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FFI Transitions to New Leadership Structure

Posted: December 7, 2012
The NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative entered its sixth year of work in November.  With a focus on sustainability, the leadership structure is transitioning, and there are new faces at the table.

FFI has an integrated and complex leadership structure with multiple components of community engagement through team meetings and work group sessions. For the first five years of the work, this structure has served them well because it facilitated widespread ownership, awareness of the initiative, and momentum across six counties.
Now, FFI is transitioning to governance by a Regional Leadership Council that will provide oversight for the Initiative on a quarterly basis.  An Operations Team will meet more frequently to manage the daily activities between work groups. 

The Regional Leadership Council reflects the broader make-up of the region, including members who give voice to the thinking of traditionally marginalized groups and youth. Consideration is also given to members who can bring access to resources for sustainability. 

The first meeting for the new Regional Leadership Council was held November 27 and includes leadership from each of the core partner organizations as well as school, community and youth representation.  
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Central Community School District Wins USDA award for a Healthy School

Posted: November 28, 2012
Central Community School District in Clayton County has been recognized by the Iowa Department of Education for their efforts to create a healthy environment.   The award was presented at an all-school assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

The school district has received the a Bronze Award through the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.

The district has worked to put in place strict requirements for meals, nutrition education and physical activity.  They are the first school district in the NE Iowa Food & Fitness region to receive the award.   

The USDA announced the honor earlier this year, but Tuesday's event marks the school celebration with student skits, a special appearance from Power Panther, a USDA mascot, and remarks from local school officials as well as Ann Feilmann, chief of the Iowa Department of Education's Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services.

Congratulations to Central staff, students and community!
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2013 Nutrition Calendars Available

Posted: November 10, 2012
With its 2013 Healthy & Homemade calendar, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative are working alongside Governor Branstad's new Healthiest State Initiative to help Iowans live healthier.

Each month features an easy-to-prepare recipe plus menu ideas and an activity tip. The calendar supports MyPlate messages from USDA about balancing calories and avoiding oversized portions and also includes preparation and storage tips. Each month, an illustration shows a complete menu and gives the MyPlate breakdown of proportions.

"The recipes in the calendar feature vegetables and fruits, whole grains or legumes and dairy products – all very important factors of a healthy and whole diet," says Cindy Baumgartner, ISU Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist in northeast Iowa.   "We know activity is important for total health, which is why it is emphasized so greatly in the calendar along with healthy meals."

The calendar has many other key features, including space for goals, daily activity tracking and appointments, as well as menu photos.

Each menu also includes a nutrition analysis that looks just like a package label. The back pages of the calendar provide tips for increasing family meals and conversation starters for children of different ages.

The Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI) is proud to be a sponsor of the 2013 Nutrition Calendar in Allamakee, Clayton, Chickasaw, Howard, Fayette and Winneshiek counties.  Contact the county Iowa State University Extension and Outreach office in those counties for your free copy. 
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FFI Expected to Receive Extended Funding

Posted: November 9, 2012
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is continuing its investment in the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI).  With this support, the initiative now moves from the implementation phase to an extended funding phase with a focus on long-term sustainability.

Collaboration has been a trademark of the FFI for the last five years.  Six rural counties--Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard, and Winneshiek-- have worked together to improve the health and well-being of children and their families in the region.

Their work as been grounded in the principle that they can do more by working together.

The growth has been accompanied by tremendous change and numerous accomplishments, which speak to the strength of this collaborative endeavor.  

FFI staff work diligently to keep long-term partners engaged in the work, bring new partners to the table and sustain efforts to create vibrant communities where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
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Regional Youth Gather for FEEST

Posted: November 9th, 2012
Over 65 4-H youth wellness champions and their adult coaches from fifteen area school districts recently attended the first of four Food & Fitness Regional Youth Leadership Team Meetings. It was a day jam-packed with activities centered on school food.

Before the day even started, the room was abuzz with networking and idea-sharing among members of different schools over a delicious breakfast of local yogurt parfaits. The morning began with a skit performed by several members of the FFI School Outreach team to weed through the facts and myths surrounding school lunch this year. A discussion on fostering cafeteria advocacy followed.

Participants then rotated through two groups of local food fun! The first activity was a tour of the Rolling Hills Greenhouse, owned by Eric and Fern Unruh a few miles outside of West Union. The Rolling Hills Greenhouse is sea of gorgeous salad greens and herbs. The tour was a great opportunity to connect with local producers and learn more about the ins-and-outs of farming in Northeast Iowa.

While not on tour at the greenhouse, participants used local produce to prepare a FEEST-style lunch for the group. FEEST, Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team, is a Seattle-based program that brings youth together to prepare a delicious, healthy meal while learning about the local food community.

Students worked diligently under the guidance of CiCi Mueller, Postville FEEST coordinator. In only two hours, they had a bounty of roasted veggies, homemade applesauce, sweet potato fries, bruschetta, and much more! Adding this to salad greens donated from Rolling Hills, bread, chicken, and milk made for one delicious, nutritious lunch. The FEEST made an impression on several students, and many coaches commented this was the best youth meeting to date.

The day concluded with a series breakout sessions focused on transferring the knowledge gained at the gathering back to the school communities. Before adjourning, adult coaches were given a packet of information which included a mini-grant application to implement a FEEST or similar program centered on food education in schools.

The Iowa State University Extension 4-H Program thrives on creating opportunities for youth to be productive citizens and successful learners.  For more information on joining 4-H, contact your county ISU Extension Office.  ISU Extension is a proud partner of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative,
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Worksites Participate in Foodbox Program

Posted: November 9, 2012
Two NE Iowa employers are hosting a worksite foodbox program featuring local foods for their employees.  The program is part of a research study conducted by ISU Extension in partnership with the NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition and non-profit, Allamakee New Beginnings.

Over 30 employees at Rockwell Collins and the ISU Extension office in Decorah receive a grocery bag full of local food items each week.  Employees pay $15 or $30 for their bag and order the bags one week before delivery.

The food bags include meat, milk, eggs, yogurt, produce, breads, and other products from NE Iowa farms.  Oneota Community Food Coop is providing storage and staging space.  The project is funded in part by a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant.  Nick McCann, program coordinator from ISU Extension and Outreach, is leading the project. 

"Busy families need convenient access to local food.  Delivering local food to the places where people work provides convenient access to great local products at a reasonable price," says McCann. "Buying local products keeps money in our communities and allows us to enjoy the bounty that Northeast Iowa farms can provide."

McCann is studying the mechanics of a "food hub" – aggregating products from several farms to market them to institutions, restaurants and grocers.  The food hub model is gaining traction nationwide as a vehicle to help small and midsized farms supply buyers they cannot reach on their own, and for buyers to access large volumes of local product.

The NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition works to create opportunities for farmers to engage in the food system as part of the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative.

McCann is looking for other worksites to host the program in the future.  For more information, contact Nick McCann by email at or by phone at 563-382-2949.
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Decorah named a "Blue Zone" community

Posted: November 9, 2012
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways announced that Decorah has been named a Blue Zones Project demonstration site.  

Decorah joins eight other communities with populations of less than 10,000 people to be named Blue Zone communities--Algona, Audubon, Fairfield, Harlan, Osage, Red Oak, Spirit Lake and Woodbine.  These communities join Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo, which were named in May as the first Blue Zones Project™ demonstration site communities in Iowa with populations greater than 10,000 citizens.

The Blue Zones Project is based on Blue Zones principles developed by Dan Buettner and is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016 as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being.

Blue Zones Project employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better lives by taking a systematic, environmental approach to well-being, which focuses on optimizing policy, social networks, and the built environments where we spend our time.
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Local vegetable growers now can get help paying for food handling certification

Posted: November 9, 2012
Now that the Winneshiek County Extension Office has received nearly $16,000 in state and federal funding, local vegetable growers can get financial help with the costs of getting certified as food handlers.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture grant to the local Extension Office will provide cost-share funding for vegetable farmers to assist them with the costs associated with a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit.

"More and more buyers are looking for GAP certification as a way to manage food safety risks," says Teresa Wiemerslage, ISU Extension and Outreach Regional Program Coordinator and coordinator for the NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition.  She says the annual expense for GAP certification for these farms can range between $500-1000.  "This grant will be able to help these farms with their certification costs for the next two years.,
says Wiemerslage.

The $15,750 grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture was part of $244,000 in grants to Iowa organizations to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa.
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FFI Recognized at 2012 Nourish Iowa Awards

Posted: November 9, 2012
On October 12, the Food Access & Health Work Group of the Iowa Food Systems Council (IFSC) honored individuals and groups across the state that are advancing a food system that eliminates hunger, increasing access to nutritious food and improving the health of individuals and communities across Iowa.

The 2012 Nourish Iowa Awards were established to recognize those who have made a significant impact on the advancement of food security, food access and health at the community, regional or state levels. According to IFSC Past President Linda Gobberdiel, this inaugural award will honor those who are making outstanding contributions in the areas of food access and health through public service, teaching, research, extension or public policy and who have implemented creative and resourceful solutions to boosting food security, nutrition and health.

The 2012 Nourish Iowa Award recipients are Emily Krengel, Food Service Director at Cass County Memorial Hospital in Atlantic and the Des Moines Izaak Walton League/North Polk Pheasants Forever.

The following individuals and organizations also will be honored on October 12 for their commitment to improving food security, food access and health across Iowa. Special Honorees include Diana Sickles of Des Moines, Hannah Lewis of Des Moines, Kimberly Greder of Ames, Melvyn Houser of Council Bluffs, Ray Meylor of Ankeny, Feed Iowa First in Cedar Rapids, Food at First in Ames, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship-Farm to School Program in Des Moines, Iowa Food Bank Association in Waterloo, Iowa Department of Human Services –Wireless EBT Project in Des Moines, Local Foods Connection, in Iowa City, Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in West Des Moines, Story County Plant-A-Row for the Hungry in Ames, Sustainability and Farm to ISU at ISU Dining in Ames, Table to Table Food Distribution Network in Iowa City, and The Wellmark Foundation in Des Moines.

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Report Examines Economic Value of Outdoor Recreation Amenities

Posted: November 6th, 2012
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development recently published a report on the value of Iowa's outdoor recreation amenities. The report is available for free download from the Community and Economic Development website.

"Economic Value of Outdoor Recreation Activities in Iowa" is an update of a 2007 study and provides a comprehensive profile of Iowa's outdoor recreational resources, levels of participation and the economic impact associated with those outdoor activities. The 2012 report also incorporates data regarding how the availability of outdoor recreation can facilitate more physical activity among Iowans, which in turn can contribute to lower health care costs.

In examining the magnitude and growth of outdoor recreation activities in Iowa, this report underscores several major benefits to the state including increased visitation, increased revenue, improved water quality, improved quality of life for residents and lower health care costs.

The cost of physical inactivity can be substantial.  An East Carolina University study suggest that in Iowa, physical inactivity is costing the state about $4.6 billion annually in lost worker productivity, $866.3 million in higher health care costs and $10.6 million in higher workers compensation costs.  Research has shown that expanding and improving parks, with encourage increased outdoor recreational park-based activity can reduce these health care costs.  

The study was commissioned by the Nature Conservancy with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The report was authored by Daniel Otto, a professor and extension economist; Kristin Tylka, an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Economics; and Susan Erickson, a program coordinator at Iowa State University.
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View the Iowa Food and Fitness Calendar