OSU Extension steps up during COVID-19 pandemic
August 20, 2020
STILLWATER, Okla. – For more than a century, Oklahoma State University Extension specialists and educators have provided research-based information and resources to help Oklahomans lead their best lives possible. This has been especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite office closures, social distancing and overall concern about the unknown, family and consumer sciences state specialists and county educators continued to provide resources and programs for all Oklahoma residents.
“We saw the various needs arise in our communities and we did what we’ve always done – stepped up to the plate to help,” said Susan Holliday, Woods County family and consumer sciences educator. “Whether it was sewing masks to donate to local hospitals, adapting technology to continue providing programming to our audiences and jumping numerous other hurdles, we did what was needed.”
One of the first things many FCS educators, 4-H’ers and members of the Oklahoma Home and Community Education group started on was making cloth face coverings. Just the OHCE groups alone from around the state have sewn more than 40,000 masks and donated them to veterans centers, hospitals, medical offices, nursing homes, childcare facilities, city and county government offices, grocery stores, fire departments and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Many of Oklahoma’s citizens heeded the advice to stay home as much as possible to reduce the risk of infection. However, Hollidays’ studies have shown that social isolation can contribute to spikes in stress hormone levels, disrupted sleep and other health-related issues.
“FCS educators made the effort to provide social engagement to elderly residents through phone calls, personal notes, Zoom meetings and social activity challenges through Facebook or traditional calling trees,” Holliday said. “We’ve received great feedback from our clients who were excited to learn new technology such as Zoom and being able to communicate with friends.”
With a bit of ingenuity, programming through the Community Nutrition Education Program continued across Oklahoma. CNEP nutrition education assistants were able to adapt both youth and adult nutrition programs to remote learning.
During this time of pandemic, Extension educators used social media platforms to their advantage to share information and resources. They shared information that reached more than 139,000 residents regarding food safety, COVID safety, the importance of handwashing and wearing face masks, as well as healthy snacks and food storage. Some also posted a weekly video series encouraging families to cook meals together.
Other programs continued with lessons and information mailed to clients and followed up with weekly check-ins via telephone.
“I’m proud to be a part of such a great organization that puts the needs of the people of Oklahoma first. I’m glad to be able to help the residents of my county through such a trying time,” Holliday said. “Of course, we prefer being able to meet in person with our clients and club members, but we have managed, and will continue to manage making all of our Extension resources available to the public throughout this challenging time.”