Category Archives: Health and Nutrition

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!

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

20+ year Extension partnership gears up for National Immunization Awareness Month

dna strands

As we count down to August, which is National Immunization Awareness Month, we reached out to  Dawn Contreras and Connie DeMars to highlight an important partnership and program serving Michigan medical professionals and residents. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services began a partnership in 1995 as the result of a statewide need for tools and training to help raise Michigan’s immunization rate and promote better health among all residents. We formed the Physician Peer Education Program on Immunization that provides medical updates relevant to immunizations to practicing physicians and medical groups. Through this program, we provide updates on pediatrics; adult immunizations; vaccines for women’s health, influenza and HPV; and recommendations for health care personnel. All are valid for Continuing Medical Education credit.

“Since October 1 of last year, we have organized almost 70 presentations reaching over 2,000 medical professionals to answer questions,” Connie said. “Our audience has included many aspects, from hospitals to the automotive industry.”

How can we help? Connie shared that we can all help to promote our upcoming, one-hour Pediatric and Adult Influenza webinar on August 30, designed for medical professionals. It will discuss influenza rates, surveillance and coverage levels, and recommendations. It will identify strategies to improve vaccination rates. I’ve linked to the PDF of the webinar’s promotional flyer to this post below so that you can download and disseminate it.

Flu Webinar Poster

“Getting all needed immunizations is an important element of good health for many people,” Dawn said. We are honored to be a partner with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on this long-standing program geared toward protecting the lives of Michigan residents.”

To find out more, visit our website or contact Connie at demars@anr.msu.edu.

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Filed under health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships

Is this seat open? Going where the relationships are in District 13

Zelda Felix-Mottley and state Sen. Al Psholka posing for a photo.

Zelda Felix-Mottley and Mr. Al Pscholka, budget director for the State of Michigan.

Where can you cross paths with decision-makers? Michigan State University Extension educator Zelda Felix-Mottley’s advice is to “go where they go and mingle.” In other words, go where the relationships are. What does that look like? We asked Zelda to share her stories on what that meant for her strategic connections.

Zelda teaches nutrition education to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) audiences and also provides Smarter Lunchroom and Healthier Child Care Environments trainings. Where are her U.S. and state representatives, commissioners and other decision-makers going? To the county Human Services Coordinating Council meetings. So Zelda began to attend as well, each time highlighting her program area and highlighting other Extension program areas too.

It wasn’t just her presentations that built relationships though. Zelda began to sit next to the decision-maker she wanted to connect with. Sitting next to them allowed her to make small talk, learn about their interests and be able to talk about hers (Extension). After a few years of sitting next to Al Pscholka (budget director for the State of Michigan, formerly a state representative and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee), she invited him to the local Extension office, and he visited. Becoming an Extension ally, Al advocated for Extension services and agricultural research during the 2014 budget development process, making sure that funding was strengthened for our organization. We gave him a Key Partner Award in gratitude for taking a stand for us.

Who else has Zelda sat next to? State Sen. John Proos, who visited the local Extension office and helped Zelda with a presentation to Health and Nutrition Institute staff members about successfully reaching elected officials. Also, she has sat next to county commissioners, who have now become advocates in their county meetings and to other county departments, helping to advocate for funding and partnerships.

State Sen. John Proof poses for a picture with Extension staff in the kitchen at the Berrien County office.

State Sen. John Proos visits the Berrien office to meet with the Nutrition and Physical Activity Extension staff members.

We can learn so much from Zelda’s approach to strategic connections.

“Be patient, it can’t be done all at one time,” Zelda said. “You have to be intentional: start small.”

It can be as simple as going where the relationships are and taking the empty seat next to them.

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Filed under Health and Nutrition, Impacts, strategic connections

MSU Extension teams up with MDARD over baby chicks

Two baby chicks huddle together.I recently saw a T-shirt that made me chuckle. It read, “Chickens are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.” Each spring, customers flock to farm supply stores across the country for Chick Days, where live chicks are available for purchase. The adorable baby birds are tiny and cute, but many people do not know that the chicks also carry dangerous germs such as Salmonella. With a rise in salmonella cases in 2016, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension decided to work together to improve educational efforts around salmonella prevention with chick buyers in 2017. Extension educator Katie Ockert and Mindy Tape and Jamie Wilson from our communications team worked closely with MDARD on collaborative efforts that resulted in “Chick Bags.” Each bag contains a series of informative rack cards, disinfectant and cleaning brushes. More than 1,000 free bags will be distributed to chick buyers at 10 Family Farm and Home stores. In addition to helping chick buyers understand ways to prevent Salmonella contamination, the cards also provide new owners with valuable information on caring for their animals and preventing the spread of disease among their birds.

These are great guides that are worth taking a look at and sharing with any chick buyers you might know. You can find them on the MSU Extension website and at the sites below.

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Filed under Agriculture, Animal Science, communication, health, Health and Nutrition, Partnerships, Publications

Your guide to staying active this winter

Person hiking on a path in the woods in the snow.

Living in Michigan, I think we’ve all experienced those winters where we’ve felt too busy, too cold and too snowed-in to even think about being active. But we have some outstanding information from our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension health and nutrition educators and program instructors on staying active and nutrition during the winter that just might help us beat the winter blues and stay healthy.

Wondering how much physical activity you and your family need? See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for the recommended physical activity needs for children, adults, women who are pregnant and older adults. Hopefully you’ve found these MSU Extension resources helpful in your efforts to stay active this winter. Stay warm!

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Filed under Health and Nutrition, Nutrition

Let’s talk about gratitude

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I wanted to take a moment to share some great Michigan State University (MSU) Extension resources on gratitude.

Pumpkins in a field.

Photo by tinah at Morguefile.com.

 

Health and nutrition educator Shannon Lindquist writes that people who practice gratitude are more proactive in taking care of their physical and mental health, exercise on a regular basis, make healthy food choices, make and keep yearly health appointments, develop positive coping methods for stress, and have a sense of happiness and optimism. Those sound like great benefits to me.

What are ways that we can show gratitude? Children and youth educator Makena Schultz lists seven ways to practice gratitude in her article “‘Tis the Season of Giving Thanks: Why Gratitude Is Important in Leadership.” She describes creating a gratitude letter, a gratitude list or journal, or a gratitude jar; engaging with a gratitude partner or in grateful contemplation; and making a gratitude visit to a deserving person. Learn more about leadership and gratitude by reading her article.

Photo of a table set with Thanksgiving dinner: squash, mashed potatos, ham, desert and flowers.

Photo by earl53 at Morgueufile.com.

Health and nutrition educator Tracie Abram encourages people to “slow down and notice the foods you are eating and how your body communicates and reacts to the food.” She also shares to “cultivate gratitude for the simple things and you will see more positives. You can be that person who helps create a joyful food memory for another by sharing your love for food and a grateful attitude.” She shares more about how to cultivate a food gratitude attitude in her article “Cultivate a Food Gratitude Attitude.”

Mother a daughter sit and look at pond.

Photo by Scott Liddle at Morguefile.com

Gail Innis, health and nutrition educator, shares the importance of modeling thankfulness and gratitude with your children. Gail encourages us to discuss with our kids the gifts that they received from a family member and have them draw a picture or write a note to thank them. Make a phone call to a long-distance relative with your child to say thank you. Volunteer with your children in local charitable events. Tell and read stories about generous people, characters or events. Take time each day to talk about at least one thing you each are grateful for. Gail includes more in her article about teaching an attitude of gratitude to young children.

I am grateful for my wife; my daughters; my dog, Cocoa; and our home in the U.P. I’m also grateful to work with all of you to further the mission of MSU Extension and the opportunity to make a difference in Michigan. What are you thankful for? Let’s remember as we continue forward in the month all the blessings we have in our lives.

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Filed under Health and Nutrition, Social and emotional health

Strategic connections in District 3

Michelle Smith made her first strategic connection by inviting a Kalkaska County commissioner to judge during our Cooking Matters for Teens Extreme Cooking Challenge. Michelle is a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-ED) program instructor for Grand Traverse County in District 3. Her story is a great example of how we can make strong connections by involving local decision-makers in our programs.

Al Hart, Kalkaska County commissioner, asked at a board meeting last fall how Michigan State University (MSU) Extension was working with the schools toward improving wellness. Jennifer Berkey, present at that meeting, contacted Michelle about his concerns because Michelle is a Smarter Lunchroom and Cooking Matters educator. Michelle reached out to Mr. Hart by email with an invitation to judge a cooking challenge last spring with the high school students in her Cooking Matters class series. He enthusiastically agreed and communicated with Michelle by phone until the day of the challenge at Forest Area High School in Fife Lake.

Prior to the cook-off, Michelle informed the teachers, students, principal and office staff that a Kalkaska County commissioner would be coming in to the school to judge the cooking challenge. The staff greeted Mr. Hart when he arrived and led him to the classroom. The teens took interest in knowing that a county commissioner was a judge. They performed well in their cooking challenge. Mr. Hart fully engaged with the four teams and asked them insightful questions regarding the entrée they chose to prepare.

Having Mr. Hart as a judge was a great way for Michelle to get to know a county commissioner outside of a meeting and also an opportunity to show him what SNAP-ED does for youth and adults within his county. This also gave him the opportunity to ask Michelle and the school staff questions he may have had regarding the school and the school cafeteria.

“I feel confident this connection will greatly benefit Kalkaska County, MSU Extension, the schools and most importantly the students at the school,” Michelle said. “This was the first time I have reached out to someone of political nature, and after meeting Mr. Al Hart, I would connect with more community members of political or nonpolitical nature without hesitancy.”

Michelle’s invitation initiated a dialogue and a connection between the school, staff, youth, MSU Extension and the commissioner that will be a foundation that she can build upon in the future.

“Linking our local board of commission with the work we are doing in their district is key to reinforcing the support for our programming as well as linking them to the work we are doing with their residents,” Jennifer said.

Michelle’s example shows us that all it takes to bring people into the work we’re doing is an email or a phone call, even if you’ve never reached out before. Can you think of a part of your program where you can involve a local decision-maker? What are some creative ways that you can engage the strategic connections in your county or district?

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Filed under Children and Youth, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, strategic connections