Tag Archives: dawn earnesty

Bringing health and nutrition into our organizational culture – Fall Extension Conference

You might have noticed that the Fall Extension Conference (FEC) schedule looks a little different this year. If you read through it, you’ll see that there is time dedicated to activities such as “mindful movements,” “stroll through the park” and “mindful eating.” In fact, each day has at least four opportunities to engage in healthy practices in between our conference activities.

As we serve the people of Michigan and help them live healthier lives, we should also value our own health and create practices within our organizational culture to reflect this priority.

“Nearly half of our waking hours are spent at work, and many of those hours are spent in meetings and conferences,” Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator Dawn Earnesty said. “By adopting healthy meeting guidelines, MSU Extension can help to create an environment that supports employees’ efforts to eat well and be physically active. By internally promoting and taking care of the health and well-being of our own employees, we can better meet the needs of the audiences we educate daily.”

Dawn, MSU Extension educator Bree Carlson and their team worked with the FEC planning committee to incorporate this initiative into our conference this year.

“Specific opportunities at FEC will include physical activity breaks, standing tables, all food and beverages served to meet healthy meeting guidelines, healthy messaging and specific sessions that provide social, physical and emotional professional development opportunities,” Dawn said.

We have a lot to look forward to at FEC. I would like to encourage you to join me and your colleagues to take full advantage of these health-focused opportunities. It’s important that we bring healthy practices into our organization and the way we operate, and I can’t think of a better time to start.

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eXtension awards grant for developing adaptive learning techniques

The eXtension Foundation has identified nine projects that will be funded as part of its 2015 Innovation Request for Proposals. Forty-eight proposals were submitted, and nine were awarded for the granting period of July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. Grantees will be required to engage in face-to-face meetings with the eXtension Foundation to gauge impact, conduct at least one professional development session on the project, and make a presentation at the 2016 National eXtension Conference next March.

Gwyn Shelle, Alan Pilkenton, Dawn Earnesty, Ellen Darnall and Erin Powell submitted the proposal “Building Personalized Learning Experiences for Adult Learners Through Adaptive Learning Techniques,” for which they have been awarded the grant. This project will evaluate and pilot adaptive learning tools for future Cooperative Extension programming. Adaptive learning refers to a nonlinear approach to instruction that adjusts to student needs as they progress through course content – resulting in a customized experience for the learner based on prior knowledge.

The team of experts will research several existing adaptive learning tools and consult with experts in the field of online learning who are currently implementing adaptive learning into their programming. They will design and deliver adaptive learning activities within existing Michigan State University Extension online courses through several selected pilot projects. Specific objectives of the project include:

  • Increase knowledge of adaptive learning tools through research and collaboration with leaders in the field of online learning who are investing in adaptive learning tools. Many adaptive learning tools will be assessed and ranked based on potential use within Cooperative Extension Services programming.
  • Design and deliver adaptive learning activities within existing online courses through several selected pilot projects. Online focus groups will be administered to receive qualitative feedback on the effectiveness of the adaptive learning method.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the adaptive learning activities through online evaluations, retention rates compared to traditional online content, and general course data.

This grant will go a long way toward helping MSU Extension reach our audiences in new ways, and we’re excited to see where it goes!

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MSU Extension educators to collaborate with the Michigan Department of Education for smarter school lunches

Michigan State University Extension will be collaborating with the Michigan Department of Education on the recently awarded 2014 USDA Team Nutrition grant. MSU Extension educators across the state will be working directly with 50 schools to conduct Smarter Lunchroom Assessments in the school’s cafeterias. Schools that participate will receive a small financial incentive to complete 10 activities in the cafeteria. The MSU Extension staff members that are leading this partnership include Dawn Earnesty, Sheilah Hebert and Becky Henne.

The evidence-based activities are designed to equip schools with tools that improve children’s eating behaviors, and improve the cafeteria environment and food offerings. Thirty-five of those schools will also be given the opportunity to receive additional support from MSU Extension staff to implement a Healthier School Environment Toolkit. The toolkit will include resources on Coordinated School Health Teams, Healthy School Action Tool Assessment, Local School Wellness Policies, Smart Snacks legislation and other evidence-based strategies such as taste testing, working with student teams, healthy meetings, and adult and peer modeling and coaching to make healthy choices.

MSU Extension staff will receive specialized training on conducting Smarter Lunchroom Assessments, a program designed by the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

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Healthier meetings lead to a healthier workplace

Meetings are a necessary part of our workday. We often talk about making our meetings more productive and less time-consuming, but have we ever thought about making our meetings healthier? Our Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute is working on that.

MSU Extension educator Dawn Earnesty has been recently trained as a Work@Health certified trainer through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Dawn is piloting the CDC’s new comprehensive program that uses the CDC health scorecard to assess the health of a worksite. The scorecard includes 125 questions focused on health topics such as organizational supports, tobacco control, nutrition, physical activity, weight management and stress management. Based on a business’s scorecard results, Dawn works with health committee members made up of its employees, training them to work with leadership to make healthy program, policy and environmental changes within the worksite. Through the CDC program, Dawn will be engaging five local businesses to become trained in September. She’ll work with additional businesses in the future.

One way to improve overall worksite health is to improve the health of our meetings – both at internal and external sites. We spend nearly half of our waking hours at work with many of those hours spent in meetings and conferences. By adopting healthy meeting guidelines, MSU Extension can help to create an environment that supports employees’ and stakeholders’ efforts to eat well and be physically active.

The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) in the Center for Science in the Public Interest provided recommendations to improve the health of in-person and virtual meetings. The guidelines include general recommendations and specifics related to beverages, food, physical activity and sustainability as well as tobacco-free guidelines. They also include recommendations for a standard healthy meeting or a superior healthy meeting. Meeting hosts can make gradual improvements to reach the higher standard.

NANA provided the Healthy Meeting Toolkit that you can also share with partners that may host meetings. Organizations, institutions and companies have the opportunity to take the NANA Healthy Meeting Pledge to adopt healthy meeting practices through the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Having healthy meetings, conferences and events helps to create an environment that supports employees and members in their efforts to eat well and be physically active. As we make gradual changes as an organization, in the future we can look at the opportunity of taking the pledge ourselves.

In the meantime, let’s watch for opportunities to incorporate these healthy practices in our meetings. It’s a great model for us to recognize that when we’re doing educational programming, we’re telling others what they should do and how they should do it. Yet, if we’re not demonstrating the same good practices that we’re suggesting others follow, it cuts into our credibility with them. Let’s look for those occasions not only with our dietary choices but also with programming in physical activities that make for a healthy lifestyle.

If you know of a business that’s interested in a healthier worksite or just want to know more about promoting healthier worksites, contact Dawn at wilcoxd4@msu.edu.

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Michigan Fresh has even more to offer

In a March 27 Spotlight, I mentioned how our Michigan State University Extension Michigan Fresh program educates on fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamentals as well as food safety, food storage, food preservation and gardening. In addition to this long list of important subjects, the Michigan Fresh work team is also busy on many other projects.

Extension educator Eileen Haraminac took over the coordination of the Michigan Fresh team upon Kathe Hale’s retirement.

Extension educator Joyce McGarry is busy heading up new fact sheet development. The team consists of Mary Dunckel, Michelle Jarvie, Ronald E. Kinnunen, Amanda Knox, Laurie Messing, Jeannie Nichols, Jeannine Schweihofer and Rob Weber. Team members arecompiling information on meats: pork, lamb, poultry, beef and fish. In the future, they will compile information for fact sheets on dairy products. Michigan Fresh fact sheets have been available at many of the farmers markets throughout the state as well as online. The fact sheets are also available in Arabic and Spanish. Find them on the Michigan Fresh website: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/mi_fresh

Other future fact sheets will focus on Michigan chestnuts (Erin Lizotte, Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute) and growing hops (Greening Michigan Institute Extension educator Rob Sirrine).

Extension program instructor Stephanie Bruno heads up the team that’s developing recipe cards. The team consists of Jennifer Berkey, Becky Henne and Connie Kurple. These new recipe cards will be distributed at several farmers markets to encourage consumers to purchase Michigan-grown food to use as simple ingredients.

 Kristine Hahn and Eileen Haraminac as well as Sean Corp and other MSU Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications staff are collaborating with the Eastern Market Corporation to promote a new product ‒ Michigan Fresh Frozen fruits and vegetables. The group is working on recipe cards to be distributed at Detroit Eastern Market and through the Peaches & Greens mobile produce trucks. The cards will promote both the Michigan Fresh program and the new Eastern Market Corporation Michigan Fresh Frozen products.

Eileen said, “We want to encourage people to choose nutrient-packed frozen fruits and vegetables when fresh are unavailable. Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing are processed at their peak ripeness ‒ time when, as a general rule, they are most nutrient packed.

Extension associate program leader Becky Henne heads up the social media team. Team members are busy working to build a smartphone app and to develop additional videos. They hope to have the app ready to roll out for the 2015 season. This group is working with Dr. Dru Montri, executive director of Michigan Farmers Market Association; Colleen Matts, farm to institution outreach specialist with the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems; and Dr. Norm Lownds, curator of the 4-H Children’s Garden. Additional team members from both the Health and Nutrition Institute and the Greening Michigan Institute include Julie Darnton, Joanne Davidhizar, Dawn Earnesty, Kristine Hahn, Sheilah Hebert, Maggie Kantola and Kendra Wills.

Dr. Cheryl Peters, Maggie Kantola and Kendra Wills have been working with the Michigan Fresh team to develop a common evaluation tool for Michigan Fresh cooking demonstrations offered at the Detroit Eastern Market and the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. These cooking demonstrations benefit the promotion of the Michigan Fresh fact sheets and videos. The free, public demonstrations are designed to inspire people to purchase and consume more Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables. The evaluation tool will gather information from cooking demonstration observers. Recipes used in the cooking demonstrations come from the Michigan Fresh fact sheets and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With coordination from Extension educator Terry McLean, MSU Extension will staff a kiosk at the Flint Farmers Market this spring.

Michigan Fresh is a great collaboration not only between our own institutes but between local organizations and farmers markets as well.

If you are interested in promoting the Michigan Fresh campaign materials at your community farmers market, please contact Eileen Haraminac (haramin2@anr.msu.edu) for more information.

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I Know MI Numbers health and wellness project wins health care award

The health and wellness project of the Michigan State University Extension I Know MI Numbers initiative won an Innovations in Health Care Award April 30 at the Lansing Champion of Hope Tribute Dinner. The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and its partners sponsor the awards.

The project won first place in the category that recognizes projects that promote knowing the four health indicators of Gov. Snyder’s 4 x 4 plan: body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol level and blood sugar.

The team knew the project was a finalist but did not know it won first place until it was announced at the dinner. They received a plaque and $1,000.

The MSU Extension I Know MI Numbers initiative focused on five key areas relating to Gov. Rick’s Snyder’s dashboard, which provides an assessment of the state’s performance in key areas including education, health and wellness, financial health, infrastructure, talent, public safety, and energy and environment.

In the health and wellness area, our I Know MI Numbers project focused on healthy weight in residents of Saginaw and Genesee counties. It examined the effectiveness of nutrition education programs to address healthy eating, physical activity and health indices in adults. Participants attended a weekly series of classes emphasizing behavioral goals and strategies associated with healthy weight. Data analysis showed statistically significant changes related to several health behaviors and indices.

MSU Extension educators Dawn Earnesty and Christy Rivette accepted the award. They also presented a poster on the project. Legislators, health care providers, managed care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, the Michigan Department of Community Health staff members and the business community attended the dinner.

In addition to Dawn and Christy, the I Know MI Numbers health and wellness team includes Dr. Dawn Contreras, Sheilah Hebert, Lynette Kaiser, Margaret Lashore, Freda McNair, Cathy Newkirk, Dr. Olga Santiago, Kris Swartzendruber, Donna Taylor, Lisa Treiber, Christina Warner and Teressa Young.

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Eating Smart From the Start Program educates child care providers in nutrition

Any parent knows how hard it can be to get kids to eat nutritious food. Child care providers struggle with the problem as well.

 Michigan State University Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) in Saginaw and Genesee counties partnered with Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline) to offer the Eating Smart From the Start program designed by Cooking Matters. The program empowers child care providers to serve nutritious – and delicious – meals and teach healthy eating habits to the children in their care. This five-session course engaged 15 child care providers caring for children living in low-income situations in a series of participatory cooking lessons. In November 2010, the program received a grant from Cooking Matters, sponsored nationally by Wal-Mart and the ConAgra Foods Foundation, to implement a series in the winter and spring.

 Dawn Earnesty, Extension educator District 9, oversees the program and grant. Monica Borsenik, MSU Saginaw County Extension program instructor, and Chrystal Harris, MSU Genesee County Extension program assistant, provided nutrition instruction. A culinary professional, Brandon Odum, who is a culinary arts major at Mott Community College, provided instruction for the cooking aspect of the class. Topics included healthy snack ideas for children, healthy recipes, menu planning, budgeting and strategies to promote positive attitudes about food among children.

 Participants took part in hands-on cooking lessons with direction from Mr. Odum. Grant money provided groceries for child care providers to take home and prepare meals with the children they care for. It also provided for a group meal and snack at the educational session.

 Throughout the class, participants discovered new ideas about nutrition and healthy recipes to implement into their child care businesses. The curriculum focused on engaging children into the cooking process, trying new foods and learning the importance of eating meals as a family.

 One child care provider, who had described issues she had with picky eaters, implemented the program’s “cucumber sammies” recipe for her children’s healthy snack one day. She couldn’t believe the positive response she received from the children. They were eating something green and healthy and liked it! Participant evaluations from the first session resulted in 100 percent of the group reporting they enjoyed the content and learned at least one new piece of information about nutrition.

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