Check Out Your Neighborhood Center!

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Did you know there are places in your neighborhood where you can get food and clothes? These places can also give your children a place to be safe and play. If you need help finding employment community centers are there to help! We can see that community centers provide a wide range of services. The services that community centers offer might depend on where they are located. For example, some community centers have pools and gymnasiums. Other community centers offer basic things like food and clothes.

If you have a hard time getting basic things like food and clothes or need a place to feel safe and supported, consider checking out your closest community center. Why? Kids can use community centers as a place to hang out and make new friends. Kids can also use their time to play sports instead of being out in the streets. For adults, community centers are great places to find resources. If you are looking for a job, community centers help you fill out forms and applications.

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In Travis County, the East Austin Neighborhood Center and Montopolis Neighborhood Center give out necessities like food, clothes and child safety seats. The St. John Community Center and the South Austin Neighborhood Center also offer health services.

The Turner-Roberts Recreation Center, Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center and Gustavo “Gus” L. Garcia Recreation Center offer extracurricular activities. These community centers have different programs for children, teens, adults and seniors. There are also gymnasiums and work out equipment. We can see that community centers are places where we can stay active too!

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Austin is a city where people love to help other people. Feel this sense of community! Start by checking out your community center websites. It is time you got the support you needed. You should take the time to visit your closest community center. Plan to attend regularly and make connections with your community!

For more information, a list of community centers and their locations in the Austin area, visit

How to be Food Safe

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

When we are carrying out our daily routine in the kitchen, it may not cross our minds that there might be harmful bacteria on every counter and utensils we use to prepare food. However, there are a few guidelines we can follow to keep our food safe. These guidelines are called the Fight BAC! Rules. The Fight BAC! Rules are Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Let’s find out how we can become food safe!


The first Fight BAC! Rule is clean. This means you should wash your hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout our kitchen counters, sinks, utensil, and food. To prevent bacteria from spreading, start by washing your hands with warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. You should wash your hands before and after handling food, after playing with pets, and after using the restroom. Keep books, backpacks or shopping bags off the kitchen counters were food is prepared. Consider using paper towels to clean counter tops. When we use rags often to clean counter tops we can spread germs more easily.

Download Clean Fact Sheet for more information.


The second Fight BAC! Rule is separate. Separate means we should not cross-contaminate. Cross-contamination occurs when harmful bacteria is spread from food to other food, cutting boards, and utensils. When we handle raw foods such as meat and poultry, the juices that accumulate in their packaging can contain bacteria. When we handle raw foods on a cutting board, we should use a separate cutting board for fresh produce. This prevents cross-contamination. In addition, never place cooked food on a plate that previously had raw foods!

Download the Separate Fact Sheet for more information.


The third Fight BAC! Rule is cook. We need to cook our foods to proper temperatures so it is safe for us to eat. Food is safe to eat when it reaches a high internal temperature. A high internal temperature kills harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. When you are cooking in a microwave oven, make sure there are no cold spots because bacteria can survive in those places. For the best result, cover the food entirely and rotate for even cooking in the microwave.

For specific temperatures to cook certain foods and cooking techniques, download the Cook Fact Sheet .


The final Fight BAC! Rule is chill. Chill means we need to refrigerate our foods promptly. We need to refrigerate our foods quickly because cold temperatures prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Make sure to keep you refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Your freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for the safest storage. Do not leave your food out at room temperature for more than two hours before you put them in the refrigerator or freezer. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

Download the Chill Fact Sheet for more information.

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Let us fight bacteria using the Fight BAC! Rules! These helpful tips will make handling and eating your food safer!

Texas: What Grows in Our Backyard?

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Have you ever wondered where the fruits and vegetables from our local grocery store come from? The answer is simple. Our fruits and vegetables come from farms and orchards. Orchards are areas where rows of trees are planted to grow fruits. While there may be thousands of farms and orchards across the United States, Texas is one of the largest producers of fresh fruits and vegetables. Texas farms and orchards grow over 60 different fruits and vegetables!

Several organizations check our fresh fruits and vegetables to make sure they are being grown and treated with the highest standards of safety. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set the rules for people to follow so the fruits and vegetables we eat are safe. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) also plays part in making sure our food is safe to eat. The USDA measures the level of quality and value of many foods including fruits and vegetables. In addition, the USDA standards provide a base for food trade.

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has different programs in their Food and Nutrition Division. One of those programs is called the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). The FFVP provides fresh fruits and vegetables to students. The goal of the FFVP is to improve children’s overall diet. The FFVP helps schools create healthy places for students by giving them healthier food choices and increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.

For more information about the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, visit

While there may be programs that try to implement healthier eating, you can do your part too! Start by visiting your local farmers market! Check out for more information.

Image source: Farmers’ Market by Natalie Maynor (Flicker CC BY 2.0)

You can learn when fresh fruits and vegetables are available! Below are a few fruits and vegetables that grow in Texas and their available dates:


Date of Availability


Date of Availability

Apples June – November Broccoli December – March
Blackberries April – June Carrots Year-round
Blueberries May – July Fresh Cucumbers April – December
Oranges September – April Mushrooms Year-round
Peaches April – August Potatoes April – September
Watermelons May – November Pumpkins September – Nov
Pears June – September Sweet Potatoes August – November


Visit for the full Texas Produce Availability Chart

The Uncertainty of Summer Months

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

When summer comes around, kids are excited to spend their days outdoors and in the pool. Still, some families have to worry about where their children’s meals will come from now that school is out. Why? Sometimes, the only meals kids can depend on are breakfast and lunch served in school. When families have this concern on their shoulders, summers are not so fun. There are programs, however, that provide food to children who are solely dependent on school meals.

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Before we look into one of these programs, let us look at the numbers. In the United States, six out of seven students who eat free or reduced cost school lunch do NOT get a free meal during the summer. Only one out of seven students who receives free or reduced cost lunch participates in summer meal programs. How can we fix this?

First, let us talk about the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). SFSP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and provides healthy lunches to kids of low-income families. As stated in their name, this program offers foods to families during summer breaks. This summer, summer 2017, the USDA plans to give more than 200 million free meals to kids. We can see from this that SFSP’s impact is large.

For more information about SFSP visit,

Not only does the SFSP provide meals to families in need, they also provide summer job opportunities. Summer job opportunities include community outreach and promotion of summer meals. SFSP also partners with local organizations to prepare and distribute meals. Local organizations include school districts, Boys & Girls Clubs, and community centers.

For summer job opportunities visit,

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SFSP partners with Austin ISD to provide free meals to local children. For more information and a summer meal request form (2017) visit,

To fix this problem, do not be afraid to reach out to programs that are intended to help you, especially during the summer when meals are uncertain. Visit the SFSP website and become familiar with their resources. Providing advocacy and outreach can bring awareness to this issue. Children should not have to worry about their next meal. Children should have during their summer break!

Do You Know Where to Find Your Next Meal?

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Most of us assume that food is just around the corner at our closest grocery store. Food security is something we can easily take for granted. We have access to food and it is available to us at all times. It helps us keep a healthy life too. There are people who do not know where their next meal will come from. Food insecurity happens when people do not have food available or access to food. We need to look at who this affects the most to find relief.

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There are many people affected by food insecurity but the Latino population is more likely to suffer from food insecurity. Why?

According to Feeding America, the Latino population is disproportionally measured when it comes to poverty and food insecurity. This may be due to the fast growing rate of Latinos in the United States. Sometimes, the Latino population does not get support from federal nutrition programs. It is hard to find support anywhere else if Latinos do not have support from the government. Latinos are more likely to get sick from what they eat. If Latinos are suffering from food insecurity, they may have no choice but to eat foods that are not as healthy.

A study from the University of Texas looked at food insecurity in the City of Austin. The focus areas were neighborhoods east of I-35. These neighborhoods are mainly populated by minority groups like Latinos. The study found the less access to full-service grocery stores, the more food-insecure homes. A full service grocery store has fresh fruits and vegetables, a meat department, and fresh dairy products. We can see that Latinos in these areas might not have access to affordable and healthy food.

The following is a list of food pantries in Austin that you can check out:

Central Texas Food Bank

Caritas of Austin

Manos De Cristo  

Hope Food Pantry Austin

Salvation Army

The bad news is Latinos are still suffering from food insecurity. The good news is there are places in Austin where you can get help. Donate, volunteer, or get help from your closest food pantry. We are all looking out for you!

Make Healthy Shifts in Food Choices

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Author: Danielle Hammond-Krueger, MPH, RD

Celebrate March by “Putting Your Best Fork Forward”, as the theme for National Nutrition Month®.  “According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Making changes to eating patterns can take time.  Every food choice is an opportunity to move toward a healthy eating pattern, no matter how small the shifts, “said Danielle Krueger a Registered Dietitian with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  “Put your best fork forward” by following these steps to make healthy shifts in food choices:

Choose more vegetables from all subgroups.  When making dishes or snacks, add more vegetables to the dish in place of foods high in saturated fat and/or sodium.

Add low-fat or fat-free dairy to your snacks or dishes.  When making foods which traditionally call for mayonnaise or prepared salad dressing, try replacing with low-fat or fat-free yogurts.

Substitute whole fruit for fruit products with added sugars.  Choose more whole fruits as snacks, in a salad, or in place of desserts with added sugars such as ice cream, cakes, and pies.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offers nutrition education programs which help inform consumers about how to make healthy shifts in food choices and reduce the risk for chronic disease. To learn more about our nutrition and health programs such as Better Living for Texans, Expanded Food and Nutrition Program, Dinner Tonight, Walk Across Texas, and Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes, contact your local County Extension Agent.

National Nutrition Month® is an annual promotion through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Visit the Academy at

Dealing with Drought in the Landscape Series

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Time: 10:00am . Admission: $15.00. Age restrictions: Buy Tickets. Box office: 979-845-2604. Address: 6011 Blue Bluff Rd. Feeling adventurous? Explore alternate methods of gardening during the final class in our Dealing with Drought Conditions series. If you have time, space, or physical limitations yet still have a desire to nurture your green thumb, Master Gardener Pat Mokry will teach you how to raise carefree veggies, herbs and flowers using self-sufficient grow boxes. Then, for some more ‘new’ ideas, Master Gardener Marian Stassney will describe the ancient practices of both keyhole gardening and hugelkultur, to expand your repertoire of gardening techniques. IMPORTANT: Due to road construction in front of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at 1600-B Smith Road, all seminars normally held at Extension will be temporarily moved to our classroom at 6011 Blue Bluff Rd, 78724 for further information, please call (512) 854-9600