Tag Archives: snap

When the president comes for a visit …

On February 7, Michigan State University was part of a historic moment when President Barack Obama visited the MSU campus to sign the Farm Bill. Many of our colleagues were at work behind the scenes, helping the event run smoothly. Others got to be part of the action front and center. And still others have been lending their expertise to the bill’s foundation.

Thanks to Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and senior associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who was part of the advance team from MSU. The event cost Doug a week, with the myriad security, program and planning meetings beginning on Friday, January 31. But because this was the Farm Bill, CANR was front and center, and Doug did a great job of making sure President Obama learned about the role we all play in turning federal policy into improvements in agricultural production, environmental management, food safety, bioenergy innovation, and community and youth development. Thanks to Doug for all he did to represent us so well.

A big shout-out to Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications and in particular Beth Stuever. In a Michigan Farmer story on Jennifer Vincent Kiel, the magazine’s editor, Jennifer acknowledges the vast contacts and deep understanding of the communications manager. Jennifer said she enjoys working with “the many, many great people at MSU Extension. Beth Stuever is priceless there. I’m always calling on her for help, and she’s always there.” Read the story here: http://magissues.farmprogress.com/mif/MF02Feb14/mif013.pdf

Then there’s Greening Michigan Institute Extension educator Julia Darnton. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee invited Julia to be his guest at the signing of the Farm Bill. Julia was asked to come because she helped the congressman promote his bill “Local Food for Healthy Families,” which is designed to expand SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) incentive programs such as Double Up Food Bucks. Mark Tower of the Saginaw News featured Julia in an MLive article: http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2014/02/obama_in_east_lansing_saginaw.html

We’ve had other media mentions related to our work. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero mentioned the contributions of Extension and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems to the support of Lansing area food hubs and markets in a Lansing State Journal editorial:


MSU student Domonique Clemons experienced what may be the highlight of his life. Invited to attend the Farm Bill signing, the former 4-H’er from Flint got to shake President Obama’s hand. Domonique is a public policy major who helps organize the 4-H Capitol Experience event coming up in March.

But how did we finally get to this moment in the first place? It happened because of people like Dave Schweikhardt, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics, who studies farm policy, providing Extension programming on that policy. Dr. Schweikhardt is one of a number of MSU faculty who were tapped as experts by Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s staffers as they worked through the policy changes in the bill.

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MSU Extension educator takes part in White House round table discussion

At first, Leatta Byrd thought the email invitation with the White House seal on it from the United States Department of Agriculture was a joke. It took the Michigan State University Extension educator a couple of days and some phone calls to realize that the invitation inviting her to a White House Community round table discussion June 20 at the Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes Emergency Food Pantry in Kalamazoo was authentic.

The discussion featured Kevin Concannon USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services. Mr. Concannon oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and has principal responsibilities and funding authority for Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Alan Shannon, director of the USDA FNS Midwest Regional Public Affairs Office also contributed.

Leatta, supervising SNAP-Ed educator in District 13, joined in the closed 90-minute discussion with about 25 other invitees who work to provide nutritional services to populations in need. Discussion touched on the challenges and successes of reaching people who are underserved, seniors, people recently unemployed and the Hispanic community.

It wasn’t a one-sided conversation. The undersecretary listened to input from attendees on, among other things, how SNAP services could be improved.

Mr. Concannon noted that nationally 63 million people receive SNAP benefits and one-half of those are children.

With public schools not in session during the summer and the economy struggling “child hunger spikes up in the summer time,” said Mr. Shannon.

Leatta Byrd & USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon

Leatta Byrd, MSU Extension educator, (left) and Kevin Concannon, USDA under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, at the White House Community Round Table Discussion June 20, 2012, at Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Leatta said, “Most people know that during the school year, children who attend free-breakfast and reduced-lunch schools can receive a free breakfast and lunch but during the summer, many children go hungry because they may be unaware of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) feeding programs. That’s why it’s so important that we promote the SFSP summer lunch program so low-income children can have an opportunity to have a nutritious lunch during the summer.”

Through MSU Extension and the SNAP-Ed program, Leatta provides education in several sites, teaching children about healthy snacks and making good food choices this summer. Kalamazoo County has a strong SFSP summer feeding program sponsored by the USDA. It’s given her an opportunity to go out and work with children this summer, providing nutrition education to the children who attend these summer feeding sites.

Leatta says that not only is it important to outreach and market the SNAP-Ed to eligible families, but we also need to promote nutrition to seniors who sometimes have to make the choice between buying their medication or buying food. In addition, newly unemployed or underemployed people often don’t know how to access SNAP benefits. Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (FMNP) such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and Senior Project Fresh Programs are another great way of marketing SNAP-Ed programming to underserved audiences.

MSU Extension, the Health and Nutrition Institute and SNAP-Ed are addressing and providing outreach and services to those specific populations that Mr. Concannon spoke about in the round table discussion.

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