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Making an Impact Through Health and Nutrition


April 10, 2023 - <mckendrb@msu.edu>,

What does it mean to be healthy?

Being healthy means tending to our unique physical health needs, however that takes shape. Whether practicing tai chi in a sunny park or ensuring our immunizations are up to date, we can improve our physical health by managing chronic conditions, preventing injury and illness, and embracing joyful movement to the best of our individual abilities.

It also includes taking care of our nutritional health by learning about how to safely prepare nutritious meals within our budgets. Intentionally fueling our bodies with fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods — and learning how to prepare our meals safely — ensures a healthy food supply for our families and communities. Recognizing that the state has a diverse agriculture and food system, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension helps people grow, handle and preserve food, as well as prepare healthful recipes, to take advantage of the delicious Michigan-grown bounty from backyard gardens to local farmers markets.

Social-emotional and mental health is also key. We can care for this part of our health in a multitude of ways, from practicing mindfulness to learning how to support someone in a mental health crisis. This allows us to cope with negative situations and feelings, foster strong and healthy relationships with others and ourselves, and live with purpose and meaning.

Good sleep, access to healthy foods, supportive relationships — what it means to be healthy is different to us all. That’s why MSU Extension is here to support all the ways we can live healthier lives and build healthier communities, by bringing the vast knowledge and resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses.

A vision of health equity

The opportunity to be healthy should be freely available to everyone, regardless of their circumstances, social and economic conditions, or any other preventable differences. That is why health equity drives the vision of MSU Extension’s health and nutrition efforts, from staffing to programming. As an organization, MSU Extension leans into diversity, inclusion, social justice, climate change, systemic racism and other issues such as people’s access to clean drinking water and immunizations. To narrow gaps in health disparities and ultimately achieve health equity, MSU Extension considers the underlying systems, policies and environments that shape the social determinants of health.

MSU Extension staff recognize that structural inequities such as racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, classism and ageism affect everything from access to need. We will continue to focus on these issues as we shape, deliver and innovate programming. From focusing on harm reduction in opioid misuse awareness efforts to the work of the Refugee Health Task Force, which brings culturally relevant health education to Michigan’s immigrant populations, MSU Extension remains committed to ensuring our programs are not just open to all, but that all feel welcomed, seen and heard.

In 2022 . . .

  • 152 staff comprised MSU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute.
  • 4,190 health and nutrition programs were delivered, both in person and virtually.
  • 2,053,920 people viewed food and health content on MSU Extension’s website.
  • 8,821 adults participated in 512 food safety programs.
  • 8,309 youth participated in MSU Extension health and food safety programming.
  • 35,387 youth were reached through SNAP–Ed community nutrition and physical activity programming.
  • 31,000+ people subscribed to MSU Extension’s quarterly health and nutrition email digests, which feature upcoming events, educational articles, seasonal recipes, videos and more.


When it comes to nutrition and physical activity, MSU Extension's team of experts brings evidence-based education into communities across the state. Our staff delivers educational programming to communities and helps create lasting healthy changes, from kitchen tables to school cafeterias. Programming is supported through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–Education (SNAP–Ed).

In 2022 . . . 

  • 200,438 adults and youth participated in MSU Extension's in-person and virtual nutrition education programming.
  • 532,236 individuals were engaged through indirect outreach by MSU Extension's nutrition and physical activity education, which includes videos, social media postings, podcasts, articles and fact sheets.

Key Programs & Offerings

Policy, systems and environmental changes (PSEs). PSE work focuses on changing environments such as schools, workplaces and community centers to make healthier choices easier for everyone. Switching out the sugary beverages in a school vending machine for healthier options is one example of a PSE change. In 2022, MSU Extension helped implement almost 37,000 PSE changes at 185 sites across Michigan, reaching 157,191 people.

Virtual education and outreach. MSU Extension continues to meet people where they are in a variety of virtual spaces, including on social media. Through Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram, the MI Health Matters social media channels feature short-form educational videos, posts, articles and more. These resources give followers and viewers nutrition and physical activity information through cooking tips and recipes, exercise how-to videos, educational articles and other means. In 2022, MI Health Matters received more than 21,000 views of its educational videos on YouTube. In fall 2022, MSU Extension also launched the Making Healthy Choices 60+ video resource library. In convenient video format, it delivers trusted, evidence-based nutrition information directly to adults aged 60 and over.

Growing Healthy Eaters. An innovative new project funded by an Allen Foundation grant, Growing Healthy Eaters aims to help childcare providers serve healthy foods while teaching kids about community agriculture and gardening. At the heart of this program is the concept of “farm to early childhood education,” or farm to ECE. Among other benefits, by participating in the Growing Healthy Eaters program, providers will receive free gardening supplies, free food procurement supplies or both; nutrition education and a subscription to community-supported agriculture boxes of local produce, offered for six months at a sliding-scale cost based on income. In 2022, the program began recruiting childcare providers and farmers, with priority given to  farmers who are women, Black, Indigenous or people of color.

Other programs and offerings include:

  • Cooking Matters, a nutrition program where participants learn how to eat healthy, cook and grocery shop on a limited budget.
  • Eat Healthy, Be Active, a six-week class for adults that teaches how to make physical activity and nutrition part of daily life. Eat Healthy, Be Active is also available virtually in American Sign Language.
  • My Way to Wellness, a free, online self-paced nutrition program available to individuals living in Michigan who are eligible for supplemental food assistance.
  • Teen Cuisine, a nutrition and physical activity education program for teens in sixth through 12th grade. Students learn cooking skills, as well as general information about nutrition, food safety and physical activity.
  • Show Me Nutrition, a nutrition education program taught at schools where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. This program for pre-K through eighth-grade youth promotes healthy eating, positive body image, physical activity and food safety.
  • Peak Health and Performance, which provides young athletes sound nutrition education to improve their athletic performance and overall health.
  • SNAP outreach with veterans, which helps connect military veterans with SNAP benefits and MSU Extension resources. MSU Extension attended veteran coalition meetings and fairs, participated in the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency’s radio show, and used social media for program promotion. In 2022, the SNAP Outreach team distributed 13,857 brochures and 7,483 USDA seed packets to more than 5,000 veterans and veteran/military organizations statewide.

Our Impact, Their Words

Participants and partners have shared what MSU Extension’s nutrition and physical activity programming have done for them:

"The MSU Extension SNAP–Ed program has really made a huge difference here at the garden.” — Sara Bolan, director of U-Dig-It Garden in Mason County

“I will now make a point to stop and do something active, like go for a walk or play with the kids." — Eat Healthy, Be Active participant

"After joining the MSU [Extension] nutrition program . . . I now walk for two miles at least three days a week. I prepare my meals in a healthier way and make sure my plate is more balanced with fruits and vegetables. This is something I had not done previously. I also grocery shop differently. And this has helped my family. I find my cart full of fresh fruits, vegetables and more lean meats. I try to stay away from processed foods, which were previously my easy go-to." — EFNEP program participant

"I started eating more vegetables, and I exercise every day, even if it’s just sitting in a chair and doing exercises. I have lost five pounds over the last six weeks by changing my eating and drinking habits and doing a little exercise each day. I enjoyed the class and found it very helpful in eating and exercise habits and saving money shopping for food." — SNAP-Ed program participant

"Thanks for showing me how to cut open and eat a mango; I told my mother that I wanted her to buy some for our family to eat . . . I can’t wait to show her how to choose a ripe one and eat it!" — Teen Cuisine participant


A safe food and water supply is at the heart of healthy communities. MSU Extension’s team of dedicated food safety experts deliver many different virtual and in-person programs — whether people are searching for evidence-based recipes for canning seasonal produce or entrepreneurs are looking to safely launch a Cottage Food business.

In 2022 . . .

  • 8,821 people participated in MSU Extension’s food safety and food preservation programming.
  • 512 programs and events were held by MSU Extension food safety and food preservation staff.
  • 811 consumer questions were answered on MSU Extension’s Food Safety Hotline (1-877-643-9882).

Key Programs & Offerings

Food safety training for entrepreneurs and service workers. Under Michigan’s Cottage Food Law, people can sell select food items made in their home kitchens at places such as farmers markets. MSU Extension empowers these entrepreneurs with the knowledge they need to safely launch their businesses. In 2022, almost 1,500 people attended an MSU Extension Cottage Food Law class. For those already working in the food service industry, MSU Extension trains people in ServSafe, a national certification program that teaches employees about the latest food safety issues and ways to avoid foodborne illnesses. In 2022, MSU Extension held 142 ServSafe classes.

Home Food Preservation. MSU Extension’s food preservation programming covers evidence-based information on many facets of preservation, including freezing, water-bath canning, pressure canning and dehydrating. More than 3,200 people participated in an MSU Extension virtual or in-person food preservation class in 2022 — 129 of whom completed the Online Home Food Preservation self-paced virtual course.

Think Food Safety resources. Think Food Safety (TFS) began in 2020 as a food safety awareness campaign to educate the public on safely purchasing from food vendors and to encourage prospective entrepreneurs to safely launch their Cottage Food businesses. In 2022, the TFS team grew its social media channel and launched a podcast with five episodes, with topics from preserving garden bounties to licensing a food business.

Other programs and offerings include:

  • Safe Food = Healthy Kids, an interactive food safety workshop for childcare providers. In 2022, MSU Extension also launched the Safe Food = Healthy Babies webpage, which features food safety information for infant care.
  • Food safety resources for food pantries and during emergency situations and natural disasters and other concerning events. In 2022, MSU Extension food safety educators authored or co-authored five key educational articles helping people navigate food safety concerns about raising chickens and consuming eggs and chicken meat during the avian flu outbreak. Several news outlets reprinted these articles, and they were viewed more than 13,000 times on MSU Extension’s website throughout the year.
  • Michigan Fresh and other food safety resources available in Spanish and Arabic. In 2022, MSU Extension educators updated and translated 12 key fact sheets to Spanish and Arabic. Topics ranged from using a slow cooker to handling leftovers safely. This work continues into 2023 with a focus on updating Michigan Fresh materials, which encourage people to explore the state’s bounty of fresh, local, seasonal produce.

Our Impact, Their Words

Participants and partners have shared what MSU Extension’s nutrition and physical activity programming have done for them:

“This class is super helpful. I'm preparing to plant my first garden this spring. Thank you!" — Preserving MI Harvest participant

“This webinar was very helpful and informative...I feel better prepared if and when floodwaters enter my home again. or even if my electricity goes out to my fridge." — Food Safety During Emergencies programming participant

"I didn’t want the day to end without thanking you for the valuable information that you and your team provided today. We have received many nice comments, and our community is eager to have access to knowledge and resources like this." — Programming partner at a cultural center, after hosting MSU Extension nutrition and food safety programming

"Thank you for an informative class. I learned a lot and know the information will make me a better volunteer." — Pantry Food Safety - It’s Your Job

“Using social media to connect people to educational opportunities, resources and information is one simple step that can have a very large impact and Think Food Safety is working to accomplish this goal.” — National Extension of Family and Consumer Sciences

“I was so very grateful to have experts who knew the answers to the many nuanced questions. I'm in California, which has different laws... I learned so much about WHY the laws are in place for many items that are NOT on the approved list for the cottage food industry.”— Cottage Food Law participant

"I found this class to be very useful. I have used old-fashioned recipes that have failed. Now I’m more confident to preserve the right way." — Home Food Preservation participant

"What a great presentation today! I’m so happy to attend and learn great information and to know I do a lot of things already to keep a clean kitchen. I wanted to say thank you for coming, and we would love to have you come again for more presentations/classes." — Home Food Preservation participant


Healthy relationships are the cornerstone of wellness. MSU Extension offers educational programming in a variety of areas to support social-emotional health and set people on a path toward creating lasting, supportive and positive relationships — with themselves and others.

MSU Extension also focuses on multiple facets of chronic disease management, including diabetes prevention and management, immunization health education and outreach, chronic pain management, sleep education, Tai Chi for falls prevention and arthritis, resources for caregivers and much more.

In 2022 . . .

  • 22,426 adults were reached through MSU Extension’s health programming.
  • 36 chronic disease educational articles were authored by MSU Extension.
  • 120 referrals were received through MSU Extension’s online health program referral form.

Key Programs & Offerings

Managing Farm Stress resources and programming. As a leader in farm stress management, MSU Extension has developed a variety of resources to support agriculture professionals and their families as they navigate challenges. Resources include an innovative online teletherapy program (which connects farmers in need to therapists with an agricultural background), free virtual courses and more. In 2022, MSU Extension delivered 39 presentations and educational farm stress programs to more than 1,200 participants.

The Michigan Vaccine Project. Vaccination prevents community spread of disease and protects Michigan’s most vulnerable residents, including babies, immunocompromised people and older adults. Through the Michigan Vaccine Project (MVP), MSU Extension partners with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide people with trusted, evidence-based vaccination information. As part of this work, MVP launched a statewide outreach campaign using digital, radio and print materials — as well as in-person and virtual education programming — to inform Michiganders’ vaccination decision making. In 2022, MVP hosted six educational webinars, with topics ranging from childhood immunization recommendations to safe holiday gatherings; 130 people attended. Also as part of MVP, a group of 4-H youth ambassadors offer peer-led education in communities throughout the state and are creating a youth-led vaccine education campaign of their own. By December 2022, the MVP team had onboarded 11 youth ambassadors.

Chronic pain management and opioid misuse prevention education. Dealing with chronic pain can be complex and challenging. MSU Extension offers a variety of support for people managing their chronic conditions, through programs such as Personal Action Toward Health (known as PATH), which has specialized modules for diabetes and chronic pain management. MSU Extension also offers resources and education for opioid misuse prevention education through resources such as regional and Harm Reduction Saves Lives, a pocket guide for responding to opioid overdoses.

Other programs and offerings include:

  • Mindfulness education, through Stress Less With Mindfulness and the Mindfulness for Better Living suite of programs. To better meet people where they are, MSU Extension offers a variety of mindfulness programming both in person and virtually. In 2022, MSU Extension educators held almost 100 virtual mindfulness events and programs, reaching 6,826 participants.
  • Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a program that teaches people how to support others who may be undergoing a mental health crisis and connect them to vital resources. MHFA is offered in modules specific to adults and youth. In 2022, MSU Extension certified 445 individuals in MHFA, of which more than 80 were out of state residents and 27 were employees of MSU Extension.
  • RELAX: Alternatives to Anger, which teaches adults how to better handle anger and stress in the home and workplace. This program focuses on healthy relationships and teaches communication skills. Over 2,400 people participated in the four-lesson RELAX series in 2022.
  • Resources and programs relevant for Michigan’s aging population, including falls prevention classes such as A Matter of Balance, Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention, and SLeep Education for Everyone (SLEEP). MSU Extension developed the SLEEP program, available in person and virtually, alongside sleep researchers to improve the quantity and quality of sleep for people of all ages. More than 350 people took an MSU Extension SLEEP course in 2022.

Our Impact, Their Words

Participants and partners have shared what MSU Extension’s nutrition and physical activity programming have done for them:

“Tai Chi movement and the SLEEP program was so beneficial for our residents. It gave them tools and techniques to use movement to assist them with being mindful. In addition, by providing a [Mandarin Chinese] translator, it allowed the program to be inclusive.” — Programming partner from a senior residential facility

"Thank you. I didn’t believe in the counseling program when you shared it with me, but this program gave me my life back and might have saved it in the process." — Farm stress teletherapy program participant

"You rock! Thank you for teaching me these last two classes. . .Tai Chi helped me walk again after breaking my leg, ankle and foot. You deserve an award for your dedication and support." — Letter from Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention participant to MSU Extension instructor

“It's so easy to feel stuck and tired with chronic illness. You have helped me to improve my life." — Chronic Pain PATH participant

"I absolutely love this class. Thank you so much." — Mindfulness Fridays participant

"Vaccine awareness and education is important because everyone’s health is important and, in the days of misinformation, it is hard for Michiganders to learn proper health and safety with vaccines. Vaccines can save many lives, making it super important to ensure everyone has proper health and safety information." — Michigan Vaccine Project youth ambassador

"Last week, I had a victory and was able to listen to my wife at the height of the conflict. Afterwards, she thanked me for how I listened and didn’t try to solve it. She was super appreciative." — RELAX: Alternatives to Anger participant

Get Involved 

To learn more about MSU Extension’s health and nutrition programming, visit our Food & Health website at extension.msu.edu/health. For more information, contact Cheryl Eschbach, health and nutrition director, at cheryl@msu.edu



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