On behalf of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, I am thrilled to share all that has been accomplished by this community of people who share a vision of a rebirth of rural communities where the healthy choice the easy choice for children and their families.
Food & Fitness is a regional collaborative of community members and organizations serving more than 100,000 people across six counties.
Over the past seven years, the FFI backbone function has been supported by several large grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Kellogg funding has started to phase out and will end in less than two years. We know we need to continue the work to deepen our community connections and ensure that the work of FFI continues beyond the end of Kellogg funding.
Because of FFI, we are seeing a culture shift in schools. Ten regional schools now work in full partnership with FFI, and share an equal financial investment. Solid commitments have been made to increase the amount of local food served in school, designate time for nutrition education across the curriculum, create active classrooms and focus on wellness throughout the school community.
Engaging young adults is critical to our work. Eight service members from FoodCorps and AmeriCorps serve within the Northeast Iowa Region, committing their time and passions to a school district to promote wellness throughout the school community. Over 200 area teens enrolled in 4-H Food & Fitness clubs give back in the school community by participating in cafeteria coaching, hosting community events and coordinating wellness programs for younger students.
Gardens abound! In just under five years, we have helped plant over 20 gardens in schools. Gardens are used to teach about science, social studies, math and more. Produce is used in cafeterias, taste tests, classrooms and on afternoon snack carts. Students reap the benefits of local healthy food and gain skills to last a lifetime.
Because of FFI, Farm to Preschool is in every Head Start classroom in the region, impacting over 650 kids. One hundred fifty preschool teachers and paraprofessionals have invested in professional development from FFI to promote wellness initiatives. Countless newsletters, grocery store tours, interactive cooking demos and other parent outreach events have brought everyone to the table.
Because of FFI, the local food system continues to grow. The tracked food sales by local farmers increased over a million dollars last year, as did the sale of local food. Non-school markets purchased over 20% more local food than the year before. Eighty new jobs, 12 expanded jobs and 63 new local food producers have joined the movement over the last five years.
FFI is a founding partner of the Iowa Food Hub, which found a new home this year in West Union, Iowa, to allow for continued growth and expansion. The food system is bigger than the six FFI counties, and partnerships with local food pantries, farmers markets, grocery stores and childcare centers throughout eastern Iowa are strengthening. As a non-profit organization, the food hub allows community members to invest in the local food system.
Because of FFI, our communities are more walkable. Nineteen Walking School Buses operated in nine communities, involving over 275 students and 50 adult volunteers. Safe Routes to School Coalitions have formed in five communities to plan activities and increase the safety and accessibility of community walking and biking routes. Six hundred fifty students participated in 10 regional Bike Rodeos, and 90 youth leaders participated in planning, advocating and implementing active transportation activities throughout the region.
With your support, we have the potential to experience a rebirth of rural communities led by schools, young people and their communities to promote healthy living. Join us!
Click here to read the Full Report for Year 5.