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Urban Family Development: A Year of Growth

By Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation

Earlier in the year, the national Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) unveiled their 2016 Goals and Ongoing Priorities. One of the five strategic goals is urban programming, stating, “While maintaining rural presence, [Extension will] provide support for A National Framework for Urban Extension.”

Interestingly (but not surprisingly, as our center is filled with overachievers), we began to lay the groundwork for bolstering our urban programming back in May 2015! It started with Associate Dean Karen Shirer naming a director of urban family development, but more importantly, encouraging FD leadership to take the reins, to say "yes, and," to go forth and do. In 2015, we focused urban programming efforts on our largest program area, Health and Nutrition (H&N). Here’s just some of what has happened since May 2015.

First and foremost, we made investments in people who meet the urban community directly through Extension work.
  • We hired six new SNAP-Ed educators in the metro area to bring the total to 18.
  • We grew the understaffed EFNEP program from one program coordinator and five community nutrition educators (CNEs) to full capacity, which now stands at 13 CNEs!
  • We increased the Extension educator presence in the metro by creating two new H&N Extension educator positions.
Second, we bolstered the number of supervisors to support and develop new and existing metro staff by:
  • Naming the director of urban family development.
  • Adding a new metro associate program director for SNAP-Ed.
  • Adding an EFNEP program coordinator.
  • Adding a SNAP-Ed regional coordinator.
Third, when we were bursting at the seams with the available spaces, we worked with H&N Program Director of Operations Renee Obrecht-Como, Extension Chief of Staff Sarah Greening, and the University of Minnesota Real Estate Office to find us an urban H&N office at 1902 West Minnehaha Ave in St. Paul. As of this writing, contract language is being finalized.

"For Lease" — Not for long!
Source: Google Street View.

Finally, in 2015, metro H&N leadership has focused on cross-training staff across program areas, connecting staff to each other, and thinking strategically about how individual educators contribute to a greater vision for urban programming. EFNEP CNEs, for example, played a critical role in developing the Minnesota EFNEP five-year plan of work that received rave reviews from federal reviewers. We still have work to do, but we have come a long way!

Now having said all this about the metro area, last week at the Culinary Boot Camp, I connected with Darlyce Rangaard, a SNAP-Ed educator housed in Marshall. Knowing my family is from the region, Darlyce asked, “So, have you been out this way recently?”

“Yes,” I responded. “I was out there for my Aunt Tillie’s funeral just a few weeks ago.” To which Darlyce exclaimed, “I heard about the funeral — your aunt was my teacher!” And again I am reminded how connected we really are. As I learned last September, we are one center and one Minnesota.

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