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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Are We Mad? March Madness and the Level Playing Field

By Mary Marczak, Director — Urban Family Development and Evaluation

Each year, Brad Rugg, program director in youth development, and I co-manage the Coffey Hall March Madness Pool (translation: the Coffey Hall NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament sports lottery). For three weeks in March, we have a blast chatting across centers about how our teams are doing, how a Cinderella team beat a major university (translation: typically a little school thought to have near zero chance of beating a university with lots of money for athletics), or the feel-good stories told about the young players and their families that the TV networks add to games to keep the interest of casual fans (translation: those who only watch college basketball during March Madness).

(Translation: The day when the NCAA College basketball tournament participants are ranked and announced.)

This year, without North Dakota State University and the Ohio State University (translation: Trish Olson’s alma maters) to distract her, FD’s own director of programs led the Coffey Hall pool all the way up to the last few minutes of the championship game!

The reason that this tournament is nicknamed March Madness may give us some food for thought.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Website Bytes: Scrubbing Harder

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate and Website Coordinator

Since February 15 of this year, Family Development’s web team has archived 120 web pages and PDFs.

That makes me so happy, you guys.

That process of archival was the second phase of the spring cleaning project I introduced last month: to retire content that had fewer than 100 pageviews and hadn’t been reviewed in the last two years. And with your help, I made what I considered significant progress in that phase.

How Do You Achieve Readability on the Web?

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor

In the last edition of Word Matters, I discussed readability on the web and why it matters. To recap, readability on Extension’s website is about making online content clear and easy to understand in order to engage our audiences across Minnesota.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Spotlight: Extension Nutritionist and RSDP Board Member Craig Hassel

By Elizabeth Braatz, Student Writer — Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP)

What do the UMN Center for Spirituality and Healing, Inter-institutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge (Pennsylvania), Cultural Wellness Center (Minnesota), White Earth Tribal Council, University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition, Woodlands Wisdom Nutrition Project, a medicinal herb network, and Northeast RSDP have in common?

One person: Dr. Craig Hassel. Dr. Hassel is an Associate Professor and Extension Nutritionist at the UMN Twin Cities. Dr. Hassel is extremely involved with connecting community members, and he has worked for, partnered with, or volunteered for all of the organizations listed above.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Calibrating for Quality

By Trina Adler, Program Leader — Health and Nutrition

Every year at this time of year, I rack my brain to come up with new ideas for the annual spring ritual I plan for my children: the egg hunt.

What’s ‘Fuhdipper’?

By Darlene Collins, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator

Holly Hunts, PhD, CFCS, is a consumer economist and professor from Montana State University. She has been working with the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR, pronounced fuh-DIP-er), commonly called “commodities.”

The FDPIR food package is put together by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This monthly package gets high scores on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). HEI is a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Because the high scores seemed unusual compared to the scores for the average American diet and the average diet of SNAP participants, Hunts decided to take a closer look. What she found out was very interesting.

Extension Releases Power of Produce Club Toolkit

By Jessica Norman, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition, and Andrew Doherty, SNAP-Ed Educator

We are pleased to announce that the Power of Produce (PoP) Club Toolkit is now available!

The (PoP) Club is a farmers market incentive program for children. Each week that a participating farmers market is open, children receive a $2 token to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. The intent of the program is engage children at farmers markets and empower them to make healthful food choices.
Power of Produce Club logo
University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development is offering a free PoP Club Toolkit for farmers markets and partnering organizations. The toolkit provides all the materials and resources needed to plan, implement, and evaluate a PoP Club program. To access the PoP Club Toolkit, complete the registration form on this web page:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Teachers, School Staff Trained to Boost Student Success

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

On March 30, University of Minnesota Extension staff, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education, trained 48 future facilitators of Education: Our Best Legacy (EOBL).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

From Divide to Dividends: A Tour of Minnesota's Shared Connections

By Jamie Bain, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Last week, I drove through through the north woods, snaked through lake after lake, and absorbed the sun and the energy of the vast blue sky. This incredibly beautiful experience unfolded in 36 hours with an amazing crew of Metro Food Access Network (MFAN) partners on a two-day tour of northwestern and west central Minnesota on March 28 and 29. The goal of the adventure was to learn more about the “divide” between urban and rural Minnesota we’ve heard so much about in the news lately.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Evaluations are supposed to be used.

By Emily Becher, Research Associate

Last month, I wrote a blog post about my path of professional development, which included my desire to learn more about the field of evaluation studies. Reading Essentials of Utilization-Focused Evaluation (2012) by Michael Quinn Patton was my first step. Not to skim, not to read sections, but to read the whole thing in its entirety.

And… I did it!

Publicly stating my goal to write down my thoughts for Family Matters was a way to create accountability for myself, keep me on track, and block out time for reading. So thank you to Family Matters readers for being my accountability buddies!

The first thing I want to share is that I really enjoyed this book and I found it extremely useful. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking to increase their evaluation capacity.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Healthy Food, Safe Food Project Equips Food Access Advocates

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

This week, University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released the results of the Healthy Food, Safe Food (HFSF) Project, which explored regulatory barriers to improving access to healthy foods while simultaneously maintaining and enhancing food safety. The just-released results include reports summarizing the project findings, as well as an action guide and toolkit based on those findings for use by food access advocates.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Extension Offers One-to-One Services for Financially Distressed Farmers

ST. PAUL, Minn.  — University of Minnesota Extension today announced it will begin offering one-to-one financial counseling to farmers in serious financial stress.

“We know that due to a variety of factors, including on-going low prices, some farmers find themselves facing difficult circumstances,” said Bev Durgan, Extension dean. “With our new program, Extension offers distressed farmers help in understanding their financial situation and exploring options to keep their farms functioning as a viable enterprise.”

To set up a confidential appointment with an Extension farm financial analyst, farmers can call the Farm Information Line at 1-800-232-9077.

Monday, March 20, 2017

FD Program Business Plans Reviewed

By Patricia Olson, Director of Programs

“I feel a sense of urgency for the work we in Family Development engage in,” Extension Educator Jamie Bain wrote in her January 9 opening column. “Until all Minnesotans share equally in health and wealth, those of us on the comfortable side of Minnesota’s many gaps cannot rest.”

And resting we are not. This year, Extension Center for Family Development (FD) is implementing a program business planning model. We are doing this to operationalize and realize our promise to help Minnesota families make informed decisions leading to better health, financial security, and well-being. We also aim to be accountable for resources that come from taxpayers and to invest those resources wisely.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Reading, Readability, and You

By Mary Vitcenda, Senior Editor

Let’s talk about reading.


Not reading for leisure, but reading for information you need to get something done. If you’re like most people, you scan and skim until you find exactly what you’re looking for, like the instructions for how to get that spot out of your living room rug. And if you don’t spot what you want quickly, you’ll stop reading and go elsewhere.

This “scan and skim” tendency is magnified on the web, where users don’t even necessarily read from top to bottom or word by word. Instead, they often skip around the screen in search of information, and if they don’t find it right away, they’re gone.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Graduate Assistant Joins Extension

Jenifer McGuire, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor — Family Social Science

headshot of Laura Janzen
Laura Janzen started working as a graduate assistant with University of Minnesota Extension in February 2017. Her areas of focus are equity, sexual minority youth, and transgender/gender nonconforming youth in schools.

Before joining Extension, Laura worked for Edina Public Schools as a recreation leader and paraprofessional. She also has been a data collector for St. Louis Park Schools and Bright Water Montessori School in Minneapolis, administering various academic assessments.

Laura will graduate this May with a Master of Educational Psychology degree. For the 2017-2018 school year, she has been placed at Jefferson Community School in Minneapolis for her school psychology practicum and will serve as a full-time school psychology intern to gain her Education Specialist degree in School Psychology. Welcome Laura when you see her.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Divorce Education Article Published

By Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency

The international journal Evaluation and Program Planning recently published an article by Extension staff titled “Relational conflict and outcomes from an online divorce education program.” The authors — Sarah Cronin, Emily Becher, Ellie McCann, Jenifer McGuire, and Sharon Powell — examined the impact of conflict on coparenting outcomes of the divorce education program Parents Forever™. They examined two hypotheses:
  • Reduction in conflict will be significantly related to an increase in positive coparenting behaviors.
  • Reduction in conflict will be significantly related to a decrease in negative coparenting behaviors.
The authors analyzed the data and found they contradicted the first hypothesis and supported the second hypothesis. For a detailed discussion of the results, implications of this study, and lessons learned, see the full article: Evaluation and Program Planning, Volume 62.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Tale of Two Columns

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

headshot of Karen Shirer
When I sat down to write this month’s column, I was torn. On the one hand, program business plans have been on everyone’s minds, and I’m no exception. I’d been reading the 13 program business plans submitted February 24 and thinking about the implications for our center. On the other hand, another, more personal date and topic was on my mind.

Community Gathers at Minneapolis Church to Discuss Transgender Issues

By Judy Myers, Extension Educator -- Children, Youth & Family Consortium

On Tuesday, February 28, nearly 200 community members gathered in Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis to learn about transgender youth research and practice experts.

Registration for this third event in the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) 2017 Lessons from the Field series, "Meeting the Needs of Transgender Youth," was so high that we had to arrange a last-minute venue change. Our fear that the move to a church sanctuary would keep participants from attending were not realized: Plymouth Congregational Church is an openly welcoming and affirming community and several participants who identified as GLBT expressed their appreciation for the large rainbow flag at the church building entrance.

Similar to the inaugural event, Extension SNAP-Ed Educator Nathan Hesse provided participants with an overview of health and nutrition risks for transgender youth who are often homeless and food insecure. Cari Michaels, Extension educator in CYFC, talked about mental health risks and mediators for transgender youth.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Website Bytes: Spring Cleaning Edition

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate and Website Coordinator

Ever since I wrapped up production of a new video about the Green family, I’ve been looking for other projects to keep me occupied. This month, the all-consuming project is spring cleaning FD’s websites — and you’re all invited.

Family Development has 15 websites within the larger Extension website. That comes out to about 1,900 web pages. In 2016, some of those web pages racked up thousands of pageviews. And some of those web page (58 percent, to be precise) were viewed less than 100 times.

My goal is to look at every web page and every PDF owned by Family Development. I want to know how many times a piece of content was viewed or downloaded in 2016 and when it was last reviewed. If it’s a popular page (100+ pageviews) that’s been recently reviewed (within the last two years), I’ll hand out gold stars and move along. If it’s a wallflower that hasn’t been touched by an educator in a while, I’ll take out my nudging stick and poke someone.

RSDP Invites Project​ Ideas

The Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) connect​ ​Greater​ Minnesota communities to the University of Minnesota in order to help solve problems and take advantage of new opportunities. RSDP brings together local talent and resources with University of Minnesota knowledge and seed funding to drive sustainability in four areas: agriculture and food systems, tourism and resilient communities, natural resources, and clean energy.

The Partnerships support and facilitate research, planning, design, and policy projects consistent with the RSDP mission, goals and principles.

light bulb illustrationHave an idea? Seed funding is available for projects that build robust community-University partnerships for sustainable development. Download the Project Idea Brief (301 K DOC), and contact​ ​​the RSDP Director in your region to start discussing your project idea today!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

FD In the News

Here’s a monthly roundup of regional media coverage on the work of Family Development staff and partners.

Yes, prediabetes is real -- could you have it?
Crookston Times, Feb. 21, 2017

University of Minnesota Extension has partnered with Altru Clinic in Crookston to offer "I CAN Prevent Diabetes." SNAP-Ed Educator Megan Hruby, a certified lifestyle coach through the National Diabetes Prevention Program, partnered with Altru's Jami Mathews and Janelle Porter to teach the year-long class.

Spotlight: Bemidji Food Shelf Gardens
Notes from Northern Gardener, Feb. 7, 2017

In collaboration with the University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed program, the Bemidji Community Food Shelf applied to be a part of the Minnesota State Horticulture Society Garden-in-a-Box program. The program uses the veggies in cooking classes taught by SNAP-Ed Educator Deb Dilley to demonstrate healthy eating and self-sufficiency.

One Vegetable One Community groundswell grows
Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch, Feb. 3, 2017

Over 50 people from around the region recently gathered in Thief River Falls (TRF) at the Evergreen Eating Emporium for a workshop focused on the One Vegetable One Community campaign. The workshop was provided by University of Minnesota Extension in partnership with staff from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and TRF Growing Forward.

Was your work highlighted recently by local media or were you quoted in story? Contact Michael Brott to share the news.

Friday, February 24, 2017

H&N Staff Mix and Mingle with Metro Community Partners

By Evalyn Carbrey, Regional Coordinator — SNAP-Ed

On Friday, February 10, the Metro Extension Health and Nutrition staff hosted a partner “meet and greet” event at the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach Center (UROC) in Minneapolis.

panoramic view of community room with many people

The purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity to say thank you to our current partner agencies and programs, feature some of the great work of our Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) staff, and to foster new connections with current and future partners. Over 35 partners attended, included individuals from community organizations, public housing, local public health, and many others.

Monday, February 20, 2017

In 2017, I will be taking more risks.

headshot of Mary Jo Katras
By Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency

Throughout 2016, the opportunity to take risks bubbled up more than once in my personal and profession lives. For example, I had the opportunity to try aerial fitness, which stretched both my coordination and athletic ability to the max. An opportunity to take risks at work came up when I was I was challenged to develop new ways to deliver online programming that allowed for greater accessibility for our audiences.

As I think about taking risks, I am reminded of my youngest daughter Josie learning to ride her bike. She first began to learn to ride her bike in a baseball field. In her mind, falling on gravel was much less scary than falling on a concrete sidewalk. After she had built up her confidence on the baseball field, she began to practice in the empty school parking lot on weekends. Then she moved to riding on the sidewalks in our neighborhood.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Extension Network Nerds Are Set Up to Connect

By Noelle Harden, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Are you thinking like a network?

You may have read the blog post my fellow network nerd Jamie Bain wrote about thinking like a network. You may have also read that cold weather didn’t keep people away from the summit hosted by the Central Regional Food Access Network. As Extension and Minnesota become more “net-centric,” we in Family Development are developing new resources to meet the needs of our Health and Nutrition staff, partners, and the communities we serve. Case in point, our new web page: Food Networks in Minnesota.

This web page hosts an ArcGIS map and a sortable directory of food networks in Minnesota.

screenshot of a map of minnesota
A snapshot from the ArcGIS map with the Central Region Food Access and Minnesota Food Charter networks highlighted.

This web page also has information about how to join the new Minnesota Food Networks email list and upcoming quarterly meetings. We created these resources to promote more learning, connecting, and engagement between food network leaders and others working on food systems change in Minnesota communities and across the state.

Please share these resources with partners (here’s a shortened link for you to use:, and don’t hesitate to contact me at with your questions, ideas, or to seek out some network nerd camaraderie.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Extension Begins Training for School Success Program

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

On March 30, University of Minnesota Extension staff, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education, will begin training future facilitators of Education: Our Best Legacy (EOBL). This program was developed by Center for Family Development (FD) staff to help middle school students get the most out of school. EOBL is one of several parent education programs offered under FD’s Partnering for School Success project.

two adults with a child standing in front of a chalkboard

Despite overall strong marks in academic achievement, Minnesota experiences one of the highest levels of educational disparities in the country. FD staff in family resiliency created the EOBL program to close these opportunity gaps in education.

Schoolyard Gardens Conference Set for Early March

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

“New Places to Grow” is the theme of the 2017 Schoolyard Gardens Conference, set for Friday, March 3, at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, MN. Held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., sessions include the following:
  • Ten Plants that Changed Minnesota
  • Making Year-Round School Gardens Work
  • Special Needs and Gardening
  • Sustaining a School Garden through Collaboration and Student “Ownership”
  • The Perfect Prairie Partnership
The conference will also feature a keynote address by Rick Sherman, Farm to School and School Garden Coordinator, Oregon Department of Education. Rick will share how Oregon became a leader in the farm to school and school garden movement, detailing how the state’s school gardens united into a mega-force.

Whether you are a beginner or schoolyard garden veteran, join educators, school administrators, gardeners, and community members to learn innovative strategies to sustain and engage diverse learners in thriving schoolyard gardens.

This annual event is sponsored by the arboretum and the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, in collaboration with the Minnesota Schoolyard Gardens Coalition. Register today on the conference web page: 2017 Schoolyard Gardens Conference. Financial hardship assistance may be available. Call 612-301-1210 to inquire.

Your Help Needed for Elder Family Financial Exploitation Research

By Marlene Stum, Professor and Extension Specialist — Family Social Science

Your help is needed to identify potential participants to understand family experiences when elderly people are victims of financial exploitation by someone in their own family. We have half of our participants but need another recruitment push to reach our goal of having all interviews completed by March 2017.

Elder family financial exploitation is widely agreed to be the most prevalent and growing type of elder abuse in Minnesota as well as across the U.S. It is also commonly recognized that “families are never the same after experiencing financial exploitation.” However, the voices and perspectives of affected family members are largely absent from what’s known about elder financial exploitation.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Affirming Our Commitment to Respecting Diversity and Fostering Inclusion

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

On January 24 and 26, I attended two sessions of the 2017 Lessons from the Field series. This year’s series of workshops focuses on the needs of transgender youth and is led by CYFC's Scholar in Residence, Jennifer McGuire, Ph.D. Jennifer and her co-presenters — Nathan Hesse, SNAP Ed educator, and Cari Michaels, CYFC Extension educator — thoughtfully highlighted the challenges faced by transgender youth in our society.

three women talking at a table
We got a chance to connect with each other throughout the workshop.

These transgender workshops reminded me of one of my earliest programming opportunities related to diversity and inclusion. In 1995, while working at Iowa State as an assistant state Extension leader, I was tasked with planning and implementing a statewide, three-day immersive training session on reaching Hispanic audiences through Extension family programming. Today, these lessons learned from planning and participating in this experience remain with me.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Layered Learning and Evaluation Anxiety

By Emily Becher, Research Associate

Throughout my brief career as a student, academic, researcher and evaluator, one theme has emerged: I’m not as smart as I thought I was!

When I was younger, I thought that intelligence or smarts was measured by my ability to grasp complex ideas and thoughts. If I wasn’t able to grasp an idea quickly and easily, it meant that I wasn’t gifted in that particular area and I should move along to something else. A quote my dad my often shared with me would bubble up at the back of my mind: “Genius manifests itself”. I took this to mean that if I was good at something, it would be obvious from the beginning.

However, over the years, I’ve learned that this just isn’t true — at least for me.

Scenes from Video Land

Check out these videos from Extension staff and partners:

Gisell Gonzalez at the St. Paul Women's March (4:21) — Listen to this young Latina's speech about her feelings regarding the mischaracterization of women and Latinos roles in the workforce.

Live Better Live Longer (5:48) — CHI St. Gabriel's Health — Learn about this Morrison County program and keep your eye out for Regional Coordinator Stephanie Hakes,  and SNAP-Ed Educators Carmen Genske and Elizabeth Quillo.

Following in Faith (2:33) — Zumbro Lutheran Church — Check out this an example of what can be achieved when different institutions decide to work together for a common goal in the community (hint: it involves burritos).

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

FD In the News

Here’s your monthly roundup of regional media coverage on the work of Family Development staff and partners.

Community food project proposed for Wadena families
Wadena Pioneer Journal, Dec. 19, 2016

The Wadena Growers Association is looking to increase healthy food access and is working with Tri-County Health Care Foundation and Extension to offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to families.

University study: Minnesota childcare providers are fostering healthier environments
U of M Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Jan. 3, 2017

A University of Minnesota research team found that early childhood care and education providers are making significant strides in ensuring kids eat healthy food and are physically active, although barriers remain. U of M Extension noticed that providers surveyed in 2010 were willing to serve more whole grains and took action.

Local policy council continues work addressing barriers to healthy food in Steele County
Owatonna People’s Press, Jan 19, 2017

The Roots, Shoots and Boots Food Policy Council — of which SNAP-Ed Educator +Andrea Kronbach is a member — is continuing its discussion on how to increase awareness, accessibility and affordability of healthy food in Steele County.

U of M Extension looking to expand One Vegetable, One Community initiative
Crookston Times, Jan. 20, 2017

University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed, Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, and Institute on Environment together partner through the One Vegetable, One Community gardening campaign to encourage healthy food access and community building.

Local program helps pre-diabetic patients adopt healthy lifestyles
Worthington Daily Globe, Jan. 25, 2017

A group of pre-diabetic women in the Worthington area have not only seen improvements in their health during the past year, but have also assumed the challenge to change their lifestyle with the help of the I CAN Prevent Diabetes (ICANPD) program taught by SNAP-Ed Educator +Maria Conchita Paez-Sievert.

Faribault High School graduate reflects on role at St. Paul Women's March
Faribault Daily News, Jan. 25, 2017

Gisell Gonzalez Sanchez addressed the masses at the Capitol in St. Paul on Saturday, January 21 with a message about her feelings regarding the mischaracterization of women and Latinos’ roles in the workforce. The organizers of the St. Paul Women’s March discovered Gisell through a video SNAP-Ed Educator Rafael Flores uploaded to Facebook depicting her experience of being a first generation Latino college student.

Were You in the News?

Was your work highlighted recently by local media or were you quoted in a story? Contact +Michael Brott, FD communications manager, at to share the news.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Graduate Assistant Joins CYFC to Work on Lessons from the Field

Jenifer McGuire, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor — Family Social Science

Jessica Koolick has joined Children, Youth & Family Consortium as a graduate research assistant working with me on the Lessons from the Field: Meeting the Needs of Transgender Youth educational series. Before joining Extension, Jessica worked on the Early Bridges literacy project through the U of M Center for Early Education and Development.

Jessica received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, with a minor in LGBTQ and sexuality studies. She is currently a graduate student in the School Psychology Program in the U of M College of Education and Human Development.

Jessica’s areas of focus are autism spectrum disorders, supporting transgender and gender nonconforming students in schools, promoting student success in schools, and special education. Please welcome Jessica to the CYFC team!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Who Provides SNAP-Ed in Minnesota?

By Ryan Johnson, Associate Program Director — Health and Nutrition​

In a recent blog post, I talked about the differences between the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed). SNAP-Ed helps people with limited financial resources make healthy food choices and be more physically active. The eight SNAP-Ed implementing agencies in Minnesota are the seven Anishinaabe Tribes (Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Red Lake, and White Earth) and the University of Minnesota Extension.

Image source: American Indian Tribal Governments, MDH.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Regional Community Discussions on Transgender Issues Begin

Children, Youth & Family Consortium Staff

On Tuesday, January 24, the University of Minnesota Extension Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) held the first in a series of professional development events focused on transgender youth.

At this inaugural event of the 2017 Lessons from the Field series, titled Meeting the Needs of Transgender Youth, 48 participants came together at the Extension Andover Regional Office. Attendees represented a cross-section of community, including professionals working at Extension as well as at schools, libraries, and social service agencies. Those in attendance got to hear from three experts in their fields as well as engage in small group discussions around professional practices and empathy building.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Extension SNAP-Ed Program Shines during Federal Management Evaluation

By Mary Marczak, Director, Urban Family Development and Evaluation, and Patricia Olson, Director of Programs

It’s official: We are awesome!

Well…the actual description in the written summary of the Federal Management Evaluation (ME) review of Family Development’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) is more reserved, yet positive:
During the ME, several noteworthy initiatives were observed. These noteworthy initiatives included the number and reach of community partnerships, ethnic diversity of nutrition educators and program materials, and Tribal Organization engagement model. The review resulted in no findings needing corrective action.

We still say: That's awesome!

We heard so many enthusiastic comments from the two federal reviewers who spent three days in Minnesota this December. They reviewed Minnesota’s overall SNAP-Ed program, including Minnesota Department of Human Services, the state agency that administers the program, and University of Minnesota Extension, the key implementing agency.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Power of Partnership: SNAP-Ed Community Partnerships

By Jackie Billhymer, Project Coordinator — Health and Nutrition

SNAP Education and Outreach Month falls at the beginning of a new year when we in Family Development aspire to approach our work with fresh perspective and integrate new ideas in 2017. As we launch forward, it is helpful to also reflect on the accomplishments and teachings garnered through partnerships and teamwork in the last year, and use these experiences to inform future work.

January marks not only Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education and Outreach Month, but also the end of University of Minnesota Extension’s statewide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) Community Partnership projects. Over the last year, these projects have demonstrated just how much is possible to achieve when working together.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Minnesota Schools Lead with Smarter Lunchrooms

Media contact: Heidi Kessler, Executive Director, Smarter Lunchrooms National Office, Cornell University, 607-255-7822,

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (1/24/2017) — Rainbow Dragon Salad and Curried Chicken Bowl with Pickled Pineapple are on the menu at Minneapolis Public Schools this month. These fun menu descriptions are one example of simple, effective, strategies designed to help improve student health that are popping up in lunchrooms all over Minnesota thanks to the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement.

Smarter Lunchrooms Movement use research-based techniques to set up the lunchroom in a way that makes the healthiest options so appealing, so attractive, and so convenient, that they are nearly impossible to pass up. The result is well-fueled students that are ready to grow, play, and learn. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, founded in 2009 at Cornell University has received funding from the USDA since 2010.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

CYFC Welcomes New Graduate Research Assistant

By Judy Myers, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family Consortium

Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) is pleased to welcome Kyla Flaten as our new graduate research assistant. Kyla is currently a graduate student in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the School of Social Work with an anticipated completion date in May 2018.

Kyla is a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. While in college, she spent time in Bryon Bay, Australia, in the School for International Training, where she concentrated on sustainability and environmental action.

Kyla began work January 19 and will be largely involved with CYFC’s partnership work with Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul. In that role she will analyze data to evaluate performance, help maintain community alliances related to the school, and help keep the CYFC staff organized. Having worked with Kyla when she was a student assistant in Youth Development, I know that she will be a strong asset to our work.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

SNAP and SNAP-Ed: What’s the Difference?

By Ryan Johnson, Associate Program Director — Health and Nutrition

As we celebrate SNAP Education and Outreach Month, here are a few things you might not know about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed).
  • SNAP benefits help Minnesotans with limited financial resources buy food for well-balanced meals. SNAP-Ed helps these same people make healthy food choices and become more physically active.
  • SNAP is administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), with case management done by county human services offices. SNAP-Ed is implemented by University of Minnesota Extension and the seven Anishinaabe Tribes (Bois Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Red Lake, and White Earth).
  • Both SNAP and SNAP-Ed are federally funded by the United States Department of Agriculture through legislation commonly referred to as “the Farm Bill.”

Monday, January 9, 2017

A New Year, a New Perspective: Thinking Like a Network

By Jamie Bain, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

I feel a sense of urgency for the work we in Family Development engage in. Minnesota in particular is in the national spotlight for our problems with disparities in health and wealth. Research, research, and more research shows how we are a state of beauty and plenty, but only for those of us who live in certain zip codes, have certain backgrounds, and enjoy certain privileges. Until all Minnesotans share equally in health and wealth, those of us on the comfortable side of Minnesota’s many gaps cannot rest.

And we cannot work alone. As the problems in our society become more complex and “wicked,” I believe it is important to embrace a network mindset in our work of closing disparities.

Friday, January 6, 2017

January Is SNAP Education and Outreach Month

By Hannah Jastram, Communications Associate — Health and Nutrition​

Our New Year's resolution to make the healthy choice the easy choice for Minnesotans just got a boost: Governor Mark Dayton has proclaimed January Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education and Outreach Month.

Read the full proclamation here: SNAP Education and Outreach Month.

SNAP helps Minnesotans with low incomes buy food for well-balanced meals. And SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed) helps make the healthy choice the easy choice for those Minnesotans.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cold Weather Doesn’t Keep People from Food Access Summit

By Serdar Mamedov, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition, and Suzanne Driessen, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Despite the very cold weather (16 degrees below zero) and long travel time for some, the 2016 Central Minnesota Food Access Summit on December 15 at Central Lake College in Staples, MN brought together over 80 people with food-related professions and interests from throughout the region.

The summit was a forum for wide-ranging conversations about access to healthy food in Central Minnesota. Attendees learned about resources to support a healthier and more affordable food system in their local communities. It was amazing to see a broad representation of different community sectors, including farming, food production and distribution, public health, agriculture research, and many others. Residents from communities and tribal nations also attended. Here are some highlights from the summit.
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