AMES, Iowa – By 2016, Iowa aims to be the healthiest state in the nation, a goal set forth by Governor Branstad. At the 2013 Iowa Governor’s Conference on Public Health in April, Peggy Martin and Ashley Christensen were recognized for promoting excellence in physical activity and nutrition, key components in reaching Iowa’s healthiest state goal.
Martin, an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach state nutrition specialist, manages the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, known as EFNEP, for Iowa State, as well as the Family Nutrition Program, part of the SNAP-ED program. Both programs have been at work in Iowa communities, helping low-income families plan healthy, cost-effective meals.
Martin, a registered dietitian, also leads Spend Smart. Eat Smart, www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/. In addition, she helped create the Healthy and Homemade calendar, which has annual sales of around 500,000, and cookbook for the novice cook with low-cost recipes. Both are available from the ISU Extension and Outreach online store, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/.
“The main goal of these programs is to help reduce future healthcare costs,” said Martin. “Our staff coach low-resource Iowans to choose and prepare healthy foods and increase their physical activity.”
Christensen is the regional Safe Routes to School liaison for the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission. The Northeast Iowa Safe Routes to School program is the first of its kind, as Safe Routes to School is more geared toward urban areas. The northeast Iowa program is paving the way for developing a model for rural communities. The program increases opportunities for students to safely walk and bicycle to and from school. Christensen partners with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, a program that promotes healthy, locally grown food and active living. ISU Extension and Outreach works with the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition, part of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, to coordinate local foods projects and lead youth engagement efforts.
“The Northeast Iowa Safe Routes to School program is right in line with the governor’s Healthiest State Initiative,” said Christensen. “In order to achieve a healthier population, physical activity must be part of the equation. By focusing on increasing physical activity levels among youth through active transportation to school, we are assisting students by helping them form lifelong health-promoting habits, which will benefit them today and in the future.”
ISU Extension and Outreach is supporting the Healthiest State Initiative through many programs such as EFNEP and FNP, and by aiding programs such as the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.
The Iowa Department of Public Health honored Martin and Christensen at the Iowa Governor’s Conference on Public Health. “The basis of wellness is making good food choices and getting our bodies moving on a regular basis,” said Brenda Dobson, IDPH Bureau of Nutrition and Health Promotion chief. “Each year we’re honored to recognize Iowans who have shown commitment and passion in promoting these building blocks of health.”