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Luther College café introduces new coffee roasted locally in small batches

Posted: December 20, 2012
A new, locally roasted coffee joins the menu this week at Sunnyside Café in Luther College's Center for the Arts.

K'uun single origin coffee, roasted by Bean Masters Inc. of Calmar, replaces Starbucks coffee at Sunnyside. Fernando and Barbara Vaquero own and operate Bean Masters, roasting coffee beans to-order in small batches. The company received the largest small-business grant awarded by Winneshiek County Development in 2011 and now provides custom-roasted coffee to individuals and businesses throughout northeast Iowa.

Sunnyside Cafe offers freshly baked Luther bagels, grab-and-go foods, a full-service espresso bar and the café's famous cinnamon rolls. Sunnyside opens Wednesday, Aug. 29, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Starting Wednesday, Sept. 3, Sunnyside opens earlier each day, operating Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. The café is closed during January Term and semester breaks.

No changes have been made in coffee brands offered at other dining facilities on the Luther College campus. Marty's CyberCafé serves Starbucks, Oneota Market serves Seattle's Best and the cafeteria serves Aspretto.

A grand opening to celebrate the addition of Bean Masters coffee at Sunnyside will be announced in September.

Source:, December 2012.
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U.S. loosens rules aimed at healthier school meals

Posted: December 11, 2012
U.S. regulators are relaxing school meal rules aimed at reining in calories and portion sizes after some students, parents and lawmakers complained that new stricter policies left many children hungry.

Under the adjustment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would suspend daily and weekly maximum amounts for grains and meat or meat alternatives. That means school districts this year can serve larger portions of those items without penalty.

USDA officials said they were loosening the regulations after some schools found it difficult to buy alternative portion sizes of such foods from suppliers. Some also said they had inventory to use up that does not meet the new guidelines.

"We understand that this is a year of transition," Cynthia Long, head of USDA's Child Nutrition Division, wrote in a memo on Friday to state and regional school food officials.

The School Nutrition Association, which represents school food directors, said the change gives them more time to design healthier menus that will suit students' tastes.

"School nutrition professionals have faced significant menu planning, operating, financial challenges and more as a result of the new meal pattern requirements," it said in a statement.

USDA's move follows complaints from some students that the revised meals left them hungry.

Despite such complaints, most health experts continue to back the overhaul, which was adopted in January as part of a 2010 law aimed at improving school breakfasts and lunches.

The modified meals, which aim to limit fat and salt as well as curb portion sizes and boost fruits and vegetables servings, took effect at the start of the 2012 school year in late August and early September. Schools that adopt the changes get more money back from the federal government, in part to offset the higher prices of healthier foods.

For example, under the guidelines half of breads and other grain-based foods offered must contain whole grains until the start of the 2014 school year, when all such foods must be whole-grain.

Such changes take aim at rising U.S. childhood obesity and were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. More than one-third of American youth are too heavy, statistics show.

Schools are a top focus because they provide meals to many low-income students, who are often the most at-risk for being overweight or obese. In 2011, more than 31 million children received free or low-cost school lunches and more than 10 million received free or discounted breakfasts, according to USDA.


Margo Wootan, a nutrition policy expert at Center for Science in the Public Interest, welcomed the change to give struggling schools more options this year without having Congress interfere with the fundamental law.

"Nutritionally, this change is minor and doesn't undermine the overall nutrition standards," said Wootan, whose health advocacy group backed the 2010 law.

Erik Olson, head of food programs at Pew Charitable Trusts' health group, said calorie limits remain intact but schools will "have much more flexibility about how they present meals that kids will want to eat," calling it "a fairly modest readjustment."

Democrats and Republicans in Congress praised the change, saying parents and students in their states worried about strict limits. Several lawmakers had called on the USDA last month to reconsider, saying the guidelines did not account for various student's height, weight, gender or physical activity levels.

Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican who had pressed USDA along with Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, on Saturday called for more permanent action. USDA's Long said the agency would consider extending the change.

"It may be difficult for all students to get adequate protein to feel full throughout the school day," Hoeven said in a statement. "Protein is an important nutrient for growing children."

Source:  Reuters, Susan Heavey, December 10, 2012
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Central Community School District Wins USDA award for a Healthy School

Posted: November 28, 2012
Central Community School District in Clayton County has been recognized by the Iowa Department of Education for their efforts to create a healthy environment.   The award was presented at an all-school assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

The school district has received the a Bronze Award through the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.

The district has worked to put in place strict requirements for meals, nutrition education and physical activity.  They are the first school district in the NE Iowa Food & Fitness region to receive the award.   

The USDA announced the honor earlier this year, but Tuesday's event marks the school celebration with student skits, a special appearance from Power Panther, a USDA mascot, and remarks from local school officials as well as Ann Feilmann, chief of the Iowa Department of Education's Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services.

Congratulations to Central staff, students and community!
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2013 Nutrition Calendars Available

Posted: November 10, 2012
With its 2013 Healthy & Homemade calendar, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative are working alongside Governor Branstad's new Healthiest State Initiative to help Iowans live healthier.

Each month features an easy-to-prepare recipe plus menu ideas and an activity tip. The calendar supports MyPlate messages from USDA about balancing calories and avoiding oversized portions and also includes preparation and storage tips. Each month, an illustration shows a complete menu and gives the MyPlate breakdown of proportions.

"The recipes in the calendar feature vegetables and fruits, whole grains or legumes and dairy products – all very important factors of a healthy and whole diet," says Cindy Baumgartner, ISU Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist in northeast Iowa.   "We know activity is important for total health, which is why it is emphasized so greatly in the calendar along with healthy meals."

The calendar has many other key features, including space for goals, daily activity tracking and appointments, as well as menu photos.

Each menu also includes a nutrition analysis that looks just like a package label. The back pages of the calendar provide tips for increasing family meals and conversation starters for children of different ages.

The Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI) is proud to be a sponsor of the 2013 Nutrition Calendar in Allamakee, Clayton, Chickasaw, Howard, Fayette and Winneshiek counties.  Contact the county Iowa State University Extension and Outreach office in those counties for your free copy. 
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FFI Expected to Receive Extended Funding

Posted: November 9, 2012
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is continuing its investment in the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI).  With this support, the initiative now moves from the implementation phase to an extended funding phase with a focus on long-term sustainability.

Collaboration has been a trademark of the FFI for the last five years.  Six rural counties--Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard, and Winneshiek-- have worked together to improve the health and well-being of children and their families in the region.

Their work as been grounded in the principle that they can do more by working together.

The growth has been accompanied by tremendous change and numerous accomplishments, which speak to the strength of this collaborative endeavor.  

FFI staff work diligently to keep long-term partners engaged in the work, bring new partners to the table and sustain efforts to create vibrant communities where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
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Regional Youth Gather for FEEST

Posted: November 9th, 2012
Over 65 4-H youth wellness champions and their adult coaches from fifteen area school districts recently attended the first of four Food & Fitness Regional Youth Leadership Team Meetings. It was a day jam-packed with activities centered on school food.

Before the day even started, the room was abuzz with networking and idea-sharing among members of different schools over a delicious breakfast of local yogurt parfaits. The morning began with a skit performed by several members of the FFI School Outreach team to weed through the facts and myths surrounding school lunch this year. A discussion on fostering cafeteria advocacy followed.

Participants then rotated through two groups of local food fun! The first activity was a tour of the Rolling Hills Greenhouse, owned by Eric and Fern Unruh a few miles outside of West Union. The Rolling Hills Greenhouse is sea of gorgeous salad greens and herbs. The tour was a great opportunity to connect with local producers and learn more about the ins-and-outs of farming in Northeast Iowa.

While not on tour at the greenhouse, participants used local produce to prepare a FEEST-style lunch for the group. FEEST, Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team, is a Seattle-based program that brings youth together to prepare a delicious, healthy meal while learning about the local food community.

Students worked diligently under the guidance of CiCi Mueller, Postville FEEST coordinator. In only two hours, they had a bounty of roasted veggies, homemade applesauce, sweet potato fries, bruschetta, and much more! Adding this to salad greens donated from Rolling Hills, bread, chicken, and milk made for one delicious, nutritious lunch. The FEEST made an impression on several students, and many coaches commented this was the best youth meeting to date.

The day concluded with a series breakout sessions focused on transferring the knowledge gained at the gathering back to the school communities. Before adjourning, adult coaches were given a packet of information which included a mini-grant application to implement a FEEST or similar program centered on food education in schools.

The Iowa State University Extension 4-H Program thrives on creating opportunities for youth to be productive citizens and successful learners.  For more information on joining 4-H, contact your county ISU Extension Office.  ISU Extension is a proud partner of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative,
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Worksites Participate in Foodbox Program

Posted: November 9, 2012
Two NE Iowa employers are hosting a worksite foodbox program featuring local foods for their employees.  The program is part of a research study conducted by ISU Extension in partnership with the NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition and non-profit, Allamakee New Beginnings.

Over 30 employees at Rockwell Collins and the ISU Extension office in Decorah receive a grocery bag full of local food items each week.  Employees pay $15 or $30 for their bag and order the bags one week before delivery.

The food bags include meat, milk, eggs, yogurt, produce, breads, and other products from NE Iowa farms.  Oneota Community Food Coop is providing storage and staging space.  The project is funded in part by a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant.  Nick McCann, program coordinator from ISU Extension and Outreach, is leading the project. 

"Busy families need convenient access to local food.  Delivering local food to the places where people work provides convenient access to great local products at a reasonable price," says McCann. "Buying local products keeps money in our communities and allows us to enjoy the bounty that Northeast Iowa farms can provide."

McCann is studying the mechanics of a "food hub" – aggregating products from several farms to market them to institutions, restaurants and grocers.  The food hub model is gaining traction nationwide as a vehicle to help small and midsized farms supply buyers they cannot reach on their own, and for buyers to access large volumes of local product.

The NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition works to create opportunities for farmers to engage in the food system as part of the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative.

McCann is looking for other worksites to host the program in the future.  For more information, contact Nick McCann by email at or by phone at 563-382-2949.
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Decorah named a "Blue Zone" community

Posted: November 9, 2012
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Healthways announced that Decorah has been named a Blue Zones Project demonstration site.  

Decorah joins eight other communities with populations of less than 10,000 people to be named Blue Zone communities--Algona, Audubon, Fairfield, Harlan, Osage, Red Oak, Spirit Lake and Woodbine.  These communities join Cedar Falls, Mason City, Spencer and Waterloo, which were named in May as the first Blue Zones Project™ demonstration site communities in Iowa with populations greater than 10,000 citizens.

The Blue Zones Project is based on Blue Zones principles developed by Dan Buettner and is the centerpiece of the Healthiest State Initiative to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016 as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, the first-ever daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being.

Blue Zones Project employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better lives by taking a systematic, environmental approach to well-being, which focuses on optimizing policy, social networks, and the built environments where we spend our time.
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Local vegetable growers now can get help paying for food handling certification

Posted: November 9, 2012
Now that the Winneshiek County Extension Office has received nearly $16,000 in state and federal funding, local vegetable growers can get financial help with the costs of getting certified as food handlers.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture grant to the local Extension Office will provide cost-share funding for vegetable farmers to assist them with the costs associated with a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit.

"More and more buyers are looking for GAP certification as a way to manage food safety risks," says Teresa Wiemerslage, ISU Extension and Outreach Regional Program Coordinator and coordinator for the NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition.  She says the annual expense for GAP certification for these farms can range between $500-1000.  "This grant will be able to help these farms with their certification costs for the next two years.,
says Wiemerslage.

The $15,750 grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture was part of $244,000 in grants to Iowa organizations to help enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa.
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FFI Recognized at 2012 Nourish Iowa Awards

Posted: November 9, 2012
On October 12, the Food Access & Health Work Group of the Iowa Food Systems Council (IFSC) honored individuals and groups across the state that are advancing a food system that eliminates hunger, increasing access to nutritious food and improving the health of individuals and communities across Iowa.

The 2012 Nourish Iowa Awards were established to recognize those who have made a significant impact on the advancement of food security, food access and health at the community, regional or state levels. According to IFSC Past President Linda Gobberdiel, this inaugural award will honor those who are making outstanding contributions in the areas of food access and health through public service, teaching, research, extension or public policy and who have implemented creative and resourceful solutions to boosting food security, nutrition and health.

The 2012 Nourish Iowa Award recipients are Emily Krengel, Food Service Director at Cass County Memorial Hospital in Atlantic and the Des Moines Izaak Walton League/North Polk Pheasants Forever.

The following individuals and organizations also will be honored on October 12 for their commitment to improving food security, food access and health across Iowa. Special Honorees include Diana Sickles of Des Moines, Hannah Lewis of Des Moines, Kimberly Greder of Ames, Melvyn Houser of Council Bluffs, Ray Meylor of Ankeny, Feed Iowa First in Cedar Rapids, Food at First in Ames, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship-Farm to School Program in Des Moines, Iowa Food Bank Association in Waterloo, Iowa Department of Human Services –Wireless EBT Project in Des Moines, Local Foods Connection, in Iowa City, Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in West Des Moines, Story County Plant-A-Row for the Hungry in Ames, Sustainability and Farm to ISU at ISU Dining in Ames, Table to Table Food Distribution Network in Iowa City, and The Wellmark Foundation in Des Moines.

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View the Iowa Food and Fitness Calendar