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Extension > Family Matters > July 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Grand Challenges in Employee and Community Engagement

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

All of us face “grand challenges” in our personal lives from time to time — these are the serious, almost unsolvable problems that fundamentally change our lives. Over the last year, I had two of my own grand challenges — a bout with lymphoma and a granddaughter born six weeks early. The year brought lots of tough decisions for my family, but also great opportunities to experience success, healthy development and recovery, and resilience. Both of my challenges are in a good place today: I am six months into complete remission and Lucia celebrates her first birthday on August 2 as a developmentally on-time toddler.

Partners for Affordable Housing — and Healthy Eating

By Rachel Jones, SNAP-Ed Educator and Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate — Health and Nutrition

What do housing and health have in common? In Mankato, the answer is Partners for Affordable Housing (PAH).

PAH strives not only to help clients secure long-term housing but also to improve the health and nutrition of their families being served. The shared goal of improved nutrition and cooking skills forms the basis of the ongoing partnership between SNAP-Ed Educator Rachel Jones and PAH. And the class series that brings it all together? Cooking Matters® Minnesota.

Health and Nutrition Portfolio Plan August Update

By Renee Obrecht-Como, Program Operations Director, and Stephanie Heim, Assistant Program Director

Nearly a year and a half has passed since the Health and Nutrition Portfolio Plan process began. On July 23, we met with the FD leadership team to reflect on the status of the work described in the portfolio plan. We quickly found that we no longer really needed to consult our “road map” (the Portfolio Plan) because the programs listed, the core strategies, work and evaluation across the spectrum of prevention all had simply become the terrain through which we traveled.

Here are some of the milestones we’ve passed on our travels:
  • Stephanie concluded a series of conversations with Health and Nutrition staff, focusing on the questions “What makes you proud?” and “What can we do better?” Read the responses »
  • Core strategies identified in the Portfolio Plan have been built into SNAP-Ed and EFNEP plans. See three examples »
  • A wave of hiring for SNAP-Ed and EFNEP regional and statewide positions is nearly complete, paving the way for training opportunities. For example, EFNEP staff engaged in an intensive training, or “boot camp,” this June and later this year, SNAP-Ed regional coordinators will participate in the University’s Leadership Essentials workshop.
  • Minnesota Food Charter funders and planners (including Extension) are working to create a network to support work that is already happening across the state. If you are interested in learning more, connect with the Health and Nutrition Extension Educator in your region or with Stephanie.
For more details, check out the full blog post on the Food for Thought blog: August Portfolio Plan Update.



Healthy Blog, Happy Readers

By Sara Langworthy, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family Consortium

There’s a new blog in town. CYFC’s "Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners" (HBML) blog shares the exciting evolution of our partnership with Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul (for more on the project, check out our website). The blog, written by project staff, documents and shares the program growth with our partners and those who might benefit from knowing more about our efforts.

In our most recent entry, Graduate Assistant Nora Fox shares her experience of getting neighbors and children involved in picking some of the ripe vegetables in the garden:
This past Saturday I packed up my gardening tools, new puppy, and dirty tennis shoes and headed to the community garden at Bruce Vento. I hadn’t thought to bring extra paper bags for the vegetables to be harvested, but I wish I had! Read more and subscribe »

Through the HBML blog, we are raising the profile of our community-engaged work that creatively leverages University and community resources in partnership to promote the health and well-being of children and families in the Bruce Vento community. The blog serves as a way to capture the process of our community-based partnership work, and as a means of communication for telling the Bruce Vento story in an engaging, efficient way. Read the latest blog post and subscribe via email today at Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners.

Should We Use Social Media to Reach Our Audience?

By Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate

The question of how to use social media has been difficult for me to answer. Why do we spend time, money, and energy maintaining social media accounts for Family Development? Why should FD staff and educators use their personal accounts for professional use? The answer, I have found, is because we are in the relationship business.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

FD Accountant Betsy Leverty Retiring

With heavy hearts, we announce that Family Development's beloved accountant, Betsy Leverty, will be retiring on August 7.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Walking as a Team

SNAP-Ed educator Leticia Rodriguez (in blue and white)
poses with members of her interdisciplinary team — and Elvis.
On May 4–6, University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Leticia Rodriguez attended the Action Institute Walkability Conference in Nashville, TN. Walkability, according to Steve Abley, is "the extent to which the built environment is friendly to the presence of people living, shopping, visiting, enjoying or spending time in an area." The conference addressed policy, systems, and environmental changes and interventions to increase population levels of physical activity with a focus on walking.

Southwest Minnesota was represented by an interdisciplinary team that included representatives from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), Minnesota Department of HealthMinnesota Department of Transportation, and Southwest Regional Development Commission.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Participation Makes the Difference

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs — Family Development 

“If we want people to be part of the solution, they must be part of the thinking,” said America Bracho, M.D., the executive director of Latino Health Access (LHA), a center for health promotion and disease prevention in Orange County, California. I heard those words last week, when I was privileged to join a group from Minnesota and Iowa that visited LHA. There, we learned how staff and volunteers implement LHA’s theory of change based on a foundational belief that everyone is a leader. Class participants are looked at not only as learners, but people who could be future promotores — change agents in their communities.

Word Matters: What’s in a Name—‘Children’ and ‘Youth’

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
 
Here’s a phrase I keep seeing when I edit public documents for Family Development: “children and youth.” Since part of my work is to look at things from the eyes of ordinary readers, I began to wonder what the difference in meaning between the two words might be.

My initial thoughts were that “children” refers to anyone from roughly toddlerhood to the pre-teen years and that children are a sub-set (or part) of “youth,” which also encompasses teenagers. That led me to ask, “Why not just say ‘youth’ in our public communications?” But then my thoughts turned to young adults. Aren’t they also called “youth” or “youths?” What’s more, would everyone understand that the term “youth” encompasses all three categories? Or is more specificity required?

Regional Visits Scheduled in August, September

By Heather Lee, Project Manager

As shared during the June “FD Updates” webinar, FD leadership will soon be making "the rounds" to every region of the state. The purpose of these meetings will be for FD leadership to do the following:
  • Engage with the entire range of FD staff in each region.
  • Answer questions about the 2014 Employee Engagement Survey.
  • Learn more about each region’s “grand” challenges, including building on the culture and diversity discussion from April’s conference.
Regional visits are planned for the following dates and locations:

Summer Latino Financial Literacy Newsletter Now Available

By Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate

The July–August issue of the Latino Financial Literacy Program Newsletter is now available! In this issue, you will find the following articles:

  • Preparing for the New School Year
  • The Importance of Renter's Insurance
  • Cooking and Preserving Salsa Safely
This newsletter is made possible by the University of Minnesota Latino Financial Literacy Team, in collaboration with the FD communications team:
  • Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension Educator
  • Gabriela Burk, Financial Literacy Program Assistant
  • Jose Lamas, Community Program Associate
  • Francisca Mendoza, Community Program Associate
  • Sara Croymans, Extension Educator
  • Jessica Barnes, Communications Associate
  • Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor
  • Heather Lee, Project Manager
The most recent edition of the Latino Financial Literacy Newsletter in both English and Spanish can be accessed here: http://z.umn.edu/lflt. For more information about the newsletter, read the May 18 article.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

FD Offers Valuable Resources for ‘Tough Times’

By Heather Lee, Project Manager

As highlighted in earlier Family Matters blog posts and other venues, Family Development has embarked on an exciting tri-state effort with South Dakota and Iowa related to the human side of avian influenza. As part of that effort, we have developed a web page devoted to the “human side” of avian flu. FD websites contain many valuable resources for families experiencing a range of other "tough times," too. Here are examples of our resources for families and the professionals who serve them:

There’s a New Savings Game in Town

By Sharon Powell, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

On June 14, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a prize-linked savings (PLS) bill into law. PLS programs have been successful throughout the world and in a few American states in encouraging people to save money, but until recently federal legislation has prohibited most states from promoting the programs. Passage of new federal legislation in December 2014 cleared the way for states to approve PLS accounts for all banking institutions. Minnesota is now one of 14 states where opening a PLS account will be possible for consumers.

The bill hasn’t garnered much attention in the media, but the consequences of its passage could be significant for Minnesota citizens who have had difficulty saving money. PLS accounts combine the fun of prize drawings with the financial advantage of building savings. Here’s how PLS accounts work: People open a savings account that allows the chance to win prizes by making deposits; typically, small drawings are held every month and bigger drawings are held less frequently (maybe once or twice a year).

My, How Things Have Changed!

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

Do you know what the machine pictured below is and what it was used for?

Mystery machine. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Until the early 1990s (in some schools and Extension offices even later), the mimeograph machine was the tool of choice to make copies of materials for classes and newsletters. An invention of Thomas A. Edison, the mimeograph machine made printed copies using typed stencil. My, how things have changed over the past 25 years!

Both the tools we use to create our learning resources and the way we carry out our work has changed.
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