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Iowa State University Extension

Nutrition specialists support local foods, promote ISU Extension, get noticed by Today Show

Extension staff at Today Show

You know what they say about New York -- if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. That’s what ISU Extension nutrition and health specialists Cindy Baumgartner and Jill Weber were counting on when they stood with the crowd outside the Today Show studio early one October morning, with their ISU Extension sign and Iowa State pennant in hand. In New York to take a course at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), they decided to show ISU Extension to the Big Apple and beyond.

“Jill and I use any opportunity we can to promote ISU Extension, as we so strongly believe in the mission of our land-grant system. We wore our ISU Extension food safety shirts too,” Baumgartner said. “I have been surprised by how many people saw us on TV -- my in-laws in Arizona, a friend in Minnesota and many people in town who’ve approached me on the street, at church or elsewhere.”

The two nutrition and health specialists work with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and other programs that encourage the use of local foods. They also work with an increasingly multicultural population. The ICE 5-Day Culinary Adventure addressed both work interests. The course addressed a different culture each day: French, Italian, Chinese, American and Latin. They shopped for produce at local markets, practiced knife skills (there’s a knack to properly cutting all that produce) and spent hours cooking with top chefs.

“We will be using what we’ve learned in upcoming teaching opportunities through our work with the Food and Fitness Initiative,” Weber explained.

Baumgartner already has demonstrated her new cooking and cutting skills to 186 students and their 24 adult coaches from16 school districts during a November Food and Fitness youth conference. Also through the initiative, she’ll be teaching food safety, cooking and food knife skills to food service workers to help them safely prepare local foods for school lunches.

In addition, the ISU Extension specialists are developing a program for high school family and consumer science teachers to help them teach food-service job skills to their students. Increasing employability skills in Iowa’s young people is one of the goals of the Iowa Core Curriculum, Baumgartner added.

This article appeared in December 2009 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter