Tag Archives: snap-ed

Is this seat open? Going where the relationships are in District 13

Zelda Felix-Mottley and state Sen. Al Psholka posing for a photo.

Zelda Felix-Mottley and Mr. Al Pscholka, budget director for the State of Michigan.

Where can you cross paths with decision-makers? Michigan State University Extension educator Zelda Felix-Mottley’s advice is to “go where they go and mingle.” In other words, go where the relationships are. What does that look like? We asked Zelda to share her stories on what that meant for her strategic connections.

Zelda teaches nutrition education to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) audiences and also provides Smarter Lunchroom and Healthier Child Care Environments trainings. Where are her U.S. and state representatives, commissioners and other decision-makers going? To the county Human Services Coordinating Council meetings. So Zelda began to attend as well, each time highlighting her program area and highlighting other Extension program areas too.

It wasn’t just her presentations that built relationships though. Zelda began to sit next to the decision-maker she wanted to connect with. Sitting next to them allowed her to make small talk, learn about their interests and be able to talk about hers (Extension). After a few years of sitting next to Al Pscholka (budget director for the State of Michigan, formerly a state representative and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee), she invited him to the local Extension office, and he visited. Becoming an Extension ally, Al advocated for Extension services and agricultural research during the 2014 budget development process, making sure that funding was strengthened for our organization. We gave him a Key Partner Award in gratitude for taking a stand for us.

Who else has Zelda sat next to? State Sen. John Proos, who visited the local Extension office and helped Zelda with a presentation to Health and Nutrition Institute staff members about successfully reaching elected officials. Also, she has sat next to county commissioners, who have now become advocates in their county meetings and to other county departments, helping to advocate for funding and partnerships.

State Sen. John Proof poses for a picture with Extension staff in the kitchen at the Berrien County office.

State Sen. John Proos visits the Berrien office to meet with the Nutrition and Physical Activity Extension staff members.

We can learn so much from Zelda’s approach to strategic connections.

“Be patient, it can’t be done all at one time,” Zelda said. “You have to be intentional: start small.”

It can be as simple as going where the relationships are and taking the empty seat next to them.

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Filed under Health and Nutrition, Impacts, strategic connections

MSU Extension makes strategic connections in Iosco County

Kelli Rau, 4-H program coordinator, and Jessica St. George, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) instructor, took over leadership of the Iosco County Family Fun Fair and built strategic connections for Michigan State University Extension as the county gears up for a millage renewal.

The Iosco County Family Enrichment Coalition started the Family Fun Fair 19 years ago to educate the community about local programs and services available to families with young children. In 2014, the Family Enrichment Coalition dissolved and put the event in jeopardy of cancelation. Jessica and Kelli volunteered to take over leadership.

“As new staff members, neither of us knew what organizations existed or who to contact to make these connections,” Jessica said. “The Family Fun Fair opened that door and fostered these new connections and partnerships in a way we could not have done on our own at that time. The event also gave the participating organizations an opportunity to see the wide variety of services Extension offers and opportunities for developing new partnerships.”

The Family Fun Fair involves over 40 organizations and businesses annually that provide family-friendly activities and share information about the resources they offer within the community. Through coordinating the event, Kelli and Jessica helped MSU Extension establish contacts with these organizations and open doors to new programming opportunities.

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In their first year coordinating the Family Fun Fair, MSU Extension reached 724 participants. Based on the event survey, the participants were primarily people living in low-income situations, and 96 percent of all participants were not currently using Extension’s services. Kelli and Jessica used this data to be more deliberate in planning programs in the Oscoda community for the remainder of 2015.

In 2016, participation increased to 895 community members and 45 organizations. Awareness of Extension’s services also increased 83 percent as a direct result of the Family Fun Fair involvement and the improved program methodology.

Through the Family Fun Fair, Jessica and Kelli also connected to the collaborative bodies within the county and increased awareness of Extension’s services to a larger network of organizations and businesses.

“Also, with the Iosco County Extension millage renewal on the August ballot, having a stronger network of informed supporters has been extremely beneficial in getting the word out to the community regarding the impact of the millage and what stands to be lost if the millage does not pass,” Kelli said. “Our relationship with our county commissioners and administrators has also flourished as a result of our expanded programming and community connectivity.”

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start in building community relationships. Getting involved in events will help you build relationships with key community members and groups and help to spread the word about Extension. Do you have any community events that come to mind that MSU Extension could get involved in?

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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 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

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

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

Kudos and suggestions from the civil rights auditors

As you know, Michigan State University Extension recently took part in a U. S. Department of Agriculture civil rights audit. They occur once every four or five years. I’ve been involved in four of these – twice as a regional director and now twice as director of Extension – the last time was in 2004.

I’m very proud of the work we are doing to demographically reach target audiences. We are reaching the audiences in close demographic comparison in categories of race and gender. You may be surprised by some of the data. For example, of youth participants in the Children and Youth Institute, only 9 percent live on farms. This differs from the popular perception that 4-H only serves farm youth. The data shows that we meet people where the need is great with health and nutrition information as well as financial and money management.

The auditors were thrilled with the way we presented the data. I’d like to thank the many staff involved in helping to gather the data and put it into an understandable format. They include Nancy Axtell, Jessica Nakfour, Jean Schueller, Bruce Haas, Cheryl Peters, Olga Santiago, Kathy Raphael, Mary Wilson, Gloria Ellerhorst, Emily Proctor, Christi Sovis, Doug Brinklow, Michelle Lavra, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Julie Chapin, Dave Ivan, Dawn Contreras, Paul Putnam, Jim Lucas, Pat Cudney, Kelley Hiemstra, Michael Krauch, Shari Spoelman, Don Lehman, Betty Blase, Deanna East, Joe Bixler, Marie Ruemenapp, Matt Shane and Ginger Hentz. Without your hard work for months in advance of this review, we could not have done it.

The auditors took all of that data and examined it. They also went out into the field to get more information from you. They were pleased with everyone’s availability to meet with the reviewers and with the helpfulness of the staff in giving them access to our information – as I am!

They combined the data and the information to give us feedback on a few things we can work on.

In working with people, we need to diversify our overall employment makeup throughout the organization as well as work to integrate and diversify membership within 4-H clubs and broaden the programming we’re doing with female farm operators. We need to expand our nutrition programming to include demonstrated outreach with other agencies.

Consistency is something that came up in several areas. We need to be consistent in demonstrating the work we do in each county through data, and train staff in the method for collecting that data. We need to update our race/ethnicity/gender data collection forms to include the recommended way to collect race and ethnicity data. We need to use the statement concerning accommodations consistently and ensure consistency with regard to civil rights training.

We need to ensure that brochures and other promotional pieces have pictorial displays of diverse populations. I know this is something that we’ve strived to do and we will continue to focus on it.

In addition, we need to revise our Civil Rights Plan and education to include the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended.

The auditors had many good things to say about our accomplishments. They praised our work with Tribal Communities as well as the work we’re doing with prisons. They believe that our work translating program documents and brochures and making them available in Spanish, Arabic and Braille is outstanding. They haven’t seen as much of that in other states. They believe we have great outreach through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-ED) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). They believe we have strong nutrition programming at the grass roots level.

Please be sure to review the August 4 MSU Extension webinar to view the charts and graphs that we put together for the audit. Viewing them will help you get a better picture of where we stand in our efforts. We’ve worked hard to pull together a lot of information for the audit. This information is not just something that was used for the audits; we can also use this information in many other ways. View the webinar here: https://connect.msu.edu/p4bz0fut3rj/

Also, please keep checking back to the MSU Extension Civil Rights site for additional materials that will be added: http://od.msue.msu.edu/civil_rights_diversity_multiculturalism.

Once again, thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work in making the USDA audit a powerful learning experience for all of us!

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