Category Archives: Flint Water

Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recognizes MSU Extension and partners for Flint response

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy honored the Michigan Milk Producers Association, the Kroger Co. of Michigan and Michigan State University Extension for collaborating to support families during the 2016 Flint water emergency. Because of the collaboration, food-insecure families in Flint received over 36,000 gallons of milk to help block lead absorption. For our efforts, we received an honorable mention for their U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award of Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships.

We appreciate the honor and hope that the national recognition goes even farther than an award we put on the shelf and feel good about. This won’t be the first or last emergency in our communities in Michigan or nationwide. We hope that the national spotlight on our partnership will give other organizations ideas of ways that they can partner to meet community needs, especially in a crisis. We hope to continue to bring the right people together to help solve complex problems, and inspire others to do the same.

To read more about how our collaboration came together, take a look at my blog post, “Getting Nutritious Milk to Flint: They Make It Look Easy.”

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Filed under Accomplishments, Awards, Flint Water

Strategic connections with local nonprofits in District 9

Terry McLean, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension community food systems educator in District 9, has a strategic connection with the edible flint network. Edible flint is a local nonprofit organization formed in 2009 that is made up of residents, government representatives and agencies, health institutions, other nonprofits, educators and advocates for social change, working together to improve access to healthy food through community and economic development and education in Flint, Michigan.

Terry is the point of contact for the organization, serves on edible flint’s leadership board and is a co-lead for one of its five workgroups.

Edible flint’s programs have supported 1,068 food gardens in the city of Flint, 111 of which are community gardens, which have contributed to blight elimination and healthy food access for Flint residents,” Terry said. “Collaboration and convening community partners and organizations has been the strategy to support this work.”

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After the state of emergency was declared in Flint in January of 2016, edible flint reached 4,684 residents through presentations, programs and events, and recruited 76 community volunteers who performed 1,415 volunteer hours for edible flint programs and outreach work.

But their important work is only beginning.

“Through edible flint we’ve secured $197,334 in 2016 through six grants — two renewals and four new water emergency-related grants,” Terry said. “Through a strategic planning process that was made possible by a Michigan Department of Agriculture grant this summer, we’ve identified steps for transitioning from the initial lead crisis response to a sustainable recovery program that increases the local food production capacity in the Flint region while incorporating the evaluation’s stakeholder feedback in the strategic plan’s implementation.”

When we asked Terry what she had learned from these important strategic connections, she spoke about how MSU Extension is a trusted partner and “backbone organization” that has contributed to the success of edible flint. I think she identified a key strength of our organization: our ability to be a backbone in our communities across Michigan. We have a unique role to play when needs are identified or when emergencies occur. By bringing together and working with all of the supportive agencies and organizations in our communities, we can be the backbone of a network that moves Michigan forward.

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Filed under Flint Water, strategic connections, Uncategorized

National recognition for Flint water emergency response

In the photograph, left to right, are Deanna East, associate state leader for health and nutrition; Dr. Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director; Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator; Lynette Kaiser, MSU Extension health and nutrition program instructor; and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Courtesy of USDA NIFA.

In the photograph, left to right, are Deanna East, associate state leader for health and nutrition; Dr. Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director; Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator; Lynette Kaiser, MSU Extension health and nutrition program instructor; and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Courtesy of USDA NIFA.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Michigan State University (MSU) Extension the Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership for our response to the Flint water emergency. The Abraham Lincoln Award is the most prestigious award presented by the secretary of agriculture. The Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership recognizes the exceptional contributions of USDA’s external partners in innovation, productivity and efficiency in program delivery and leverage federal funding to the benefit of USDA’s customers, the external partner and USDA.

MSU Extension received this honor for “successfully responding to stakeholder needs for information about combating the effects of lead exposure to Michigan communities by developing exceptional emergency response with limited staff, time, and budget.”

I had the opportunity to travel with Deanna East, Lynette Kaiser, Erin Powell to accept the award on behalf of our organization and everyone involved in the emergency response. The USDA Abraham Lincoln Honor Award ceremony and reception took place at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Although only three people traveled to D.C. to receive the award on Extension’s behalf, our efforts in Flint were carried out by a large group of committed and passionate staff members. Health and nutrition staff developed programming materials and efforts to address healthy eating to mitigate lead absorption. Children and youth staff worked closely with community partners to develop resources and programs to help parents promote activities that support cognitive development. Greening Michigan and agriculture and agribusiness staff provided gardening and accessing healthy food education and soil tests. And both MSU Extension Communications and ANR Creative helped produce the resources necessary to carry out their endeavors.

We’re looking forward to the opportunity to honor all of our staff members that were part of this vital team at the Fall Extension Conference. Congratulations to the MSU Extension team on your 2016 USDA Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership.

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Filed under Awards, Flint Water, Uncategorized

MSU Extension receives USDA grant to support Flint families

I am pleased to announce that Michigan State University Extension was awarded a five-year grant that will fund early childhood programs and new resources for Flint families. Grant funding for the program will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Children Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Sustainable Community Projects.

During the grant period, MSU Extension will partner with two Flint neighborhoods heavily affected by lead contamination. The goal is to build a sustainable community model for parenting and early childhood education. The two community sites will offer parents and caregivers evidence- and research-based parenting education materials and child-focused activities based on community needs. Education and spending time with caring adults can help kids succeed, and by helping parents learn how to provide these types of positive early childhood experiences, we can help them limit the effects of lead on their children.

We’re resolved to provide the Flint community with as much support as we possibly can to help address the long-term effects of lead exposure. This grant will allow us to support hundreds of Flint families and build a sustainable community partnership for continuing this work after the grant ends. Read more about this grant in the press release by Jamie Wilson here.

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Filed under Children and Youth, Flint Water, health, Health and Nutrition, MSUE News, Nutrition, Parenting, Partnerships

Getting the word out to Flint families

On Tuesday, April 26, MSU Extension participated in the Flint Farmers Market event held by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and attended by representatives from state and local agencies, the media and the public. The event raised awareness about the nutrition assistance programs and guidance resources available to Flint residents.

During the press conference, speakers from many organizations and programs such as the Fair Food Network, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and the United Dairy Industry of Michigan joined USDA speakers to share about nutrition and program information. Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, spoke at the press conference, highlighting MSU Extension resources and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP‒Ed).

After the press conference, participants interacted with program staff during activities and demonstrations, and at informational booths. Our MSU Extension team provided a cooking demonstration, a Cooking Matters class and a Discover Michigan Fresh tour. They also set up a “fender blender” bike for participants to ride to create a healthy smoothie and taste the results of their efforts. The MSU Extension booth showcased our nutrition education curricula, fight lead brochures and class fliers.

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The event provided accurate information, brought partners together who support the efforts in Flint and delivered a cohesive message. The USDA took sounds bites and video footage to develop public service announcements for future use to reach out and educate more of the public about the important resources available.

Thank you, Dawn Contreras, Deanna East, Erin Powell, Lynette Kaiser, Rich Ashley and his son Gabe, Liz Josaitis, Maha Khrais, Shane Jackson, Nancy Latham, Becky Henne and Tom Cummins for your efforts to provide meaningful activities and content, and for representing MSU Extension at this successful event.

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Filed under Children and Youth, communication, Events, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications, Resources

Getting nutritious milk to Flint: They make it look easy

On January 18, I was in a meeting with Ken Nobis, president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA). Because it was our first time in the same room, we began with some informal conversation about the big news item of the day ‒ the Flint water crisis. When I mentioned that our staff members were working with residents to ensure they have access to foods high in calcium and iron, both of which block the absorption of lead, Ken was quick to point out that milk is high in calcium and 96 hours later, 12,000 gallons of nutritious milk was delivered to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. About 2,000 dairy farm families from the MMPA donated the milk, Kroger Co. of Michigan led the processing of the milk and packaging into gallon jugs, and Quickway provided the transportation of the milk to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan for distribution. Shortly after that, it was distributed to Flint residents.

That’s the power of Michigan State University Extension. We bring the right people together to help solve complex problems. In this case, I did very little. But it got the wheels turning. In fact, on National Ag Day, March 15, a second delivery of 12,000 gallons of 2 percent milk was delivered to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan for distribution among families affected by the Flint water crisis. This time, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan joined the MMPA, and Kroger and banded together to help a city in need.

Good nutrition is important to everyone but it is especially important for families affected by lead contamination. Our health and nutrition team has been vigilant in demonstrating the need for good nutrition during this public health crisis. Making sure that nutritious foods, such as milk, are available to the residents of Flint is key to recovery. We are proud that our partners in agriculture, including the MMPA, are helping in that recovery.

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Filed under Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships

MSU Extension continues to meet Flint needs

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is providing adaptable programming to meet the specific and urgent needs of the people of Flint. Through cooking demonstrations and instruction from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) on purchasing and preparing healthy foods, we have been disseminating nutrition information to help block lead absorption. Through our Master Gardeners and edible flint, we’ve taught about growing healthy food in lead-contaminated soils and water. Through the 4-H dog, rabbit and cavy clubs, we’ve led discussions in caring for animals exposed to lead. Through early childhood development education, we’ve identified the importance of using play to combat lead effects. We have also developed the Fight Lead Exposure site to provide important resources and information to the people of Flint and the state at large.

We have been facilitating partnerships with those wanting to pitch in and help. We appreciate the resource donations from the Michigan Milk Producers and the Michigan Vegetable Growers. We are also grateful to MSU Athletics and MSU students, faculty and alumni that have donated their time volunteering. The Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan have been an essential partner in our efforts.

Why does Extension have such an important role to play? We have been serving the people of Flint since 1913 and have built an essential level of trust. MSU Extension has strong partnerships with county government, health and nutrition, agriculture, 4-H and early childhood development, which makes us a presence that can adapt to specific and urgent needs in the community. Not just in Flint, but across Michigan.

Now, more than ever, MSU Extension is in the state and national spotlight. For example, everyone who received the email invitation to the Democratic Debate on Sunday, March 6, received the MSU Extension “Fight Lead With Nutrition” handout attached by the Democratic National Committee Debate Team. Our work was recognized by the national debate team putting the event together. The effects and range of our outreach are growing. Remember that it is important that each link in our organization be strong and ready to respond to the next crisis or need in our communities.

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Filed under 4-H, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, communication, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Impacts, Nutrition, Partnerships

Thoughts on my second month as director

The focus on Flint in recent weeks and the need to address important nutrition, child development, public health and community infrastructure issues has given us the opportunity to remind folks that MSU Extension has been in Flint for 100 years. We will be there for the next 100 years, and can be an important part of developing and implementing solutions that change lives. Your colleagues are making a difference. Deanna East is helping to coordinate the Michigan State University response in Flint. Eric Scorsone and the recently announced MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy are engaging local officials and testifying before the State Legislature. Erin Powell, Cathy Newkirk and many others are addressing nutrition issues on the ground. Terry McLean and the Edible Flint crew are working closely with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and state officials to ensure that food is distributed in areas of greatest need. This is important work that underscores the breadth of our collective experience, the ability to respond quickly and the importance of partnerships that you have built over decades.

The critical role that MSU Extension is playing in Flint is replicated in every community throughout Michigan. But, seven weeks into my new job as part of your team, it is already clear that not enough people know who we are. Moreover, those who do know us well are not always familiar with the breadth and depth of MSU Extension programming. I met recently with an agricultural commodity CEO, for example, who indicated that labor force issues were among his biggest industry concerns. As we talked, it became clear that, although his interactions over many years had been primarily with our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (for obvious reasons), many programs in the Greening Michigan, Children and Youth, and Health and Nutrition Institutes would be potentially valuable resources to him in recruiting and retaining valued employees.

We often use a slide when describing “Who is MSU Extension?” that includes the following bullets:

  • Faculty and Academic Staff on Campus
  • Extension Educators and Senior Extension Educators
  • 4-H Program Coordinators
  • Program Instructors, Program Associates, Program Assistants
  • Support Staff Members, on and off campus; MSU or county employees
  • Funded by County, State and Federal Resources

While these statements are accurate and descriptive, what if, instead, we said things like:

  • Unparalleled statewide health education delivery system.
  • Business start-up, tech transfer and product development expertise.
  • Serve schools statewide; capable of gathering more than 2,000 kids and their families for a single event.
  • Rapid response for agriculture, human health and other emergencies, such as the current Flint water crisis.
  • Future funding growth to come from building partnerships!

You can help me in at least two important ways.

  1. Don’t hesitate to tell people about the great work you do, and add in a bit about what your colleagues do in many areas across the entire state. If you aren’t aware of all MSU Extension programs, the website is a good place to start.
  2. Help us to find even more creative ways to describe what we do and outlets for sharing that information with the world. What descriptive statements would you add to this list to describe “Who is MSU Extension?”

Consider browsing through our public value statements occasionally to refresh your memory about how all of your colleagues’ work makes a difference in Michigan. We work for an amazing organization. By working together we can ensure that more people understand how we can help positively change their lives, communities and businesses.

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Financial education, Flint Water, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Resources, Youth development

Update on Flint

MSU Extension is right in the middle of the efforts to reach the people of Flint with the resources they need. Our response there shows how nimble and responsive our team is in times of crisis. For example, HNI and CYI teams have developed fact sheets on how to Fight Lead With Nutrition and Fight Lead Affects With Learning and Play. These resources, and others, are not only valuable in Flint, but also in other areas of the state that have high lead levels.

In addition to these and other very specific lead-related resources, your colleagues have modified other programming to fit the needs of residents as they deal with lead exposure.

Some highlights of what your colleagues accomplished in January alone follow. MSU Extension has helped more than 2,100 people through programs, participation in events and partnerships.

Jennifer Skornicka and her team put on a 4-H information display at a Family Fun Night and Lead Testing event at Eisenhower Elementary that reached 400 young people and 285 adults. At this event, families received Molina Foundation books and the new Nutrition & Lead recipe information booklets. These booklets have become an important resource, and we’ve distributed more than 6,000 copies to 23 organizations that will further distribute of them. Hurley Children’s Hospital has an additional 2,500 booklets to distribute to their patients. Julia Darnton, Terry McLean and Erin Powell are working with ongoing programs in growing and accessing healthy food.

Photo of a Cooking demonstration at the Eastern Market using ingredients that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin D.

Cooking demonstration at the Eastern Market using ingredients that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C. Photo credit: ANR Communications.

102 people have attended food and nutrition demonstrations featuring recipes that block lead absorption at the Flint Farmers’ Market. These are in addition to many other programs designed to meet needs in the community.

Because all eyes are on Flint and our work there, we’ve been getting a lot of attention from MSU President Simon and others. In her February 10, 2016, State of the University speech, President Simon was very complimentary about the work of MSU Extension in Flint. Everything we do to help the people of Flint elevates our reputation throughout the state and on campus. People are becoming aware of the importance of having Extension folks rooted in the communities that they serve. Every day is a reminder for me of how fortunate I am to be part of the MSU Extension team.

You might be wondering how you can help and what resources we have developed. You also might be getting calls from concerned residents in your communities. Links to several important resources for you and anyone else who is concerned about Flint and about nutrition and the water in their own communities follow.

  • Fight Lead Exposure The new MSU Extension page with links to MSU Extension news articles and educational resources about lead.
  • MSU Pediatric Public Health Fund  This MSU fund will support a new effort to find and evaluate interventions for the children of Flint affected by lead exposure.
  • Flint Volunteer Reception Center The center is designed as a central point of contact for all volunteers and those needing volunteers in Flint.

When people call your office looking for a place to get their drinking water tested, direct them to the county health department first. (The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provides a Local Health Department Map.) If the health department doesn’t offer that service, callers can order a water test kit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for $18 by calling 517-335-8184.

To learn more about Flint and what people are coming together to achieve there, visit one of the pages listed here:

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition