Linda F. Benedict, Blanchard, Tobie M., Schultz, Bruce
Families learn to eat healthy, exercise at weekend 4-H camp
Families learned about healthy eating and the importance of exercise at the Louisiana 4-H Food and Fitness Camp at 4-H Camp Grant Walker Feb. 22-23.
"The camp has been refocused on family nutrition this year," said Lanette Hebert, LSU AgCenter 4-H coordinator for the Southwest Region.
The camp was the result of Youth Voice- Youth Choice grant from the National 4-H Council and the Walmart Foundation.
An important part of the camp was the teaching of MyPlate, which emphasizes eating healthy portions and more fruits and vegetables, along with more physical activity, Hebert said.
During the camp, youngsters and their parents met together and separately for the nutrition and exercise sessions. They also learned how to plan menus and prepare food.
Eating together as a family without distractions of television or cellphones also was stressed, Hebert said.
Assisting in many of the nutrition classes were four dietitian interns from Louisiana Tech University. One of the interns, Christie Clark, said the camp helped them gain valuable experience.
"We teach them to apply what we’ve learned," Clark said. In one class, parents learned about smartphone apps such as MyFitnessPal, which tracks calorie consumption and physical activity.
In a class on food shopping, they learned about apps to save money on groceries such as ibotta, Money Saving Mom, Hip2Save and Scantopia.
Denise Holston-West, LSU AgCenter nutritionist, taught a class on reading food labels and watching out for fat and sodium.
"Studies have shown that gradual weight loss is more healthful," said another of the interns, Michelle Falin.
The kids also learned how to prepare healthy foods and snacks, such as hummus with carrots and cucumbers.
The camp was planned and implemented by the Louisiana 4-H Food & Fitness board composed of teens from across the state. Four of the 4-H students who taught classes had attended a workshop in Chevy Chase, Md., to learn about how to teach healthy living habits. That trip was funded by the Eat4-Health grant fun by the National 4-H Council and United Healthcare.
Also, 4-H students taught the kids about different exercises, and they took pulse rates before and after activity to learn about getting their hearts working harder to develop fitness.
Parent participant Nicole Coreil, of Rapides Parish, said she used the camp to get a jump start on eating better and getting more exercise. "I’m trying to change some of my lifestyle habits. If they see us set good examples as parents, they’ll learn those healthy habits."
Her daughter, Rebecca, also came to the camp even though she was hobbling on crutches from a foot injury.
Youngster with Down syndrome finds pride showing livestock
Affectionately known as "John John" by his family, friends and fans, John Sonnier, a 4-H’er from St. Mary Parish, was prepping to show his pigs at the LSU AgCenter’s state livestock show. He stopped occasionally to visit with people passing by and to show off his dance moves.
Sonnier has Down syndrome, and his sister, Brittany Durham, says showing livestock has given him a real purpose.
"It gives him something to be proud of and to accomplish because he doesn’t get to do a lot of other things like kids his age," Durham said. "So this shows him a sense of pride and something he can be successful at."
Sonnier started showing livestock four years ago when a family friend let him show their pigs.
Sonnier communicates in short sounds and signs. He gave a quick demonstration of what is required when showing. "You hit the pig with a stick," his sister said, speaking for him.
He has showed chickens, ducks and rabbits in the past, but preferred pigs.
His 4-H agent, Jennifer Ducote, said Sonnier is just another kid at the shows and with his 4-H Club.
"John, he is a kid with special needs that does not require many needs. He encourages a lot of others. He is pretty normal, and I think he can show others that even with a disability, they can show and do the same things," Ducote said.
A goal of the 4-H livestock program is to instill in youngsters a sense of responsibility that comes with caring for animals. Sonnier has daily chores with his pigs.
Sonnier described his chores through his sister, "We bathe them and give them water."
Durham says once Sonnier started caring for his animals, his demeanor became calmer.
"Kids with Down’s, the more of a routine, the better they are each day," she said.
His family lovingly calls him a clown, but that night in the show ring, Sonnier was a winner – placing third in both of his categories and walking away with more ribbons to add to his growing collection.
Sugar mills improve efficiency with AgCenter technology
Louisiana sugarcane mills have begun installing new equipment that has the potential of reducing processing time and increasing capacity for processing raw sugar.
The Crompion LLT Clarifier incorporates two new technologies developed by the LSU AgCenter and licensed to Crompion International, said company president George Schaffer.
The new product, a short-retention clarifier, reduces the time in one step in the process from two or three hours to about 45 minutes, Schaffer said. A flash trough incorporated in the device reduces the amount of air in the process and improves the results.
The sugarcane milling process involves pressing juice from the cane. The resulting raw juice contains suspended solids called mud, which includes soil and plant residue, and must be removed in the clarification process.
"We want the mud to settle and the juice to rise," Schaffer said.
The Louisiana Low Turbulence Clarifier was developed by Vadim Kochergin, formerly with the AgCenter, and Cy Gaudet, one of Kochergin’s graduate students. The flash tank was developed by Kochergin and another of his graduate students, Santiago Grimaldi. Both technologies are licensed by the LSU AgCenter to Crompion.
The clarifier incorporates a patent-pending turbulence-reduction device that helps solids settle out of the sugarcane juice more efficiently, resulting in less sucrose loss and cost and energy savings, according to LSU AgCenter officials.
"You want sucrose," said Ben Legendre, director of the LSU AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute. "As the juice sits in the clarifier, sucrose degrades to glucose and fructose. So the quicker you get the juice out of the clarifier, the less sucrose you lose."
(These articles were published in the 2014 winter issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)