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New Project Manager: AIM for CHangE

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December 4, 2019


Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today, we're introducing the new project manager for Aim for Change Initiative, Masey Smith. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Masey Smith, project manager of Aim for Change with Mississippi State University Extension.

Masey, I know that you have come on as project manager for Aim for Change. How did you decide on what projects and initiatives you should work on in the counties that Aim for Change is targeting?

Masey Smith: Well Amy, that's the real brilliance and ultimate strategy of this project. We don't. Aim for Changes here to enable and empower community members to identify opportunities and needs and then create action plans to address those needs. We build and strengthen coalitions or community action groups to spearhead community initiatives. So really, community coalitions decide how we can help. In some counties, there are food pantries but no shelving to store all the food, or maybe there is enough shelving but not enough providers. In this case, our extension team assist with identifying partnerships and community allies to make those connections and build relationships. Our approach is community centered. We're not going in with a solution, but instead with the tools and resources.

Amy Myers: Now, which counties in the Delta does this program Aim for Change target?

Masey Smith: Well really, Amy, we've got Sharkey, Washington is Issaquah, Sunflower, and we've also got Quitman, Le Flore, Humphreys, and Holmes. It's really that Delta community that we're targeting and we're really looking for expansion, as well.

Amy Myers: How do you know where to start and what is the first step in this process?

Masey Smith: Listening and building relationships is key to our program. It's one thing to tell someone what to do, and in a lot of ways it's easy to say, "You don't have a food pantry, we'll get you in. We don't see a walking track, so let's put down some gravel." But Aim for Change is going further than that. We're connecting community members to everyday destinations, and that requires more planning. But telling people what to do and asking people what they need are quite different. Building relationships is more than sending an email or writing a check, and that is certainly a difficult role for our team and especially our amazing extension agents to play.

Amy Myers: What is your personal interest in this program?

Masey Smith: My grandfather and uncle both have diabetes, and it's debilitating. People don't realize that obesity impacts more than just your weight. It can cause diabetes, and evenly to decrease mobility, and even blindness. In order to prevent and reduce obesity in the Delta and Mississippi as a whole, we need to empathize with the cultures and communities.

Amy Myers: When does this program end and what marks the ending of the Aim for Change projects?

Masey Smith: Unlike most projects, Aim for Change continues its initiatives even after the CDC's funding stopped after five years. You see, the point of sustainability through community efforts, so there is no end date.

Amy Myers: Masey, I understand you have a fascinating background and your field of work. Tell me about that.

Masey Smith: Yes, Amy. Well, coming from kind of a diverse work background, I've worked in South Korea, Birmingham, and also at Mississippi State before, and so combining those experiences with coalitions and with different cultures, I really want to approach the Delta as a unique community. I think that that's something that our team, each of our extension agents, that we really focus on is that we treat it as it's unique and special entity.

Amy Myers: Wow. Aim for Change is such a unique program for us and for our neighbors in the Delta. Where can we go for more information? We have lots of Delta natives and neighbors right here who are excited about Aim for Change.

Masey Smith: You're exactly right, Amy. This is exciting news. We want to spread our love for the Delta, but really put the spotlight on our community members. I'm in the process of launching our social media platforms, but until then, please visit the CDC's website for more information about HOP, or the high obesity program and our efforts alongside the other 14 land grant universities. Also, you can visit extension thought and search Aim for Change. We're excited about our program and thoroughly honored to be entrusted with such an undertaking.

Amy Myers: Thank you so much. Today, we've been speaking with Masey Smith, project manager of Aim for Change at Mississippi State Extension. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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