Michigan State University and Flint were both founded in 1855. So it’s no surprise to learn that the university has been working closely with the city for more than 100 years.
Specifically, MSU Extension has been helping the residents of Flint to solve local problems, do their jobs better, raise healthy and safe families, build their communities and empower their children to dream of a successful future, said Jeff Dwyer, interim director of MSU Extension.
“We have deep relationships with the people of Flint because of our long-standing commitment to communities,” he said. “Recently, our health and nutrition professionals have been working closely with the local health department, local agencies and health professionals since the lead issue was uncovered. We will continue to strengthen our programming there to help doctors, parents and caregivers deal with the short- and long-term effects of this public health crisis.”
MSU will continue working with this community long after the TV cameras have gone, he added.
Here are some examples of MSU Extension programs that are benefiting the citizens of Flint:
- Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Michigan Department of Human Services, MSU Extension provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, or SNAP-Ed, a free nutrition education program to reduce hunger and food insecurity and promote healthy eating habits. Nutrition is one of the first lines of defense against the harmful effects of lead.
- MSU Extension and Hurley Children’s Hospital have partnered to offer cooking classes at the Flint Farmers’ Market. The classes focus on foods that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C, all of which help block the absorption of lead.
- Michigan 4-H helps young people learn critical life skills. MSU Extension professionals in Flint organized a 4-H SPIN (special interest) club focusing on water filtration and helping people understand why they need to be concerned with drinking filtered water or bottled water.
- MSU Extension has long-standing partnerships with the state’s agriculture commodity organizations. Working together, they were are able to get more iron-, calcium- and vitamin C-rich foods that block lead absorption delivered to the Eastern Michigan Food Bank so they can get it to the people who need it.
- Edible Flint is an informal cooperative of food producers. Its goal is to increase the presence and success of urban gardeners and farmers in Flint by collectively producing and distributing naturally grown, local produce at the Flint Farmers’ Market. Recent programs have focused on lead in soils and in making a difference for people who are growing their own food.
- MSU Extension facilitates Genesee Food Systems/Flint Food Hub planning meetings to support the FoodWorks incubator kitchen at the Flint Farmers’ Market, including its capacity to operate as a food hub. Food hubs are centrally located facilities with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution and marketing of locally produced food products. This provides wider access to institutional and retail markets for small to mid-sized producers, and increasing access of fresh healthy food for consumers.