U of M cuts local SNAP jobs

WORTHINGTON -- The University of Minnesota's Nobles County Extension Office and Extension Committee members learned Monday that nutrition education assistants Carol Langseth and Letica Rodriguez, who staff the SNAP-Ed program (Supplemental Nutrit...

WORTHINGTON - The University of Minnesota’s Nobles County Extension Office and Extension Committee members learned Monday that nutrition education assistants Carol Langseth and Letica Rodriguez, who staff the SNAP-Ed program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education) for Nobles County, will be working their last day Tuesday.
Due to a restructuring of the program announced last month by U of M Extension office, there will now be individual nutrition educator serving multiple counties, instead of two per county.
“We’ve had to cut about 40 percent of the positions across the state, and because of that created 45 regional SNAP-Ed educators and six regional coordinators that supervise the educators,” said Aimee Viniard-Weideman, the director of communications at U of M Extension as well as assistant dean.
December’s announcement of looming cuts was made to regional Extension faculty and staff across the state. Viniard-Weideman explained the restructuring process.
“Our federal funding, like in all states, received an unexpected 28 percent cut in the SNAP-Ed funding in January 2013 through the American Taxpayer Relief Act,” she said. “Since that funding has not been restored and the future of federal funding under the Farm Bill has not been resolved, we were left with no choice but to restructure our program.”

The new regional SNAP-Ed educators will be in their new positions early this year. They will then work with local community partners to determine educational programs and delivery methods based on income-eligible participants in their counties.
“I think it’s very important to note and to make clear that this position will not be like the old one,” Viniard-Weideman said. “The SNAP-Ed educators will not just be working on projects within their regional counties; they will be working on initiatives that will go across county lines.
“So far, we have filled four of the regional coordinator positions and 26 of the SNAP-Ed educator positions,” Viniard-Weideman added.
It has been decided that Nobles County will be one of the counties with a regional office. Viniard-Weideman explained the criteria in deciding which counties will have such offices.
“We focused on the number of people in each county that qualify for the SNAP-Ed program, and the number of schools that have 50 percent or more of students that qualify for free or reduced lunches,” she said.
The position in Nobles County has not been filled yet, but a second round of searching will be available to current Extension staff members as well as the general public.
“I think for this position we really want someone who has the experience and knowledge in nutrition,” Viniard-Weideman said. “For Nobles County, we’ve determined that someone who is bilingual is key for this position, which doesn’t always include translating but being able to create culturally sensitive material.”
Even though the new position will cover various counties across southwest Minnesota, Viniard-Weideman stressed that Extension is committed to the training and orientation of this new position.
“I think the tough thing will be for people to understand is that we can’t do the same thing as we had in the past,” she said. “However, our staff is committed to the work they do and the people they serve, so we are just as committed to working with the staff and making these positions manageable.”
In a statement issued to Extension Committee members, Holli Arp, Regional Director of the Nobles County Extension office, said:
“Carol Langseth and Letica Rodriguez have been excellent educators for Nobles County. Their commitment to making a difference with the audiences they serve is greatly appreciated, and their positive approach to the work will be greatly missed. We wish them both the very best in all that they do.”

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