Mi Fresh Fish Project wins Outstanding Outreach Programming Award

The award, given by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Program Leaders, honors projects that go above and beyond to further Sea Grant's mission of benefiting the Great Lakes and coastal communities.

A large white tent is shown from a distance with people inside at a trade show event outside the Michigan capital on a very sunny day.
The Mi Fresh Fish Expo was part of the Mi Fresh Fish Project. The project was awarded the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network's Outstanding Outreach Program Award.

Michigan Sea Grant is excited to announce that the "Mi Fresh Fish Project” was recently named the 2023 Great Lakes Outstanding Outreach Program during the September Great Lakes Sea Grant Network conference held in Evanston, Ill. Lauren Jescovitch, the Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator who spearheaded the project, accepted the award. The award, given by the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Program Leaders, honors projects that go above and beyond to further Sea Grant's mission of benefiting the Great Lakes and coastal communities.

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Michigan Sea Grant Extension educator Lauren Jescovitch accepted the Outstanding Outreach Programming Award for the Mi Fresh Fish Project. Photo: Michigan Sea Grant

The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network includes programs from each of the states bordering the Great Lakes (Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois-Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York) and also Vermont for Lake Champlain. The Great Lakes Sea Grant Network plays a central role in supplying usable solutions to pressing problems, and providing research, education and outreach needed to better manage Great Lakes resources.

Marketing campaign and expo

The Mi Fresh Fish Project included developing an educational marketing campaign and an in-person expo at the Michigan state capitol to showcase Michigan fish and fish producers. Many local producers experienced severe economic losses and instability during the COVID-19 pandemic, and marketing directly to consumers became more and more important. Jescovitch worked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to secure $543,100 in Michigan-allocated federal COVID-19 relief funds to support a consumer education campaign to raise awareness and understanding about fish raised, caught, or processed by local Michigan businesses.

In 2022, Jescovitch worked with Michigan-based marketing company Monte Consulting to conduct a consumer survey and hone the campaign’s message. Survey results indicated that only 17 percent of Michigan residents eat enough fish to meet federal nutrition recommendations. The survey and additional research shaped the Mi Fresh Fish campaign, which launched in January 2023 as a suite of social media ads driving traffic to a website developed by Michigan Sea Grant highlighting the value of local fish and producers. The ads have reached millions of viewers and educated thousands of consumers.

At the same time, Jescovitch also assisted the Michigan Fish Producers Association (MFPA) and the Michigan Aquaculture Association (MAA) in planning and hosting the first-ever Mi Fresh Fish Expo on the capitol lawn in Lansing on June 13, 2023. More than 500 people attended the Expo, including at least 19 legislators or legislative staff members – one of the key target audiences. Several attendees commented to vendors that it was the best event they had experienced on the capitol lawn.

Jescovitch would be the first to say that the Mi Fresh Fish Project was a team effort, supported by many others from Michigan Sea Grant, MFPA, MAA, and other agencies. But the event and marketing campaign could only have happened with her dedication, facilitation, and support.

A national network

Sea Grant is a national network of 34 programs located in coastal and Great Lakes states, as well as Puerto Rico and Guam. These programs represent unique partnerships between state universities and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which administers the program. For over 50 years, this National Sea Grant College Program has supported coastal and Great Lakes communities. Congressional committees have repeatedly cited Sea Grant as one of the most efficient and cost-effective programs funded by the federal government.

Michigan Sea Grant is a collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension.

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