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Colorado State University Extension operates in partnership with the El Paso County Community Services Division to provide non-credit programming to local citizens.

Family and Consumer Sciences Programs

The Family and Consumer Science program provides nutrition, food safety, health promotion and workforce development programs that provide research-based education to a variety of audiences across El Paso County in an effort to promote safe and healthful eating habits, physically active lifestyles and increased employability of El Paso County citizens. Adoption of these behaviors may reduce the incidence of foodborne disease as well as chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer as well as an increase of employment readiness and entrepreneurial support.

Health Promotion Disease Prevention

One of the goals is to promote adoption of healthful eating and activity patterns and ensure an abundant and safe food supply for all. Adoption of healthful eating and activity patterns can enhance the overall health and wellbeing of children, youth, adults, and the growing senior population. Through various programs, the family and consumer science program contributes to efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, increase physical activity, and decrease overweight/obesity risk. Adoption of food safety knowledge and safe food handling practices will ultimately reduce the incidence of foodborne disease especially among the most vulnerable populations (infants, young children and individuals who are immuno-compromised through aging, medical intervention, and illness). Family and Consumer Science programming contributes to efforts in decreasing incidence of foodborne illness through direct and indirect education of consumers, food managers and workers, food growers, farmers’ market managers, cottage food entrepreneurs, health professionals, caretakers and others.

Workforce Development

Increased demand for ready-to-eat and minimally processed foods and increased consumption of food in eating establishments outside of the home have contributed to new exposures to foodborne disease. Of the food related disease outbreaks reported to the CDC between 1998 and 2008, 75% were associated with food prepared outside the home or living facility (CDC, 2013). In a review of 816 foodborne outbreaks where food workers were implicated in the spread of disease, the most frequently reported factors contributing to the outbreaks were bare hand contact with food, failure to properly wash hands, inadequate cleaning of processing or preparation equipment and utensils, cross-contamination of ready-to-eat foods with contaminated raw ingredients, and temperature abuse (Todd et al. 2007). The work force employed in food preparation and serving operations tends to be young with little background training in safe food handling skills. Food safety practices and restaurant inspection scores have been reported to increase following employee food safety training. These reports verify the need for food safety training for retail food workers, such as CSU Extension’s Food Safety Works curriculum.

The recent passing of Colorado’s Cottage Food Bill has brought major changes to small-scale retail food production. CSU Extension has been identified as the credible source for providing food safety training and has responded by delivering timely information both on-line and in workshops in El Paso County. Extension provides a gateway to information that assists small-scale food producers in navigating proper channels set by the Colorado Cottage Food Law so that foods offered for sale to the public are safe.

Food Preservation

Home food preservation remains an important and popular cultural activity. CDC reports that one in five U.S. households are now canning food at home (CDC 2014). Home practices are often influenced by family tradition and targeted education is needed to overcome proliferation of old, unsafe methods . It is critical that those who practice preserving foods at home have access to safe and reliable information. In particular, a significant percentage of home canners use practices for processing low-acid foods that put them at high risk for botulism although various kinds of foodborne illness can result from other types of improperly processed foods including canned, frozen, dried or preserved by other means. Estimates from Scharff (2012) put the cost for a case of C. botulinum greater than $1.3 million. Education and awareness programming are very much needed to improve knowledge and practices used to process food at home.

Michael Lucero, MPH
Extension Agent – Nutrition, Food Safety, Health and Workforce Development Programs
Colorado State University Extension – El Paso County
17 N Spruce St, Colorado Springs, CO 80905
Phone: (719) 520-7689
Fax (719) 520-7699
Email: Michael.Lucero@ColoState.Edu

Keeping ahead of COVID-19

This rapidly evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) has imposed an unsettling, fluid situation upon our community and its businesses. While the team here still aims to maintain a “business as usual” approach, we are making a number of significant changes to our operations to account for a situation that is far from normal.