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Wellness expert will discuss ways to lower health costs at free event June 27

Posted: June 8, 2012
A two-hour program titled "Employee Wellness … Understanding the Real Cost to Your Organization" will be offered free at the Hotel Winneshiek June 27.

The 3-5 p.m. event is sponsored by Rockwell Collins in collaboration with Winneshiek County Development, Inc. and the Northeast Iowa Business Network.

Featured speaker for the event is Drew Bossen of Iowa City, a wellness expert who will examine critical employment concerns about changes in the overall health of today's workforce.

Bossen says that understanding the implications of a "well" workforce is critical in today's competitive business environment. Ignoring the implications of wellness can be very costly.

"As we couple the undeniable relationship between obesity, the prevalence of related health issues and the associated costs of chronic disease, it is clear that our nation is facing a monumental challenge," Bossen said.

His presentation will shed light on how individual behavior can result in improved health for workers.  Bossen also addresses the aging work force, pointing out that as workers become older and heavier:
•    Risk of injury, illness and disability increase
•    Chronic disease increases
•    The impact of weight is greater than age for work-related injuries
•    Heavier, older workers with chronic problems may have performance problems at work

Bossen talks about the incredibly fast-rising pace of obesity in the U.S. and its implications. For example, there has been a 64% increase in diabetes patients from 1987 to 2002; there has been a 1,000% increase in obesity-related costs from 1987 to 2002; and the annual health care spending difference between a normal-weight person and an obese one is $1,244.

Being overweight and obesity are known risk factors for:
•    Diabetes
•    Heart disease
•    Stroke
•    Hypertension
•    Gallbladder disease
•    Osteoarthritis
•    Sleep apnea and other breathing problems
•    Some forms of cancer (uterine, breast, colorectal, kidney)

During his talk, Bossen will discuss data relating obesity to medical costs, workplace injuries and worker's compensation costs. He will also point out the importance of employers intervening to improve worker health.

Bossen has a strong clinical background rooted in the assessment and evaluation of the injured worker. Over the past 15 years he has worked with numerous organizations including, Schneider National, Rockwell Collins, and Cargill, among others, providing organizational solutions in ergonomics, pro-active safety and wellness.

He is an active member of the American Physical Therapy Association, having served in many roles over the years.  Currently he is the President of the Educational Institute.  He is also a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and Human Factors and Ergonomic Society (HFES).  He has spoken to audiences across the country on ergonomic system solutions, injury prevention and corporate wellness.

Bossen received his undergraduate and Physical Therapy degrees from the University of Iowa. He also received a Masters in Business Administration from Ashland College.

Best practices
A brief "best practices" panel discussion is also being planned for the free June 27 event at the Hotel Winneshiek which is sponsored by Rockwell Collins in Decorah. The panel will feature several Northeast Iowa businesses talking about the things they do to effectively reduce their health-care costs.

The event is free, but WCDI asks that you register by contacting WCDI Director Randy Uhl at or by calling (563) 382-6061.
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New Report on Iowa's Regional Food Networks

Posted: May 21, 2012
A new report, "Creating Change in the Food System: The Role of Regional Food Networks in Iowa," was recently released by the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University (MSU). The report documents the policy, funding, and capacity gains fostered by a grassroots network of collaborating regional food groups, and shares critical insights on using the power of networks to build resilient local and regional food systems.

The report was authored by Rich Pirog and Corry Bregendahl. Pirog is Senior Associate Director at the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems and formerly the Regional Food Systems Working Group facilitator and Associate Director at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Corry Bregendahl continues her service at the Leopold Center as an Assistant Scientist and Evaluator.  She is also on the evaluation team for the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative.

The report can be accessed here.

Tags:  foodsystems
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Luther furthers commitment to local food through meat purchases

Posted: May 21, 2012
In a reflection of Luther College's commitment to sustainable food and local producers, Luther is pleased to announce that 100 percent of burgers served on campus are made with beef from Grass Run Farms, a locally owned business that works with farmers in the region to raise antibiotic-free, pasture-based beef.

Grass Run Farms is owned and operated by Luther graduate Ryan Jepsen and his wife Kristine in Dorchester, Iowa. The Jespens have worked with Luther for more than five years. The farms that raise cattle for Grass Run Farms go to extensive lengths to ensure the livestock they raise are never exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones, grain feed or animal by-products.

The beef patties, which are served in all dining locations on campus, represent only part of Luther's effort to provide all campus diners with high quality, fresh, local food. Last year 20 percent of food served at Luther was sourced from local producers.

"With Luther's increased purchase of local meat and dairy products in the second part of the year, I think we are on target to modestly surpass last year's numbers," says Maren Stumme-Diers, sustainable foods educator at Luther. "Seeing our local purchases climb is exciting for us because it means more money is being kept in the community to support local producers."

In addition to beef purchases, in late March Luther officially made the switch to purchasing nearly all turkey products from Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, Minn. Ferndale Market turkey is free-range, antibiotic-free and naturally processed. Local turkey purchases are harder to achieve on some college campuses, as the cost factor can make the purchases financially challenging.

Luther's purchase of local meat began when the college would buy one steer at the 4-H auction each year and serve it on campus. Beginning in 2006 Luther planned for two local foods meals a year, at which local meat was one of many products featured. Grass Run Farms and Ferndale Market were two businesses that helped supply beef and turkey for those dinners. At that time Luther's local purchases totaled about 1 percent of the food budget.

Luther's relationship with Grass Run Farms and other local producers has developed over the past six years as Luther continues to find ways of incorporating more local product into the menu.

Wayne Tudor, Luther's dining services general manager, announced recently that Luther will reach the 2008 strategic plan goal of purchasing 35 percent of Luther's food supply locally by May 2013.

"President Torgerson has challenged the campus to be a model and not a mirror in the area of sustainable practices, and we're working hard to exceed his expectations in the area of local foods," said Stumme-Diers.

Source:, April 16, 2012

Tag: foodsystems
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Bananas for Burritos at North Fayette Senior High School

Posted: May 21, 2012
North Fayette Senior High served "banana burritos" for its second Fuel Up to Play 60 breakfast taste test. Leah Chapman, the FFI Resource Contact, proposed the idea of serving banana burritos to Carol Stanbrough, the district's food service director, after seeing a documentary about reforming the school lunch and breakfast program. Stanbrough thought the burritos would be a big hit with the students and would be a nice substitute for the "breakfast burrito" that they currently serve.

Chapman worked with Stanbrough to make 150 banana burritos on April 2. The banana burrito is made out of a whole-wheat tortilla, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a whole banana and a drizzle of local honey. Stanbrough purchased local honey from a farm in Elgin, Iowa.

Chapman and Stranbrough cut the burritos in half and served them as students came through the breakfast line. After all the students finished coming through the line, Stanbrough held a cafeteria-wide vote to see whether or not students liked the burrito. The majority of students said "yes." Carol will add the banana burrito to the school breakfast menu and will serve it with yogurt in order to meet the National School Lunch Program requirements.
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Postville Hosts Spring Fling Wellness Workshop

Posted: May 21, 2012
In celebration of Earth Day and Global Youth Service Day, 41 Postville elementary students and their parents gathered together to participate in a workshop that emphasized the importance of physical activity and healthy eating habits.  

Members of Postville's elementary garden club worked with high school members of the Postville Food and Fit team to prepare dinner for both workshop participants and local community leaders through a program called F.E.E.S.T.

F.E.E.S.T., which stands for Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team, brings youth together with community partners to prepare a meal.  Working alongside a chef, students are responsible for seeking out food donations from local farms and businesses and then creating a meal (without recipes!), from the ingredients they procure.

For the past school year, Postville's youth team, largely under the direction of Senior Alex Enyart, has completed a F.E.E.S.T. monthly.  April's F.E.E.S.T was unique, as local community members were invited to partake in the meal and learn about the value of such a program. Community members offered valuable insight on the creation of partnerships between students and adults to foster better environments of wellness within the school and town communities.
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Salad on a Stick?

Posted: May 21, 2012
Fifth grade students at MFL MarMac's McGregor center earned the title of school champions for recording their data in the Live Healthy Iowa 100 Day Wellness Challenge.  An interest in gardening and vegetables contributed to their success.

Jennelle Schroeder, the school nurse, and Sonja Arneson-Ecklund, the FFI Resource Contact, worked together to come up with an activity for the kids that reflected their interest in learning more about vegetables.  Sonja brought local cherry tomatoes, local basil, and local mozzarella goat cheese to the classrooms during health.  She taught students about a unique snack. Classroom helpers passed out toothpicks.  Students speared a piece of cheese, a tomato, and a leaf of basil to make a Caprese salad on a stick. Most students had never eaten a salad on a stick.  

As one student said, "I've always eaten salad off a plate…So this is like eating an adventure salad!" The students tasted their snack simultaneously, and one even went so far as to report that the flavors combined in "the most delicious way I've ever tasted in my life!"

Caprese salad is a Mediterranean appetizer and is often served on a plate like a normal salad. Sonja learned about the salad when she lived in the Mediterranean, but she explained that a unique feature of the salad is it can be made from all local ingredients.

The rest of the lesson involved planting a windowsill garden. Classroom helpers passed out biodegradable planting cups, sharpies, potting soil, and seeds.  The students made the tough decision between planting basil seeds or tomato seeds. A student who decided he wasn't fond of basil or tomatoes thought of a creative way to still enjoy the classroom activity. "I'm going to hide my seeds at my friend's house until it grows into a plant, and then I'm going to give it to my mom for mother's day," he explained.

Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative's is working to create places where people have access to healthy, locally grown foods. When students plant seeds and watch the growing process, they make connections between where food comes from, how food grows, and how we choose to eat it. And the education that happens gardening is profound—something as simple as dirt, water, and sunlight can becomes the most fascinating part of the school day.
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Waukon Farm Hosts Field Day Featuring Specialized Farm Equipment

Posted: May 15, 2012
Specialized farm equipment will be showcased at a field day and open house hosted by Kymar Acres and Windridge Implements on June 9. The equipment includes various seeders, tiller and transplanters designed for small to medium-sized vegetable farms.

Kymar Acres ( is a diversified farm owned by Kyle and Mari Holthaus and located between Waukon and Decorah. They raise 5 acres of vegetables, herbs and flowers for sale to farmers markets and wholesale accounts. Visitors will also be able to tour rotational grazing for laying hens, a greenhouse and farmstand where their farm products are sold.

A variety of equipment will be featured including BCS two wheel tractors, Jang seeders from South Korea, seed bed tillers, a Falc bed builder from France, Checchi & Maggli transplanters for vegetable sets and plasticulture layers in red, silver and deep green plastic. It is planting season and visitors can inspect some of the recent plantings and watch new crops go into the ground.
The equipment will be provided by Windridge Implement, LLC ( Windridge started carrying lines of specialized equipment in response to increased vegetable production in the region. Equipment is available for purchase or lease.

The field day will last from 1 to 4 pm and is open to the public. Kymar Acres is located at 2168 Winnmakee Road, between Decorah and Waukon. For more details about this event, please call Kyle Holthaus at 563-382-0489.
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Decorah High School garden is working well

Posted: May 1, 2012
Decorah High School Environmental Science teacher Tim Hayes says the high school's garden project has been working well.

Hayes and fellow teacher Brad Johansen started the program in 2007 with the first garden planted in the area between the dike and the Upper Iowa River behind the high school.  Three years ago the garden was expanded to an area in front of the high school.  This location has given the project greater visibility, more fertile soil and fewer weed and wildlife issues.

Students in several grades are contributing to the gardening effort from planning, starting seed, transplanting starts, weed control and harvest.  Last year the school garden provided 100 pounds of lettuce, 670 pounds of tomatoes, 300 pounds of squash and twenty pounds of beautiful plump garlic bulbs for the school lunch program.

The project is intended to give students a real life problem.  They then become responsible for devising a solution.  The weed issues are managed with recycled newsprint and leaf mulch from the city yard waste site, plants are given a growth boost with polyurethane film tunnels and students have developed harvest procedures to keep produce clean from garden to kitchen.

Hayes told members of the Decorah LIons Club that grants and assistance provided area growers and organizations like NE Iowa Food and Fitness has amounted to about $6,500.

Source:, Apr 25, 2012

Tag: schoolwellness
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Gardening volunteers needed in Decorah

Posted: May 1, 2012
The Northeast Iowa RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) is seeking volunteers to serve in four local community gardening projects. The Spectrum Network, the Decorah Park and Recreation Department and two nursing homes, Aase Haugen and Barthell Eastern Star, are doing summer garden projects and are seeking volunteer assistance.

The Spectrum Network will be continuing its Wellness Garden Project, which began last summer with the help of David Cavagnaro and the Pepperfield Project.  RSVP volunteers are needed to assist with weeding, watering, and harvesting of the vegetables in Spectrum's garden.

Jeff Scott, through the Decorah Park and Recreation Department, will lead a program for young people in the "Driftless Garden Youth Project."   Children, ages 8 through 10, will be planting, weeding, watering and harvesting vegetables in one of the city garden plots.  Jeff needs two RSVP volunteers to assist the children and help with the summer project. They will also help with the maintenance of the garden throughout the summer.

Last summer Julie Fischer volunteered at Aase Haugen in its "Courtyard Garden Club."  Several residents of Aase planted nurtured and harvested vegetables in the raised gardens.  Darlene Juve, Activity Director, hopes to increase participation and needs more RSVP volunteers to assist.

Barthell's Eastern Star Home has several flower gardens around its building and Mae Schmitt, Activity Director, asks for three volunteers to water and maintain the gardens.

The RSVP program draws upon the skills and interests of a diverse group of volunteers to serve the needs of the community.  In order to become an RSVP volunteer, one must have attained 55 years of age.  Volunteers have flexible schedules and individuals are able to determine the number of hours they would like to spend volunteering, as well as when those hours are scheduled.

The Decorah Public Library sponsors the Northeast Iowa RSVP. Orientation and training for new volunteers is provided through the RSVP program and the site(s) where volunteers will be serving.  The RSVP program currently includes 27 volunteer locations within Winneshiek County and has over 240 members.  For more information about joining the RSVP program, visit the RSVP office at Decorah Public Library or call Director, Kathy Barloon or Volunteer Coordinator, Lyle Otte at 563-382-3717.

Source:, Apr 29, 2012

Tag: foodsystems

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NE Iowa Benefits from Leopold Center competitive grants

Posted: April 28, 2012
Twenty-one new projects are beginning work this year, thanks to the Leopold Center's long-running competitive grants program. The Center awarded the competitive grants, which total $1,201,290, in January.  

Six projects will complete their work in one year, while eight projects will run two years and seven projects will run three years. Combined with multiyear projects already in progress, the new grants bring the Leopold Center's currently funded research to roughly $2.25 million.

The projects fit under all four of the Leopold Center's initiatives—Ecology, Marketing and Food Systems, Policy and Cross-Cutting—and range from research on cover crops and bacterial resistance, to developing tools for local foods, to helping Iowa farmers understand and reduce their energy use.

"This year's Leopold Center grants represent a broad array of science-based projects that will serve Iowa on many levels," said Mark Honeyman, Leopold Center interim director. "The projects involve many fundamental topics: soil, water, crops, livestock, energy, food, farmers and land.  Collectively, these projects will continue to build the sustainability of Iowa's agriculture and food systems."

Marketing and Food System Projects
Eight new projects in the Marketing and Food Systems Initiative were awarded a total of $258,104. The Regional Food Systems Working Group, formed in 2003, will use competitive grant funding to continue convening. Representatives from more than 25 groups meet quarterly to coordinate efforts to build vibrant regional food systems across Iowa.

Other marketing projects will create training programs, develop tools to procure local foods for farm-to-school chapters, and help small farmers and meat processors improve their management and profitability.

Three projects will directly impact the food system work in northeast Iowa.

Convening the Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG)
This 2-year grant for $42,700 was awarded in 2012.  This competitive grant supports the continued convening of the RFSWG, including support for quarterly meetings and the development of new leadership to guide and facilitate the group. RFSWG will continue its work to engage food and agriculture producers, businesses and state and federal organizations to network, share information and tools and collectively address challenges. Co-PIs include Teresa Wiemerslage and Brenda Ranum.

Improving profitability for small and very small meat processors in Iowa
This 2-year grant for $22,788 was awarded in 2012.  This competitive grant supports the development of a productivity curriculum for small meat processors in Iowa, as well as quarterly one-day classes and one-on-one follow up services. The curriculum will focus on scheduling, product mix decisions, retail inventory management, and shop floor performance measurement. The project builds on previous work of the Leopold Center's Small Meat Processors Working Group.  PI is Nick McCann. 

Transitioning farmers to produce for wholesale markets
This 2-year grant for $36,850 was awarded in 2012.  This project will help GROWN Locally meet increased demands for products. The principal investigator will work with producers in northeast Iowa on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) assessments and safety plans, coordinate the creation of marketing materials, seek out new producers and help existing producers expand, coordinate a peer mentor program, and set up a training workshop for good handling practices and post-harvest handling procedures.  PI is Johnice Cross.

Tag: foodsystems
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