Category Archives: Nutrition

Thanksgiving resources for Michigan residents

Table with Thanksgiving dishes and beverages.

Once again, as November rolls around, we begin to get questions about preparing Thanksgiving dinner and ensuring food safety. Our educators have done a great job of creating resources on our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension website. A year ago, I blogged about their work, and it was my most-read November post, so I thought it would be helpful to post it again this year in case you get calls to your offices or questions from loved ones.

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.

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.  

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

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

MSU Extension Water Education in Bath

On May 11, Joyce McGarry, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension nutrition and food safety educator, was invited to visit Bath Elementary School in recognition of the school’s two new water-refilling stations donated by Delta Dental. She was asked to talk with 178 fourth- and fifth-graders on the important health benefits of water.

Joyce added visual demonstrations. With the help of student volunteers, she counted the number of teaspoons of sugar present in popular sports and flavored water drinks, and compared the results with water, which has no sugar.

Students also had the opportunity to share their knowledge of water and some of their own water practices. For example, one student said that as a treat, his grandmother allows him to drink pop at her house; otherwise, he only drinks milk and water at home. Having students reflect on their own experiences helps them to connect with what they learn.

At the end of the presentation, students were given water bottles that can be refilled throughout their school day. Joyce shared the importance of properly washing the water bottles on a regular basis to get rid of harmful bacteria buildup.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), providing drinking water to students helps to increase their overall water consumption, maintain hydration, reduce intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and may help improve cognitive function. One important way that schools can make a difference is increasing students’ access to water, and allowing them to bring bottles of water to class. Bath Elementary School took it one step further, adding in water and nutrition education by partnering with Joyce and MSU Extension.

Joyce felt that this was an excellent opportunity to engage with the students.

“What a great day to share with great kids!” Joyce said.

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Filed under Children and Youth, grants, Nutrition

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

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

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