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Exploring Local Cuisine from the Roots Up: A Food Systems Extension Program in Lake County

Situation: A food system is a term used to refer to the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a community. Systems can include growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food products. Consumers play an important role in food systems, but are often ignorant about issues related to production, processing, marketing, and even healthy consumption of food. UF/IFAS Lake County Extension is undertaking an office-wide effort to educate citizens about local food systems in 2017. Methods: “Exploring Local Cuisine From the Roots Up” is a twelve part series running from January to December of 2017. Each session will feature a different locally produced food item. The Agriculture Agent will discuss production and marketing of the food item. An emphasis will be placed on dispelling myths related to production and providing a clarification of marketing terms. The Family and Consumer Sciences agent will then follow up with a discussion of nutrition and cooking techniques. Commodities to be explored include eggs, vegetables, citrus, blueberries, and beef. Results: As of the writing of this abstract, three sessions have been completed. Classes have been well attended and survey data reflects knowledge gains related to production, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food. Data collection is ongoing with more robust and quantifiable results expected by the close of the year. Conclusion: Agents involved with the Roots Up program hope to package the program for adaptation and use by other counties in Florida. Programs like Roots Up can help to bridge the gap between production agriculture and consumers.