Category Archives: Food

Pumpkin everything

Giant wooden bins filled with pumpkins, trees in the background.

You can tell it’s fall when you start seeing pumpkin everything: pumpkin lattes, pie, muffins, soups, cookies, cakes, coffee creamer, ice cream and Cheerios – what? Today, I thought I’d point out some great resources that our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educators have created to help us get into the pumpkin spirit.

First, we’ll need to know how to pick the perfect pumpkin. Good thing we have the “How to Choose the Right Pumpkin” resource by MSU Extension educator Jeannie Nichols with information on finding fully mature and delicious pumpkins.

Once we’ve found the right pumpkin, we turn to MSU Extension educator Lisa Treiber who prepared a great Michigan Fresh bulletin on using, storing and preserving pumpkins with detailed instructions and recommendations.

In case you’d like to dive deeper into pumpkin preservation, MSU Extension educator Stephanie Ostrenga has some important information in her “Pumpkin Preservation Safety Tips” article.

MSU Extension educator Stephanie Marino also has great advice on “Incorporating Pumpkin Into Your Diet This Season” with recipes included.

To fully immerse ourselves in all things pumpkin, the MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi is hosting their annual Pumpkinfest Oct.7–8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. that draws about 6,000 visitors. This will be a fantastic event for the whole family with a children’s straw maze, educational exhibits, music, pumpkin bowling, antique tractors, the MSU Bug House and more. On Sept. 27, we received MSU Extension educator Alan Jaros’ email encouraging us all to attend, represent our program areas at the event and bring interactive elements to engage the crowd. This is a great opportunity to show off what we do and celebrate all things pumpkin. If you have questions or if you would like to sign up, contact Aba Holmes at holme146@anr.msu.edu. Hope you can make it.

Happy pumpkin season, everyone!

Comments Off on Pumpkin everything

Filed under Children and Youth, Events, Food, Food safety, Health and Nutrition, Horticulture, Nutrition, Resources

Behind the scenes of a team: District 8 strategic connections

This month we’re highlighting the strategic connections that Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator Randy Bell grows and maintains in District 8.

Headshot of Randy Bell.

Randy Bell, MSU Extension educator, Greening Michigan Institute.

“Randy has been innovative in his programming,” district coordinator Don Lehman said. “He has built partnerships in the region that have resulted in programs that benefit individuals and organizations. He is a mentor to people within and outside of the MSU community.”

Randy has been with MSU Extension for 26 years and is a member of the community food systems team. His work builds on community and economic development practices, and he works to increase the economic impact of local and regional food in the greater Lansing area. Randy interacts with people working all along the food value chain, from producers and processors to wholesale and retail sales operations, all the way to the final consumer.

Many organizations and individuals in the Lansing area focus on foods, including the urban neighborhood centers, food bank, YMCA, land bank, food co-op and county health department. Along with MSU, all of these groups provide programming to increase food access, food quality, increased nutrition, urban gardening, food equity/justice, obesity prevention, improved child nutrition and more. Randy works with these groups to provide programming through relationships.

Volunteers put together survival kits of food for teh Weekend Survival Kit program.

Ingham County MSU Extension provides backbone support functions for a consortium of 5 community partners. In the 2015-2016 school year, the Weekend Survival Kit program provided over 10,000 free kits of supplemental, kid-friendly food to 7 elementary schools. Photo credit: Randy Bell.

Volunteers pose with bins filled with the completed survival kits.

These kits provided an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 meals to food insecure Lansing schoolchildren to eat on weekends and school holidays when they are unable to access the school breakfast and lunch meals. Photo credit: Randy Bell.

Many of these initiatives are funded by local, state and federal funds. Because of their funding, many of these organizations spend a lot of time on grant compliance, reporting and describing the actual performance of their funded projects, which can be heavily time-consuming. What remains of their time and energy can be used for collaborative programming, but someone needs to build and nurture relationships, provide cross-organization communication, offer grants information and other services of value to manage partnerships and cross-organizational programming. Randy has the ability to provide all of these services.

“To use a sports metaphor, I’m like a professional team’s general manager,” Randy said. “I’m never out front, but behind the scenes I am bringing together the right combination of team members to ensure a winning team. In order to do that, I have to know the capacity of each, their ability to perform and how they are best motivated.”

Over his career, Randy has seen the effects of his collaboration with community partners. One success has been Randy’s ability to host paid and unpaid MSU student interns who help with community initiatives. Other indicators of these successful collaborations can be seen across the Lansing area.

“We have planning and zoning master plans and ordinances that encourage, not discourage, small-scale agriculture.” Randy said. “We also have innovative food retail, reduced child hunger, policy and systems change for improved health and reduced chronic disease, diminished urban blight and youth who are engaged in their food system. We are a community working together to help provide an environment where one’s basic needs are met.”

Through his work building strategic connections and helping organizations and community members come together, Randy has experienced the power of collaboration.

“At the risk of sounding corny, there is more power in ‘we’ than there is in ‘me,’” Randy said. “Many of the challenges our communities face, especially our urban communities, seem so enormous and possibly insurmountable. No one person or organization has the ability to solve them all. But together we can and do!”

What are the organizations and individuals in your area that provide similar programming? What are some ways you could engage with them to build programs together that meet community needs?

Comments Off on Behind the scenes of a team: District 8 strategic connections

Filed under Food, strategic connections

Thanksgiving resources for Michigan residents

A pumpkin pie with a piece cut out and sitting on a dish.

Photo by alcinoe at Morguefile.com

I don’t know about your offices, but here in the Director’s office, we get a lot of calls in November with questions about preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and food safety. Our educators have done a great job of getting out that information and resources on our website. I thought I’d mention some here in case you get any questions in your office or even from friends and family.

In “Be Thankful for Food Safety This Thanksgiving,” Michigan State University (MSU) Extension health and nutrition educator Jane Hart guides us through all of our favorite foods – turkey, stuffing, relish and pumpkin pie – and tells us how to make sure that they are safe to eat.

Jeannie Nichols, health and nutrition educator, writes about two U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for preparing and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, or any poultry for that matter. In her article, Jeannie explains why the USDA recommends that you do not rinse it before cooking it and that you do make sure it is cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. She also explains how to most effectively measure it.

Need some help with thawing times for turkey? Laurie Messing, health and nutrition educator, shares the safe ways to thaw food in her article “Thawing the Thanksgiving Turkey.”

If you won’t have time to thaw your turkey, Jeannie writes about how to safely roast a frozen one in her “Frozen Turkey for Thanksgiving” article.

Learn from health and nutrition educator Beth Waitrovich why the USDA recommends cooking stuffing outside of your turkey.

After the last forkful of pumpkin pie, many of us have leftovers to save – another important moment in food safety. Laurie explains how to properly store and use leftover turkey.

Looking for a new recipe to try with your turkey leftovers? Beth has a quick and easy turkey soup with vegetables that will be perfect for those chilly couple of days after the holiday.

Need help in a pinch on Thanksgiving Day? Thankfully, Laurie shares with us that the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, staffed by food safety specialists, will be answering food safety questions on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Eastern Time. The phone number is 1-888-674-6854.

Lastly, to refer people to safe food and water experts in their area, visit our MSU Extension website.

Comments Off on Thanksgiving resources for Michigan residents

Filed under Food, Food safety, Uncategorized

Michigan Fresh helps residents navigate local farmers markets

Entering its second year, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s Discover Michigan Fresh farmers market tours help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)‒eligible residents become familiar with their local farmers markets and explore Michigan-grown produce.

Our nutrition education staff members meet tour participants at the farmers market where they are escorted on a guided tour, meet farmers and exchange ideas for preparing new and familiar farm-fresh products. Participants are encouraged to consider how they might use items purchased at the market to fill a nutritious MyPlate. (MyPlate is a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative to promote healthy eating by simply filling your plate with the right mix of healthy foods.)

MSU Extension staff members also assist participants in understanding how food assistance benefits are used in their market. The tours encourage participants to use their farmers market as a source of nutritious, delicious, affordable food while keeping local dollars in the community. Also we hand out our own Michigan Fresh fact sheets are used as a reference. Participants also receive a participant booklet that contains information ranging from market shopping tips, to produce storage and preservation tips, to recipes. Our tours can be offered as the nutrition education component in concert with other community programs such as Market FRESH and Hoophouses for Health.

Last year was the pilot year with tours taking place in eight counties (from Alger to Monroe), in eight districts, reaching over 180 participants. Farmers and vendors report that they appreciate the opportunity to chat with participants. We’ve received positive feedback from participants, including these quotes from last season’s attendees:

“I liked the tour because healthy food is good for my soul as well as my heart.”

“I learned about Hoophouses for Health and I learned that a lot of vendors accept EBT, Project FRESH and Double Up Food Bucks.”

“I personally thought the tour of the farmers market was well needed. This was a great experience.”

“I had a great time on the tour. We visited a lot of Michigan-made vendors and that was the best to support our own people.”

This year, tours are being considered or are already planned in 13 districts and staff have even more options for materials. New this season: Materials are currently being completed for use with senior audiences and Discover Michigan Fresh Junior is in the works.

The Discover Michigan Fresh team developed a new booklet for use with seniors with some additional information, such as tips for shopping for one and small-quantity recipes. The senior tours are a great piece for our staff to be able to offer to local Area Agencies on Aging as the nutrition education piece during Market FRESH coupon distribution.

When complete, Discover Michigan Fresh Junior will consist of fun lessons for kids in grades K‒5, focusing on produce found in Michigan farmers markets and encouraging guest farmer Q&A’s. The lessons can be used at the market or offsite (for example, during summer camp) with a field trip to the market.

Find Michigan Fresh fact sheets, recipes, and recipe videos here: www.michiganfresh.msue.msu.edu

If you are wondering how a Discover Michigan Fresh tour might look in action, watch this video, produced by ANR Creative, by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfzxNEG_VnQ

Comments Off on Michigan Fresh helps residents navigate local farmers markets

Filed under Food, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Publications, Resources

Youth global engagement: World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute

On May 12, Michigan State University hosted World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute (WFP MIYI). During the one-day event, youth in grades 8 to 12 presented research and recommendations on how to solve key global challenges by giving short speeches and taking part in small group discussions with local experts. They had the opportunity to connect with other student leaders from across Michigan to share ideas, identify solutions to problems and build friendships. They also interacted with global leaders in science, agriculture, industry and policy as well as innovative researchers, professors and college students working to improve food security around the world. Youth participants took part in educational sessions and interactive panels to explore current research and issues in international development and life sciences.

Several youth shared about their experiences with WFP MIYI:

“World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute has opened doors for me to a network that few organizations have the ability to do.”

“Through participating in WFP MIYI, I am more confident, learned so much and feel that I can make a difference.”

“My experience at the Michigan Youth Institute has given me skills in leadership and confidence, and has inspired me to think about others around the world.”

“My experience here not only helped me learn how to do research, write a paper on that research, and present it. It also exposed me to all of these global issues and to some wonderful experts and peers who are active in solving that.”

“The experience of participating in the World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute has helped me prepare for a huge goal that will be to fight and conquer hunger.”

The WFP MIYI is sponsored by Michigan State University Extension, Michigan 4-H, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Michigan FFA. MSU Extension 4-H educators Makena Schultz and Brian Wibby lead the collaboration and organization of WFP MIYI.

“The WFP MIYI directly engages young people in what could be one of the most significant challenges ever to face humanity: How will we provide access to a sufficient, nutritious and sustainable diet for each of the 9 to 10 billion people who could be inhabiting our planet later in this century? The WFP MIYI helps young people to develop an understanding of the interconnected nature of the many factors that are related to global food security, and creates a space where youth can develop the knowledge and skills needed to create effective solutions to this wicked problem,” Brian said.

Makena feels that the most meaningful takeaway from the event is that young people have a chance to take action in their passion for helping others.

“The World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute offers a lens for young people to do that, so they can explore their passion, through the lens of global food security, which is really exciting,” she said. “Young people have really innovative ideas, they’re very creative, they think outside the box, and very often they come up with great solutions to problems that maybe adults or other members of the community might not see so easily.”

Interested in hearing more about World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute? Kraig Ehm of MSU Agriculture and Natural Resources Creative interviews Makena and participant Raegan Gembarski on the World Food Prize edition of In the Field on the Spartan Podcast.

Comments Off on Youth global engagement: World Food Prize Michigan Youth Institute

Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth, Food, Resources, Student Presentations, Youth development

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Comments Off on Getting the word out to Flint families

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.

Comments Off on Getting nutritious milk to Flint: They make it look easy

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