Tag Archives: supplemental nutrition assistance program – education

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

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

Extension secretary receives recognition from NIFA director

Bonnie Powell, secretary in Michigan State University Extension Tuscola County Health and Nutrition Institute, received a note and certificate of appreciation from Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Bonnie works on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ‒ Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) data entry.

The certificate of appreciation is for taking initiative to improve the functionality of WebNEERS and the accuracy of reports. WebNEERS is the Web-based Nutrition Education Evaluation and Reporting System for NIFA. Bonnie’s contributions greatly improved the WebNEERS system for users across the country.

Stephanie Blake, WebNEERS project coordinator at the USDA, spoke to Kathy Raphael, MSU Extension associate program leader, at the National EFNEP Coordinators Conference in Washington, D.C. at the end of February about how invaluable Bonnie’s contributions were and Kathy asked that I repeat the compliment. In a separate note, Stephanie writes that she can’t thank Bonnie enough for all of her help. She has truly made a huge difference with WebNEERS. Way to go, Bonnie!

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USDA study reports MSU Extension’s role in leading older adults to make healthy food choices

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a study Dec. 5 demonstrating that well-designed nutrition education programs can lead to healthier food choices by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The study, SNAP Education and Evaluation Study (Wave II), evaluated the impact of several nutrition education programs on fruit and vegetable consumption among elementary school children and seniors living in low-income situations. It evaluated programs implemented by the Iowa Nutrition Network, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and Michigan State University Extension.

Our MSU Extension colleagues provided nutrition education expertise to income-eligible senior adults. Researchers found that participants in the Eat Smart, Live Strong program increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The results of the study show the role of nutrition education in helping SNAP-Ed participants make healthy food choices. MSU Extension plays a strategic part in delivering that education as well as fully documenting the outcomes of our work.

I’d like to thank Dr. Olga Santiago, MSU Extension health and nutrition specialist, for her leadership in the program. Dr. Santiago, along with Health and Nutrition Institute director Dr. Dawn Contreras and former state SNAP-Ed coordinator Ben Chamberlain were principal investigators on the project. It took many people to work on the study design, study implementation, data analysis and report. The program involved program assistants and instructors, educators, supervisory educators, data entry staff and business office support staff across 13 counties ‒ too numerous to mention here but appreciated nonetheless. Thank you to everyone for a successful outcome. Thanks also to the older adults and senior center managers who completed the evaluation surveys and participated in the study. Congratulations to all!

Read the SNAP Education and Evaluation Study (Wave II) including two individual reports on MSU Extension’s role: http://www.fns.usda.gov/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-education-and-evaluation-study-wave-ii

Read this USDA FNS news release about the study:  http://www.fns.usda.gov/pressrelease/2013/fns-001313

Read this ANR Communications news release about the study: http://anrcom.msu.edu/anrcom/news/item/msu_extension_snap_ed_program_helps_low_income_older_adults_eat_healthier

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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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MSU Extension program instructor overcomes language barrier to teach nutrition to refugees

Imelda Galdamez is happy. She’s happy about what she refers to as an “amazing accomplishment” for Michigan State University Extension. What’s happened that has Imelda, an MSU Extension health and nutrition educator, so excited?

Many refugees from the Middle East and Africa live in District 11, which includes Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Overcoming language and cultural barriers to make significant connections with this population as well as overcoming barriers to partner with other organizations to make that happen presents a challenge.

Imelda supervises MSU Extension program instructor Sulaiman Mansour. Sulaiman worked diligently to secure partnerships with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) of Detroit, Lutheran Social Services of Macomb County and Lutheran Social Services of Oakland County to provide nutrition classes to recently resettled refugees.

Sulaiman teaches a nutrition class once a week for two hours at all three partner locations. He includes a short physical activity, information about healthy eating, food safety, community resources and goal assessment.

Able to speak Arabic and some African dialects, Sulaiman possesses the language skills to effectively teach our curriculum, Eating Right Is Basic, to this audience. Sulaiman uses PowerPoint presentations to deliver the education in their native languages. Not only that, he uses pictorials of their native foods to adapt the curriculum to meet their needs.

Imelda said, “I can honestly say this is the first time in District 11 that MSUE has established concrete working relationships with the refugee communities. Sulaiman’s passion, dedication, and ability to sit down with these agencies and work something out is something to be proud of.”

As a bonus, the number of participants in SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education) has increased due to the partnerships. Congratulations to Sulaiman and Imelda, and thanks to them for their leadership!

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SNAP-Ed staff members surpass target goal for program year

I’d like to toot our horn regarding the Michigan State University Extension SNAP-Ed staff members. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program educators, program instructors, program associates and program assistants surpassed their target numbers for the programming year that ended Sept. 30.

The team went well beyond what we might have expected based on the reduced number of staff and the high percentage of new staff involved. Although these numbers are not 100 percent current – we still have numbers out on a few counties and the data is not from activity reports, rather from weekly meetings where people report on progress – they give you a good idea of goals exceeded. The summer goal (June through Sept 30) was to reach 56,451 unduplicated participants. SNAP-Ed staff members exceeded that goal by at least over 4,118, totaling 60,569. The year goal was 83,945. Currently these reports show the year-to-date activity at 88,063. Nine districts overshot the summer goal (some by as large as 2,958 and 2,381 unduplicated participants). Two of the districts that did not overshoot the goal may have depending on the numbers that come in.

The SNAP-Ed team provided high-quality education that continues to show positive changes in the lives of participants.

Health and Nutrition Institute director Dawn Contreras said, “The SNAP-Ed staff went over and above this past year to meet contract goals while still providing high-quality education that continues to show positive changes in the lives of participants.”

Congratulations on these positive numbers!

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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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Filed under Nutrition