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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Agricultural economist measures impact of forthcoming federal GMO labeling law

John Bovay

John Bovay

A new label on food packaging could soon alter the purchasing habits of American shoppers and significantly affect producer operations. A federal law will take effect in July 2018 that informs consumers about the genetic science that may be at work behind their favorite foods. This designation may lead to price increases and other far-reaching consequences in the grocery industry and beyond, says Assistant Professor John Bovay of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UConn Extension, and the College’s GMO Working Group. Bovay has started investigating how the execution of the legislation might take shape and the ways it could reverberate through the national economy.

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) law introduces labeling standards that require companies to disclose if genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are present in their products. Although many consumers and non-government organizations (NGOs), such as the Non-GMO Project, champion greater transparency and increased awareness about the foods we eat and drink, Bovay cautions that it could further perpetuate misconceptions about the safety of genetic engineering (GE) technology in food production. These factors could drive customers and producers to respond in ways legislators may not have intended or foreseen. These reactions also largely depend on how the government decides to implement and regulate the law, but they have thus far offered few details on their plans. Despite these challenges, Bovay is drawing from prior examples of labeling initiatives and consulting other relevant studies to project the outcomes and costs of the new law. Bovay is completing his research with Julian Alston, a distinguished professor in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis. (more…)

Meet undergraduate student Celeste Kurz

Celeste Kurz

A variety of diverse interests and talents help Celeste Kurz to stand out as a UConn student. From farming, to nutrition, to Spanish, she is working to develop her path to a future career in community nutrition. Celeste’s passion for agriculture and people is very apparent. Read more about Celeste’s experiences as a UConn student.

What attracted you to UConn? I came to UConn as a transfer student. I spent a semester at a school in Boston, but did not like how small the school was or that it was in the city. I then took a year off and just took a few classes at a branch campus. I also moved to Hawaii, where I worked for six months in a botanical garden. After a little time away from school I decided to apply to UConn because of its great nutrition and agriculture programs. I also liked the rural setting of the campus. Ever since I have transferred, it has felt so right being here.

What is your major? I am a nutritional sciences major, and I hold a minor in Spanish.

Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? The most memorable experience for me has been living on Spring Valley Student Farm. I live on one of two houses on the farm, which is located off campus. We grow plants and food for UConn Dining Services. I love the full circle relationship of picking a vegetable here and then seeing it on campus a few days later. (more…)

Researcher uses nanotechnology to design food-based nutrient delivery systems for treatment and prevention of chronic diseases

The Luo lab research team. Left to right: PhD students Mingyong Zhou, Taoran Wang, Jingyi Xue (PhD student) and Qiaobin Hu; and Yangchao Luo.

The Luo lab research team. Left to right: PhD students Mingyong Zhou, Taoran Wang, Jingyi Xue (PhD student) and Qiaobin Hu; and Yangchao Luo.

Yangchao Luo’s passion is food. At home, Luo likes to cook Chinese food and tasty soups for his toddler daughter. In his lab at UConn, where he holds his primary appointment as assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and  joint appointments in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Institute of Materials Sciences, he focuses on groundbreaking work in the emerging science of nanotechnology as applied to food. He wants to make healthy food healthier for individuals with special needs as well as for the rest of us. Luo became interested in functional foods as an undergraduate, and his interest grew as he worked toward his MS in food science and Ph.D. in nutrition and food science.

When foods are fortified or enriched, they become functional foods. But the biological efficacy of nutrients in functional foods is hardly realized due to limited bioavailability when the foods are ingested. Bioavailability is the proportion of a nutrient absorbed and therefore able to produce a particular effect. Many nutrients, such as vitamins and phytochemicals, are known to have a low bioavailability. The major goal of research in Luo’s laboratory is to use nanotechnology to improve the bioavailability of those nutrients and eventually help treat and prevent chronic diseases when they are put back into food. Luo uses food-grade biomaterials, including proteins, carbohydrates and lipids, to create non-toxic nanoscale vehicles that can carry nutrients and boost their absorption, making them more bioavailable.

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Willimantic 4-H FANS after-school program flourishes

Amy Walker and students harvest kale from the garden.

Amy Walker and students harvest kale from the garden.

It’s been a busy year for the students involved in the W.B. Sweeney Elementary School 4-H FANs IM program, culminating with an exciting eight-week summer program.

During the 2016-17 school year, students met weekly to participate in fun activities designed to teach healthy eating, exercise and gardening. Summer Story Days, held on Wednesdays, included guest readers and food demonstrations in which students created healthy snacks. Families attending took home a bounty of fresh vegetables from the students’ garden.

Guest readers were well received by students and their families and included Cameron Faustman, dean of the College, wearing his popular corn hat; Jim Rivers, town manager of Willimantic, where Sweeney is located; Elsa Núñez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University; Mae Flexer, state senator; Patricia Garcia, superintendent of Windham School District; Susan Johnson, state representative; Marc Cournoyer, Windham County 4-H youth development program coordinator; Lindsey Brush, 4-H FANs IM program assistant; and Amy Walker, third-grade teacher and club adult leader.

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CAHNR in the news

newsprintNature published a study called “Creation of forest edges has a global impact on forest vertebrates.” Among the 30 researchers on the project is the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment Visiting Assistant Professor Laura Cisneros. See also UConn Today for a video and article.

The Day mentioned Tessa Getchis and her role in explaining the science behind commercial shellfishing operations. Getchis is an extension educator in the Department of Extension in New London County.

UConn Today reported on research into advertising that made unhealthy products seem healthier to children. The study was published in Pediatric Obesity, and its lead author was Associate Professor Jennifer Harris, who is part of allied health sciences. (more…)