AMES, Iowa – Today the Wellmark Foundation presented over $400,000 to three grant recipients in Central Iowa. The organizations were chosen out of 111 applicants to receive funding to implement initiatives encouraging healthy lifestyles through programs that will teach healthy behaviors to children and school and community gardens.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is one of four state cooperative extension services selected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to work together to develop and run the USDA Food and Nutrition Service People’s Garden School Pilot Program. The program will allow for gardening nutrition education with the goal of empowering youth in their communities and will help increase fruit and vegetable consumption in Iowa schools. Nearly 3,000 young people at 17 schools and 20 summer programs will start 130 edible gardens in the next two years.
"The Wellmark Foundation grant will allow us to expand the program to ensure that all students in the participating schools will be able to receive the same opportunities,” said Janet Toering, 4-H Youth Program Specialist. “The funding will also help fund the project all year, including after-school programs.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Fortunately, obesity is a health issue we can impact by personal choices and changes to our environment. In order to help Iowans prevent or control the devastating effects of this condition, Iowa State University is focused on creating and delivering experiential health education to immerse youth in an environment that fosters healthy behaviors.
“This program will help foster healthy environments through physical activity, culinary practices, gardening and other activities focused on nutrition, providing young Iowans with the skills and self-efficacy to transfer positive healthy behaviors to their home and community,” said Ruth Litchfield, state nutrition extension specialist and ISU associate professor.
The Iowa Food Gardening Initiative offered through the Iowa Food Systems Council, will cultivate food security and improve health by encouraging more household, community, school and workplace gardens across Iowa. The core of the initiative is to impact change through integrated coordination, education, outreach, and research strategies within food and nutrition assistance programs.
“Through this statewide initiative, we are encouraging Iowans who are a part of federal food and nutrition assistance programs and emergency food assistance programs to engage in gardening activities,” said Angie Tagtow, Iowa Food Systems Council Co-founder and Convener of the Food Access and Health Work Group. “Through the education, outreach and research this program allows, we will be able to create long-lasting changes in communities across Iowa.”
The Wellmark Foundation is a non-profit foundation that seeks to improve the health of Iowans, South Dakotans and their communities. In Level II of the 2011 Healthy Communities Grant Program, the Foundation received over 111 letters of interest seeking support for community health projects. The Wellmark Foundation is proud to award a cumulative total of $408,420 to these three grant recipients to serve as catalyst funding for local health projects.
“We are pleased to offer these grants to organizations that will help promote healthy behaviors to communities and schools,” says Matt McGarvey, director of the Wellmark Foundation. “Not only will this allow the opportunity to have more access to healthy foods and resources, but they collectively help educate Iowans of all ages the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
For more information regarding the Wellmark Foundation and its grant programs, visit www.wellmark.com/foundation.
About The Wellmark Foundation
The Wellmark Foundation is a private, non-profit foundation created by Wellmark, Inc., doing business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Please visit The Wellmark Foundation's website at www.wellmark.com/foundation for new grant opportunities for 2011, 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.
[PHOTO, 2.8 MB, JPG] Pictured are (left to right): Janet Toering and Kris Fish Kuhlmann of the Iowa 4-H Foundation, Angie Tagtow and Fritz Nordengren of the Iowa Food Systems Council, John Roosa of Iowa State University, Iowa 4-H Director Chuck Morris, Matt McGarvey, Director of The Wellmark Foundation, and Abbie Parker with Iowa State University.