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Showing posts from December, 2015

Southeast Region: For Richer, For Poorer

Seventeen staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Southeast Regional Visit August 14 at the Owatonna Fire Hall.
What an amazing space for our SE regional meeting in Owatonna! @OwatonnaFire#fdontheroadpic.twitter.com/ntcvMRd5sf — LiveHealthyLiveWell (@UMNExtFD) August 14, 2015
The Southeast Region is the second-most populated region in the state, exceeded only by the Central Region, which includes the Twin Cities. The Southeast Region is anchored by two large cities on either side: Rochester to the east and Mankato to the west. Four themes dominated discussion at the Southeast Regional Visit.

Kids Learn Their Way Around the Kitchen in Cooking Matters Courses

Amy Baack, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator

This year, kids in the Southeast region have been learning how to cook healthy foods for themselves, their families, and their friends, thanks to Extension and partners’ sponsorship of Cooking Matters® Minnesota courses at area schools. A typical course was held in early 2015 at Triton Elementary School in Dodge Center, where fourth-grade students attended Cooking Matters for Kids classes once a week for six weeks after school.

Latino Parents Engage with Middle Schools in Southeast Region Communities

Partnering for School Success (PSS) is a University of Minnesota Extension project in that focuses on two of the major factors related to academic achievement for Latino families: family and school environments. This CYFAR (Children, Youth & Families at Risk) project is in year four of a five-year federal grant, and takes place at Triton Elementary School in Dodge Center and Faribault Middle School, both of which are in southeast Minnesota.

Regional Food Access Gathering Draws a Crowd

Last month, representatives from over 70 community organizations and students from Extension’s Southeast regions attended a day-long gathering on food access held at Minnesota State University in Mankato.

Participants attended three afternoon presentations, including two by FD staff:

Re-Energizing Recess

By Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate — Family Development

SNAP-Ed Educator Carolyn McQueen works with Crow Wing County schools in northeastern Minnesota. At one of the schools, Garfield Elementary in Brainerd, she does direct education, teaching students how to make good nutritional choices and be physically active.

When Carolyn was introduced to Dave Baloga, the physical education specialist at Garfield, they realized that they had some common goals. Dave had noticed some students were inactive during recess and that a considerable number of students had discipline issues. He suggested that “active recess” — an idea he heard at a SHAPE America conference he had attended — might be a way to address both issues, and he offered some ideas on how to bring active recess to Garfield. They decided to work together on the suggestion.

Northeast Regional Challenges Span the Spectrum

Twenty staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Northeast Regional Visit on August 13 at the Regional Extension Center in Grand Rapids. This region is the largest geographic region in the state. Due to the sheer size of the region, the grand challenges discussed at the Northeast Regional Visit varied significantly for different sections of the region.

Counties west of St. Louis County. The grand challenges for this section were dominated by racial disparities; poor health, including high rates of diabetes; and the limited access to basic needs, such as food, housing, and health care, experienced by American Indian families.

Significant percentages also reported overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes, binge drinking, and so on. #disconnect#fdontheroad (2/2) — LiveHealthyLiveWell (@UMNExtFD) August 13, 2015

St. Louis County Commissioner a Partner in Prevention

By Darlene Collins, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator

One of the most interesting things that has happened recently in the Northeast Region has to do with the Spectrum of Prevention. SNAP-Ed Educators Linda Erdahl, Chris Strand, Betty Wistrom, and I made a presentation on the spectrum to the St. Louis County Extension Committee in October.

We first discussed how our SNAP-Ed work is funded and what our goals are. Then we moved to results of individual programming and ended with an explanation of PSE (policy, system, and environmental) work. Chris showed a slide of the multicolored Spectrum of Prevention (SOP) model, and then we heard, "I know what that is."

‘Changing’ Partners and Approaches to Meet Family Needs in Northeastern Minnesota

An article published in the Milwaukee Sentinel Press on December 24, 1983 about the mining layoffs during that time describes a situation eerily similar to today’s situation across northeastern Minnesota. The article stated, “A huge sign on northern Minnesota’s once prosperous Iron Range reads: ‘Unemployed again, thanks to foreign imports.’” We’ve been through this before. Mining has always had a cyclical nature, but now our economic influences are global.

During the Northeast Regional Visit in Grand Rapids, we talked a great deal about the economic impact of the taconite mining industry in northeastern Minnesota. In this region, natural resources drive our economy. Along with approximately 2,000 jobs temporarily lost during the past nine months through mining, there are additional “indirect” jobs impacted from International Falls to Duluth and Grand Rapids to Grand Marais. Workers that typically bring home $60,000–80,000 annually (or about $1400 per week) are now receiving roughly …

Staff Announcements

Yoha Christianson returned to Ramsey County on November 16, to bring our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to the Karen immigrant population, many of whom have settled in St Paul. Yoha is an innovative and enthusiastic community nutrition educator. He is concerned about the health of his community and has strong ties with agencies and community leaders. Welcome back, Yoha!



Sharon Mulé will start as the Staff Development Coordinator for Family Development on January 4. This is a new position and she will work closely with Family Development leadership to map out staff training needs and create a plan to meet those needs. Sharon has been working at the University for over six years at the  Institute on Community Integration as a project coordinator and national trainer. Prior to coming to the University, she worked at Arc Greater Twin Cities as a program specialist and trainer on special education law. She has over 25 years of experience working with children and…

Northwest Region Tackles Poverty and Health Disparities

Thirteen staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Northwest Regional Visit on August 12 at the Becker County Extension Office in Detroit Lakes. The visit featured great conversations about the region’s grand challenges, including the challenges of living in poverty and related issues of lack of access to healthy foods (food deserts) and few safe places for physical activity. Attendees noted that while the region is rich in natural resources — with four biomes offering the makings for economic growth and recreation — these resources are not translating to local economic benefits or opportunities for healthy activities for low-income families.

The Northwest Region features prairie and grasslands, lakes, forests, and farms. However, behind the beautiful lakes and countryside lie counties with the highest rates of poverty and chronic health issues. For example, Mahnomen County has 20–26.4 percent of families living in poverty, the highest rate in Minnesota. The Northwe…

Farm to School Program Comes to Park Rapids

The Park Rapids School District is joining a national trend to get better food in school cafeterias. During this October's Farm to School Month, the district partnered with SNAP-Ed Educator Donna Anderson to "get it right."

The Meaning of Money for American Indian and Latino Families

By Jennifer Garbow, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

Many American Indian families call the Northwest Region of Minnesota home. These families have their own cultural values and norms regarding money management and personal finance. The majority of mainstream financial education tends to focus on an individual’s advancement and does not consider the extended family and community as the individual’s financial responsibility.

Within the American Indian community, however, success is often measured by one’s ability to contribute to the well-being of others. Recognizing the connection with others, American Indians (as a whole) emphasize sharing material possessions, which includes money. This difference in focus poses a unique challenge to educators working with American Indian families, as well as families from other non-dominant cultures.

Strengthening Partners in Local Food Production

By Noelle Harden, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Across Northwest Minnesota, local food production plays a prominent role in efforts to increase access to healthy food. Health and Nutrition staff are partnering with organizations across the region to promote equitable access to community and home gardens, farmers markets, CSA (community-supported agriculture) networks, farm to institution programs, and wild food foraging.

The Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NW RSDP) is a key partner making a difference to strengthen healthy, local food systems in the region. Staff from NW RSDP and Health and Nutrition have worked together to support initiatives like the Fresh Connect Food Hub in Fergus Falls and programs like Local Foods College, an annual series of eight live webinars focused on local food production.

Northwest Region Embraces I CAN Prevent Diabetes Program

By Sara Van Offelen,  SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator, Northwest Minnesota

Rural Minnesotans have higher rates of diabetes than their urban counterparts. So it's no surprise that individuals and communities in the Northwest Region have embraced the I CAN Prevent Diabetes (ICANPD) program offered by Extension in partnership with Essentia Health, Sanford Health, and Tri-County Health Care.

This past year, 87 Northwest Region residents enrolled in ICANPD courses offered in Wadena, Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Mahnomen, Bagley, and Pelican Rapids. The free, 12-month program requires participants to meet with a SNAP-Ed educator once a week for 16 weeks, and then continue with once-a-month check-ins for another eight months.

SNAP-Ed educators help participants learn how to eat healthy foods, add physical activity to their daily routine, manage stress, and overcome their personal barriers to healthier living.

Overall, ICANPD aims to help participants learn how to make lifestyle changes design…

Why did the customer cross the road?

What happens when a farmers market moves across the street from a food co-op? Collaboration on system changes, that's what!

Pomme de Terre Foods Manager William Pelowski explains how a produce cooler supports economic relationships with local farmers and an credit card terminal supports families using SNAP benefits (or those who forgot their cash at home).


This collaboration was made possible through the efforts of many, including Morris Healthy Eating, University of Minnesota Extension, and SNAP-Ed Educator Ashraf Ashkar.

Southwest Region Takes on Education, Immigration, and EBT Issues

Sixteen staff members joined Family Development leadership at the Southwest Regional Visit on August 11 at the Willmar Regional Extension office.


There was considerable conversation about grand challenges for the region, including three common issues that emerged:

Meeting the educational needs of individuals with mental health issues or developmental disabilities. Staff reported there are many outstanding needs among those who have mental health issues or developmental disabilities in the Southwest Region. These audiences often need basic education and training in areas such as life skills, nutrition, and general health — areas in which Family Development shines. Regional staff suggested adapting our curricula, educational resources, and teaching approaches to better serve these audiences. We in FD — leadership, supervisors, educators, evaluators, coordinators, and support staff — are interested in exploring training for staff on working with these audiences and learning from all staf…

What Else Do We Know About the Southwest Region?

Jeanne Laqua, Office/Administrative Services Supervisor

Here are six facts about the Southwest Region:
Twenty counties comprise this region — more than any other region in the state.The Southwest Region has the smallest population of any other region in the state. By comparison, the Southeast Region is smaller geographically speaking, but has more than two and half times the population.The largest population centers are located in Kandiyohi, Lyon, Nobles, and Martin counties.The Southwest Region has a very strong educational foundation, with one in every 10 people (10.5 percent) having associate's degrees and just under one-fifth (17.6 percent) of the region's adult population holding bachelor's degrees or higher.Healthcare and manufacturing provide more than one-third of the employment in Southwest Minnesota, with most employment sectors projected to experience job growth by 2020.Southwest Minnesota consistently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state.
The Southwes…

Group and Individualized Financial Education

Jose Lamas is the Southwest Region’s Family Resiliency local program educator. This spring, Worthington Community Education Director Sharon Johnson requested that Jose teach a tenant education class for Karen families who are new to the community. Jose taught the class in June, using University of Minnesota Extension's RentWise curriculum for the session. Participants reported on their evaluation that they had learned: "How to communicate with the landlord"; "How to report if something is broken"; and "How to take care of my home."