USDA, Cooperative Extension, APLU recognize UF/IFAS CAFÉ Latino with National Extension Diversity Award

Since 2016, a growing number of University of Florida faculty have joined forces to enhance access and efficacy of information and programs to Spanish-speaking communities within the Sunshine State.

They developed the Coalition of Florida Extension Educators for Latino Community — also known as CAFÉ Latino — as a grassroots service organization at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). Together they serve a growing and underserved Spanish-speaking population by creating and affording access to science-based educational materials and training to meet their needs and overcome challenges in their communities. Their efforts have attracted national attention as a successful model for achieving and sustaining diversity and pluralism across Extension programs.

Image- Cafe Latino board honored with National Diversity Award by APLU and USDA NIFA.
At the APLU annual meeting, the board of UF/IFAS Cafe Latino were presented with the National Extension Diversity Award. (L-R) Dr. Manjit Misra, Director of USDA-NIFA, Cafe Latino board members Dr. Karla Shelnutt, Laura Valencia, Dr. John Diaz, Jonael Bosques-Menendez, Dr. Damona Doye, Associate Vice President for Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State, and Chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy.
University (2025) and Dr. Andra Johnson, Dean of UF/IFAS Extension.

For their efforts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), the Cooperative Extension System, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) have distinguished CAFÉ Latino’s model and success with the National Diversity in Extension Award — one of only three top national honors given each year by the group.

The award recognizes the contributions and accomplishments in modeling methods for language access, affinity groups and reaching new communities. Since its inception, CAFÉ Latino efforts have led to increased collaboration between agents and specialists of diverse subject matter areas, locations and demographics.

“The mission of UF/IFAS is to reach everyone who can benefit from the science of solutions, including Florida’s 5 million Spanish speakers. CAFÉ Latino’s board and Extension faculty have been a champion for increasing our reach,” said J. Scott Angle, UF’s interim provost and senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “Their work makes Extension more effective and brings us closer to our ideal of Extension for all. Their leadership has inspired others to do the same.”

Florida is home to the country’s third largest Latino and Hispanic population. Nearly 6 million call the Sunshine State home, and their numbers are growing. Spanish is the first language for many Hispanics and Latinos, with more than 70% of this population speaking this language at home this creates barriers.

The work of CAFÉ Latino represents an innovative approach to capacity development and serving the unique needs of these underserved communities. Through its programming efforts, CAFE Latino aims to connect the Hispanic and Latino population in Florida with the resources, education and training provided by UF/IFAS Extension faculty located across Florida.

“CAFÉ Latino saw a need to equip Extension offices statewide with cultural competence that would connect the Hispanic and Latino population with resources, education and training,” said John Diaz, Café Latino president and a UF/IFAS associate professor and Extension specialist. “Providing statewide support has led to increased capacity for Extension educators to address the needs of these communities, locally, providing the ability of their communities to obtain critical resources in Spanish. We are honored to receive this recognition by USDA, Cooperative Extension and the APLU.”

Since the Spring of 2018, Café Latino’s focus has been shaped by the collaborative efforts of an executive committee led by Diaz, Karla Shelnutt, professor and Extension nutrition specialist for the UF/IFAS Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Jonael Bosques-Mendez, agriculture agent and UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County director and Laura Valencia, 4-H youth development agent at UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County.

With 73 CAFÉ Latino faculty members serving Florida’s 67 counties, the team of bilingual faculty volunteers represents a range of expertise in agriculture, natural resources, 4-H youth development, lawn and garden and more. They have increased access to a variety of science-based educational materials through various approaches, technologies, and modalities for Spanish-speaking communities and Extension professions. This has been accomplished by developing educational resources and translations to Extension peer-reviewed documents, training that includes program development, evaluation, culturally responsive teaching, and intercultural competence, and by providing collaborative support and general guidance to serving the Spanish-speaking communities in Florida.

“We have developed hundreds of resources and helped thousands acquire knowledge, change behaviors, and adopt science-based approaches to improve their livelihoods, health, agricultural enterprises, and environment,” said Bosquez-Mendez. “There is still a lot of work that can be done, and we are always seeking to connect with others to expand efforts as well as seek support because what we do is in addition to our roles.”

Faculty develop content based on the assessment of needs conducted for each community and county. For example, a group of Florida Sea Grant (FSG) agents simultaneously launched an initiative with Café Latino focused on marine and coastal systems called Florida Sea Grant En Espanol. The group developed, adapted, and delivered a mangrove trimming training in Southwest Florida.

“Cafe Latino is a place where all UF/IFAS extension agents serving Latino communities around the state can collaborate to bring solutions to the communities in their own language while considering their cultural background,” said Victor Blanco, a FSG agent specializing in marine and natural resources in Taylor County.

CAFÉ Latino members also developed a series of online vides, podcasts, fact sheets, curricula, learning activities, flyers, YouTube instructional videos, and held online live trainings. To date, CAFÉ Latino has developed and translated more than 700 products that have been directly leveraged with these communities.

“Our faculty continue to provide programming and educational resources for Latino families across Florida. The leadership team meets regularly, and we are always looking for more support for these programs,” said Shelnutt. “I hope to see a well-funded program that involves state and county faculty working together to improve the lives of Latino and Hispanic families across Florida and beyond.”

Additionally, CAFÉ Latino members have participated in community service projects in partnership with grassroots and cross-departmental collaborations to increase the access of healthcare to Spanish-speaking communities in rural Florida benefiting farmworker families. Since these joint efforts began in 2022, a partnership with the UF College of Medicine led to increased health screenings, vaccinations, and family-friendly, education and resource referrals to advance Latino farmworker family health.

CAFÉ Latino was recognized at the APLU annual meeting on November 12, which USDA-NIFA and Cooperative Extension have sponsored since 1991.

“Each year, these awards showcase the fundamental, transformative difference Cooperative Extension continues to make in our society,” said NIFA Director, Manjit Misra. “This important partnership and excellent programs like these are a testament to the true value of Cooperative Extension capacity funds more than a century after the Smith-Lever Act created this unparalleled system of outreach and education that enriches every community across the nation.”


By Lourdes Mederos,

Para accesar a esta información en español, por favor utilice este enlace


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.  |  @UF_IFAS


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Posted: November 14, 2023

Category: Community Volunteers, Health & Nutrition, Home Management, Money Matters, Relationships & Family, SFYL Hot Topic, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: APLU, Association Of Public And Land-grant Universities, CAFE Latino, Coalition Of Florida Extension Educators For Latino Communities, Cooperative Extension, Family, Hispanic, John Diaz, Jonael Bosques-Mendez, Karla Shelnutt, Latino, Laura Valencia, National Institute Of Food And Agriculture, U.S. Department Of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Department Of Family, University Of Florida, USDA National Institute Of Food And Agriculture, Youth And Community Sciences

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