In the early 1900s, rural schools had hot lunch programs, thanks to Mary Bull, the first University of Minnesota Extension home economics leader.
Today, Micky Feyder and Betty McAllister, Extension nutrition assistants for Crow Wing County, help parents and students with proper nutrition in the fight against childhood obesity.
The University of Minnesota Extension has helped Minnesotans for 100 years. It's celebrating its centennial this year.
Micky Feyder, a University of Minnesota Extension nutrition assistant for Crow Wing County, recently talked to Tri-County Community Action Head Start parents about healthy food choices. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
According to the Extension's Web site, state legislators in 1909 believed the university could take its latest research and share its information with people, ultimately improving their lives. Working with Extension, Minnesotans have learned how to grow healthy food, serve it on a tight budget and raise their children during challenging times.
Brainerd and surrounding communities have access to an Extension office in Brainerd - in the Land Services Building, just south of the Crow Wing County Courthouse. The building also serves the regional Extension office for a nine-county area that includes Crow Wing, Cass, Morrison, Todd, Wadena, Aitkin, Hubbard, Kanabek and Pine counties.
A look at the Crow Wing County Extension office programs:
• Nutrition: Feyder and McAllister, who have a combined 35 years of Extension education experience, teach nutrition to two audiences. McAllister teaches nutrition to youth in schools and Feyder teaches nutrition to low-income parents of young children, including parents of Tri-County Community Action Head Start and Early Childhood Family Education children.
McAllister visits elementary schools in the county that qualify according to the number of families who receive free and reduced lunches. She teaches proper nutrition and hand washing. From Sept. 1, 2008, to June 30, McAllister reached 1,419 participants in classrooms. She also spreads her nutrition education message to area food shelves.
Jenna Ruzich, a student in the 4-H program with the University of Minnesota Extension office in Crow Wing County, shot an air rifle in September during the 2009 Minnesota Shooting Sports Wildlife invitational in Anoka County.
McAllister also teaches nutrition at Garfield and Riverside elementary schools. Through a $50,000 obesity prevention group grant from Brainerd Lakes Health, McAllister can provide nutritious snacks for third-graders.
"We provide a snack every day and the kids get to do a taste-sampling once a month," McAllister said. "The program is called 'Go Wild' and most of the snacks are fruits and vegetables."
Feyder not only educates low-income parents of young children about nutrition, she also conducts nutrition lessons for Crow Wing County Social Services family work groups, teen moms in the ECFE program, moms in the county jail and parents in the WIC program - a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children.
If you go
What: University of Minnesota Extension office in Crow Wing County.
Where: Land Services Building, 322 Laurel St., Suite 22.
Hours: 12-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 12-4 p.m. Friday.
Contact: 824-1065 or www.co.crow-wing.mn.us/ u_of_mn_extension/index.html.
From Sept. 1, 2008 to June 30, Feyder reached 139 families and 505 individuals.
"Some people don't know how to use their food stamps and buy nutritious foods and some of the younger moms don't know how to cook," Feyder said. "I can teach families with a small amount of money how to cook healthy meals."
• 4-H: Jeanne Rohr, 4-H Youth Development county coordinator, started with the county Extension office in September 2008. Rohr coordinates all 4-H activities for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Rohr said there were 282 4-H members last year, and of those, 36 were Cloverbuds - students in kindergarten through second grade. Rohr said there are 58 active volunteers.
"We have a strong program here," she said.
Rohr said 4-H students learn by practicing leadership, doing a wide variety of projects, serving their communities and doing arts and science enrichment projects.
4-H programs in the county range from horse and dog shows to livestock, performing arts and shooting sports. The busiest time for 4-H students is during the county and state fairs. Rohr said that for the first time, students took their geocaching projects to the state fair. Rohr said the national 4-H organization is encouraging geocaching, in which Global Positioning System units are used to hunt for hidden caches, a worldwide activity. At the national level, she said they're also advocating robotics and healthy living.
• Water resources and horticulture: Jackie Froemming, water resource management and policy and horticulture educator, also coordinates the Master Gardener program started with the county in the summer of 2005. The Minnesota Master Gardener program began in 1977 as an educational program designed to train volunteers to help others in their communities with horticulture.
Bridget Hietala (left) of the Tri-County Community Action Head Start program and Betty McAllister (right), University of Minnesota Extension nutrition assistant for Crow Wing County, recently helped head-start students Gavin Hoyt and Gabriella Hamlin make cookies at the TCC building. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Froemming said there are currently 52 certified Master Gardeners in the county who put in 2,363 volunteer hours worth $46,190 last year.
In Minnesota last year there were: 2,099 Master Gardeners; 213 interns were trained; and 102,099 volunteer hours, which calculates to 48 hours per Master Gardener, with the value of those hours calculated at $2.1 million.
Froemming also works with the shoreland education program, which covers projects relating to improving water quality, habitat and aesthetics of lakes and rivers. Froemming said people are becoming aware of the environmental benefits of reducing the amount of runoff entering local bodies of water.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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