WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) has always been the place to turn for questions about, well, anything. But with many staff working from home, it’s been a bit tricky to field those questions about how to get the new baby to latch for a feeding or how to properly defrost a turkey or even if that old can of food from the back of the pantry is still safe to eat. So staff in the nutrition and parenting department devised a helpline to redirect calls directly while the front office is closed. The helpline number is (315) 628-0262.
Although the CCE office is in the process of a phased reopening, most educators remain working remotely. With the new helpline, anyone can call or even text their question and it will go immediately to a staff person via Google Voice. If the caller needs further guidance, they can receive follow-up communication from the appropriate staff person, all while staff are working from home. The intention is to make it easier for people to get their questions answered with less turn-around time when staff are out of the office or over the weekend. As more staff return to work the helpline will continue to serve as a way to connect.
In addition to fielding incoming calls through the helpline, the CCE Parenting and Nutrition Department has a new text messaging service which allows staff to share information out with the community, as well. Individuals who sign up for this service will receive 1-2 weekly texts with updates about programming and workshops, tips on healthy living, and information on community resources. Because the messages are developed and sent by local staff, the content will reflect current events in and around our community. This is especially important during the covid-19 pandemic, when things are rapidly changing and finding factual, evidence-based information is crucial. To make communication even better, if someone has a follow-up question about the text message they receive, they can text their question back and receive an answer that will go to just them and not the entire listserve. Participants will be asked to confirm their participation by texting Yes. They can unsubscribe at any time by texting @LEAVE.
The helpline number is currently being advertised through a weekly CCE newsletter, also produced in the Nutrition and Parenting Department, which is distributed to over 3,000 households weekly through local school district meal distribution programs and various local nonprofits. Participants in upcoming programming will also be asked if they wish to join the text message service either by an educator or through a brief survey.
–Cornell Cooperative Extension
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