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Rural Grocery Stores Participate in Local Food Pilot Program

Posted: September 27, 2012
There are some new products showing up on the shelves of two local grocery stores.  Locally produced yogurt and lettuce can now be found at Brockman's Grocery in Ossian and Moore's IGA in Postville.

The stores are participating in a rural grocery store pilot project conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition.   The project is studying marketing strategies, shelf life and distribution logistics of using locally produce products in rural retail settings.

Nick McCann, program coordinator from ISU Extension, is leading the project.  "Buying food from a local farmer shouldn't be restricted to grocery stores in the larger towns.  Helping rural residents to have access to high quality and affordable food is part of maintaining a great quality of life," 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 these buyers to access large volumes of local product.

The current products are produced on farms near West Union, Iowa—less than 20 miles from those grocery stores.  The yogurt is from Country View Dairy and the lettuce is produced by Rolling Hills Greenhouse. 

The project is being funded in part by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant. 

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.  Learn more at
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Adult Obesity Rate in Iowa Could Reach 54.4 Percent by 2030, According to New Study

Posted: September 27th, 2012
The number of obese adults, along with related disease rates and health care costs, is on course to increase dramatically in Iowa over the next 20 years, according to F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012, a report released by Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

For the first time, the annual report includes an analysis that forecasts 2030 adult obesity rates in each state and the likely resulting rise in obesity-related disease rates and health care costs. By contrast, the analysis also shows that states could prevent obesity-related diseases and dramatically reduce health care costs if they reduced the average body mass index of their residents by just 5 percent by 2030. (For a six-foot-tall person weighing 200 pounds, a 5 percent reduction in BMI would be the equivalent of losing roughly 10 pounds.)

"This study shows us two futures for America's health," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. "At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Nothing less is acceptable."

The analysis, which was commissioned by TFAH and RWJF and conducted by the National Heart Forum, is based on a peer-reviewed model published last year in The Lancet. Findings include:

Projected Increases in Obesity Rates
If obesity rates continue on their current trajectories, by 2030, the obesity rate in Iowa could reach 54.4 percent. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011, 29 percent of adults in the state were obese.

Nationally, by 2030, 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent, 39 states could have rates above 50 percent, and all 50 states could have rates above 44 percent. Mississippi could have the highest obesity rate at 66.7 percent, and Colorado could have the lowest obesity rate for any state at 44.8 percent.
Projected Increases in Disease Rates

Over the next 20 years, obesity could contribute to 367,691 new cases of type 2 diabetes, 857,998 new cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, 765,455 new cases of hypertension, 494,563 new cases of arthritis, and 120,441 new cases of obesity-related cancer in Iowa.

Currently, more than 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, 27 million have chronic heart disease, 68 million have hypertension and 50 million have arthritis. In addition, 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, and approximately one in three deaths from cancer per year (approximately 190,650) are related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity.
Projected Increase in Health Care Costs

By 2030, obesity-related health care costs in Iowa could climb by 3.7 percent, which could be the third lowest increase in the country. Nationally, nine states could see increases of more than 20 percent, with New Jersey on course to see the biggest increase at 34.5 percent. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., could see increases between 15 percent and 20 percent.

In the United States, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year by 2030, and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030. Although the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States is difficult to calculate, current estimates range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year.
How Reducing Obesity Could Lower Disease Rates and Health Care Costs

If BMIs were lowered by 5 percent, Iowa could save 7.1 percent in health care costs, which would equate to savings of $ 5,702,000,000 by 2030.

The number of Iowa residents who could be spared from developing new cases of major obesity-related diseases includes:

    77,783 people could be spared from type 2 diabetes,
    67,065 from coronary heart disease and stroke,
    60,940 from hypertension,
    34,635 from arthritis, and
    5,849 from obesity-related cancer.

"We know a lot more about how to prevent obesity than we did 10 years ago," said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. "This report also outlines how policies like increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier. Small changes can add up to a big difference. Policy changes can help make healthier choices easier for Americans in their daily lives."

Report Recommendations
On the basis of the data collected and a comprehensive analysis, TFAH and RWJF recommend making investments in obesity prevention in a way that matches the severity of the health and financial toll the epidemic takes on the nation. The report includes a series of policy recommendations, including:

  •     Fully implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, by implementing the school meal standards and updating nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages in schools;
  •     Protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund;
  •     Increase investments in effective, evidence-based obesity-prevention programs;
  •     Fully implement the National Prevention Strategy and Action Plan;
  •     Make physical education and physical activity a priority in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
  •     Finalize the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children Guidelines;
  •     Fully support healthy nutrition in federal food programs; and
  •     Encourage full use of preventive health care services and provide support beyond the doctor’s office.

The full report with state rankings in all categories is available on TFAH's website at and RWJF's website at TFAH and RWJF collaborated on the report, which was supported by a grant from RWJF.
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New Guide Offers Overview of Iowa Food Marketing Rules

Posted: September 27, 2012
A growing interest in local foods and how to get locally raised fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, honey, eggs and dairy products into the hands of more consumers has prompted development of a new guide from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Iowa Local Food and Farm Initiative (ILFFI).

"Iowa Food Marketing Regulations: A Guide for Small-Scale Producers" is available on the Leopold Center's website,   

The guide offers an overview of various licenses required for selling food in Iowa and state regulations that govern those sales, which are based on type of food, where it is sold, how it is processed, scale of operation and type of customer. The guide also directs readers to the appropriate agency or official who can answer specific questions about an operation or how to begin the process of obtaining each license.

"We receive many questions about food marketing rules and regulations, which are quite detailed and sometimes can be confusing," said Craig Chase, who directs local food programs for the Leopold Center, Iowa State University Extension and the statewide ILFFI. "This is by no means a substitute for legal advice, but it should help direct people to the appropriate departments and agencies for further discussions."

The guide has been in development over the past year, and was written by Tufts University graduate student Joanna Hamilton, who was an intern with Chase at the Leopold Center in 2011. All information in the guide was reviewed by a team of people who work with small-scale producers, including FFI's Teresa Wiemerslage, as well as officials that administer food marketing regulations in the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Chase said the guide is modeled after similar resources available in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
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New Look for School News

Posted: September 26, 2012
Back to school means new jeans, new shoes, new books, new teachers and...a new newsletter?!

This fall marks the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative's fourth year of programming and partnering with schools to create healthy environments for students and staff.

The Initiative has always valued transparency, cooperation and the stories of its partners.  In an effort to share more stories, and to distribute that responsibility to more people, we have launched a blog feature to our website.  

School resource contacts, FFI staff, youth and other partners will be sharing at this site and the tagging feature will make those stories easier to find. We would love to feature your stories and will post guest blogs from time to time.  

You can even have the updates delivered to your inbox by subscribing to the RSS feed.  We hope you enjoy this new way to receive your news.  See you at the blog!

Click here to go to the newsletter page.
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NE Iowa Food & Fitness Welcomes NICC as Newest Partner

Posted: September 19, 2012
NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative is enthusiastic to announce Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) as the newest partner in their work.  NICC joins three other core partners -- Iowa State University Extension & Outreach—Region 4, Luther College, and Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission-- in efforts to create a shared vision for the region.  All of the partners have common missions and aligned values with FFI, and believe that by partnering as a rural six county collaborative, they can achieve more than FFI could alone.

FFI is a grassroots collaborative whose work focuses on school wellness, youth engagement, local food producers and system, improving community health and creating partnerships to help endure these efforts.  They works to create systems change in the region so every day all people can experience, celebrate and promote healthy locally grown foods and enjoy abundant opportunities for physical activity and play.

In April 2007, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation chose Northeast Iowa as a project site for their Food & Fitness Initiative, further supporting the region in developing strategic plans and policies that emphasize equity and promote healthy eating and physical activity within the region.  Residents across the region participated in a two-year planning phase led by ISU Extension and Luther College.  A three-year implementation grant followed and focused on three strategies: school wellness, local food system development and active living opportunities. 

ISU Extension and Outreach coordinates the work of the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition to create opportunities for farmers to engage in the local food system.  ISU Extension also leads the youth engagement efforts in schools by embedding the work in the Iowa 4-H program.   The vision of FFI aligns closely with the mission of Iowa's land grant university—to create healthy people, healthy environments and healthy economies. 

Luther College coordinates education and outreach to school wellness teams and supervises the AmeriCorps and FoodCorps members.  Luther sets the example of healthy lifestyles for their region through their students and faculty.   Their campus has numerous sustainability initiatives. Luther's outreach for Northeast Iowa FFI focuses on policy, system and environmental changes that support  a sustainable, healthy choices and lifestyles , such as growing and using healthy, local foods and offering opportunities for active transportation.

Upper Explorerland joined FFI in 2011 to coordinate activities related to active transportation. Upper Explorerland brings expertise in community planning and advisory and resource development services that help communities build the future of Northeast Iowa.

FFI is excited NICC is now joining the work to expand the work of their newest strategy to young families.  NICC offers an early childhood childcare curriculum leading to an Associates in Arts and diploma degrees, and offers significant expertise for working with regional agencies, childcare providers, parents, and children from birth to five years of age.  The FFI will incorporate healthy eating and active living into parent's, student's and young children's everyday lives.

The FFI collaborative creates a vision for the entire region in which, school wellness teams lead and promote healthy living by all people.  Where all children get a healthy start to be able come to school ready to learn.  Where parents prepare healthy food, engage in active living, and expect their childcare to do the same.  Where food systems this is economically vibrant and growing with farmers while working through the local food hub to assure they can meet needs and assuring everyone has access to affordable, healthy food.   Where people of all ages walk, bike, and use active transportation to get to and from work, school or play.   

This image can be the future of NE Iowa, where people of every income, age, ethnicity, race, education, and walk of life provide leadership together to create a regional culture of health and well-being.  The four FFI partners, now including NICC, create the framework to achieve all that FFI is doing, so we can envision the future being created by working together.

In Northeast Iowa we work together because we believe healthier people make stronger families and vibrant communities. We hope to make the healthy choice the easy choice because ‘Together we grow healthy kids'.
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New mobile food pantry opens in Decorah

Posted: September 19, 2012
The demand for emergency food assistance in Decorah has gotten so great that a mobile food pantry opened Tuesday at the Congregational United Church of Christ.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank will operate the mobile food pantry on the third Tuesday of every month, using volunteer help from the church.

Community Programs Coordinator Roger Wilson says existing food pantries in Decorah have been "overwhelmed" recently, so the mobile food bank was added--the 10th such operation in the 16-county area served by Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

Tuesday evening's food pantry session brought a good turnout.  Said Wilson, "The need is out there."

Source:, Sep 18, 2012.
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NCR-SARE Announces 2013 Farmer Rancher Grant Call for Proposals

Posted: September 5, 2012
The 2013 North Central Region - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Call for Proposals is now available.
Farmers and ranchers in the North Central Region are invited to submit grant proposals to explore sustainable agriculture solutions to problems on the farm or ranch.  Proposals should show how farmers and ranchers plan to use their own innovative ideas to explore sustainable agriculture options and how they will share project results. Sustainable agriculture is good for the environment, profitable, and socially responsible.

Projects should emphasize research or education/demonstration. There are three types of competitive grants: individual grants ($7,500 maximum), partner grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($15,000 maximum), and group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($22,500 maximum). NCR-SARE expects to fund about 45 projects in the twelve-state North Central Region with this call. A total of approximately $400,000 is available for this program. Grant recipients have 25 months to complete their projects.

Interested applicants can find the call for proposals online as well as useful information for completing a proposal here. You can find more information about sustainable agriculture or take a free National Continuing Education Program online course.

Proposals are due on Thursday, November 29th at 4:30 p.m. at the NCR-SARE office in Saint Paul, MN.
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Running for fun with friends and family

Posted: August 29, 2012
A group of community members in Clermont has committed to a healthier lifestyle while enjoying each other's company each Wednesday night.

The community fun run was started by John and Lorna Chapman of rural Clermont. The local couple have brought their kids into town on several occasions to walk or ride their bikes.

"We like to be active as a family," Lorna said.

John had the idea to invite others along on the evening exercise, so the family began to contact others they knew shared their interest in fitness.

"He thought it would be fun to get a group of community members together," Lorna said of her husband.

The group, which averages 25 people each week, began meeting in the Clermont City Park every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The group loads up on the Chapman bus with bikes and water bottles and heads to one of two points along the new and old trails outside of Clermont.

"We're just trying to promote fitness and use the trails. Once you start using them, you realize just how nice they are," the local woman said.

Although members of the Valley cross country team have joined in the summer run, Lorna assured that anyone, at any fitness level, is invited to attend.

"There are people who run it, walk it and ride it," she noted. "It is totally up to the individual what they want to do."

She also mentioned the peak in motivation when exercising with a group.

"Sometimes you only get that one run in if you're busy, but if you know you'll be running a group, you might get a few more in that week," she noted.

The community event is also a way the Chapman's have continued to instill into their children the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

"You really have to make it a part of your routine for your whole life in order to live healthy," Lorna explained.

Promoting fitness, family time, and making memories is what this group will continue to do each week. As school starts up, the group hopes to keep meeting. Join the community fun run at 7 p.m. Wednesdays in the Clermont City Park.

"We hope you can make it, and bring a friend!" Lorna closed.

Source: Jessica Duren,, August 22, 2012.

Tag: activeliving
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School Spotlight: St. Joseph Community School, New Hampton

Posted: August 29, 2012
By Julie Friedhof, Media Specialist, St. Joseph School

NEW HAMPTON — Childhood obesity has steadily been on the rise across the United States. A recent study of Iowa elementary school children found 37 percent were either overweight or obese.  Schools in northeast Iowa are working to reverse this trend by improving the food and fitness environments.

They are receiving assistance of the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI) — one of nine national sites funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Community Program. St. Joseph Community School in New Hampton is participating in this initiative.

Recently, the school completed a School Wellness Action Plan integrating two successful national programs — Farm to School and Safe Routes to School. In its action plan, St. Joseph Community School outlined food and fitness activities and goals for students, staff and broader communities for the 2012-2013 school year.

These goals included improving health and nutrition education in classrooms, increasing access to healthy, local foods in the cafeteria, and expanding student involvement with the school garden project.

A major goal in this year's plan was expanding the school garden project. Last year the school had a small garden near Mercy Medical Center. This year the size of the hospital garden was increased and a raised garden was constructed near the Holy Family Parish Center.

Radishes, tomatoes (yellow pear, tommy toe, red velvet,lemon drop, ruby cluster, giant pink beefsteak), peppers (sweet chocolate, feher ozon, jalapeno and mixed bell), onions, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach, and zinnias were planted in the raised gardens. The hospital garden has produced watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins and sweet corn. Many of the seeds that were planted were heirloom seeds acquired from Seed Savers in Decorah.

During the summer, St. Joseph families volunteered their time and gardening skills to weed and water the garden. The produce yielded from the garden is being used in the school lunch program as well as in classroom instruction and hands-on-cooking activities. Some students are experiencing certain fruits and vegetables for the first time.

Besides creating healthier options at school meals, the school is also increasing opportunities for student physical activity. Each month students in grades K-4 can participate in an after-school fitness activity and once a month there is an all school fitness activity (classroom tug of war, Panther stations, running through the halls).

St. Joseph Community School is fostering environments where students can work and play. Good nutrition and physical activity improve student health and academic performance, and decrease behavioral problems. Adult members of the St. Joseph Wellness Team are: Amy Kloberdanz, Susie Klunder, Trevor Rockwell, Beth Wright, and Father Carl Schmitt. Melanie Stewart is the FFI Resource Contact.

Student Wellness Team members are: Kayla Gilbert, Adam Laures, Ryan Gorman, Noah Fye, Jason Herold, Alison McDonald, Taylor Bearman, and Callie Speltz. New fifth grade members will be selected in the near future.
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Report Shows Increase in Student Walking and Biking

Posted: August 29th, 2012
More students are walking and biking to school according to a new report released by the NE Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.  
The Northeast Iowa Safe Routes to School Spring Travel Tally Report for the 2011-2012 school year has been completed, and is available on the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) website.

The report summarizes how students travel to and from school in Allamakee, Clayton, Chickasaw, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties.

"Currently, 22% of the trips students make to and from school are done by walking and bicycling," said Ashley Christensen, UERPC Safe Routes to School Liaison.  "This is a 4% increase in the number of walking and bicycling trips from last year and a 7% increase since our regional Safe Routes to School work began in 2008. These results highlight how far the Safe Routes to School program has come in just four years, and we are very excited for what the future holds as we continue to enhance and expand our Safe Routes to School efforts throughout the region."

Safe Routes to School efforts in the region aim to increase the number of students walking and bicycling to and from school.  Contact Christensen at or 563-382-6171 for more information.
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