Tag Archives: health and nutrition institute

National recognition for Flint water emergency response

In the photograph, left to right, are Deanna East, associate state leader for health and nutrition; Dr. Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director; Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator; Lynette Kaiser, MSU Extension health and nutrition program instructor; and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Courtesy of USDA NIFA.

In the photograph, left to right, are Deanna East, associate state leader for health and nutrition; Dr. Jeff Dwyer, MSU Extension director; Erin Powell, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator; Lynette Kaiser, MSU Extension health and nutrition program instructor; and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Courtesy of USDA NIFA.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Michigan State University (MSU) Extension the Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership for our response to the Flint water emergency. The Abraham Lincoln Award is the most prestigious award presented by the secretary of agriculture. The Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership recognizes the exceptional contributions of USDA’s external partners in innovation, productivity and efficiency in program delivery and leverage federal funding to the benefit of USDA’s customers, the external partner and USDA.

MSU Extension received this honor for “successfully responding to stakeholder needs for information about combating the effects of lead exposure to Michigan communities by developing exceptional emergency response with limited staff, time, and budget.”

I had the opportunity to travel with Deanna East, Lynette Kaiser, Erin Powell to accept the award on behalf of our organization and everyone involved in the emergency response. The USDA Abraham Lincoln Honor Award ceremony and reception took place at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Although only three people traveled to D.C. to receive the award on Extension’s behalf, our efforts in Flint were carried out by a large group of committed and passionate staff members. Health and nutrition staff developed programming materials and efforts to address healthy eating to mitigate lead absorption. Children and youth staff worked closely with community partners to develop resources and programs to help parents promote activities that support cognitive development. Greening Michigan and agriculture and agribusiness staff provided gardening and accessing healthy food education and soil tests. And both MSU Extension Communications and ANR Creative helped produce the resources necessary to carry out their endeavors.

We’re looking forward to the opportunity to honor all of our staff members that were part of this vital team at the Fall Extension Conference. Congratulations to the MSU Extension team on your 2016 USDA Abraham Lincoln Award for External Partnership.

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Filed under Awards, Flint Water, Uncategorized

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

Update on Flint

MSU Extension is right in the middle of the efforts to reach the people of Flint with the resources they need. Our response there shows how nimble and responsive our team is in times of crisis. For example, HNI and CYI teams have developed fact sheets on how to Fight Lead With Nutrition and Fight Lead Affects With Learning and Play. These resources, and others, are not only valuable in Flint, but also in other areas of the state that have high lead levels.

In addition to these and other very specific lead-related resources, your colleagues have modified other programming to fit the needs of residents as they deal with lead exposure.

Some highlights of what your colleagues accomplished in January alone follow. MSU Extension has helped more than 2,100 people through programs, participation in events and partnerships.

Jennifer Skornicka and her team put on a 4-H information display at a Family Fun Night and Lead Testing event at Eisenhower Elementary that reached 400 young people and 285 adults. At this event, families received Molina Foundation books and the new Nutrition & Lead recipe information booklets. These booklets have become an important resource, and we’ve distributed more than 6,000 copies to 23 organizations that will further distribute of them. Hurley Children’s Hospital has an additional 2,500 booklets to distribute to their patients. Julia Darnton, Terry McLean and Erin Powell are working with ongoing programs in growing and accessing healthy food.

Photo of a Cooking demonstration at the Eastern Market using ingredients that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin D.

Cooking demonstration at the Eastern Market using ingredients that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C. Photo credit: ANR Communications.

102 people have attended food and nutrition demonstrations featuring recipes that block lead absorption at the Flint Farmers’ Market. These are in addition to many other programs designed to meet needs in the community.

Because all eyes are on Flint and our work there, we’ve been getting a lot of attention from MSU President Simon and others. In her February 10, 2016, State of the University speech, President Simon was very complimentary about the work of MSU Extension in Flint. Everything we do to help the people of Flint elevates our reputation throughout the state and on campus. People are becoming aware of the importance of having Extension folks rooted in the communities that they serve. Every day is a reminder for me of how fortunate I am to be part of the MSU Extension team.

You might be wondering how you can help and what resources we have developed. You also might be getting calls from concerned residents in your communities. Links to several important resources for you and anyone else who is concerned about Flint and about nutrition and the water in their own communities follow.

  • Fight Lead Exposure The new MSU Extension page with links to MSU Extension news articles and educational resources about lead.
  • MSU Pediatric Public Health Fund  This MSU fund will support a new effort to find and evaluate interventions for the children of Flint affected by lead exposure.
  • Flint Volunteer Reception Center The center is designed as a central point of contact for all volunteers and those needing volunteers in Flint.

When people call your office looking for a place to get their drinking water tested, direct them to the county health department first. (The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provides a Local Health Department Map.) If the health department doesn’t offer that service, callers can order a water test kit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for $18 by calling 517-335-8184.

To learn more about Flint and what people are coming together to achieve there, visit one of the pages listed here:

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition

Reaching diverse audiences in southeastern Michigan

One of our values at Michigan State University Extension is the commitment to reaching out to diverse clientele and finding ways to adapt our content to their needs. Our programs reach participants in diverse communities across this state, including a recent health and nutrition series for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program taught in Spanish in southeastern Michigan.

After the series was done, testimonials were recorded in Spanish, to allow the participants to express what they learned, and the success they’ve had in applying the health and nutrition principles to their day-to-day lives. (Interviews are in Spanish with English subtitles.) The videos were produced by ANR Communications.

Interview with Sheryle:
Interview with Adan:

Our commitment to Michigan individuals and families extends to many diverse audiences, and it’s exciting to see the people whose lives flourish when we focus on reaching them.

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Diana Fair accepts award on behalf of MSU Extension Dining With Diabetes program

Earlier this month, Diana Fair, an educator in the Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute, accepted the Priester Award for her own and her colleagues’ work with the Dining With Diabetes program. The award was presented while Diana was attending the National Health Outreach Conference in Atlanta, GA.

According to the conference website, “The Jeanne M. Priester Award honors the accomplishments and contributions of Jeanne M. Priester to the Cooperative Extension System. Priester was a leader in advancing health education within the Cooperative Extension System during her tenure at the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The purpose of the award is to honor Extension programs that are positively impacting the health of people across the United States, and that are providing the leadership to expand Extension’s capacity to effectively implement health programs. The Priester Award recognizes county, state and national health education programs that are sound and innovative.”

Dining With Diabetes received this national award because of the program’s positive impact on people with diabetes across the country. Extension professionals reach out to individuals with diabetes and their families to show them practical, research-based ways to manage diabetes. As a member of the National Extension Dining with Diabetes work team, Diana was the representative from MSU Extension. The work team is currently composed of over eighteen land grant universities including Michigan State University, the goal of this group is to promote and provide research-based diabetes education across the country.

Congratulations to Diana and those providing Dining With Diabetes programming across the state!

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MSU Extension receives funding for Cooking Matters

Finding unique ways to fund Michigan State University Extension programming and ensure we can reach our audiences sometimes takes a creative approach from our staff members. In June 2014, MSU Extension Wayne County received a grant for $39,756 from the Allen Foundation, which has allowed our Extension staff to present the Cooking Matters program.

The two fiduciaries for the grant are Extension program instructor Amanda Knox and Extension educator Michelle Gordon-Releford. Extension educator Eileen Haraminac serves as their supervising educator. Amanda and Eileen wrote the grant to support Amanda’s new position in the area, and the grant has allowed her to fund multiple series.

Cooking Matters appeals to people because in addition to learning how to eat healthy, participants receive cooking lessons and groceries. The grant was designed to work with a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) audience in Wayne County to enable them to receive the groceries that go along with the program.

“This is an awesome program, and people love it,” said Michelle. “I’m very grateful to be involved in this program, and for six weeks at a time, there is a family that is eating because of it.”

The grant allowed the team to produce eight Cooking Matters classes with money left over to do additional classes. The team members anticipated 45 participants in the grant, but they’ve exceeded their expectations with 87 participants, 59 graduates and seven participants just starting the program.

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Filed under Health and Nutrition

MSU Extension to join MSU team aiming to tackle childhood obesity

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Michigan State University researchers will lead a $4.7 million effort to tackle childhood obesity. USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is awarding the grant, which is a competitive grant program that was included in the 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law by President Obama at MSU last year. This in itself is great news, since Michigan State University is often at the forefront of cutting-edge research to make the world a better place. More exciting is that our very own Dawn Contreras, director of the Health and Nutrition Institute at Michigan State University Extension, will be joining the team.

Childhood obesity is considered one of the nation’s biggest health challenges, as one-third of America’s children are overweight or obese, according to Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture. This study aims to illuminate the factors that contribute to obesity and encourage healthy habits among families. Specifically, the study will look at mealtimes of families living in low-income situtations, and aim to increase the frequency of healthy family meals.

Holly Brophy-Herb, professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in MSU’s College of Social Science, will lead the team. Other members of the multi-disciplinary team include Mildred Horodynski from the MSU College of Nursing, Jean Kerver from the MSU Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the College of Human Medicine, Julie Lumeng and Niko Kaciroti from the University of Michigan, and the Jackson Community Action Agency Head Start.

This is a great example of how MSU Extension staff members can get involved in larger initiatives that have an impact on our programming, our communities and even our families. We look forward to hearing more about the research and Dawn’s continued contribution.

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Filed under Food, Health and Nutrition

Educators invited to serve on national teams

Four of our Michigan State University Extension educators from the Health and Nutrition Institute were recently honored with the invitation to join national teams, led by the Extension and Experiment Station committees on organization and policy. These committees act as the representative leadership and governing body of Cooperative Extension, and they provide guidance to issues affecting it. Cathy Newkirk was invited to serve on the national Health Literacy Action Team, Holly Tiret was invited to serve on the national Response Team for Positive Youth Development for Health Action Team, Linda Cronk was invited to serve on the Chronic Disease Prevention and Management Action Team and Sarah Eichberger was invited to serve on the Health Policy Issues Education Action Team.

Former MSU Extension director Maggie Bethel nominated them to take on these critical roles, and it was a large honor for them to be selected.

On their respective teams, Cathy, Linda and Sarah will work to connect with the broad-based effort “Healthy Food Systems, Healthy People” and, more importantly, make a difference for the individuals, families and communities Extension serves. The response team on which Holly was invited to serve will help respond to the ideas, materials and opportunities developed by the other action teams. These teams plan to position the research, Extension and academic programs functions of our universities for critical action against the health issues at hand.

Dawn Contreras, director of the Health and Nutrition Institute, reported that the process was very competitive. She noted that 11 out of the 12 states in the North Central Region nominated people for these committees, so Cathy, Linda, Holly and Sarah deserve a round of applause. Congratulations to our staff on this honor!

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Filed under Health and Nutrition

Bringing health to social media

As part of an initiative to reach out to a larger audience, the Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute has enlisted the help of Julia Terhune, MSU Extension educational media coordinator, to establish a presence for the institute on social media. Julia and the team have created a Facebook page, Twitter handle, Pinterest account and more with the title “MI Health Matters.” They have been working tirelessly to reach the public with a steady stream of new information and content.

One of the projects that Julia has been working on to reach the public is a monthly podcast. The first episode, about nine minutes long, was posted on their Facebook page at the end of September.

The podcast talks about the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Project Fresh Program, and features Teressa Young, MSU Extension nutrition program instructor in Saginaw County, as well as James DeWise, mid-Michigan farmer. The Project Fresh Program provides vouchers to recipients of the WIC program, which allow them to purchase fresh Michigan-grown produce at local farmers markets. This is helpful both to the recipients, who have more fresh options with these vouchers, as well as to the local farmers who receive new business because of this program.

Listen to the whole podcast to learn more:

Great job, Julia!

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Filed under Accomplishments, health

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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Filed under health