Michigan State University Extension was honored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the organization’s quick and comprehensive response to the residents of Flint affected by lead-contaminated drinking water. The prestigious Abraham Lincoln Honor Award for External Partnerships recognizes groups who have made outstanding contributions that support the USDA’s mission and goals.
“I’m proud that MSU Extension was able to quickly mobilize and lead the university-wide response to the Flint water emergency,” director of MSU Extension, Jeff Dwyer said. “Our team members in Flint quickly identified community needs; developed materials to educate the community about the dangers of lead absorption, especially in young children; taught how to mitigate the effects of lead with quality nutrition; and worked with community and statewide partners to raise awareness and facilitate donations of healthy foods and drinks to area food banks.”
Among MSU Extension’s efforts were identifying the highest risk areas in need of education and outreach, facilitating the donation of 12,000 gallons of milk to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan with support from the Michigan Milk Producers Association and Kroger Co., developing nutrition guidebooks and fact sheets, presenting nutrition food demonstrations at the Flint Farmers’ Market, and connecting with partner organizations to fund and distribute water filters and soil tests with the community group Edible Flint.
Deanna East, an MSU Extension associate director focused on health and nutrition programming, who helped coordinate the organization’s response in Flint, said that this team effort included coordination with the Pediatric Public Health Initiative (PPHI), led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. The initiative includes Hurley Children’s Hospital and the MSU College of Human Medicine.
“We were quick to step up when PPHI was formed,” East said. “Working with a strong coalition gives us the opportunity to put science into practice. Our work in Flint is not done. We have been embedded in the Flint community long before the water emergency, and we’ll be here long after. We will continue to connect communities with evidence-based resources. That’s what Extension is all about.”