Iowa State Receives Wellmark Foundation Grant for Nutrition Education

Grant will help create a health education program for older adults

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will use a $21,580 grant from The Wellmark Foundation to help revise the Chef Charles nutrition education program for older Iowans.

The Chef Charles Revision Project

According to the Administration on Aging (AoA) and the Iowa Department on Aging (IDA), Iowa ranks fifth in the nation in adults over age 65, with almost 15 percent of the state’s population at least 65 years of age. By 2030, more than 22 percent of Iowa’s total population is expected to be 65 or older.

Good nutrition and physical activity are integral parts to successful aging, making it important to remind older adults of the best choices in purchasing and preparing food and staying active and alert, said Carlene Russell, IDA Nutrition Manager. “Older adults who consume an adequate diet are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, be mentally and physically fit, and live independently for a longer time.”

The Wellmark Foundation grant will fund the Chef Charles Revision Project. The revision will integrate information attained through qualitative program evaluation, professional independent program review, and future needs and preference assessment to create an evidence-based nutrition education program for older adults. This collaborative project is being conducted by ISU Extension and Outreach, Iowa Nutrition Network at the Iowa Department of Health and the IDA. 

Currently, the Chef Charles program is offered at about one-third of Iowan congregate meal sites serving more than 3,000 older Iowans, said Sarah Francis, ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition specialist and assistant professor. “We expect this project will result in a nutrition education program that has greater impact and is more cost effective. Our goal is that older Iowans will be less at-risk for poor nutrition, eat more fruits and vegetables, and learn to make more healthful food choices overall. We also expect higher participant satisfaction than the current Chef Charles program.”

Grant one of only six competitively selected

The Wellmark Foundation is a nonprofit foundation that seeks to improve the health of Iowans, South Dakotans and their communities. Through its initial 2011 Healthy Communities Grant Program, the foundation received more than 80 grant requests seeking seed support for smaller community health projects. This grant award to Iowa State represents one of six competitively awarded grants to establish pilot efforts or expand health initiatives throughout Iowa and South Dakota.

The Wellmark Foundation awarded a cumulative total of $140,000 to these six grants to serve as catalyst funding for local health projects.

“With a significant number of Iowans age 65 and older, the revised Chef Charles Program has great potential to make an even more significant impact on the physical and mental health of older Iowans, and we’re excited to see results in the years to come,” said Matt McGarvey, director of The Wellmark Foundation.

About Iowa State University

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers practical, how-to education based on university research. It’s available to any resident of Iowa and is tailored to meet the needs of Iowans. ISU Extension and Outreach educators, specialists and volunteers live and work in all 99 Iowa counties.

For more information on the Chef Charles Revision Project, contact Sarah Francis, 515-294-1456 or For more information regarding The Wellmark Foundation and its grant programs, visit

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About The Wellmark Foundation

The Wellmark Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created by Wellmark Inc., doing business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Please visit The Wellmark Foundation's website at to learn more about the grant program, as well as a list of previous grant recipients. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and The Wellmark Foundation are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.