Tag Archives: jennifer berkey

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

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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Filed under Food

Extension educator receives annual cherry promotion award

Michigan State University Extension educator Jennifer Berkey received the National Cherry Festival’s Very Cherry Promotion Annual Award Jan. 15 at the Cherry Marketing Institute luncheon, part of the annual Fruit Growers Orchard Show at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, Mich. The National Cherry Festival Cherry Promotions Committee honored Jennifer with the award for her work as the National Cherry Festival director of the Cherry Connection event from 1999 to 2011.

“It is an honor to be receiving this award as it was my privilege to have worked with the cherry industry on their behalf for 12 years,” said Jennifer. “Increasing consumer’s knowledge about how cherries grow, the myriad of ways they can be used in foods along with how to integrate cherries into their everyday meals was the focus of this educational initiative, and it was a wonderful collaboration with MSU, the National Cherry Festival, growers and producers of cherry products.”

The National Cherry Festival’s Very Cherry Promotion Award was established in 1986. It is given to an individual, couple, group or business, which has demonstrated outstanding efforts in promotion and/or production in the world of cherries. Past winners have included the Grand Traverse Pie Company, Friske Orchards and James Bardenhagen, retired Leelanau County Extension director.

Congratulations, Jennifer!

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Filed under Awards

Local media takes notice of Cooking Matters

Cooking Matters empowers people to make healthy food choices and save money at the same time. The program is part of a broader strategy to end childhood hunger, the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. ConAgra Foods Foundation and Walmart sponsor the program nationally. Gleaner’s Community Food Bank in Detroit partners with Michigan State University Extension to make the program possible locally.

In District 3, MSU Extension SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education) has been providing the Cooking Matters program for both adults and teens for the last three years. Many other counties in the state are now providing the program for these two groups and some have added a program for child care providers. An MSU Extension nutrition instructor and a local volunteer chef team-teaches the class.

Lately, MSU Extension’s role in the program has been front-page news. The Feb. 16-17 edition of the Manistee News Advocate featured a story about students at CASMAN Academy in Manistee County receiving cooking and nutrition instruction through MSU Extension’s Cooking Matters for Teens.

Extension program instructor Cyndi Jacobi got the ball rolling at the academy, getting the program started. Cyndi provides nutrition instruction. Nutrition education and cooking instruction team up to create a valuable life skill for these students. Cyndi incorporated cooking expertise from Nick Wemple, student chef from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College. The six-week course will culminate with the students preparing a meal for the entire student and staff population at the academy.

Cyndi said, “Nick is a graduate of the CASMAN Alternative Academy and I think that makes him an excellent role model for the students. CASMAN has a hands-on approach to learning with small classroom size, a perfect fit for Cooking Matters.”

After the six-week program, Nick will continue to work with the students. They will help plan meals and cook for the entire student body and staff, approximately 80 people, every Friday through the rest of the school year. The skills that the students learn could lead to a possible job in food service or could spark an interest in attending a culinary institute.

Other media noticed an Extension team providing Cooking Matters elsewhere in the state. Watch this MTM on the Road video from 9&10 News Cadillac in which Extension program leaders Lori Eccles and Michelle Smith talk about the Cooking Matters program the two present at Forest Area High School in Fife Lake, Kalkaska County: http://www.9and10news.com/story/21279615/mtm-on-the-road-cooking-matters.

 Lori said, “The team-teaching approach helps add another dimension to the learning for the participants. In some of the classes, graduates from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute have volunteered to teach. We’ve also worked with local restaurant owners and chefs, which adds to the community connection. Restaurant owners and chefs help teach the cooking aspects of the class. Not only are the participants learning healthy ways of eating based on MyPlate recommendations, they are also able to actually prepare a healthy recipe. In the adult classes, they are able to take the groceries home for the recipe prepared in class so they can make it for their families.”

Another Cooking Matters series begins in Forest Area High School March 7 for the second semester health students. The food service director will be joining the students as the chef.

Lori said, “It truly has become a school-wide endeavor to provide the tools necessary for the students to leave with skills to take steps toward a healthier future.”

Extension educator Jennifer Berkey supervises Cyndi, Lori and Michelle, providing help and guidance along the way.

Many of our MSU Extension colleagues have equipped families through the Cooking Matters program. Read this MSU Extension News article by Extension educator Denise Aungst that tells more about the program: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/cooking_matters_makes_a_difference_with_michigan_families

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Filed under Nutrition

Webinar trains food entrepreneurs in following Cottage Food Law

Michigan’s Cottage Food Law, enacted in 2010, allows individuals to manufacture and store certain types of foods in an unlicensed home kitchen. It’s intended to support farmers markets by allowing certain value-added products to be sold without the expense and trouble of preparing them in a licensed commercial kitchen.

 The Michigan State University Extension Food Safety Team made a teaching webinar in order to meet the needs of Michigan residents in relationship to food safety pertaining to the Cottage Food Law. The webinar was the most efficient and consistent way of providing educational information to this audience. Led by food safety co-chairs and Extension educators Jeannie Nichols and Jan Seitz, the Food Safety team members include Jennifer Berkey, Robin Danto, Diana Fair, Eileen Haraminac, Jane Hart, Linda Huyck, Pat Joyce, Joyce McGarry, Laurie Messing, Lucia Patritto, Janet Rathke, Christy Rivette, Phil Tocco, Lisa Treiber, Chris Venema and Beth Waitrovich.

 Jeannie stated, “For us as educators, it meant learning about developing a professional, interactive and interesting site.”

 The team developed “MI Cottage Food Law Food Safety Training/Webinar” with support from Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications team members Laura Probyn, Steve Evans and Kraig Ehm. Laura edited and revised the initial script. Laura and Kraig voiced the project, and Steve edited the PowerPoint that was the basis for the webinar and built quiz and evaluation modules for the project.

 According to Jeannie, the quiz at the end of the webinar evaluates the knowledge that participants gain as well as their intent to use the information from the webinar. Once a participant completes the quiz with 70 percent accuracy, he or she can purchase a certificate to display at a farmers market booth. Farmers markets customers would then see that the vendor had taken the initiative to take some extra food safety training in relation to cottage foods.

 Food Safety Team members conducted face-to-face presentations throughout the state using the curriculum to validate its content and usefulness before it was made available online. To help with this project, the team applied for and received a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) grant that allowed the production of this webinar including marketing materials.

 You can view the webinar here: http://vimeo.com/24282676

 Plans are underway to add the webinar to the governor’s weekly video feature rotation and to be placed on the MDARD’s YouTube channel.

 This is a great illustration of what the new MSUE is all about and how we’re embracing technology to achieve our mission. And it shows the interlinkage among work teams and institutes. Some of the greatest demand for the webinar is likely to come from individuals and businesses who sell homemade products at farmers markets, which are among the assets that we try to support through the community food systems group in the Greening Michigan Institute.

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Filed under Technology

Coordinated teamwork leads to successful cherry event

July 4–8, the National Cherry Festival and Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) presented Cherry Connection. Attendees were invited to visit the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station (NWMHRS), part of the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) operated by MSUE in Traverse City. Besides guided orchard tours, there were exhibits and samples of the newest cherry products and technology inside the station. Fun activities for the kids included a petting zoo, hands-on experiments, a poster-coloring contest and many other activities.

 Jennifer Berkey, MSUE Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties educator, says that more than 2,400 people attended Cherry Connection. In fact, they had a record turnout on Monday and Tuesday when more than 600 people attended each day. In a survey, 95 percent of participants stated they will purchase a locally produced cherry product in the near future. Ninety-eight percent stated that they learned a new fact about cherries or a new use for cherries. Attendees cited the orchard tour and cherry taste testing as favorite event activities. Looks like the staff met their goal of showing people where cherries come from while having a little fun along the way.

 You’ll learn some fun facts about cherries and about the Cherry Connection when you view this video from Northern Michigan’s Fox 32 News on the 9&10 News website: http://www.9and10news.com/category/story/?id=238899&cID=1.

 And says Dr. Nikki Rothwell, MSUE district horticulturalist and NWMHRS coordinator, after viewing the video, “We should recruit the 4-H kid to do our PR work!”

 4-H kids help out at the Cherry Connection each day. They bring their animals for the petting zoo, which this year included a horse, a steer, rabbits, chickens and llamas. They also sold dried and chocolate-covered cherries and cherry sodas. Barb Duvall, Leelanau County Extension educator, did a fantastic job of helping coordinate the kids and the petting zoo portion of the event.

 The Cherry Connection is a great example of coordinated teamwork involving the MAES, MSUE, 4-H, the cherry festival and the cherry industry.

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Filed under Agriculture