Monday Update: NIFA guidelines, food initiative, and more

April 19, 2021

National Institute of Food and Agriculture guidelines state we can no longer guess (through observation) our clients’ ethnicity, race, and gender (as I reported in my January 19 message). Instead, we need to be intentional and ask our clients to voluntarily self-report. Just recently, NIFA provided additional guidance regarding the appropriate collection of client ethnicity, race, and gender demographic information. Moving forward, we should collect voluntarily self-reported client ethnicity, race, and gender information via online registration processes, online post-program surveys, or individual sign-in forms that clients complete and directly submit to program facilitators/educators. Client civil rights information should not be collected via a program sign-in sheet because of privacy concerns. Sign-in sheets allow clients to view other clients’ information.

If the client is 17 or younger, NIFA states that the youth’s legal guardian should be asked to voluntarily provide client ethnicity, race, and gender information for the youth client. This data collection should occur via online registration processes whenever possible. If hard copy registration forms are necessary, legal guardians should complete and submit the forms directly to program facilitators/educators. Never ask clients 17 years of age or younger to self-report their ethnicity, race, and gender.

Pesticide safety recertification issue

Some private and commercial applicators have not received their pesticide safety recertification certificate. Because of the delay, they may not be able to purchase or apply products, they may be frustrated, and in some cases, they may have contacted county extension professionals even though the delay is not their fault. I want all our county office colleagues to know that I am sorry you have been put in this position. I have contacted the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and they are aware of the backlog. Kathy Wilson of our Pesticide Safety Education Program has been working closely with IDALS and recently sent you an update via email. Her advice is the same as I received from Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Julie Kenney: for quicker turnaround time, applicators who have concerns should use the self-service portal at Again, I am sorry that you have had to deal with this added stress. We hope it won’t happen again.

Update: Engaging Iowans in improving food supply, safety, and access

According to Feeding America, 9.7% of Iowa faces food insecurity (2018), and 1 in 10 people and 1 in 7 children struggle with hunger (2020). During the pandemic, Iowa experienced food supply chain disruptions and an uptick in consumer interest in local foods, home gardening, and small farm production. Food supply, safety, and access I-team co-chairs Courtney Long and Susan DeBlieck note that these areas of interest require food safety considerations for production, harvesting, and preparation, and may create opportunities for community development related to food supply.

Fifteen counties have determined food as a critical issue. Most are interested in food access, including donation and pantry programs; educational components such as farm to school and master gardeners; and small farm and food production. Marshall County is taking a multi-faceted approach. Program coordinator Chelsea Martens and Master Gardeners work with a local pantry, schools, public libraries, and the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, which all have community gardens. Produce from these gardens and the garden at the extension office is donated to local food pantries, and this year 11 locations will participate. In partnership with the gardens, Chelsea educates youth about the importance of growing their own fresh produce and giving back to their community; 590 students across the Marshalltown school district currently are enrolled. They can sign up to garden at their school this summer and harvest the produce for donation.

At local farmers markets, Marshall County provides researched-based information on growing produce, Spend Smart Eat Smart recipes, and other materials for their clients to take home. Grisel Chavez, family nutrition program assistant, teaches basic nutrition to underserved populations in the community. The county also works with Farm, Food, and Enterprise Development on research in resilient community food systems. The Marshall County team gathered their partners to give feedback on how the community has been affected by recent natural disasters and COVID-19.

I-team member Christine Hradek, who coordinates the EFNEP and SNAP-Ed programs, adds that there is a momentum related to work with food pantries throughout our organization. Thirty-two counties are participating in Growing Together Iowa this year, and over the program’s five-year history, half of all counties have participated. The SNAP-Ed team has created a healthy food pantry donation guide that any county may use. It is available on the Extension Store.

More notes

  • Goodbye … and welcome, March 2021: Please review this list of individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach in the past month, as well as those who have joined our organization.
  • Please review the April program update for current examples of what is happening across our programs.
  • On Saturday we held the first of three COVID-19 Vaccination Information Sessions. (The recording of the session is available on the website.) Participants from across the state joined virtually to hear Dr. Caitlin Pedati and Dr. Pat Winokur discuss vaccine safety, efficacy, and distribution. The remaining sessions are tonight at 6:00 and April 24 at 10:00 a.m., presented in both Spanish and English. Please get the word out about these learning opportunities. See the MyExtension COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative page for resources to promote the sessions and background information about our role.
  • Congratulations to Iowa State’s Data Science for the Public Good team, north central regional winner of the 2021 Innovation and Creativity Award from the National Association of Community Development Professionals. The award recognizes the team’s work to successfully implement the inaugural DSPG summer program during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team will be recognized at the 2021 NACDEP Virtual Conference May 17-19. For more information, contact Christopher Seeger,

John D. Lawrence
Vice President for Extension and Outreach