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Donna Anderson earns U of M Extension's Distinguished Staff Award for Nutrition Educator

The University of Minnesota Extension bestowed Donna Anderson with the 2017 Dean's Distinguished Staff Award for Nutrition Educator. She is the SNAP-Ed educator for Hubbard and Becker counties. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

Donna Anderson, a nutritionist for Hubbard and Becker County's University of Minnesota Extension offices, recently received the 2017 Dean's Distinguished Staff Award for Nutrition Educator.

She was the only SNAP-Ed educator in the state to receive the award.

"It was a surprise to me!," Anderson said.

A colleague from Crow Wing County made sure that Anderson arrived at a May 18 staff development meeting where the award was revealed.

Even her husband had been sworn to secrecy.

Anderson was nominated by her supervisor, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator Sara Van Offelen.

Van Offelen cited Anderson's "noteworthy projects," covering multiple counties, as reasons for recognition.

Anderson has worked for U of M Extension for 10 years, but joined the Hubbard and Becker county offices only two years ago. She previously worked in Wadena County.

Within the past year, Anderson implemented "Farm to School Community Nights" in cooperation with the Park Rapids School District, R. D. Offutt, Hubbard County Economic Development and local farmers.

"Her work is highly dependent on partner collaborations in the communities she serves," Van Offelen wrote.

Anderson partnered with the Park Rapids Farmers Market to increase community participation, "especially by limited income audiences," wrote Van Offelen.

Through Anderson's "Cooking Matters" classes, participants improve their cooking skills, nutrition knowledge and food shopping behaviors.

"To host a 'Cooking Matters' class, partners fund the cost for food. This can be challenging and Donna has helped direct partners to local grants/sponsorships for the funding," explained Van Offelen. "Donna recruited chefs to lead the cooking portion of the class and recruited volunteers to help with food distribution that participants take home to make the recipes."

Anderson collaborated with the FATHER Project, Park Rapids Alternative Learning Center, MAHUBE-OTWA Head Start and Nevis Community Education to conduct the cooking classes.

"Another noteworthy education and environmental intervention strategy Donna has implemented is targeted programming to fourth grade classrooms. Donna has taught 'Go Wild with Fruits and Veggies!' curriculum in three schools, including Nevis, Park Rapids and Detroit Lakes," added Van Offelen.

The program encourages students to taste-test new fruits and vegetables.

Through the "One Vegetable, One Community" initiative, Anderson is currently promoting a new, community-wide gardening campaign that encourages gardener of all levels to grow and prepare a single vegetable. This year's designated vegetable is green and purple beans.

Residents, businesses, churches, government offices and others are urged to grow the tasty legumes in containers, raised beds, planter boxes or gardens. Free seed packets were made available throughout the Park Rapids area.

Anderson thanked all of her volunteers for their assistance with these programs.