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Showing posts from 2017

It’s that time of year to reflect on our accomplishments

1 of a 2-part series

By Trish Olson, director of programs

I know you have seen the lists generated: Best Movies of 2017, Best Books of 2017, Best Workplaces of 2017, and on and on. In my role as director of programs, I too, need to reflect and look back on 2017 in order to inform our work in 2018. How do I do this? One way is to look at accomplishments against promises made.

Latino Financial Literacy Team addresses immigration concerns and other emerging issues

By Antonio Alba Meraz and Sara Croymans, Extension educators in family resiliency

University of Minnesota Extension’s Latino Financial Literacy Program (LFLP) helps Latino immigrants in southern Minnesota understand U.S. financial information and systems so participants can make sound financial decisions. Program team members include financial capability educators Gabriela Burk, Dodge County; Jose Lamas, Nobles County; and Francisca Mendoza, McLeod County. They are supported by Antonio Alba Meraz and Sara Croymans, Extension educators in family resiliency. Recently, the Latino Financial Literacy Team has provided special programming to address immigration and related issues.

Family resiliency team piloting parenting classes in Minnesota prisons

By Ellie McCann, Extension educator in family resiliency

A family resiliency team with the Extension Center for Family Development has received a $25,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Corrections to develop and deliver parenting classes for incarcerated parents and caregivers. I am principal investigator for the team. Other members are family resiliency educators Becky Hagen Jokela, Anita Harris Hering, Lori Hendrickson, and Sharon Powell.

The parenting classes, which began in November, are being offered at three prisons across the state—Stillwater, Oak Park Heights, and Moose Lake. Stillwater and Moose Lake will host three 12-week, two-hour class sessions. Oak Park Heights will host one 12-week, two-hour class session. Classes will continue through June 30, 2018.

FD Family Resiliency Team wins financial community educator award

By Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency

The Family Resiliency Team with the Extension Center for Family Development was recently recognized for its sustained commitment and contribution to financial education in Minnesota communities. The team received the 2017 Thrivent Financial Community Educator Award for its Community Mentorship for Financial Capability Program. The award was given at EconFest on Nov. 2 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. EconFest is an annual celebration of teachers, students, and communities sponsored by the Minnesota Council on Economic Education.

2017 EconFest! Honored for our team to be receiving the Thrivent Financial Personal Finance Community Educator Award — Mary Jo Katras (@mkatras) November 2, 2017

FD in the News

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

Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Announces 52 Super Snack Challenge Winners
Super Bowl LII Newsroom, Nov. 15, 2017

November was a rewarding month for SNAP-Ed Educator Letica Rodriguez and her grandson, Cristofer Ramirez. First, he was named one of 52 winners of the Super Snack Challenge sponsored by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. He won based on his recipe for Colorful Black Bean Salad, a recipe Letica teaches many children to make in her SNAP-Ed classes.

Next, he was named one of 10 finalists to compete in the All Pro Chef Event held Nov. 28 at Breaking Bread Café and Catering in Minneapolis.

Cristofer will join his fellow Super Snack Challenge winners at the Minnesota Super Bowl 2018 Super Kids Tailgate Party. There, the winning healthy game day recipe will be chosen from among the 10 All Pro chefs.

Commissioner of Health appoints committee members to health equity …

The Evaluation Elf on the Shelf: Get your 2017 data entered!

Dear Family Development employees,

It’s me, your friendly research associate Emily Becher. As we enter this season of cozy sweaters and delicious food, one of the traditions I’ve started to celebrate with my children is “The Elf on the Shelf.” For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is a small doll with an accompanying book that parents can use around the holiday season to promote good behavior. Parents move the elf around different locations in the house during the night, and in the morning the children find where the elf is now located (usually doing something silly like hanging upside down from the refrigerator or making a sprinkle angel).

The idea is that the elf is watching and reports back to Santa Claus every night on their behavior. Good behavior means good reports to Santa and presents. Bad behavior means bad reports to Santa and no presents. So often in my house from Thanksgiving to Christmas, you will hear me say, “Twirley is watching! What do you think she is going to t…

Training and Conversation Are Essential to Extension’s Commitment to Civil Rights

By Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency
“I really like how the civil rights training provided the history of civil rights. For me it provided context to the training.”

“I think my biggest take away is that you're not done with recruitment and programming until your participant pool looks like the broader community. There is no point at which you say ‘I've done enough.’ Because whatever recruitment and programming strategies you're using, they aren't working. So you need to keep trying new things with the goal of ever-increasing parity with the community at large.”

“I've only completed one so far, but I was really struck by the number of FD employees represented. Made me feel grateful to the leadership in our center, as well as determined to help however I can to increase diversity within leadership. Also appreciative of the courage it took to speak about some of these issues. FD is full of amazing people!!!”

“The one thing that is really sticking out …

After Disasters, FD Provides Financial Recovery Resources and Education

By Sara Croymans, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

In the first nine months of 2017 the United States experienced 15 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each. These events included one drought, two floods, one freeze event, seven severe storms, three tropical cyclones (hurricanes), and one wildfire. These events resulted in 282 deaths and significant economic effects for individuals and communities according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In response to this need, the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development (FD) provides financial recovery resources for disaster professionals and survivors in a variety of ways. Together, Lori Hendrickson, Extension educator in family resiliency, and I make up FD’s small disaster recovery team. Here are some highlights of what we accomplished from October 2016 to now.

Website Bytes: A Firmer Focus on Financial Capability

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

Earlier this month, I told the story of how website content managers in Family Development worked hard reorganize the University of Minnesota Extension Farm to School website section. This week, the story I have for you is about the Financial Capability website section, formerly titled “Personal Finance.”

To recap, as website coordinator of the core FD web team, I had the pleasure of walking alongside content managers as they tackled these projects. These reorganizations had two things in common that helped guide their work to completion:
Dedicated and knowledgeable content managers. A goal to better serve users.  To learn more about the twists and turns of the financial capability journey, read on.

A New Era Begins for Me

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

After nearly seven years with the Children, Youth & Family Consortium (CYFC), I am retiring in December 2017. The past years have been rich with wonderful relationships with CYFC, Family Development and other Extension colleagues. I have also experienced meaningful community partnerships, and deep learning with our many scholar and practitioner partners.

UofM Secure WiFi Network to Be Retired at the End of 2017

The University of Minnesota WiFi network UofM Secure will be retired at the end of December 2017.

Please connect to eduroam, the preferred secure WiFi network for University of Minnesota students, faculty, and staff. To connect, choose “eduroam” from your WiFi network preferences or options and enter your full University email address and password.

Questions? Contact Technology Help at or 612-301-4357.

Finding Joy in the Face of Adversity

By Mary Marczak, Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation

My maternal grandmother (and namesake) was my kindred spirit. No one made me feel more OK during the abrupt transition at age 10 from an orphanage in South Korea to a family home in Minnesota than my Polish grandmother. I think she identified with my experience because she came to the United States from Poland as an elementary-age child and had to make her way in a new world. So her particular habit of saying, “The world is going to hell in a hand basket!” always jarred me. Gahh!! What does that mean!? How much should I be worried?

National Experts and Local Practitioners Collaborate to Meet the Needs of LGBT People in Rural Environments

By S. Okrey Anderson, Graduate Research Assistant

This October, a special guest panel of LGBT research experts spoke to University of Minnesota Extension professionals about health, well-being, and economic opportunity for LGBT people in rural environments.

Extension Children, Youth, & Family Consortium (CYFC) planned and facilitated the well-attended panel during the 2017 Extension Program Conference that took place in Brooklyn Park on October 11.

CYFC hosted Dr. Jenifer McGuire, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Family Social Science, in their 2016-2017 Scholar in Residence program for the past year and a half. During that time, Dr. McGuire and the CYFC team traveled around Minnesota presenting workshops on meeting the needs of transgender youth. (For a refresher, see CYFC’s Community Discussions on Transgender Issues in Greater Minnesota Exceed Expectations.)

This panel event brought some of that content and more to an Extension audience.

Website Bytes: Curating (and Culling) Farm to School's Online Content

By Hannah Jastram Aaberg, Communications Associate

Website content managers in Family Development worked hard this summer to reorganize two University of Minnesota Extension website sections to better meet the needs of their audiences: Farm to School and Financial Capability, formerly Personal Finance.

As website coordinator of the core FD web team, I walked alongside content managers as they tackled these projects. I am so pleased that these two projects are complete and so proud of the work the content managers did that I want to share their stories. If you are contemplating how to better serve your audiences online, you’ll want to pay attention to their experiences. These reorganizations had two things in common that helped guide their work to completion:
Dedicated and knowledgeable content managers.A goal to better serve users. This week’s the focus is on Farm to School.

FD in the News

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

Ojibwe dinner draws crowd
Mille Lacs Messenger, October 5, 2017

A large crowd showed up at the Farm Market Cafe in Onamia on September 27 for a dinner of contemporary dishes made from traditional Ojibwe ingredients. The meals featured numerous locally grown and produced foods, such as wild rice, rabbit, highbush cranberry, hazelnuts, maple syrup, and squash. SNAP-Ed Educator Kam Schroeder discussed nutritional benefits of dishes on the menu.

The fallout of the Equifax data breach
Minnesota Public Radio, Oct 6, 2017
Sharon Powell, Extension educator in Family Resiliency, joined Chris Arnold, National Public Readio correspondent, on a Minnesota Public Radio news program October 6 to discuss the data breach at Equifax. That breach exposed the personal information of up to 143 million people and led to the resignation of the credit agency's CEO Richard Smith. Sharon provided tips to …

The Courage to Converse: Finding Our Voices

By Noelle Harden, Health and Nutrition Educator

As teachers, scholars, and leaders, our voices are sometimes the most powerful tool that we have in our Extension toolbox.

It may come as a surprise to my colleagues that I have struggled in recent years to find my own voice. Over the last five years, I have developed a reputation for being someone who speaks out, who listens, who stands up for what I believe in with strength and courage.

But on the inside, I have felt crushed by the weight of a burden that, until recently, I never thought I would talk about in public. I am writing today after realizing that the personal and the professional spheres are impossible to truly separate. I am writing today to help others find their own voice.

Community Garden Takes Root in Rochester

By Milena Nunez Garcia, SNAP-Ed Educator

This summer, the University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed program had the opportunity to work in collaboration with the Rochester Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church in a community garden program at the Oak Terrace Estates and Parkside mobile home communities.

The purpose of the Oak Terrace Garden project was to grow an organic community garden to encourage the community to grow organic vegetables for family use. In addition to having fresh produce to eat, the garden will help families
Learn gardening techniques.Understand the importance of working as a team in the community.Consume a healthy diet.Be in the fresh air and get some exercise.  To help establish the garden in the community, we held several community events in collaboration with the Rochester SDA Church:

Building the Resilience of Minnesota's Rural Grocery Stores

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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, an…

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.)

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.

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.

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 socia…

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?

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.

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.

Minnesota Thursday/Midwest Menu — Thursday, October 5 — Schools across the state will kick off Minnesota Thursdays with a special Midwest Menu. Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch — Thursday, October 12 — Schools and organizations across the Great Lakes region will crunch into a local apple at noon, local times. Like the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch Facebook page to learn who will be crunching. To see photos of the day, search for #MNAppleCrunch on Twitter.
In addition, Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) is hosting a webinar on Tuesd…

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.

​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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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 paren…

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.

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.

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.

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 Those Data! (Jam Them Good): Qualitative Data Analysis and Data Jamming

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?

FD in the News

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

EFNEP Welcomes New Educator

By Amanda Vanyo, EFNEP Regional Coordinator — Health and Nutrition

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

'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."

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.

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.

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.

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 s…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
"Educating is not enough." #NHOC2017 — Sarah Eichberger (@GreatLakesRD) May 3, 2017
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 princip…

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.

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.

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).

Selection Sunday: When casual fans remember they actually enjoy watching college basketball. — Matt Kelsey (@cancermatt2) March 12, 2017 (Translation: The day when the NCAA College basketball tournament participants are ranked and an…

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.

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.

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 …

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.
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:

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).

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.

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.

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.

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 historyDebtBudgeting

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.

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.

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.

New Graduate Assistant Joins Extension

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

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.

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.

A Tale of Two Columns

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean

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.