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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Welcome to new SNAP-Ed educator Faro Jones

By Janice Rasmussen, SNAP-Ed regional coordinator

I am excited to introduce Faro Jones, our newest SNAP-Ed educator working out of the Extension Ramsey County office in Maplewood. Faro will be part of the Frogtown-Rondo place-based approach team and will teach classes and do policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) work around the Twin Cities-metro area. After training later this month, she will begin teaching I CAN Prevent Diabetes classes.
Faro Jones standing outside wearing a jacket.
Faro Jones

Originally from Minneapolis, Faro has spent the last 10 years working as a dietitian in New Orleans and Oakland. Her main interest is in improving food access, nutrition education and farming. She has a background in the Women, Infants, and Children program and lots of community work experience. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, traveling, and working on her farm plot in Stillwater.

SNAP-Ed educators, please contact Faro about shadowing you in some of your classes, PSE work, or meetings with partners. She is excited to get out in the community, to see how you do your work and to meet you all. The sooner the better on that! You can reach Faro at

Friday, June 8, 2018

Smarter Lunchrooms collaborative–A tale of two states

By Nikki Johnson, Area Extension specialist, North Dakota State University

In the beginning

In fall 2016, University of Minnesota Extension, along with the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office and key organizations in the state, formed the Minnesota Smarter Lunchrooms Collaborative. The collaborative’s goal is to improve the school nutrition environment by making the healthy choice the easy choice.

Girl leaving school lunch line.

Collaborative members meet each quarter to get the latest news from the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office at Cornell University. They also discuss marketing strategies, capacity building, funding opportunities, and best practices for implementation techniques. (See Kelly Kunkel’s blog entry elsewhere in Family Matters for more information.)

Minnesota Smarter Lunchrooms Collaborative still going strong

By Kelly Kunkel, Extension educator in health and nutrition

Did you know that Minnesota formed the country’s first Smarter Lunchrooms collaborative in fall 2016? The collaborative includes University of Minnesota Extension, the Minnesota Department of Education, and the Minnesota Department of Health.

Boy eating a sandwich at school lunch table.

The collaborative implements the research-based strategies of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement to nudge kids to choose healthier foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in school cafeterias. Smarter Lunchroom strategies also aim to reduce food waste at schools and increase participation in school meal programs.

A bit of this, a bit of that

By Karen Shirer, associate dean, Extension Center for Family Development

The last few months have been a whirlwind of personal and professional transitions plus lots of important work related to the center. This blog is a little of this and a little of that to help highlight these events.

NHOC highlight: Priester Award winners lead the way in health and wellness programs

By Sharon Mulé, staff development coordinator, Extension Center for Family Development

The 2018 National Health Outreach Conference in Bloomington gave attendees the opportunity to learn about many innovative programs. Perhaps one of the best chances to learn occurred at the Priester Awards Luncheon on the second day of the conference.

FD in the news

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

NHOC highlight: Expert emphasizes importance of promoting positive mental health

By Cari Michaels, Extension educator, Children, Youth & Family Consortium

Corey Keyes, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at Emory University, served as our keynote speaker for the Priester Awards Luncheon at the recent National Health Outreach Conference in Bloomington.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

CYFC and others embody changing approaches to mental health work

By Cari Michaels, Extension educator, Children, Youth & Family Consortium

Minnesota is considering new ways to promote mental health.

This week I was inspired by the event "Note to Self: A Conversation About Innovative Ways to Care for your Mental Well-Being," co-hosted by Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

MPR’s Tom Weber moderated a panel on how integrating nutrition, mindfulness, connectedness, and a host of other factors helps people take greater control over their mental well-being. Panelists were Atum Azzihir, CEO and elder consultant in African ways of knowing with the Cultural Wellness Center; Timothy Culbert, M.D., with PrairieCare; and Henry Emmons, M.D., with Partners in Resilience. When asked about the top five things we can do to take care of our mental well-being, the group responded:

  1. Sleep well–do this first.
  2. Be nice to your gastro-intestinal tract.
  3. Get to know your elders and community members; sit with them, learn from them.
  4. Tell the truth–to yourself and to others.
  5. Keep your heart light; if something is making your heart heavy, deal with that, and then get some sleep.
All group members emphasized connection with othersas critical to mental well-being. As Elder Atum said, “It’s not ‘they are sick’, but ‘we are sick.’ It’s not about individuality but about our connectedness.” Dr. Emmons said “being connected in a group is in itself healing.”

These discussions will continue as MPR, along with American Public Media, launches its five-year Call to Mindinitiative to inform and mobilize new conversations about mental health. And the science museum also just opened its new and groundbreaking exhibition called “Mental Health: Mind Matters.”

Another source of inspiration

I was also inspired on May 1 when Extension Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC) co-hosted more than 100 Minnesota organizational leaders who gathered to hear. Corey Keyes, Ph.D., speak about research on mental health—not mental illness. They heard Dr. Keyes explain the concept of “flourishing,” a measurable state of positive mental health and overall well-being. Then they explored together how this approach is different from “business as usual” within their organizations, and the changes needed to move toward mental health.

Our organizational leaders understand that while it’s important to address mental illness, that’s a narrow approach that falls far short of our goals for a healthy Minnesota population. Instead, they are taking a broader approach and tackling the difficult task of changing our mental health service delivery systems.

Extension CYFC is changing, too

As Minnesota people and organizations move toward promoting mental health, the work of Extension Children, Youth & Family Consortium is changing, too. We at CYFC receive more and more requests for training about mental wellness and how to promote mental “flourishing” while combating the conditions that perpetuate mental “languishing,” another term from Dr. Keyes. Those conditions include general trauma (including historical trauma and secondary trauma), mass incarceration, adverse childhood experiences, and economic and educational disparities.

To help promote mental flourishing, we in Extension CYFC focus on building and supporting more partnerships that take this approach in their mental health work. Now that others in Minnesota and beyond have distinguished between mental illness and mental health, we are engaging new organizations, academic disciplines, professional groups, and communities to meet the demands for training and consultation. Through these partners, we are deepening our relationships and widening our reach. Our Scholar in Residence program, which is focusing on early childhood mental health this year, also joins with partners in this work.

At the same time, while many things are changing, Extension CYFC remains committed to the priorities outlined in a Family Matters article a year ago titled “Twenty-Five Years of Service.” We will continue to work across Extension, connect closely with our land-grant mission, and engage diverse groups of community and University advisors to inform our work. We will use a public health lens and an ecological framework in our approach to understanding and teaching about issues relevant to children and families. And we will continue to deepen our engagement with community groups.

Join with us!

Extension professionals can join CYFC in its work through one of these groups:

Contact me at for more information. I look forward to hearing from you.

New agreement expands financial education for Latinos in Greater Minnesota

By Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension educator in family resiliency

In fall 2017, University of Minnesota Extension launched a program with the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul. Its purpose was to provide financial education to people of Mexican ancestry in Greater Minnesota. The Consulate of Mexico provided a $5,000 grant to fund the program.

Antonio Alba Meraz meeting with Consulate of Mexico Gerardo Guerrero Gomez signing agreement.
Extension Educator Antonio Alba Meraz looks on as Gerardo Guerrero Gomez, head consul with the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul, signs an agreement continuing a program of financial education for Latinos in Greater Minnesota. On the left is Mónica Cruz, program manager for community affairs with the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul.

A team of Extension financial capability educators carried out the program, which includes a series of workshops and one-to-one consultations in 17 counties.

This year, we’re doing the same program. But it’s bigger and broader in scope.

On April 30, U of M Extension and the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul signed an agreement to continue offering financial education to people of Mexican ancestry in Greater Minnesota.

The agreement includes a $15,000 grant from the Consulate of Mexico and calls for a series of workshops and consultations to be offered in 28 counties. Besides people of Mexican ancestry, people of any Latino ancestry are welcome to attend.

Workshops are based on the Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera (Financial Empowerment Window) Model. And they use components of Extension’s DollarWorks 2 personal finance education curriculum.

Most of our goals for the 2018 financial education program remain the same this year as in 2017. They are to:
  • Support and teach participants about financial resource management and family asset protection. 
  • Empower participants with consumer information and identification of predatory practices.
  • Promote learning and create awareness in participants about access to and use of affordable financial products.
  • Support participants in making decisions about money by providing information and teaching skills in budgeting and use of community resources.
  • Support participants who are parents in working with their children on pursuing a pathway to post-secondary education.
We have also added three new goals this year. They are to:
  • Help participants who are parents find ways to get funds to pay for post-secondary education for their children.
  • Teach participants how to organize and keep their important financial documents in a safe place. 
  • Help participants maintain the overall wellbeing of their families through nutrition education. A healthy person is more productive and spends less money seeking medical care.

Already under way

Educators on our Latino financial literacy team have already begun delivering the new series of financial education workshops and one-to-one consultations. The series will continue through September this year.

Our team includes Gabriela Burk, Jose Lamas, Francisca Mendoza, and myself. We work under the guidance of Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency with the Extension Center for Family Development.

We partnered with Consulate of Mexico staff to develop the program, which includes a linguistically and culturally framed two-hour workshop. We expect to provide 53 workshops. In addition, we will provide personal assistance, as requested, in both Spanish and English.

We’re excited to offer this important program again! Feel free to contact me at for more information. And check out this report on our 2017 financial education and family asset protection program.

Creating healthier retail food environments

By Betsy Johnson, Extension educator in health and nutrition

As we work with our communities to improve access to healthy foods, one important setting is retail foods. Grocery stores, restaurants, and corner or convenience stores comprise the majority of places people in Minnesota get their food. I started working with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Healthy Northland, our seven-county SHIP initiative in northeastern Minnesota, four years ago on the Community Wellness Grant to improve retail food environments.

Woman in grocery store pushing a cart looking at a list.

Most of our first two years of work on the MDH statewide committee was focused on creating Minnesota-specific assessment tools for each of the retail environments (MN-EATS). There are now four environmental assessments incorporated into the Counter Tools nationwide GIS initiative–grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, and the “tiny tool,” a one-page quick assessment that can be used at the same time tobacco store audits are conducted. The tiny tool information is helpful for identifying communities that may be ready for a full assessment and follow-up.

Focusing on convenience stores

Years 2 and 3 were dedicated to creating resources and tools for changing the retail environments to make healthier food more accessible and obvious. The result of this work is MDH’s Good Food Sold Here (GFSH) project pilot where local SHIP coordinators partner with convenience store owners/managers to change the environment within the store.

The GFSH pilot is being implemented at more than 20 convenience stores across the state, including three in northeastern Minnesota. The pilot includes adding more healthy food options, rearranging shelving, displays, checkouts, and refrigerators, and posting signage to guide consumers to healthier choices. In the pilot project, store owners are interviewed to assess readiness and ability to make changes, and customers are surveyed to learn what healthier food items they’d like to see.

Once all of the surveys and assessments have been completed, the SHIP coordinator works with the store to make the changes. These changes are left in place for four months, then the SHIP coordinator goes back and re-assesses the store to determine impact and sustainability. The pilot project ends in December so we’ll have a better idea then what works and what doesn’t. After the pilot, the campaign information and materials will be made available to all SHIP initiatives in the state.

We chose to focus on convenience or corner stores (C-stores) because many rural areas and lower-income neighborhoods have no grocery store so residents can’t buy fresh produce, lower –fat, -sodium, and –sugar items, whole grain items, or fresh meat, eggs, and milk. Many of the behavioral economics principals we use in food shelves and school lunchrooms are also used in the C-stores.

In northeastern Minnesota, we currently have campaigns (at various stages of development) running in Virginia, Deer River, Aurora, Moose Lake, and Hill City. We’re kind of the test-site for remote rural areas to see if these campaigns gain any traction. Many of our stores showed interest to make these changes in time for summer tourist traffic–it will be interesting to compare the summer and winter seasons in terms of customer feedback and sales.

Developing healthier checkout lanes

Teresa Ambroz from MDH and I presented a session on the Good Food Sold Here project and used the creation of a healthier checkout lane as the interactive activity. Here are the guidelines we use for healthier beverages and snack items at the checkout:
  • Beverages
    • Plain or sparkling water
    • Flavored water with no added sugars
    • Skim or 1% plain or flavored milk, including vitamin D fortified soy milk
    • Tea and coffee with no added sugars
    • 100% fruit or vegetable juice in 8 oz. portions or less with no added sugars and <200 mg sodium per container.
  • Snacks
    • The first ingredient must be a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, dairy, or protein food
    • Each product, as packaged (even if the package is 2 or more servings), may contain no more than:
      • 200 calories
      • 2 grams of saturated fat (except nuts, seeds, or trail mix with no added candy)
      • 0 trans fat
      • 10 grams of total sugars (except fruit and vegetable based products with no added sugars, and yogurts with <23 grams total sugars per 6 oz. container)
      • 200 mg of sodium

Try it out–pick your favorite grab and go snack and see if it fits the guidelines!

And check out this infographic on the business case for healthier retail food environments.

Help us promote RentWise train-the-trainer workshops

By Becky Hagen Jokela, Extension educator in family resiliency

Being a successful renter has always required certain knowledge and skills. But today’s housing environment poses special challenges.

Rental agreement contract on a table with a pen and key on top.

Nearly 30 percent of Minnesota residents (more than 600,000 households) live in rental units, according to the 2017 State Housing Profile. As rental costs rise, many are paying more than they can afford. Subsidized housing for low-income people has long waiting lists in many communities, and some areas lack all types of affordable housing.

All this makes RentWise, a program developed by the Extension Center for Family Development, more important than ever. The programgives people the knowledge and skills they need to become successful renters.

You can help

RentWise is delivered by community partners. And that’s where you, FD staff and educators, can help.

Do you know someone in your community who might be interested in teaching the RentWise curriculum in one-to-one or group settings? If so, please pass the word about upcoming train-the-trainer workshops:
  • May 31—Crookston
  • June 6—Marshall
  • June 14—Duluth
  • June 19—Bemidji
  • June 21—Hinckley
  • July 26—Minneapolis 
If you know people interested in teaching the RentWise curriculum, ask them to register on the RentWise train-the-trainer workshop page of the Extension website. They also can contact our financial capability team to arrange a workshop in their area. Thank you for helping us identify and train more teachers for this important program!

Learn more about RentWise

The RentWise curriculum covers money management, tenant rights, caring for a rental unit, establishing positive relationships with property managers and neighbors, and using community resources to find affordable housing. RentWise is especially helpful to people at risk of having difficulty obtaining rental housing because of past problems. Learn more about the curriculum.

Two FD educators win dean’s award

Two educators with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development (FD) were among the winners of the Dean’s Distinguished Awards.

The FD winners were Gabriela Burk, financial capability educator based in Dodge County, and Ann Luke, SNAP-Ed educator based in Ramsey County. Gabriela received the program staff award, while Ann received the nutrition educator award.

Financial Capability Educator Gabriela Burk, right, with Extension Dean Beverly Durgan
Financial Capability Educator Gabriela Burk, right, with Extension Dean Beverly Durgan

SNAP-Ed Educator Ann Luke, left, with Extension Dean Beverly Durgan
SNAP-Ed Educator Ann Luke, left, with Extension Dean Beverly Durgan  

 Other winners were Nancy Pieske with the Murray County Extension support staff, and Colleen Byrne, executive office and administrative specialist with the Center for Youth Development. Nancy received the field staff award, while Colleen received the campus-based staff award.

Beverly Durgan, dean of Extension, presented the awards at the 2018 Extension Staff Conference held in early May at the U of M Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. Please pass on your congratulations to Gabriela and Ann!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Tap dancing, table hopping and other tales of relationship building

By Trina Adler, program leader in health and nutrition

Last week I tap danced with hundreds of people from across the country.

Friend of NEAFCS award goes to Debra Landvik Letendre of MDE

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency

Debra Landvik Letendre, an educational specialist with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), has received this year’s Friend of NEAFCS-Minnesota Affiliate Award. NEAFCS is the National Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences. Extension staff and association members Kathleen Olson, Silvia Alvarez de Davila and Mary Jo Katras presented the award on behalf of the association at MDE offices on April 20.

Mary Jo Katras,Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Kathy Olson, and Debra Landvik Letendre at NEAFCS award ceremony.
Debra Landvik Letendre, education specialist with the Minnesota Department of Education, holds a bouquet of tulips and a certificate naming her the recipient of the 2018 Friend of NEAFCS-Minnesota Affiliate Award. With her, from far left, are Extension staff members Mary Jo Katras, Silvia Alvarez de Davila, and Kathy Olson.

A brief look back at the National Health Outreach Conference

By Sharon Mulé, staff development coordinator, Extension Center for Family Development

The National Health Outreach Conference was a success! Over 350 people from across the country gathered in Bloomington last week to engage in creating a culture of health. Here’s a brief recap:

FD in the news

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Even good events can cause stress — and call for resilience

By Karen Shirer, associate dean, Center for Family Development

Work and home have been both stressful and exciting lately. At work, this spring has been filled with budget planning for 2019 and responding to grant opportunities. Meanwhile, day-to-day work continues.

Crocus flowers pushing through snow.

In my family, we are anticipating the adoption of a new grandson any day now. In late March, my older daughter, Lizzie, and her husband learned that a birth mother selected them to adopt her soon-to-be born son. Although totally unexpected, we are delighted with the news.

FR project brings healthy homes info to Latino communities, wins good reviews from participants

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency, and Antonio Alba Meraz, educator in family resiliency

Home is where the heart is, the old saying goes. But home is also where physical, chemical, and biological health risks lurk. We all need to know how to keep our homes healthy places for our families to live.

Wood letters that read HOME. The O is represented with a heart.

With that in mind, the Latino Financial Literacy Team led by Antonio Alba Meraz, presented 17 two-hour workshops titled "Healthy People in Healthy Homes" to Latino residents in late summer 2017. A total of 172 people attended the Healthy Homes workshops, conducted in Spanish in 12 counties of southern Minnesota. This work was supported through a CLEAR Corps grant of $3,333 that Antonio received last summer.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Standing on the shoulders of those who went before us

By Trish Olson, director of programs

It’s the end of March, and my mind is whirling from recent events. I often have to step back and connect the dots of events so I can make sense of them.

I said more than once in meetings this week that we have to stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. I said this in the context of programming and scholarship, as we discussed the importance of literature reviews. That way, we will conduct activities that are proven to work and not reinvent the wheel evaluating or researching what’s already known. We do this so we can focus on our shared goals of learning and teaching with participants. Conducting literature reviews shows how we value our participants’ time.

Extension partnering with Guatemalan university on youth and family programming

By Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension educator in family resiliency

A University of Minnesota Extension team has been in partnership with a team from Guatemala for almost two years now, and I thought you’d like to know what we’ve been up to.

The partnership stems from an agreement University of Minnesota Extension signed in 2017 with the University of San Carlos of Guatemala School of Social Work. Two Extension centers, Family Development (FD) and Youth Development (YD), are working on this initiative. The aim is to co-create a program serving youth and families in Guatemala.

2017 PoP Club results are in — and we’re making a difference!

By Jessica Norman, Extension educator in health and nutrition

In 2016, the Extension Center for Family Development received an issue area grant to create and launch the Power of Produce (PoP) Club Toolkit. PoP clubs aim to expose children to farmers markets and increase kids’ consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Power of Produce (PoP) club logo

Articles co-authored by FR educators published in scholarly journals

Four University of Minnesota Extension educators in family resiliency recently saw the publication of articles they co-authored in scholarly journals. Here are the details:

FD in the news

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

Dedicated to fresh ideas and making the range healthy – long term
Hibbing Daily Tribune

The Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability (IRPS) has been working for nearly a decade to promote environmental and economic sustainability on the Iron Range. The Rutabaga Project aims to get nutritious and local food to everyone in the city of Virginia and beyond. The Rutabaga Project is a shared initiative of IRPS and many other groups and initiatives including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed).

Lions Club partners with Cub Foods to offer diabetes screenings
Woodbury Bulletin

A new Lions Club initiative aims to increase awareness of Type 2 Diabetes with events to detect the risk for diabetes and prediabetes. The Minneapolis Health Department, Healthy Northland, YMCA and University of Minnesota Extension will also partner with the initiative to provide resources and healthy food samples.

Crookston’s Marketplace adds spice to summer
Grand Forks Herald

Several groups are joining forces to turn Crookston’s Downtown Square into a block party for the whole family. The new event, dubbed Crookston's Marketplace, will run Thursday evenings from late June through September. Children ages 4 to 12 will get tokens to buy fresh produce each week, thanks to a new "Power of Produce" grant from the University of Minnesota’s Crookston Extension Office.

Top chef feeds sick Minnesotans — and his soul — at nonprofit Open Arms
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Accomplished chef Seth Bixby Daugherty recounts his eventful life, including work with University of Minnesota Extension in the Cooking Matters Minnesota program.

Additional coverage

Also getting coverage last month was Diabetes Alert Day events in Minneapolis. Staff from University of Minnesota Extension, the YMCA and the Native American Community Clinic will provide free samples of healthy recipes and information on healthy eating at the events.

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

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Exploring staff development opportunities

By Sharon Mulė, staff development coordinator, Center for Family Development

Starship enterprise moving through space.
Explore new worlds. Boldly go where you haven't gone before. 
Take advantage of upcoming staff development opportunities. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

On April 6, 2016, I landed in Roanoke, Virginia. I had been with Family Development since January but walking into the National Health Outreach Conference (NHOC) was like landing on another planet. Fast forward two years and another NHOC in Annapolis, Maryland. Now here I am helping plan the NHOC for May 2-4 in Minnesota!

With a great conference planning team who really know their stuff, we are moving through the conference planning process and it’s getting exciting! Whether you plan on attending or not, take a few moments and look at the range of presentations from people all over the country.

FR team piloting curriculum on understanding health insurance costs

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency

Mary Jo Katras headshot
A team of 10 Family Resiliency (FR) educators is partnering with two universities to pilot a workshop on health insurance costs. The workshop, Understanding and Estimating Health Care Costs, is one of the modules in the Smart Use health insurance curriculum offered through FR.

The FR team has partnered with University of Maryland Extension and University of Delaware Extension since 2013 to pilot and use their Smart Choice and Smart Use curricula. The curricula provide education and resources to help increase health insurance literacy. “Health insurance literacy” refers to knowledge about making health insurance choices.

Want to do GIS mapping? Here are tips to get started

By Nicole Helgeson, graduate research assistant in GIS mapping

As a graduate research assistant in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, I often hear comments like this: “I just want to make simple map, but am overwhelmed by everything that I need
to know to get started.”

Nicole Helgeson headshot No wonder people are overwhelmed. When GIS appeared in the 1960s as a simple map coordinate program, few expected that GIS would become such an integral part of everyday life. From transportation to business, from agriculture to health and nutrition, hardly an area today does not use GIS in some way or other. According to the SAGE handbook of GIS and society, what was once a specialized profession of a few has now become more available and accessible than ever.

To help you sort through the massive amount of information, I have put together a list of tips to get started in GIS mapping your research results. Or whatever story you want to tell.

Two new metro area SNAP-Ed regional coordinators join FD

By Margaret Haggenmiller, associate program director in SNAP-Ed metro

Two new SNAP-Ed regional coordinators have joined the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development. Ayolanda Evans is based at the U of M Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center in Minneapolis. Janice Horsager Rasmussen is based at the Ramsey County Extension office in St. Paul.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

It's the lion you don't see that'll eat you!

By Mary Marczak, director of urban family development and evaluation

My graduate school statistics professor, A.J. Figueredo, often lamented how he couldn’t make it as an animal behaviorist so he became a stats professor. Lucky for us, he used his knowledge about animal behaviors to explain difficult statistical concepts. In research and hypothesis testing, Type II errors lead you to make wrong conclusions. Typically that's because you don’t know enough, don’t have enough data, or haven’t waited long enough for the effects or relationships to show up.

Getting the message across

By Carolina De La Rosa Mateo, graduate research assistant, Center for Family Development

I love the excitement of data collection and analysis. That’s because I am a first-year student in the University of Minnesota Master of Public Health program, which emphasizes the value of quality research.

As part of my graduate work, I have been on several teams and assisted in data collection for dozens, if not hundreds, of individuals. Currently, I’m on the Applied Research and Evaluation (ARE) Team with the Center for Family Development (FD).

SNAP-Ed Works!

SNAP-Ed helps people lead healthier lives. SNAP-Ed educators with the Extension Center for Family Development teach low-income families and individuals about good nutrition and making their food dollars stretch further. SNAP-Ed educators also help participants learn how to be physically active.

New SNAP-Ed educator to serve Mower, Freeborn counties

Thelma Garcia joined University of Minnesota Extension March 5 as a SNAP-Ed educator, based at Extension's Mower County office in Austin. She will serve both Mower and Freeborn counties.

FD in the news

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

Crookston Farmers Market awarded Power of Produce grant through U of M Extension
Crookston Times

The Crookston Farmers Market has been awarded a University of Minnesota Extension Power of Produce (PoP) Club grant. PoP Clubs give children money to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets. SNAP-Ed Educator Megan Hruby is quoted in the article, which notes that 10 Minnesota farmers markets received a PoP grant in 2017.

Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign
Marshall Independent

United Community Action Partnership’s food shelves in Marshall and other south-central Minnesota communities are participating in the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign. United Community Action partners with Extension’s SNAP-Ed program to offer a variety of healthy eating lifestyle classes to its clients, including I CAN Prevent Diabetes (ICANPD). A recently completed ICANPD class in Marshall saw 18 participants lose a total of 300 pounds.

University of Minnesota Extension
Rep. Peterson’s Newsletter

SNAP-Ed associate program directors Mary Caskey and Margaret Haggenmiller visited the office of U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson Feb. 8 to talk about SNAP-Ed in Minnesota. Mary and Margaret noted that every dollar spent on nutrition education saving close to $10 in the long run.

How to Divvy Up Your Family Belongings Peacefully and Sensibly
Queens Gazette

The Queens (New York) Gazette highlighted Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate? (WGGYPP) as part of the Savvy Senior syndicated column. WGGYPP is an Extension resource to help families distribute personal belongings without conflict after the death of a loved one.

Additional coverage

Also getting coverage last month was SNAP-Ed and health and nutrition educators’ work in Red Wing, Worthington, and south Minneapolis.

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

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A mentor can help you grow professionally

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency

Kitten with meme text that says "Excuse me, will you be my mentor?"

It’s performance review time again. This is when we look back on what we accomplished last year and set our plan of work (POW) for the coming year. The POW includes both program goals and our professional development goals.

2018 National Health Outreach Conference coming May 2-4

Logo of conference that says "Engaging in a culture of health: Making Waves in the Land of 10,000 Lakes."
The 2018 National Health Outreach Conference is coming soon, and the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development is hosting! The conference, “Engaging in a Culture of Health: Making Waves in the Land of 10,000 Lakes,” is set for May 2-4 at the Radisson Blu Mall of America Hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota.

SuperShelf makes super progress

By Laura Bohen, Extension educator in health and nutrition

Last spring the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health received a $3.2 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to evaluate the effectiveness of the SuperShelf program. U of M Extension health and nutrition staff are assisting with the evaluation.

One male and one female choosing food at a food shelf.

So how are things going, you may ask? In a word: super! I’m happy to say that the SuperShelf study is progressing at a steady clip.

Schoolyard gardens conference features Family Development connections

By Mary Vitcenda, senior editor, Center for Family Development

“Establishing Roots” is the theme of the upcoming Minnesota Schoolyard Gardens Conference, which will include several sessions with connections to the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development (FD).

Three new SNAP-Ed educators join Family Development

Three new SNAP-Ed educators have joined the Extension Center for Family Development (FD): Abu Farah, Shanda Walker and Elizabeth “Liz” McLaughlin.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Any questions? Mindful Q and As help us better serve our clients and communities

By Trina Adler, program leader in health and nutrition

Woman holding a phone that says I'll be asking the questions from now on.

The other day I witnessed a couple of Family Development staff do a very courageous thing: They asked a question. They asked about some innovative, edgy work they were doing, knowing full well that the answer they receive might force them to back off from the path they were taking.

Taking the mystery out of Extension: Get to know the AR+E Team

By Emily Becher, research associate

Applied Research and Evaluation. We help you think about how to evaluate your work, from beginning to end. And a group photo of team.

AR+E stands for the Applied Research and Evaluation Team. We are similar to the Mission Support Team in that our role is to support the work of the Center for Family Development (FD).

Extension's finance education for Latino immigrants spotlighted at national meeting

By Antonio Alba Meraz, Extension educator in family resiliency

Last fall, four Extension educators in family resiliency, including myself, presented a special series of workshops and one-to-one consultations on personal finance to Mexican and other Latino immigrants living in rural Minnesota.

The series, which emphasized building credit, budgeting, and banking, was based on the Ventanilla de Asesoria Financiera (Financial Empowerment Window) model. The workshops and consultations were made possible through a grant from the Consulate of Mexico in St. Paul.

Food Charter in Action events bring together 100s in support of healthy food access

By Stephanie Heim, associate program director

As lead partner of engagement of the Minnesota Food Charter Network, University of Minnesota Extension supported nine “Minnesota Food Charter in Action” events in November and December 2017.

Collage of people attending the Minnesota food charter in action events, sitting, eating, talking.

Reporting on the Food Charter in Action event in central Minnesota

By Serdar Mamedov, Extension educator in health and nutrition, and Molly Zins, executive director, University of Minnesota Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership

Serdar Mamedov head shot
On November 17, 2017, more than 70 people representing different stakeholder groups in local and statewide food systems in Minnesota came together at St. Cloud Technical and Community College to discuss a very important topic for Minnesotans – access to healthy food for all.

'One Extension' website redesign project moves into site building phase

By Michael Brott, communications manager

As reported in the Jan. 18 Extension e-news, communicators and web professionals from across Extension are continuing their work on Extension’s new website, which will launch this spring. Those of us who have been working on the website redesign have completed the planning phase and are beginning site building, content writing and transition work.

Joining in the fun at the Super Bowl Snack Challenge Kids Tailgate Party

There were lots of events going on in the Twin Cities the week before the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 4, and Cristofer Ramirez, grandson of SNAP-Ed Educator Letty Rodriguez, was part of the scene. Cristofer was one of 10 Super Bowl Snack Challenge finalists invited to the Kids Tailgate Party held Jan. 31 at the Target Center.
Cristofer Ramirez at super snack challenge in front of food truck
Cristofer Ramirez

FD in the news

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Forget those New Year's resolutions - set goals instead

By Karen Shirer, associate dean

I wonder if you are like me. Every year in late December I set resolutions for a healthier and happier new year. Then, by the third week my best intentions have often ended up on the garbage heap of lost causes. This year my resolutions included maintaining a healthy weight, focusing on the positive and what I can control and change, practicing yoga and running, and well....being better in whatever way I can imagine. I think you get the picture.

Beyond filing: Tax time offers great opportunity to set financial goals

By Mary Jo Katras, Extension program leader in family resiliency

It’s that time of year again to think about filing taxes — this year for 2017 taxes. More than filing, though, tax time offers an opportunity for working individuals and families to get ahead.

Highway sign that reads tax time, just ahead with three arrows pointing up.

The prospect of receiving a tax refund is a good incentive for all of us to think about our financial situation and set financial goals. Those might include paying off existing debt or setting some money aside for an emergency fund.

Katie Lingras named new scholar in residence, succeeding Jenifer McGuire

By Cari Michaels, Extension educator with the Children, Youth & Family Consortium

Katherine Lingras, Ph.D.
Katherine “Katie” Lingras, Ph.D., has been named the Children, Youth & Family Consortium’s (CYFC’s) new scholar in residence. She is an assistant professor and licensed child psychologist with the University of Minnesota Department of Psychiatry.

Lingras’s term will run this calendar year, starting this semester and continuing through the summer and fall semesters. During her term, Lingras will focus on mental education and research that promotes mental health. She brings to this role her expertise in clinical work and research focused on the social-emotional development of children and building the capacities of the adults who care for them.

Lingras succeeds Jenifer McGuire, Ph.D., who served as the scholar in residence from July 2016 to December 2017. McGuire is an associate professor with the University Department of Family Social Science.

Nudging to Health workshop gets good 'grades' from participants

By Kelly Kunkel, Extension educator in health and nutrition

A little more than a year after it was rolled out, the Nudging to Health: Promoting Healthy Choices at Your Food Shelf food shelf partner education workshop is getting good reviews from participants. One was so impressed, she said, “The nutrition aspects were excellent. I learned things after 50 years of cooking.”

family picking up food from a food shelf

A team of University of Minnesota Extension health and nutrition and SNAP-Ed educators (the “food shelf team”) launched the Nudging to Health workshop in August 2016. The class is one of three developed to assist food shelf staff and volunteers in achieving better outcomes for their clients.

To date, there have been 22 Nudging to Health workshops conducted throughout Minnesota, with 233 staff and volunteers trained. They represented food shelves from Hibbing in northeastern Minnesota to St. James in the south central part of the state. Classes are taught by SNAP-Ed educators with the Extension Center for Family Development.

Telling the story of the CYFC-Bruce Vento School partnership

By Judy Myers, Extension educator with the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (retired)

The story of CYFC’s four-year partnership with the Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul is a remarkable one. Together we are making changes at the school to create a trauma-sensitive learning environment for students facing a host of special challenges.

Now we’re telling the Bruce Vento story through a website called “Fostering Resilient Learners at Bruce Vento Elemntary School.” The website, or story map as we in CYFC prefer to call it, depicts the work of Extension CYFC staff with school staff, neighborhood residents, community organizations, and others to transform the school physically and culturally for the benefit of students.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Reflecting on movies – and our accomplishments

2 of a 2-part series

By Trish Olson, director of programs

I don’t know about you, but I am still seeing the “Best of 2017” Lists. I am drawn to them like a moth to a flame. They represent reflections of what has gone well – what should be repeated? Perhaps it is movies with another number behind their title, like “Pitch Perfect 3.” One and two worked, why not three? I have heard mixed reviews on the new “Star Wars” movie, which raises the question: When does something popular get “sunsetted?” When does something new replace the old and we are all better off for it? Olive oil replaces other fats. Taylor Swift leaves country behind for pop, etc. Perhaps the comparisons need to end.

Data visualization group requests feedback on infographic production

By Emily Becher, research associate, Center for Family Development

As part of a cross-center learning group on data visualization, I have been discussing ways to make infographic production easier and more approachable across Extension. We are gathering information to help us move this process forward, and we need your help.

Scholarships open for National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

By Stephanie Heim, associate program director

The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference Network is now accepting scholarships to attend the conference, set for April 25-27 in Cincinnati, Ohio. So, I have a request for each of you: Please alert your partners and anyone else you work with who's involved with local food efforts to apply. Deadline for applications is 8 p.m. Eastern time (7 p.m. Central), Monday, February 12.

Your Money, Your Goals training promotes financial empowerment

By Becky Hagen Jokela, Extension educator in family resiliency 
Your Money, Your Goals (YMYG) is a financial empowerment toolkit created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The toolkit gives service agency staff information and ideas for use in assisting their clients. The goal is to help clients understand their own financial situations and connect to resources in their communities.

Stay warm, stay safe this winter

Winter in Minnesota brings special joys, such as skiing, skating, or just curling up by the fire reading a book or watching a movie. But winter in northern climates also brings special challenges.

Two females sitting in snow looking at camera.

Extension educators have compiled information to help individuals and families stay warm and safe in winter. Check out Family Development's Healthy Winters web page for links to information on:

FD in the news

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

How to Divvy Up Your Family Belongings Peacefully and Sensibly
HuffPost, Dec. 25, 2017

Who Gets Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate?, University of Minnesota Extension’s resource to help families distribute personal belongings without conflict after the death of a loved one, was in the spotlight in December. Five newspapers around the country, including HuffPost, cited WGGYPP as a useful resource in a syndicated column written by Jim Miller, creator of

Overindulgence and Good Hearts: Parenting During Holidays
Minnesota Ag Connection, Dec. 18, 2017

Ellie McCann, Extension educator in family resiliency, talks about how the holidays increase pressure on parents to overindulge their children with too many gifts and in other ways. She also promotes two Extension online courses designed to help parents deal with this pressure any time of the year: Parenting in the Age of Overindulgence and Parenting with a Good Heart.

Community Voices: Planning for Death Can Be a Gift for Loved Ones
Savage Pacer, Dec. 2, 2017

No one likes to contemplate their own mortality. But it’s important to put your financial affairs in order and take other steps so your family knows your wishes upon death or in case of serious illness or incapacitation. Columnist Rochelle Eastman says planning for death is the “final gift you can give your family.” She also cites Extension’s Minnesota Health Care Directive Planning Toolkit as a valuable resource to aid in this process.
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