DECORAH, Iowa – The W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced Nov. 16 it is continuing its investment in the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative. With the award of $1.2 million over three years, the initiative now moves from the planning phase to implementation.
This grant is one of nine awarded Nov. 16, 2009, by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to community-led projects that are working to transform food systems locally.
“Food and fitness is important to our region because no matter where we are, the places where we live, learn, work and play affect our health and quality of life,” said Brenda Ranum, initiative co-convener and Iowa State University Extension Region 4 director. “We know that northeast Iowa is a unique place and our vision is for all residents and guests to experience, celebrate and promote healthy, locally grown food with abundant opportunities for physical activity and play every day.”
Ann Mansfield, Food & Fitness co-convener representing Luther College, added, “Healthier people make stronger families and vibrant communities. The continuing support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will help us continue our work in the five original counties (Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek), along with the addition of Chickasaw County going forward.”
During the planning phase, people from across northeast Iowa agreed that schools and youth are central to the communities and there is a need to improve children’s access to healthy local food and physical activity and play. Iowa State University Extension will continue as the lead partner, along with Luther College, for the work. The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque will be the fiscal agent.
A variety of projects have been supported since the initiative began. Local agriculture and food entrepreneurs have received funds to initiate or expand local food production and businesses. Volunteers created inventories of indoor and outdoor infra-structure in their communities, including playgrounds, parks, recreation centers and trails. Upper Iowa University students also worked with ISU Extension to develop walking and biking maps for four communities. In October, national walking advocate Mark Fenton visited northeast Iowa for two days and conducted a safe routes to school workshop for six pilot school-communities.
A key component has been the involvement of youth on the Food & Fitness Regional Leadership Team and the creation of school-based food & fitness youth teams in 14 high schools to date. Their actions are leading to system change in schools. Youth have worked with school food service staff to establish salad bars in the lunch programs and to get healthier food options on their ala carte food lines.
The continued funding and support from the Kellogg Foundation will put additional northeast Iowa plans into action.
Brenda Ranum, ISU Extension Regional Director and Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Co-convener, (563)380-9131, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liz Dovenberg, Decorah High School senior and Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Regional Youth Team, (563)382-3020, email@example.com