNDH educators teach students how to prepare healthy meals for their families. The New Heights Teen Parents program is a school-based initiative that engages expectant and parenting students in 13 District of Columbia Public Schools. The program seeks to improve the attendance and graduation rates of these students to prepare them for college or careers, and prevent subsequent pregnancies. To participate, the student must be enrolled in DCPS and be an expectant or parenting student. 

Not just a job, EFNEP is personal for program coordinator James Lee, who is a native Washingtonian and product of the DCPS. “The New Heights program provides an opportunity for a nutrition educator to change and improve the diet of the mother while teaching her how to make healthy food choices for her infant. With EPNEP, we have a chance to influence an entire household,” explained Lee, who is also a graduate of UDC’s Nutrition and Food Science program, and has a Master of Science in Public and Community Health from Trinity Washington University.

Over a series of workshops held during Anacostia’s lunch period during the 2013-2014 academic year, CNDH Chef Tyrome “Chef T” Henson taught the New Heights students how to make simple, healthy meals. Not only did Chef T introduce the students to new fruits and vegetables, he also taught them how to make meals using ingredients which most likely can already be found in their homes.

“Our goal is to make an impact and to change their eating habits,” explained Chef Tyrome Henson.

CNDH: Shopping for Healthy Groceries

By Arielle Gerstein and Leslie Malone
“Cooking Matters at the Store” is another CNDH nutrition education program. Sapna Batheja, nutrition specialist, coordinates the program, conducting outreach in all eight Wards of the District, teaching different age groups how to better understand what they are eating and make smarter decisions. Sapna leads “grocery store tours,” teaching participants how to shop healthy on a budget. These tours are conducted over a 12-week period in various grocery stores around the District, with an average of 5-10 participants per class. At the end of each tour, everyone receives a $10 food shopping gift card to be used towards the purchase of healthy foods. 

CAUSES Research Assistant, Arielle Gerstein, joined Sapna for one of her weekly, interactive grocery store classes and observed how she teaches participants how to read food labels, identify acceptable levels of salt and sugar in food, and understand if food is really as nutritious as advertised. The participants for this particular July class are part of a diabetes management group where learning how to eat healthy foods is vital for managing their disease. These classes are held in the typical grocery stores where participants would regularly shop for food. Sapna focuses on helping participants to make small life changes that will more likely be sustained rather than a total change in diet that will be more difficult to maintain in the future. 

CNDH: Food Safety Certification

You may think the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health is all about food and nutrition, but food safety is also a huge component. CNDH's food safety education program trains food service workers in proper food handling procedures consistent with industry and regulatory based standards. Classes and workshops provide practical, hands-on experience for students to learn best practices to prevent food-borne illness and reduce sanitary health threats.

The District of Columbia Professional Food Managers/Food Handler Certification Program prepares food handlers for accredited food manager examinations. This course covers: the danger associated with food-borne illness, risk factors that contribute to food-borne disease outbreaks, characteristics of potentially hazardous foods, employee health and personal hygiene, safe food handling, equipment, facilities, and understanding of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Successful completion of the course allows individuals to sit for the national exam.

The UDC certification program is open to those looking to secure a food safety license in the District or surrounding area. Because the certification is national, it is acceptable anywhere in the United States for a period of five years, according to Paul Brown, CNDH project assistant. Food service industry segments like caterers, school cafeterias, and professional sports arena vendors all have workers whom need to be certified. 

CNDH: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education

By Arielle Gerstein
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) provides education programs, behavior-change initiatives, and social marketing campaigns designed for individuals receiving or eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP-Ed programs and publications seek to increase healthy food and active lifestyle choices among District residents. Teresa Turner is one of the CNDH coordinators for the program.

She is a recent graduate of the Nutrition and Dietetics program at UDC. She now works full-time as a project assistant in the Center for Nutrition, Diet, and Health. Teresa works mainly with two to five year olds but also reaches other age groups through health fairs and gerontology programs. She teaches thirty minute classes at daycare centers and schools to preschoolers and pre-K monthly. 

CNDH: Cooking Classes with Chef Herb

By Arielle Gerstein

CNDH offers cooking classes for both young and old. Food demos and cooking classes provide interactive instruction on healthy cooking techniques, modifying favorite recipes to include healthier ingredients by reducing the sugar, sodium, and fat. Kids cooking classes provide children between the ages of two and five with hands-on cooking experiences. 

Demonstration foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, and protein. Research has shown that the more exposure preschool aged children have with healthy foods, the more likely they will be to engage in healthier lifestyle choices later in life.  

Chef Herbert Holden, better known as "Chef Herb," is a nutrition educator for the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health. He grew up in a rural town in Delaware and began cooking for his family at an early age. He is a professionally trained chef and has worked in many restaurants. While working as a Head Start chef for three to five year olds, he realized there was a significant need for nutrition education in the community, particularly for young children. 

According to Chef Herb: “If children learn how to eat healthy at a young age, that behavior will continue through their life.” 

2014 Summer Bridge STEM Course Concludes

The 2014 Summer Bridge Program in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences program has come to a conclusion. The four week course was designed to provide high school and incoming college students with the essential skills necessary to succeed in college studies and beyond.  The Summer Bridge Program in Science and Technology program was funded by the National Science Foundation with the purpose of attracting high school students to the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The course was offered Mondays through Thursdays, June 30 – July 25, 2014, on UDC’s Van Ness campus. 

For the month of July, the students, who ranged in the ages of 14 - 18, spent almost 30 hours a week learning: environmental computing, cloud computing, sustainability, water quality, climate change, engineering design and mobile technologies. The interactive program was directed by Dr. Tolessa Deksissa, director of the Water Resources Research Institute, a division of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia. The co-instructors instructors were Drs. Lily Liang, Suzan Harkness, Pradeep Behera and WRRI lab tech Ycov Assa. 

While home base for the program was UDC's Environmental Quality Laboratory, students were also given the experiential learning opportunity to conduct field work in Rock Creek Park, the UDC Van Ness Campus and the Muirkirk Agricultural Research Farm in Beltsville, Maryland. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Interview with ANC Commissioner Kent Slowinski

Kent Slowinski is the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 3D01, representing Wesley Heights in Ward 3 of Northwest, D.C. He is also cofounder of the Environmental Health Group, a nonprofit educational organization to encourage sustainability and a more thorough cleanup of contaminated sites. He recently visited Muirkirk Farm for the summer ANC Open House.
Kent Slowinski (far right) viewing one Muirkirk's vegetable boxes.
Photo by Ed Jones, UDC-TV.

If this was your first trip to the UDC Farm, did you have and preconceived notions about the farm? 

No. I've been to the farm several times. The last time was to help build one of the greenhouses/high tunnels with Will Allen and a group of volunteers. I was looking forward to seeing how the high tunnel was being used and how things have changed. There have been many changes - several new greenhouses and many volunteers. 

CAUSES Alum Interns in Mayor’s District Leadership Program

By Arielle Gerstein

Jennifer Dixon Cravens, who completed her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at UDC, is currently participating in the Mayor’s District Leadership Program. This internship program allows undergraduate and graduate students to gain professional experience in the District government as well as attend lectures and brown bags about topics such as leadership and customer service. Ms. Dixon Cravens was selected for the Mayor’s Leadership Program (DLP) in the fall of 2013, and Summer 2014.
Jennifer (middle) graduating from the internship program. Pictured to the left with
DC Department of Human Resources, Director Shawn Stokes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CAUSES TV: New Heights Teen Nutrition Program

Developing healthy eating habits is essential to experiencing a quality of life. One of the strategies we use at CAUSES is working with our public and charter schools and one of our most successful partnerships is with Anacostia Senior High School in Ward 8 where our CAUSES' Center of Nutrition Diet and Health collaborates to teach students how to prepare healthy meals. 

In this episode of CAUSES TV, Dean O'Hara disscusses the partnership and the elements of the program with Michelle Victoria Bellard, program coordinator for the New Heights Teen Parents program, Ciatta Savoy, New Heights Program Analyst and Chef Tyrome Henson from the CAUSES Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health.

Learn more about CNDH

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Free Soil Testing for DC Residents!

The Environmental Quality Testing Laboratory of the University of the District of Columbia is  providing one-time, free soil quality testing for D.C. residents and gardeners. The service will be offered on a first come, first served basis for a limited time throughout July and August as part of a USDA-grant, funded to analyze soil samples in home and community gardens around D.C. Apply here.

Urban agriculture is increasingly becoming a way of life for city residents; therefore, it is important to test the soil quality of your garden for three main reasons. First, soil can contain contaminants that pose risk to human health. Second, we may not have enough information about the level of contamination in our soil. Finally, testing our soil give us valuable information to improve your garden and promote healthy soil.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Donate Bikes to 4-H!

The Riverside Healthy Living Center 4-H Club has unveiled the new “Earn a Bike” program. This program will teach children ages 10-14 and who live in the District's Ward 7, basic bike maintenance skills and to promote safe, regular cycling in their own urban neighborhoods. “Earn a Bike” is soliciting the donation of gently used bicycles of any size or type, such as mountain, road, hybrid, cross or cruiser that are in fair or better condition.

Partnering with local agencies, club members will meet twice a week to learn basic bicycle maintenance skills and working up to more complex concepts to keeping their bikes in good form. In addition to learning the mechanics of bicycles, the club also offers several sessions that teach bike safety in urban areas.

In addition to unwanted bikes, the program is also in need of bike tools and supplies, and is seeking the following items for Bike Club graduates: 
  • Seat bags
  • Patch kits
  • Multi tools
  • Mini pumps
  • Bike locks
  • Biking gloves
  • Rain jackets
  • Velcro leg bands
  • Water bottles & bottle cages
  • New mountain bike tires and tire sealant
  • Bike repair stands and tools

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CAUSES TV: Ethnic Crops and Invasive Plants

In this episode of CAUSES TV, Dean O'Hara is joined by two members of the CAUSES team: Mary Farrah and Yao Afantchao. Mary, who specializes in urban forestry native flora, and Yao, our ethnic crop specialist, are part of the community education program for the CAUSES Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education.