AMES, Iowa -- Youth are leading the charge for healthy change in northeast Iowa, according to Brenda Ranum, director for Iowa State University Extension’s Region 4, covering Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties.
“We have food and fitness clubs that started at the high school level, and we now have over 190 youth enrolled,” Ranum said. “They are working with food service staff, parents and concession stand volunteers to get healthier food options in the schools.”
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That isn’t the only way the youth clubs are leading dramatic changes to improve northeast Iowans’ health, Ranum continued. A farm to school program involves the youth, their schools and communities in planning and implementing activities for school children. The high school students teach second graders about where their food comes from, using lessons developed by ISU Extension youth development specialist Vanette Grover.
“This has all led to producers in the region getting excited about the opportunities of bringing food into the cafeterias,” Ranum said. The farm to school group is working with producers, connecting them with food service staff and helping food services procure local food. The group also is working with the Department of Education and ISU Extension to share information about the rules and regulations that producers and food service workers need to know to order food and ensure it is safe.
Ranum is one of 20 regional extension education directors. The positions were created a year ago as part of ISU Extension’s restructuring plan to facilitate an issue-based approach to delivering ISU Extension programming and resources. Ranum works directly with county extension council members to meet their legal obligations as an elected body. Together they are identifying new ways to work across county borders, provide educational programming that addresses significant issues and evaluate the results of multi-county and regional efforts.
Ranum said the farm to school effort also is partnering with the medical community in Region 4 to get healthy food and fitness messages to young people.
“We’re really targeting zero to 8-year-olds. We just received a community wellness grant that’s going to help bring all these partners together over the next 18 months,” Ranum said. “It’s exciting that change is starting to happen already, toward making the healthy choice the easy choice in northeast Iowa.”
To learn more about ISU Extension programs, contact Ranum at 563-382-2949 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the ISU Extension website, www.extension.iastate.edu.
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, 515-294-0775,