Category Archives: Resources

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

Brown marmorated stink bugs – 5 resources to help you answer questions

With the coming of autumn, it is brown marmorated stink bug season once again. We’ve put together the information you’ll need to handle any calls that might come your way. A year ago, here in the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Director’s Office, our phones were ringing off the hook with people calling to report sightings and to ask questions. This year, we’ll be ready. Use the following resources and websites to learn about the invasive pest yourself as well as give to any interested callers:

  1. The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) collects information on sightings of brown marmorated stink bugs but only in certain areas. Because the stink bug is well-established across the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, the network is no longer collecting information on sightings in this region. However, the northern half of the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula are regions that should report. For a comprehensive map of the current BMSB establishment in Michigan and the most up-to-date information, check out “Why and How to Report Sightings of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Your Home or Business” by Julianna Wilson, MSU faculty member in the Department of Entomology.
  2. To report sightings in the requested areas, people will need to go to the MISIN website or mobile app, register as a user (it’s free) and follow the instructions for submitting a report.
  3. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB): Information for Michigan Residents on a New Home Invader” by Paul Botch, MSU Department of Entomology, and Diane Brown, MSU Extension, goes in depth and covers background information, identification and eradication. This is a great resource to familiarize yourself with in order to answer questions. It’s also a comprehensive resource to send to anyone asking for information.
  4. MSU Diagnostic Services faculty member Howard Russell created “Managing Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Homes” about preventing and managing the brown marmorated stink bug in homes and in farms.
  5. If you have any calls from folks who’d like to have an insect identified, Howard’s “Tips on Submitting Insects for Identification” is an excellent resource on mailing a specimen or sending in digital photos.

Another common question we receive is if the insects are harmful to people or pets. Thankfully, they are not. If the bugs are harmless, why is this such a big deal? The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species that can cause damage to Michigan plants and crops, and the further we can track its spread, the more effective we can be in prevention and management.

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Filed under Entomology, Invasive species, Resources

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

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

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.

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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.

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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