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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.

Connecting with Each Other

Program managers have made it a priority to connect our two major Health and Nutrition program areas, EFNEP and SNAP-Ed. Efforts have included
Another effort is Team HAND (ask your colleagues what this stands for!). This team is made up of EFNEP and SNAP-Ed coordinators, Health and Nutrition Extension educators, and campus leadership (CeAnn Klug, Margaret Haggenmiller, Mary Marczak, and Trina Adler). This group meets once a month to discuss issues and possibilities for future work. They were seen carving soap sculptures at the last meeting, so “fun” must be part of the agenda, too!

Connecting Our Programs

November’s strategic planning process helped us to explore how EFNEP and SNAP-Ed programs could work more intentionally together. EFNEP and SNAP-Ed educators, coordinators, and Extension educators are piloting the Place-Based Approach (PBA) to work together in a small geographic neighborhood for greater connection and impact. Mary Jo Katras, program leader in family resiliency (FR), has been in communication to connect FR educators to PBA work.

Already, FR educators have provided financial literacy education training to EFNEP and SNAP-Ed educators to incorporate resource management concepts and strategies in their teaching. Children, Youth, and Family Consortium Extension educators are working with EFNEP and SNAP-Ed educators at Bruce Vento Elementary School in Saint Paul. For one example, see this November 2016 blog post: School Garden Coordinator Digs into New Role.

close-up of a raised garden bed with lettuce, radishes, and peas growing
Well-marked raised beds at Bruce Vento, part of this spring's Garden Camp.

Connecting with University of Minnesota Extension

Here are two ways metro area FD staff worked with our colleagues in other Extension centers and units:
  • SNAP-Ed is partnering with the Extension Center for Youth Development, using the Choose Health: Food, Fun, and Fitness curriculum with the Dakota County Youth Teaching Youth program.
  • Urban FD staff worked with the Dean’s office and people from other Extension centers to plan the National Urban Extension Conference held last month. Staff helped plan where to go, coordinated with community partners, and were present at stops along the way.

Connecting with University of Minnesota

Metro Health & Nutrition staff are currently partnering on federal- and state-funded grant projects with a number of departments within the University of Minnesota:

Connecting with the Community

Urban FD staff have taken part in projects that were part of an effort to better engage community members as change agents. Two examples:

In addition, urban Health and Nutrition staff were part of seven SNAP-Ed Community Partnership Funding projects where the key was building agency of residents and community members to promote health and well-being of their own community.

Connecting with Agency Partners

One example of connections with agency partners is written into the SNAP-Ed three-year plan that began this year. This plan called for greater engagement with the St. Paul Public Schools and Minneapolis Public Schools (see this blog post from November 2016: Metro Area Health and Nutrition Team Charts New Path). To accomplish this goal, a cross-program team continues to build relationships and implement programs in partnership with the school districts.

Another example is the Metro Food Access Network (MFAN). Now in its fifth year, MFAN continues to connect agency partners working on food access to learn together, build and strengthen relationships, and generate collective action. The network now has over 400 partners from 200 different agency partners. Metro Health and Nutrition staff participate and provide leadership in varying capacities to the network. This continues great work across the metro, reaching many families and individuals through the partnerships they have forged with agencies.

This word art was created from an activity done with MFAN members.
These words connect the work of MFAN member organizations to that of MFAN's vision.

Continuously Connecting

It’s been a busy year! But rather than being satisfied, we hope to continuously grow our connections and innovate our efforts. A connection that we want to further explore? Connecting urban centers across the state. Those of you living and working in cities like Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud, and Moorhead, what do you say? Want to connect? Leave a comment below or send an email to Mary or Margaret.

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