Category Archives: health

MSU Extension team responds to help families with farm stress

A person with a hat sits in a field with a combine in the background.

About a year ago, commodity prices fell, especially affecting dairy farmers. Michigan saw a rise in attempted suicides among farmers and farm families. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension responded by forming the Farm Stress team, made up of Suzanne Pish, Adam Kantrovich, Roger Betz, Tom Cummins and Beth Stuever, to create resources for educators and others who work with farmers and their families.

The team, with the assistance of ANR Communications and Marketing, put together a fact sheet and video for farmers and farm families so that our staff could have access to resources they could use in their programming and interaction. The team also put together two programs to help Extension educators and others who work with farmers and farm families. The first was a mental health first-aid training: a full-day, hands-on, certification course that can help those people working with farmers and farm families to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and emotional crisis. The second was a workshop designed for people who work with agriculture producers and farm families who want to know more about managing farm-related stress and ways to approach and communicate with those in need.

The team and the resources that they have produced are an example of how important it is that we work across institute or department lines, and that we mobilize to meet immediate needs of Michigan residents. We have our traditional programs that provide ongoing, stable service to our constituents, but we also can function in an emergency response role, just like we did in our response to the Flint water emergency.

Do you work with farmers, farm families or both? Do you have connections who do? You might want to take some time to watch the video about stress management for farmers and take a look at the other resources on our MSU Extension webpage devoted to farm stress. If you have any questions about the resources or the team’s work, feel free to reach out to Suzanne Pish.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, health, Impacts, Resources, Social and emotional health

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

Ensuring access to high-quality programs in District 11

Photo of an adult hand holding a baby's hand in focus, blankets and pillows in the background of the shot are blurred.

Lisa Tams is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator located at the Western Wayne County office, and she serves District 11 in the area of social-emotional health and well-being. One of the key community partners she has engaged to expand her programming is the Wayne County Third Circuit Court. For over three years, through this partnership Extension has served more than 2,500 court-ordered Wayne County families and individuals with children through parenting programs such as Kids First and Alternatives to Anger for high-conflict co-parents. The goals of these programs are to improve parental skills and knowledge in effective co-parenting, and to decrease the risk of negative outcomes in the social-emotional health and well-being of their children as they go back and forth between two homes.

Lisa and her colleagues are currently working on a large expansion of Extension’s partnership with the court to provide another community-based parent education program that will differ in scope and size from our current programs but have the same basic goals: to strengthen families and improve child well-being. Through this new initiative, Lisa and her team will work to educate and support custodial single mothers who engage not only with the Third Circuit Court but also with the Department of Human Services. Their education programs will reach custodial single mothers who seek to establish paternity and acquire the skills and knowledge to begin co-parenting with a partner who has been absent from the child and custodial parent’s life for an extended period of time. This expansion is being funded through a $389,000 annual allocation to Extension from the county, and we expect full implementation of the pilot program by late summer.  Lisa and her team are excited for this new opportunity with the Third Circuit Court to expand their important shared work of improving the lives and functional well-being of children and families throughout Wayne County.

“From my experience with the Third Circuit Court, I have learned that strategic connections are a very effective and important way to combine expertise, target resources and reduce duplication of services between organizations with the same mission,” Lisa said. “The only way to effectively meet the high need for educational and support programs for families and children in a place like Wayne County, where the need is great and the resources are scarce, is to join forces with other trusted organizations, use the unique strengths of each partner, leave self-interest out of the equation, and work toward streamlining access to high quality programs and services for the communities, families and individuals we serve.”

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Filed under health, Parenting, Partnerships, strategic connections

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

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

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

May is Mental Health Awareness Month: 7 things you should know

Person sitting looking out over a lake and hills orange with sunset light.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Check out seven things that you should know about mental health that come from our Extension colleagues:

  1. Forgiveness is linked to better mental and physical health. Carolyn Penniman, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, writes that “A growing body of research on forgiveness is finding that people who forgive are more likely than the general population to have fewer episodes of depression, lower blood pressure, fewer stress-related health issues, better immune system function and lower rates of heart disease.” Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Adults can support the positive mental health of adolescents. Karen Pace, MSU Extension academic specialist in health and nutrition, explains in her article that adults can support young people by maintaining open communication, helping them nurture their emotional intelligence, supporting the development of their social intelligence, and being positive role models with youth in their communities. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Nature is good for your mental health. Dixie Sandborn, MSU Extension academic specialist in health and nutrition, explains in her article that a growing body of evidence suggests time spent outdoors in nature boosts well-being, and the strongest impact is on young people. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Practicing gratitude yearlong has mental health benefits. Karen Pace describes the importance of “an active process of self-reflection about what’s really important to us . . . through gratitude journals, meditation, prayer, the process of creating art, movement, singing – or simply saying out loud to ourselves or others that which we are grateful for.” Cultivating the practice of gratitude can help youth and adults become more resilient during stressful times, painful emotions, difficult situations and challenges. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. Digital technology can negatively affect mental health. Janet Olsen, MSU Extension academic specialist in health and nutrition, writes that the overuse of digital technology can negatively affect sleep quality and cause frequent interruptions that can lead to increased problems with memory, attention, concentration and learning. Even our levels of empathy can lower. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. It’s important to become familiar with the definitions of mental disorders, mental health conditions and mental illness as we check in with our own well-being and that of our kids. In this article, Tracie Abram, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, explains mental disorder conditions and symptoms, and talks about how to get help. Find out more by reading her article.
  1. You can nurture your child’s mental health and make parenting easier by understanding how our brains work. In her article, Karen Pace describes research about the brain and the way it works in children that will give parents a better understanding of how to support their children. Find out more by reading her article.

Although I’ve shared seven great sources of mental health information, I encourage you to check out our MSU Extension website where we have even more resources put together by our colleagues. By understanding mental health, and how the brain works, we can engage in important nurturing practices in our own lives and with our families as we welcome the month of May.

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Filed under health, Health and Nutrition, Parenting

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