Tag Archives: health and nutrition

MSU Extension continues to meet Flint needs

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is providing adaptable programming to meet the specific and urgent needs of the people of Flint. Through cooking demonstrations and instruction from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) on purchasing and preparing healthy foods, we have been disseminating nutrition information to help block lead absorption. Through our Master Gardeners and edible flint, we’ve taught about growing healthy food in lead-contaminated soils and water. Through the 4-H dog, rabbit and cavy clubs, we’ve led discussions in caring for animals exposed to lead. Through early childhood development education, we’ve identified the importance of using play to combat lead effects. We have also developed the Fight Lead Exposure site to provide important resources and information to the people of Flint and the state at large.

We have been facilitating partnerships with those wanting to pitch in and help. We appreciate the resource donations from the Michigan Milk Producers and the Michigan Vegetable Growers. We are also grateful to MSU Athletics and MSU students, faculty and alumni that have donated their time volunteering. The Food Bank Council of Michigan and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan have been an essential partner in our efforts.

Why does Extension have such an important role to play? We have been serving the people of Flint since 1913 and have built an essential level of trust. MSU Extension has strong partnerships with county government, health and nutrition, agriculture, 4-H and early childhood development, which makes us a presence that can adapt to specific and urgent needs in the community. Not just in Flint, but across Michigan.

Now, more than ever, MSU Extension is in the state and national spotlight. For example, everyone who received the email invitation to the Democratic Debate on Sunday, March 6, received the MSU Extension “Fight Lead With Nutrition” handout attached by the Democratic National Committee Debate Team. Our work was recognized by the national debate team putting the event together. The effects and range of our outreach are growing. Remember that it is important that each link in our organization be strong and ready to respond to the next crisis or need in our communities.

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Filed under 4-H, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, communication, Flint Water, Food, Health and Nutrition, Impacts, Nutrition, Partnerships

MSU Extension invited to pilot Spartan Performance project

The Michigan State University Extension Nutrition and Physical Activity work group has been invited to pilot a new program called Spartan Performance. This project, headed by Joey Eisenmann, assistant professor in the MSU Department of Radiology, Sports and Cardiovascular Nutrition Division, targets delivery of nutrition education to high school athletes and their coaches. A limited number of Extension program instructors will participate in the spring pilot with the goal of expanding delivery to a broader audience in fall 2015.

Since MSU Extension has offices across the state, we are an ideal vehicle for new curriculum. With our staffing, we can take the program out into the community to high schools that qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program‒Education (SNAP-Ed) to teach their student athletes about proper nutrition. Since SNAP-Ed funds the program, it is currently available free to the SNAP-eligible schools.

Some of our educators and program instructors will provide a one-time presentation; some will do an eight-time series. This will help us determine which model works the best. In the fall, we will try to ramp it up, maybe doubling the size as we solidify plans and review materials.

The following MSU Extension staff will be involved in the spring pilot of Spartan Performance: Teressa Young, Karly Oberski, Tracie Abram, Courtney Latimer, Kristi Evans, Xi Chen, Nicole Wethington, Jessica St. George and Shirley Ringler.

This program gives our health and nutrition team a chance to extend its reach to a high school audience. We already have very talented educators and program instructors; we just haven’t been able to equip them thus far with a strong high school curriculum. We’re very excited about this, and see further possible applications as the program expands.

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Filed under Health and Nutrition

MSU Extension programs inaugurate Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Previously, I wrote a Spotlight article about the plans of Michigan State University Extension to house staff in a new office at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. This will be an addition to our footprint in Kent County, complementing our county office location. Community food systems educators Kendra Wills and Garrett Ziegler will be based in our new office when the market opens officially in September. In addition to serving clients directly with their efforts to expand access to locally grown foods in institutional settings, they will help to connect clients with other programs MSU Extension offers as well.

MSU Extension educator Jeannie Nichols presents a ServSafe class at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Aug. 14, 2013.

MSU Extension educator Jeannie Nichols presents a ServSafe class at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Aug. 14, 2013.

On August 14, health and nutrition educators Jeannie Nichols and Rita Klavinski held our first official class in the Downtown Market, a ServSafe class that served 23 participants. Some of the participants were vendors with food businesses in the market. They also had several school food service workers and a few participants from the kitchens of local breweries.

Kendra reports that Jeannie and Rita did an excellent job working through the logistics of the new space and working around the ongoing construction. You can view a few photos on my blog that Kendra provided from the class. This was the first class for adults held in the new, state-of-the-art teaching kitchen space. Thanks to Kendra, Garrett, Jeannie and Rita for putting our footprints in the drying concrete.

MSU Extension educator Rita Klavinski presents a ServSafe class at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Aug. 14, 2013.

MSU Extension educator Rita Klavinski presents a ServSafe class at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Aug. 14, 2013.

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When county commissioners speak…

Margaret LaShore, Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition educator, was honored with a resolution recognizing her significant contributions as an Extension professional by the Bay County Board of Commissioners this week. I happened to be in the area and knew about the commission’s plans, so I was able to witness the event. However, the honor took Margaret by surprise. She didn’t know that there was going to be a resolution and wasn’t even planning to go to the commission meeting until a number of colleagues showed up at her office. Extension educator Ann Arnold made all of the arrangements yet successfully kept them a secret from Margaret.

Margaret has been with MSU Extension since 1986 and has served in Bay County and the Saginaw Bay region throughout her career with Extension. She has provided tremendous leadership to MSU Extension and the people we serve in Bay County and well beyond. She is a dedicated educator, someone who knows that the more effective we are in our efforts to educate people about their health, the more effective they can be in managing their health and enjoying a higher quality of life. She also has been a great driver for the need to document the work we do and the impact it has on people’s lives. She’s helped us gather the data we need for our federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program‒Education (SNAP-Ed) efforts and our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) efforts for many years. As we have consolidated our administrative work, she has taken on larger and larger geographic areas of responsibility.

What was especially heartening about the ceremony on Tuesday was hearing the commissioners speak to the influence and effectiveness of Margaret’s work in Bay County. It’s clear that although her primary efforts were in nutrition education, she has been willing to take on other responsibilities at times when it was needed, and the county leaders recognize that.

For Extension professionals, recognition from the community we serve is the highest compliment, and I was fortunate to witness Margaret receive that compliment. On behalf of all of MSU Extension, I’m pleased to extend my congratulations to Margaret and to say “Thanks” for being such a great colleague and model for the rest of us.

Thanks to Extension educator Lisa Treiber for sharing a photo from the event:

Margaret LaShore (holding plaque) was honored with a resolution from the Bay County Board of Commissioners. Photo credit: Lisa Treiber.

Margaret LaShore (holding plaque) was honored with a resolution from the Bay County Board of Commissioners on June 11, 2013. Photo credit: Lisa Treiber.

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Filed under Accomplishments

Accumulating impacts, one at a time

Often we measure success by the numbers. Sometimes that number is one.

Tiarra Wright, Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition program instructor, achieved success by reaching one young person.

In October, Tiarra started a youth series with the Saginaw County Head Start Program. On the first day, she was introduced to a shy 4-year-old named Hannah. Hannah’s teacher and parents told Tiarra that Hannah would not verbally communicate.

Each week, Tiarra traveled to the program site to teach the students from the curriculum, “Show Me Nutrition.” She and the children became “germ fighters” and “fruit and veggie super eating heroes.” The children loved the program, incorporating their weekly lessons into their daily habits at home and school.

As the class continued over the six weeks, Tiarra saw a change in Hannah, who was becoming more willing to get involved.

At the last class meeting, Hannah’s parents insisted on meeting “Miss Terra,” which was one of Hannah’s first spoken phrases. Hannah had been going home and attempting to speak to her parents about eating fruits and vegetables and being a “germ fighter.”

“When I met Hannah’s mom, her eyes began to fill with tears as she said she thought that her child would not speak and how amazing you (Tiarra) must be!” Tiarra said. “I could only share these tears of joy and excitement with them, for this has been a long-awaited moment and I thought how lucky I am to be able to share this with them!”

Hannah is still speaking very little, but her excitement and joy is evident.

“As a program instructor, I feel that I have not only increased the overall knowledge and importance of healthy eating, but I have also made an impact in a child’s life that will change her lifestyle forever,” Tiarra added. “Knowing that I made a difference in just one person’s life, that is a true success!”

In MSU Extension, we sometimes look to the number of participants to help make the case that our programs are important. But the impacts of our programs accumulate one person at a time, and sometimes the story of one impact spotlights how important our work can be. Little Hannah is a great example of one tremendous impact.

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Filed under Impacts

Extension program leaders create resource to address bullying in out-of-school settings

It’s evident when you listen to news reports, scan social media or just talk to folks – issues related to bullying, bias and harassment concern parents, educators, family workers and others who work with and care about young people. And, of course, these issues concern young people as well.

Schools have resources to address these issues, but few address bullying issues in out-of-school settings. As always in Michigan State University Extension, our staff members see a need and work to meet it. That’s why MSU Extension Health and Nutrition program leaders for social and emotional health Janet Olsen and Karen Pace created Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments.


The two targeted the curriculum for use in out-of-school settings such as 4-H clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs, scouts and after-school programs. Be SAFE helps young people aged 11 to 14 partner with adults to create physically and emotionally safe environments.

The overall goals of Be SAFE include promoting social and emotional learning and development, addressing and reducing bullying, preventing bullying behaviors by tapping the wisdom and assets of youth and adults, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.

Research shows that young people benefit from time spent in positive and safe settings with adults and peers. Adults can use Be SAFE as an important tool to help young people to create those safe, affirming and fair environments. The resource helps adults to help young people be resilient when facing challenging situations such as bullying, bias and harassment.

As true of all MSU Extension curricula, this publication draws from extensive research, and Karen and Janet also drew from evidence-based bullying prevention programs. A number of their MSU Extension colleagues also contributed to the development of Be SAFE by serving as reviewers and as liaisons to the nine sites across the state that piloted the material. These included staff members from the Health and Nutrition Institute (Tracie Abram, Denise Aungst, Carolyn Penniman, Suzanne Pish, Erin Ross, Olga Santiago and Holly Tiret), the Children and Youth Institute (Kendra Moyses and Jodi Schulz), and the Organizational Development Team (Dionardo Pizaña). Former Children and Youth Institute staff members Andrea Caron, Sandra Griffin and Julie Scislowicz were also involved with these efforts.

Janet and Karen are currently working to assist MSU Extension staff members in providing education around issues of bullying, bias and harassment. It’s not too late to register for a June 4 train-the-trainer opportunity in Gaylord. You’ll receive a copy of Be SAFE and learn how to incorporate the curriculum into your program. You’ll also explore current research on bullying and learn key strategies to address bullying issues. Click on this link to learn more and to register.

Download a free PDF of the Introduction section of Be SAFE or order a copy of the 224-page guide, designed and edited by ANR Communications, at the MSU Extension Bookstore.

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Filed under Resources

MSU Extension health and nutrition staff members remain optimistic

During a recent Michigan State University Extension Redesign webinar, I just happened to mention something about “putting on our optimism shoes” when we face the challenges ahead of us. Extension educator Gretchen Hofing let me know that she and Lenawee County office manager Melissa Burns were busy planning a SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education) training for four counties of District 12 (Lenawee, Monroe, Washtenaw and Hillsdale) when my remark about optimism shoes got them thinking – why stop with shoes? What about hats? And how about shirts, pants, socks and scarves?

 As Gretchen relates it: “And so it came to be that at the beginning of our training day on September 19, we took some time to get to know each other, do team building and allow our creative juices to flow while making optimism scarves. During this time, we reflected on how although it has been a year with its fair share of challenges – and it wasn’t over yet – we have also had bright spots. As we move forward and things seem rough or we hit those bumps in the road, hopefully, we can take a glance at the optimism scarf that may still be in our office and remember to reflect and focus on some of the more optimistic and rewarding moments of the day or week.”

 Thanks for sharing that, Gretchen. You’ve taken a spontaneous comment and made it into something more meaningful and fun. The health and nutrition staff are pictured wearing the scarves below.

MSU health and nutrition staff members model their optimism scarves

Front (left to right): Awilda Dominguez, Heather Hampel, Candace Gardiner, Gretchen Hofing. Back (left to right): Jennie Ramos, Lisa Hartman, Winnie Webb. Photo by Melissa Burns.

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