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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Resilient Rural Grocery Stores: A Resource and Networking Event

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

In the next 10 years, nearly two-thirds of rural grocers in Minnesota plan to get out of the grocery business, according to a 2015 University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnership survey. Will the families, seniors, and newcomers in small towns and rural areas continue to have access to healthy foods at their local grocery stores in the future?

Rural grocers and others on the front lines of bringing good food to small towns certainly hope so. This August, a crowd of more than 50 such healthy food access champions converged on Bird Island for “Resilient Rural Grocery Stores: A Resource and Networking Event.”

Friday, October 6, 2017

Design Changes to MyU for Staff & Faculty Coming Oct. 22

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, MyU will undergo a user interface refresh and introduce a cleaner, more mobile-friendly design. MyU will be unavailable from 6 a.m. to noon while updates are made to the site. 

Although the look of the site will change, the way you do things in MyU (submitting time, registering for classes, viewing class rosters) will stay the same. Here are some of the top changes for faculty and staff:
Questions? Contact

Monday, October 2, 2017

Extension Launches New Professional Development Program for Health Promotion

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

On behalf of the team working on the Systems Approaches for Healthy Communities program, I am pleased to announce the national launch of this web-based professional development program for health promotion organizations. University of Minnesota Extension's Systems Approaches for Healthy Communities promotes the integration of policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) interventions with educational strategies.

five icons in an arch over course stitle

Our goal is to help health promotion staff understand and act on factors that influence whether individuals can easily make healthy choices wherever life takes them — at home, at work, at the grocery store, and beyond.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Autumn: A Time for Endings and Beginnings

Editor's note: This column was written before the tragic shooting in Las Vegas.

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean — Family Development

North of the equator, the month of September brings autumn when the days grow shorter and cooler. Plant life shows it final brilliance before winter sets in for the long haul. As Fredric and Mary Ann Brussat reflect, poets capture the deeper meaning of autumn as they describe the leaves letting go, the shortening days, and recognizing the impermanence of living things.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Extension Unveils New Online Overindulgence Course: Parenting with a Good Heart

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communication Associate

This fall, a multidisciplinary team of University of Minnesota Extension educators launched a new online course about overindulgence in collaboration with author and researcher Jean Illsley Clarke and parent educator Lisa Krause.

“Overindulgence” is a term used to describe giving a child too much of anything — like money, food, space, time, energy, or attention — that can delay development. Parents and caregivers overindulge children from a "good heart," experts say, but the practice doesn't help children or families in the long run. As a result, Extension educators in family resiliency saw an opportunity to develop an online course about overindulgence that gives families tools to make informed decisions leading to better health and well-being for their children.

Community Specialist Takes on New Role in Family Development

By Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency

Kate Welshons has taken on a new role with the Extension Center for Family Development (FD) as an online learning specialist. Kate’s new role, which began in June, is also a new position to FD.

Some of you in FD may know Kate as a key member of the Parents Forever™ team. Kate helped manage and facilitate efforts of this team, dividing her time between in-person and online course offerings. This new role gives all FD teams the opportunity to enjoy her expertise and provides Kate the opportunity to focus more on academic technology, instructional design, and adapting research-based curricula and educational tools for an online learning environment.

Kate holds a Master of Public Health degree and a Master of Social Work degree, both from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her areas of focus include instructional design, online course development, program evaluation, continuous quality improvement, educational disparities, and learning strategies.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fresh Starts for Fall

By Sharon Mulé, Staff Development Coordinator

At the beginning of September, I found myself standing in an empty room in my home. My daughter Chelsea and her cat Gryffin had moved out into a place of their own. Now I had an extra space to design. I contemplated many opportunities. What color could this room be? Could the furniture be rearranged? Could it be for guests, for me, for my 8-year-old grandson? (OK, for sure for my grandson.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Extension Continues Training for School Success Program

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

University of Minnesota Extension staff are conducting a second round of training sessions this fall for future facilitators of the Education: Our Best Legacy (EOBL) program. This program was developed by Center for Family Development (FD) staff to help middle-school students get the most out of school. Facilitators deliver EOBL classes to two groups: Latino families and other families considered “hard to reach.” Those families include low-income white families, non-Latino immigrant families, and families of color.

standing Latina teaching four sitting Latinas
Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension educator in family resiliency, teaches a class in Spanish to parents.
Photo credit: Gabriela Burk.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Case for the Place-Based Approach

By Marijo Wunderlich, Researcher — Health and Nutrition

What happens when the people closest to a problem are part of the solution?

This is the question that we at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development in Health and Nutrition are exploring. Our strategy is increased public engagement and community activism across sectors that we’re calling the “place-based approach” or PBA. Health and Nutrition staff and faculty tackle problems like limited access to healthy foods and challenges to more active living and physical activity. The goal of the place-based approach that we’re taking is that residents become more involved in activities that build community, such as advocating for policy changes to make streets safer and communities more livable or starting and sustaining community gardens.

group of four people standing in a community garden
Urban Farm and Garden Alliance members and Zoe Hollomon
former metro SNAP-Ed project coordinator.

How PBA Works

A place-based approach focuses on work in a specific locale, such as a neighborhood, which fosters social cohesion and builds social capital. By bolstering social networks, residents increase mutual trust, civic engagement, and ownership of community challenges.

PBA brings multiple local lenses to look at a community’s context (what's going on). This sets up a scenario in which we can go beyond siloed interventions and programs to involve individuals, community groups, businesses, government offices, and education sites to work together.

So where did PBA come from and where are we going with it? Keep reading.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Managing Stress and Well-Being in Fearsome Times

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean — Extension Center for Family Development

As I sat down to write this column, Hurricane Irma had pummeled the northeast Caribbean and was making landfall on the west coast of Florida. This storm comes after an 8.1 earthquake off the shore of Mexico on Thursday, Sept. 7 that killed dozens, and as devastating wildfires continue to rage in the western United States and Canada (the smoky haze over Minnesota originated in British Columbia). And all these disasters are occurring as Houston barely begins its recovery from the record setting rains of Hurricane Harvey.

We can argue whether these events are natural disasters or human-made ones influenced by climate change and mismanagement, or a combination of both. These debates are important, but we are still left with the human toll these disasters take on people. We include ourselves in that toll when we watch them unfold. What can we do to manage our stress and well-being during these fearsome times?

Friday, September 8, 2017

Extension Educator Contributes to New Learning Community

Later this month, University of Minnesota Extension Educator Ellie McCann will share her expertise with a new learning community of Minnesotans interested in building resilience and promoting mental well-being. She will do so via a webinar hosted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) from 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, September 26.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Celebrating Minnesota’s Schools and Farmers

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

October is National Farm to School Month! This is a time when University of Minnesota Extension and statewide partners recognize the importance of farm to school practices as a way to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and teach children about where food comes from.

Farm to school tours and events are taking place across Minnesota during the month of October. Here are two upcoming events.

In addition, Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is hosting a webinar on Tuesday, September 26 at 2 p.m. with details on all the happenings around Minnesota during the month of October. Find session information and register here: Celebrate Farm to School Month and the MDA Farm to School Grant.

For more details on Farm to School Month opportunities, visit Extension’s Farm to School Month page.


University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Department of Health co-convened a statewide Farm to School Leadership Team in April 2011 to move the farm to school agenda forward in Minnesota. Since then, farm to school partnerships have flourished in Minnesota. According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 268 school districts in Minnesota participated in farm to school practices in the 2014-2015 school year. This is up from 18 in 2006 and 145 in 2011.

For more information on farm to school in Minnesota, visit About Farm to School.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Graduate Assistant Joins CYFC Scholar in Residence Program

Graduate Assistant S. Okrey Anderson joined University of Minnesota Extension in August, working primarily with the Children, Youth & Family Consortium's Scholar in Residence Program.

S, whose pronouns are they, them, and their, was a research assistant at the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois. They also worked as the youth and families program coordinator at a nonprofit LGBT resource center in Champaign, IL.

S has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Family Social Science.

S's focus areas are gender and sexual minority youth and young adults, religiosity, family support, and home-based education.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

​ARE Team Welcomes New Graduate Assistants

Four graduate assistants joined the Extension Center for Family Development (FD) Applied Research and Evaluation (ARE) Team in August: Carolina De La Rosa Mateo, Shelby Crespi, Sunghun Lim, and Vidhya Shanker.

FD in the News

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Wherever U Roam, eduroam!

eduroam (ed-u-roam) is the preferred WiFi network for University of Minnesota staff and faculty. To log in, choose “eduroam” from your WiFi network options and enter your full University email address and password. This will give you the most secure and user-friendly campus WiFi experience.

Monday, August 21, 2017

We Can and Will Do Better

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean — Family Development

There is no ignoring what has happened in the past few weeks. The events on the national stage and responses to them have left many of us with feelings of sadness and despair regarding the state of our country. What I hope to offer today are some thoughts and resources that might help us better understand and respond to these tragic and disappointing events.

Website Bytes: Finding the Best Home for FD Content

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

This summer, I have been transferring previously published newsletters, reports, and fact sheets gleaned from Family Development web pages to the University Digital Conservancy (UDC) to prepare for a revamped Extension website.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Fundraiser Exceeds Expectations and Expands Options

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

This summer, SNAP-Ed Educator Dianne Davis-Kenning went beyond the typical nutrition educator role and helped raise $12,000 to support food shelves in central Minnesota, an amount four times greater than expected.

When school is out in the summer, families that rely on free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs have more meals to worry about. Unfortunately, food shelf donations traditionally dip during the summer months. Meeker County Area Food Shelves are no exception to this trend.

brick storefront
Meeker County Emergency Food Shelf.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Props for Prepping Partners and Participants

By Trina Adler, Program Leader — Health and Nutrition

This summer, feeling the need to improve my strength as well as stretch my horizons, I joined a group strength training class at the St. Paul Campus Gym. In general, I keep physically active by running, walking, hiking, and biking on a regular basis — fairly low-key and solitary activities. So this kind of class was quite a leap into the unknown for me. I have never in my life been a gym member, I haven’t ever used weight training equipment, and I definitely haven’t been a part of a group exercise class.

row of adults doing pushups on kettlebells
Let's be real: Group exercise classes never look like this.

The first day of class was brief and introductory. I thought I had a handle on how it would go, and felt pretty confident that I was prepared for what was to come.

Wow, was I wrong!

Parents Forever™ Team Receives Innovation Award

Last Thursday at the 2017 Minnesota eLearning Summit, the Parents Forever™ team was honored with Excellence Award for Innovation.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Dismantling Institutional Racism in Minnesota’s Food System

By Jamie Bain, Extension Educator and MFAN Coordinator

This August, the Metro Food Access Network (MFAN) will facilitate a meeting about institutional racism for its partners at the Robert J. Jones Urban Outreach-Engagement Center in North Minneapolis. Aided by co-facilitators from The Food Group and Appetite for Change, attendees will work together to learn about and discuss their role in both upholding and dismantling institutional racism in the food system.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Evaluation Essentials: Needs Assessment

By Emily Becher, Research Associate

Do you have the appetite for another bite of evaluation jargon? Needs assessment is a phrase you may have nodded along with — and not fully understood. A common definition for a needs assessment is the process of identifying the state of how things currently are, and comparing that with how things could be. Needs assessed are usually centered around a gap that you in fact could fill or address. In our Swedish soup analogy, the needs assessment was the process of asking community members about their desire for a Swedish soup in a local restaurant and looking at other restaurants’ menus.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Protecting Baby Fruit and Planning for Efficiency

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs — Extension Center for Family Development

The past few weekends, my husband Steve and I have been installing a 7-foot fence around fruit trees we planted two springs ago on our farm in Winona County. We planted pear, cherry, apple, plum, and peach trees. Doesn’t just reading that variety make your mouth water?

white flowers on a fruit tree
C'mon, fruit!

We had great expectations about our fruit harvest. Last fall, on one weekend, the fruit was just about ready. So we anxiously waited for the next weekend to harvest — and found that our mouths weren’t the only ones watering. Our neighborhood deer got there first and had a fruit buffet! That’s when we committed to get a high fence around the trees.

Twenty-Five Years of Service: CYFC, the University, and Our Surrounding Communities

By Mina Blyly-Strauss, Graduate Research Assistant; Cari Michaels, Extension Educator; and Judy Myers, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family Consortium

For the past 25 years, the Extension Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) has engaged in collaborative interdisciplinary work within and around the University of Minnesota.

Over the years, our programmatic foci and strategies have shifted with the introduction of new leadership and staff who bring different disciplinary backgrounds and strengths to their work. Throughout current CYFC programming, we view the world through an ecological lens in raising awareness of the need to support mental well-being. One of our Advisory Board member’s, Antonia Wilcoxon of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, shared this about CYFC's programming:
I find that the Consortium is a wonderful gathering place for "all things" related to children, youth, and families. It supports communities, institutions, and parents to be better informed about what works best for the most valuable asset in all communities: our children and youth.
In honor of 25 years of engaged work, we are sharing 25 interesting facts and resources from CYFC that are part of our foundation, reflect our values, and inform our future. We encourage you to take advantage of the resources highlighted and linked in this blog post and to reach out to us if you’re curious to learn more.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SNAP-Ed Educator Takes on New Role in Anoka County

By Trina Adler, Program Leader — Health and Nutrition

Andrew Doherty has taken on a new role with the Extension Center for Family Development (FD) as an Extension educator in Anoka County, where he is leading efforts to implement the county’s SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Partnership) worksite wellness strategies. Andrew’s new role, which began July 13, is a temporary assignment in which he can use his skills and education to benefit the community.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Guest Speaker to Share Rural Realities from Pakistan

By Sharon Mulé, Staff Development Coordinator

Next Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m., University of Minnesota Extension staff will have the unique opportunity to attend an online presentation from an expert in gender development and agriculture from Pakistan.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Extension’s Role in Promoting Mental Well-Being: Where Do We Fit?

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean — Family Development

Last week, a colleague posed an interesting question to me: What is University of Minnesota Extension’s role in promoting mental well-being in Minnesota? I didn’t have a ready answer for her and began to consider the question. What is and could be our role? I approached it as a puzzle with many pieces.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Parents Forever™: 2016 in Review

By Emily Becher, Research Associate — Extension Center for Family Development

If you’re new to Extension or Family Development (FD), you might not know that Parents Forever™ is the only FD program that satisfies a state mandate. Minnesota Statute 518.157 gives judges the authority to require parents with contested custody to complete a minimum of eight hours of parent education. And through Parents Forever™, an 8-hour course through Family Resiliency, Extension Center for Family Development provides just that!

This past year was a busy one for Parents Forever™. In 2016, Parents Forever™ (both in person and online) served more than 2,239 Minnesotans, up from 2,164 last year. The majority of our participants came from the online course (73%, n=1,639) with about a quarter coming from our in-person courses (27%, n=600).

Jam that Data! (Jam It Good)

By Emily Becher, Research Associate — Extension Center for Family Development

This spring, Extension Center for Family Development’s Applied Research and Evaluation (ARE) team applied a new data analysis technique to a typically unruly type of data. The new technique: data jamming. The unruly data: qualitative data.

For those of you unfamiliar with qualitative data, and qualitative analysis and coding, what follows is a brief primer. For those of you who are all too familiar with the struggle, jump to Data Jams: What Are They Good For?

Monday, July 3, 2017

FD in the News

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

EFNEP Welcomes New Educator

By Amanda Vanyo, EFNEP Regional Coordinator — Health and Nutrition
headshot of Alma Galvez

Alma Galvez joined Extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) as a community nutrition educator in June. Before joining EFNEP, Alma was a community health coordinator with St. Mary's Health Clinics in the Twin Cities. St. Mary’s Clinics provide health care services to low-income, uninsured individuals and families in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Alma also has volunteered with the outreach program at Southside Community Health Services in Minneapolis. She has been focusing on nutrition's role in preventing disease for three years.

Alma earned community health worker certification through the Summit Academy Opportunities Industrialization Center in Minneapolis. She is also a certified MNsure navigator and a pre-diabetes health coach. Her areas of focus are Latino families, public health, community nutrition, chronic disease prevention (diabetes and heart disease), and mental health.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Extension Educators Contribute to a National Validation Study

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

This spring, two University of Minnesota Extension educators interviewed staff from four Minnesota schools to find out how well a national school wellness assessment tool works.

WellSAT 2.0 is a tool that measures how school wellness policies get put into practice. It reflects the school food requirements of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and current best practices in all areas of school wellness.

Market Bucks Now Available at Minnesota Farmers Markets

By Ryan Johnson, Associate Program Director — SNAP-Ed

SNAP customers can now “spend $10, get $10” with their EBT card at farmers markets across Minnesota through Market Bucks. The Market Bucks program matches SNAP-EBT customers’ dollars at 84 participating markets. Every $1 of SNAP/EBT benefits spent is matched by $1 in Market Bucks — up to $10 every time a customer visits the market! Here’s how the Market Bucks program works.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Still Tinkering

By Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency

At the start of the New Year, I shared my goal for 2017 — to take more risks. Over the past six months, I have been stretched in different ways to do just that. As a result, I have several “ah-ha” moments to share.

Extension Releases Toolkit to Get More Teens Eating School Breakfast

By Mary Schroeder, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Ahead of the 2017–2018 school year, University of Minnesota Extension has released a toolkit to help school staff in Minnesota and across the nation implement a school breakfast program tailored to their school.

Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day, but many teenagers skip breakfast. When teens don’t eat until lunch time, their energy sags mid-morning and their ability to learn suffers. More and more middle schools and high schools are adding “Grab and Go” and “Second Chance” breakfasts to increase school breakfast participation.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Get Involved with Upcoming Minnesota Food Charter Events

By Jamie Bain, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Do you want to learn more about what really matters to community members in your region? Are you interested in collaborating with other food systems leaders in your region? If so, we have just the thing for you!

As lead partner of engagement of the Minnesota Food Charter Network, University of Minnesota Extension is supporting eight regional Minnesota Food Charter in Action events in November 2017 to support local and regional food charter work.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cultural ICANPD Classes Conclude and Reflection Begins

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

This winter, a team of University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition staff in southwest Minnesota wrapped up a series of diabetes prevention classes and information-gathering sessions with the aim of developing and testing cultural adaptations to better meet the needs of Minnesotans of Latino and Somali backgrounds.

As a team, we’re sifting through what we’ve learned since the project began in 2015. We learned that culturally adapting a program requires attention to numerous factors. Addressing many of these factors is doable — if challenging — and may lead to promising outcomes. Other factors just cannot easily be addressed within the structure of an existing curriculum. Even more challenging, some of these factors are not readily apparent or only emerge with time and reflection.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Evaluation Essentials: Types of Evaluation

By Emily Becher, Research Associate

Last time on Cooking with Emily — I mean, Evaluation with Emily, I used pizza to describe evaluation as an essential process for making a decision. I also pointed out that research tells us why we like pizza, and evaluation tells us what kind of pizza to order right now. Now let’s get further into the weeds with some even more jargony words: formative, process, and summative evaluations.

"Formative" and "summative" are highly specific terms. If you haven’t been exposed to them, they are the exact kind of words people tune out on. In his book Evaluation Essentials: From A to Z, Marvin Alkin discusses how formative evaluation is designed to make improvements, e.g. how to change a program to improve outcomes. Summative evaluation is designed to support major decision-making, e.g. whether or not to continue funding for a program.

But the best analogy Alkin gives about this distinction relates to food.

When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative.

When the guest tastes the soup, that’s summative.

— Robert Stake, Professor Emeritus of Education
at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Friday, June 9, 2017

'Falling Behind' eReview Wins University Award for Writing

The University of Minnesota Extension publication, Falling Behind: Understanding the Educational Disparities Faced by Immigrant Latino Students in the U.S. (PDF), has won a University of Minnesota Communicators Forum 2017 Maroon Award. The award was presented June 8 at the Communicators Forum annual conference, "Elevate."

2017 Maroon Award plaque

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Urban Family Development: What’s Up?

By Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation, and Margaret Haggenmiller, Associate Program Director — SNAP-Ed Metro

Around this time last year, we reported on happenings at Urban Family Development (FD) with the blog post titled A Year of Growth. It’s time for an update! A theme for our work this past year might be connections.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Update from the Hill: Final Budget Bills Signed

By Ryan Johnson, Associate Program Director — Health and Nutrition

After a chaotic end of the 2017 Minnesota legislative session (and special session), Governor Mark Dayton signed the final budget bills last week. Here is where a few bills related to Family Development’s programming ended up.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

First Pilot of Program to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Youth Complete

By Alejandro Peralta Reyes, Project Coordinator

A University of Minnesota Extension project led by Family Development staff to improve the health of Latino youth in the Twin Cities metro area concluded its first pilot of the Padres Preparados, Jóvenes Saludables program this May.

four adults stand in the center of a tables arranged in a U shape
This photo shows an example of the calorie balance activity. The facilitator first demonstrates how to balance calories consumed with calories burned using a scale and food and activity models. Then participants give it a try.

Evaluation Essentials: Evaluation vs. Research

By Emily Becher, Research Associate

My quest to advance myself as an evaluator and a professional continues. So to that goal I am writing up another blog post to summarize my efforts and learnings. Once again, Family Matters readers are acting as my accountability buddies, so thank you!

Recently I read the evaluation text Evaluation Essentials: From A to Z, by Marvin Alkin. If you’re looking for a great basic guide on evaluation, this is a really good one. What I liked about it is that it gave me some great ways of talking about evaluation that don’t get lost in jargon. I don’t know about you, but often I will sit in meetings with experts. At some point, they string together a series of words that have no meaning for me. After a couple experiences like this, I tend to tune out.

When I start talking about evaluation, I worry that I do exactly the same thing! So using Alkin’s book, I’m going to review some concepts and terms in a way that I hope is logical and clear so the next time someone talks about evaluation, you don’t “pull an Emily” and tune out.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

New Pilot Program Prompts Educators to Think Bigger

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health & Nutrition

Health promotion educators in Michigan and Iowa recently participated in a pilot program created by University of Minnesota Extension's Health and Nutrition team. Systems Approaches for Healthy Communities is a professional development program that sparked interest from Extension colleagues in other states after being developed and used in Minnesota.

A snippet from one of the program's modules.

FD in the News

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Welcome to New EFNEP Regional Coordinator

Please welcome Jackie Billhymer as the new EFNEP regional coordinator for Ramsey and Dakota counties. Jackie previously worked with Extension’s Health and Nutrition programs as the project coordinator for SNAP-Ed’s Community Partnership Funding Initiative.

a young woman holds a homegrown tomato in front of her mouth
Hands-on gardening in action.
In her new role, Jackie will work with communities and partnering agencies in Ramsey and Dakota counties to support EFNEP’s community nutrition educator team. She will help the team connect the program’s nutrition classes with families in greatest need.

Before joining Extension, Jackie worked in both rural and urban areas of the United States. In those roles, she collaborated with community organizers and teachers to engage youth in hands-on gardening and nutrition education.

Jackie is a registered dietitian and earned a master’s degree in Public Health-Nutrition from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Bucket List

By Sharon Mulé, Professional Development Coordinator

Once in a while, people will ask me what’s on my bucket list. While I have a personal bucket list (you can ask me in person sometime), I also have a professional bucket list. Or more specifically, a professional development bucket list.

This year’s bucket is full of professional development ideas to help us all in our professional lives. Here’s a few you won’t want to miss.

Friday, May 19, 2017

CYFC's Community Discussions on Transgender Issues in Greater Minnesota Exceed Expectations

Since January 2017, University of Minnesota Extension faculty and staff have discussed issues facing transgender youth with 220 community members in greater Minnesota.

The Lessons From the Field: Meeting the Needs of Transgender Youth series of events featured Dr. Jenifer K. McGuire, scholar in residence with Extension's Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC), Nathan Hesse, SNAP-Ed educator, and Cari Michaels, Extension educator in CYFC. Events were held in five greater Minnesota communities: Bemidji, Morris, Saint Cloud, Grand Rapids, and Rochester. Each of these regional, free-to-participate community training opportunities attracted between 24 and 75 people with an interest in the topic of transgender youth that was professional, personal, or both. These numbers at times made for very cozy discussions, as our community hosts have not always expected such large turnouts.

Supply and Demand for Free CSAs Remain Strong

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

Last year, 185 families in need in central Minnesota were able to enjoy the benefits of community supported agriculture (CSA) at no cost to them through four community-supported programs. This year, with the support of University of Minnesota Extension staff, each of those four programs are maintaining or expanding their services.

Community supported agriculture is a way for farmers and consumers to share the risks and rewards of farming. CSA shares are often more expensive than many families can afford, but the fresh produce a share provides is something that all Minnesotans need. For details about what all the programs have in common, check out Sharing Health: Community Supported Agriculture for Families in Need.

Let’s take a closer look at how four communities have maintained or are expanding their efforts to bring local, seasonal produce at no charge to families in need.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Memorial Day: More than a Monday Holiday?

By Sara Croymans, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

For many, Memorial Day signifies the start of the summer season with a three-day weekend. But for many others, it is a time to pause and remember the service members who have served and died in our country’s Armed Forces.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Present at the 2017 Food Access Summit

By Noelle Harden and Stephanie Heim, co-facilitators of Extension’s food issue area

We are excited to announce that the Food Access Summit planning committee is accepting proposals to present at the 2017 Food Access Summit on October 25–27!

Join us as we bring together people working to advance reliable access to safe, affordable, healthy food; learn from each other’s lived experiences and stories; build connections across sectors, cultural perspectives, and geography; and cultivate alignment and momentum toward collaborative action.

You can find the link to the proposal submission form on the Food Access Summit web page. Contact one of us for more about proposals.

Deadline for proposal submission is June 2 and registration opens in August. Through Extension’s Food Issue Area, we will be offering scholarships to attend the Summit.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Update from the Hill: Market Bucks, Mobile Food Shelf Funding, and More

By Ryan Johnson, Associate Program Director — Health and Nutrition

It has been a busy time at the Minnesota Legislature. As we head into the final two weeks, here is an update on where a few bills related to Family Development’s programming currently stand.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Save the Date for Health

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

Health figured prominently in the media headlines over the last few weeks. We all are watching with great interest to see what happens with health care coverage for many Americans at the national level. At the state and local levels, we continue to tirelessly work to prevent ill health and promote positive physical, mental, and emotional health.

Last week, a number of Family Development staff members attended the 2017 National Health Outreach Conference (NHOC) in Annapolis, MD. The conference provided many opportunities to learn about promoting health.

One important lesson I learned at this year’s conference centers on thinking about promoting healthy behaviors as a non-partisan issue, which unites us rather than divides us. Stephen Thomas, Ph.D., director of the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity, shared two stories that illustrated this principle.

Friday, May 5, 2017

NIH Grant Received to Study 'Super' Food Shelves in Minnesota

By Laura Bohen, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

The University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, was recently awarded a $3.2 million National Institute of Health (NIH) grant to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of healthier food shelves in Minnesota. University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition staff will be instrumental in the evaluation process.

The study will evaluate the impact of the Super Shelf program. The Super Shelf program is a holistic approach to transforming food shelf environments to provide healthier food and a dignified client experience.

Monday, May 1, 2017

FD in the News

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Latino Financial Literacy Team Keeps Busy in Southwestern Minnesota

By Sara Croymans, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

During 2016, the Latino Financial Literacy team reported teaching 106 direct delivery classes and 3 series of classes reaching 1,125 participants in 11 counties in southwestern Minnesota. The majority of participants were Latino (79%) or White (12%), while other participants included Asian Americans (7%), African Americans (3%), Native American (<1%), and other (2%).

The team offers information in both Spanish and English. Class topics included money management, parenting, tenant education, financing higher education, and health insurance literacy.

three staff photos of the Latino Financial Literacy Team
L to R: Gabriela Burk, Jose Lamas, and Francisca Mendoza.

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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Southern Minnesota Food Networks Meet Up

By Anne Dybsetter, Extension Educator — Health & Nutrition

In communities and counties across southern Minnesota, diverse partners have been meeting and acting to increase access to healthy food. Though these groups go by different names, they all include volunteers, organizations, and local champions with common goals focused on food and health.

Five such groups were represented at the Southern Minnesota Food Network Meet-up held on March 31 in St. James. This first-of-its kind gathering provided a forum for members of various networks to learn from each other and compare notes on successes and challenges. Participants highlighted the value of the Minnesota Food Charter to their work and emphasized the importance of partnerships, patience, and a commitment to diversity in order to increase access to healthy foods in their communities.

Groups from Marshall, Mankato, Watonwan County, Martin County, and Faribault County were in attendance. The meet-up was made possible by funding from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Minnesota, with coordination by University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition.

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

Financial Education with Drug Court Participants

By Sara Croymans, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

For the first time, I am collaborating with the 8th Judicial District to provide financial education to drug court participants. I worked with Karon White, drug court coordinator, to develop a pilot budgeting program for a small group of drug court participants. Together we identified the following topics for the course:
  • Goal setting 
  • Credit history
  • Debt
  • Budgeting 

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.
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