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Musings from Round One of Regional Visits

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

On August 14, the Family Development leadership team completed the first four meetings with FD staff across the state. We learned so much about the four regions we visited. Staff members were asked to bring three challenges they saw in their region’s work, families, and communities. Many brought articles clipped from newspapers or printed from websites. Others brought photographs or simply shared what was going on. In this week’s column, I wanted to share, too. Here are some recurring themes and issues I heard discussed at the regional meetings:
  • Healthy food access: Farmers markets not taking EBT cards; lack of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale in rural communities; more community gardens started, but challenges in sustaining them.
  • Concerns about water: Application of the new buffer zone rules; concern over the future of clean water; water as a natural resource for tourism.
  • Growing diversity: Impacts on schools, service organizations, and communities; law enforcement targeting minorities; disproportionate incarceration rates.
  • Economic issues: Hidden and not-so-hidden poverty; avian flu and downturn in the mining industry; loss of a large Medicaid contract for U Care and South Country Health Alliance.
  • Climate change: Impact on food safety and security, as well as water security.
  • Homelessness and housing insecurity: Concern about cold winters and keeping people safe; lack of availability of affordable housing, especially rental property.
We also heard about “grand challenges” that are specific to Family Development and how we do our work. All four regions shared concerns about recruiting sufficient participants (a minimum of eight) for their SNAP-Ed classes, especially in the most rural parts of the state. Educators reported recruiting three to five people initially, but ultimately canceling courses because the minimum number of participants did not sign up. In addition, we heard concerns about the time it takes SNAP-Ed educators to do paperwork for their classes. We heard these concerns loud and clear and will be taking concrete steps this fall to begin addressing them.

Last week’s edition of Family Matters linked to a “Storify” of the trip — a story told through curated social media posts. If you are attending one of the three regional meetings in the central region during September and October, I highly recommend you take a look at it: Regional Visits, Round One.

Communications Associate Hannah Jastram live-tweeted the trip, making sure we had a continuous stream of tweets for others to follow and material with which to create the Storify. I didn’t know social media could be so much fun!
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