Extension response to pandemic increases access to resources for Tennesseans
A University of Tennessee Extension program created innovative ways to continue providing information and resources during the weeks of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order and following a tornado in April 2020. This resulted in families of Hamilton County saving money on food, eating healthier and receiving necessary supplies.
Messages included meal planning and preparation resources, integrating math and science lessons as parents and teachers struggled to teach children at home and engaging vulnerable seniors as resources. Extension generated a contest on social media built around a food safety quiz to engage audiences. Television and social media posts were also effective delivery methods for food preservation education.
Extension received 29 follow-up requests for additional information, and 26 older adults said they felt more engaged and less isolated, with some registering for the new calling program. Additionally, an older adult with severe physical limitations constructed 55 masks for others in her community. A tornado victim appreciated the time spent ensuring she had appropriate resources for coping with grief and tornado cleanup.
Eleven families reported saving money and eating healthier by preparing meals at home. In addition, 24 people saved an estimated $12,000 in safe food or unnecessary medical bills. Proper disposal of unsafe food can save an average medical treatment cost of $500. Extension also collected and distributed $500 worth of cleaning supplies, food and grooming supplies for tornado victims in spite of a shortage of these items.