Weekly Bits – Feb 27

FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage

Iowans have a resource to help them connect to local food producers in their area. The directory, Iowa CSA Farms: 2015 Statewide List of CSA Farms and Organizers Serving Iowa, is available from ISU Extension and Outreach and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson

There is a new commercial out there that says, “Unplug from the daily routine and reconnect with nature. Get ideas for where to go and what to do, then grab the kids and start discovering.”  No matter where you live you can go to www.discovertheforest.org  and put in your zip code and find all the parks in your area to discover. This is great tool for young children to use to find where they can ‘Discover the Forest’. There are games, animal sounds and forest ecosystem information. Plan a family trip now. It is really fun!


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx challenges mayors to join the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets. Is your mayor up for the challenge?



The Waukon FFI 4-H Team recently led activities for the whole district to kick off the Live Healthy Iowa School Challenge.  The high school news team covered the story. Watch the video.


SCHOOL WELLNESS – FoodCorps and AmeriCorps Service members

A School Garden is the Way to Grow! Here is a GREAT opportunity for you to help your school get funding for a Farm to School program. This year’s focus is from “Seed to Harvest.” Included in the garden supplies is a Growease Seed Starter Success Kit, to help assure that you plant seeds of success. Applications are due March 3.

Schools:  If you have considered starting a garden but aren’t sure how to tie the Iowa Core Standards into this project, join the Iowa Department of Education’s Team Nutrition for a webinar on Tuesday, March 17 at 3:30 pm.  This one-hour webinar is entitled “Engaging Your Entire School in the Garden,” and will show you how to make the school garden become part of the entire school learning process.  Garden sub-grants will also be offered.  To learn more information contact, Patti Delger at patti.delger@iowa.gov or follow this link to register.

Microfarm Manual. Here’s a how-to guide for building your own “microfarm” – a cart with lights that can travel from classroom to classroom, showing off seedlings (or micro-greens) as they grow!



Seeking Board Members.  Allamakee New Beginnings, the non-profit host of the Iowa Food Hub, has three board positions opening in April.  The board meets every month in person or by phone, and board seats are for 3 years.  ANB priorities include increasing access of local foods and consumer awareness; conducting food system research and education; facilitating community investment into food systems; providing technical assistance to farmers; and overseeing the operation of the Iowa Food Hub as a means to achieve those goals. Click here for a board application. Applications are due March 12.

Nick Fisher joined the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther College as the first-ever Food and Farm Fellow last week. In this position Nick will be responsible for the college production gardens, oversee the Cafeteria to Community Program and assist with a range of food education related tasks. After graduating from Luther, Nick spent 27 months serving for the Peace Corps in the Republic of Paraguay. As an agriculture volunteer, Nick taught sustainable agriculture practices to farmers, founded a cooperative, and worked to bring running water to his community.



Are you ready for some spring cleaning? Don’t forget the pantry.  Consider adding these items as year-round staples in your pantry: dry beans, sweet potatoes and low sugar cereal. They are versatile, nutrient-dense choices that can serve as the base for any meal or snack. Watch the segment from KCRG-TV.


FFI Spring Newsletter and Mini-Bits

We love email, but sometimes the news deserves to be printed to be fully appreciated. Once a quarter, we select our best stories to be published as a newsletter that can be printed, shared and enjoyed.

Your copy of the SPRING edition of the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness newsletter is waiting for you.  Click here to read or print your copy.


In This Edition:

  • Learn how youth in the region are planning projects to affect wellness at their school or in their community.
  • Read how Oelwein students take “Story Walks”
  • Check out how Farm to Preschool has expanded to Early Head Start
  • See how Farm to School efforts are providing markets for farmers
  • Read how an AmeriCorps member is finding inspiration in the small successes


Your opinion is needed!
The Iowa Food Hub is asking for feedback on a new regional brand name  to be used on locally grown and processed foods, including produce, dairy, meat, and eggs, sold at retail stores. The Iowa Food Hub is evaluating new names for a couple of reasons.  The geography of the food hub now extends into SE Minnesota, SW Wisconsin, and NE Illinois in addition to eastern Iowa.  They want to ensure that the name on their products reinforces why you want to support local food!  Click here to participate in this short survey.


Farm to School Workshop, March 5. You are invited to attend a workshop on “Growing Farm to School in Iowa Through Partnerships” taking place in three locations across the state this spring.  Each meeting will highlight practical examples of farm to school in action and provide resources tailored to help Iowans connect more students to healthy, fresh food. Learn and network in Oelwein, Thursday, March 5.  The workshops are coordinated by the National Center for Appropriate Technology and FoodCorps Iowa, and offered in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Iowa Nutrition Network.

Weekly Bits – Feb 13

FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
FFI and the Decorah Community School District were featured in a recent article in the Farm Bureau Spokesman about how Farm to School provides market opportunities for farmers.


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
I have written about the importance of family meals and about real food verses processed food. I’ve had the pleasure of partnering on guiding grocery store tours and leading family cooking demonstrations. I still hear so many comments on how confusing food labels are.  Read the labels. Be skeptical. Don’t believe everything you hear or see. Just because a food is being marketed to kids doesn’t mean it’s good for kids.

ICYMI: Registered Dietician Laura Liechty also recently blogged about some tips on reading nutrition labels.


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen
The Winneshiek County Conservation Board, coordinator of the Driftless Safari Program, was recently named the 2014 Outstanding Environmental Education Program by the Iowa Association of Naturalists and the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition. Congratulations to WCCB for receiving this very prestigious and very deserving honor!


This week, Laura is in Washington DC participating in the National Youth Summit on Healthy Living. The summit is designed to help high school students develop the knowledge and skills to address today’s issues including nutrition education, physical fitness, wellness, and emotional well-being.  Laura hopes to bring lots of ideas back to NE Iowa!


SCHOOL WELLNESS – FoodCorps and AmeriCorps Service members
The school service members have visions of green gardens in their heads.  They have been working with David Cavagnaro and the Pepperfield Project to source seeds for school gardens.  Be looking for cherry tomatoes, lettuce, sunflowers, cucumbers, pole beans, peas, peppers, squash, herbs, (and more!) coming to a school garden near you. In 2015 we are excited to add seeds for Head Start gardens to the seed order!


Minneapolis Public Schools served 100 percent grass-fed ground beef from Grass Run Farms (Spring Grove, MN) in 24,000 lunches for pre-kindergarteners through 12th graders Thursday, February 5 as part of the ‘Minnesota Thursdays’ farm-to-school food initiative.  Corn from Sno-Pac in Caledonia, MN was also served.


The USDA Farm to School Program is preparing to conduct a second Farm to School Census to provide updated information about how many school districts are purchasing locally produced food for school meal programs or conducting other farm to school activities. USDA is planning to send out the Census survey in March and will ask that all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program complete the questionnaire. USDA received a 75% response rate for the first Farm to School Census and your efforts will again be critical for achieving a similar response rate. Help us show that farm to school is growing with the Farm to School Census!


This extension educator from The Ohio State University believes we all have the capacity to make a huge impact on job creation, our environment, our health, and our future simply by taking a few, easy, deliberate actions within this emerging local foods sector. He outlines 4-6 action items that can, quite literally, make us local food superheroes.


“Walking is going places. Over recent decades, walking has come to be widely viewed as a slow, tiresome, old-fashioned way to get around. But that’s changing now as Americans recognize that traveling by foot can be a health breakthrough, an economic catalyst, and the route to happiness…The evidence that millions of people are finally walking again is as solid as the ground beneath our feet.”  Read on to learn why walking is being called “America’s untrendiest trend” and why change-makers are calling for the creation of more walkable communities to improve the well-being of all.


Be The Change
Instead of hopping into a car or onto public transportation, experiment with giving yourself enough time to walk to a destination.



Weekly Bits – Feb 6

header green smoothiesA MONTH OF SMOOTHIES
What snack is always a crowd-pleaser with students and never fails to get rave reviews? Pizza? Nope! Cupcakes? Not quite! Ice cream? Getting closer! I’ll give you a hint. It involves electricity, a little imagination, and the ability to be a great taster. Stumped? I’ll tell you – swamp smoothiesFind out how they got their name. It seems like everyone was in the mood for smoothies this month.  Central Preschool made strawberry-banana smoothies.  The Postville smoothies featured mango and local yogurt and milk.


FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
The Iowa Food Hub will benefit from two research grants recently awarded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.  IFH received a grant to work with non-traditional retailers to increase access of local food. In another grant,  ISU researchers with College of Engineering will be working with food hubs, including IFH, to apply supply chain management and food safety principles to their operations.


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
Where does milk come from? Some children at Rainbow Land Child Care Center may say the NICC Dairy Center in Calmar.  More.


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen
Paige and Ashley recently spent a Saturday attending the annual Safe Routes to School Meeting in Des Moines. Ashley gave a  presentation about all of the progressive work we’re doing in NE Iowa, and Paige was invited to speak about what the North Fayette Valley School District has accomplished with their Safe Routes to School efforts. NFV has tremendous parent and community support with their active living activities, and the volunteers are the driving (or walking) force behind our success.


The entire Allamakee School District convened this week for the annual Live Healthy Iowa Kickoff Event. The high school 4-H Food & Fitness team organized a fun assembly engaging students and staff in activities to get them all pumped for the health and wellness challenge which promotes consumption of fruits and vegetables, drinking water, and getting plenty of physical activity in every day!


SCHOOL WELLNESS – FoodCorps and AmeriCorps Service members
Sitting still for a whole school day can be tough on kids. But short bursts of activity in the classroom can really help.  Here’s are some videos and resources that get kids moving AND make learning and paying attention easier. Pass them on to teachers, principals, and PTAs. Do your kids get “Brain Breaks” in school?


Locally-grown squash can still be found this time of year.  This vegetable is delicious and highly nutritious, but it can be intimidating because of its slick, hard skin.  ISU Extension dieticians have created a how-to video to help you feel confident preparing butternut squash. It shows a simple and safe way to prepare the squash.  Be sure to check out the Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada recipe in the 2015 Health and Homemade Calendar available for free at your county ISU Extension office.





Weekly Bits – Jan 31

header riceville100 DAYS OF SCHOOL
It is the time of year where schools are celebrating 100 Days of School.  This year, Riceville students and teachers did 100 exercises to celebrate.


FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
Bruce Wiegel, ag lender from Elma, recently blogged about some of his concerns for rural Iowa.  He asks, ”  What difference does it make to the local community if I rent my land to a small or mid-sized farmer compared to a large operator?”  It depends. What kind of community you want to live in?


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
Michal Pollen talks about real food verses processed food, encouraging us to do our best to avoid foods that our grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Well, since I am a grandmother, I feel a little responsibility to write about “real food” and how to help you get your family — especially young children– to eat it.


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen
The Iowa Transportation Commission recently approved $1 million in total funding for five statewide Transportation Alternatives program projects. This program supports projects such as trails, Safe Routes to School (SRTS), overlooks and preservation/rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities that are statewide in nature. The Iowa Safe Routes to School Partnership project ($157,893) will be the second phase of a partnership among Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission, INRCOG and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and will help fund UERPC’s regional SRTS efforts in 2016-2017.  More.


FEEST Interns, Simon Cropp and Sierra Gonzalez from Decorah and Postville are coordinating a Cook This! Challenge event for students from Winneshiek and Allamakee counties this April.


SCHOOL WELLNESS – FoodCorps and AmeriCorps Service members
A new spice station made its debut at the Waukon High School recently.  Ashley Turk reports, “For something so simple, the newness has caused a quiet revolution.” The station is a cart that holds twelve different spices that students can sprinkle on their lunch. How did we introduce the new concept? Day 1 – Ashley stood behind the station, advertising via word of mouth. Day 2 – We moved the station to a more convenient location, Ashley stood a few feet away. Day 3 – Ashley hid and watched the station like a naturalist observing animals in the wild. More.

Ashley Dress wants to set the record straight. “FFI service members are not the food police; and though our work is to grow healthy kids, we are not without our own transgressions.”  She recently blogged about how the path to healthy living can be a struggle.  Her yoga instructor once shared, “We don’t do a yoga perfect, do we? No, it’s a yoga practice.” Every day is practice to become a healthier person, family or community. Great leaps only lead to disappointment and frustration, but we can all take the little steps, like drinking another glass of water or going for a walk, that can ultimately make us stronger, happier and healthier.


The James Beard Foundation and Food Tank developed and released the first annual “Good Food Org Guide.” This Guide highlights nonprofit organizations that are doing exemplary work in the United States in the areas of food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice. Only nonprofit, scholarly, and municipal initiatives have been selected in order to spotlight efforts that are focused on community building and engagement, advocacy, and service.  Congratulations to our Iowa partners who were included in this guide: Eat Greater Des Moines, Food Bank of Iowa, Iowa Food Hub, Iowa Food Systems Council, and Table to Table.
If you’ve ever been to Strawberry Point, Iowa, you know there’s just something iconic about that great big strawberry that’s high in the sky above downtown. That giant berry represents a distinct identity and pride of place in a one-of-a-kind community. That’s why ISU Extension and Outreach used it in their 2014 annual report to help illustrate how many people they serve. Last year more than 1 million people directly benefited from their programs. That’s one thousand Strawberry Points.


With a New Year just under way, many people are focused on losing weight. Unfortunately, some of the diets people follow to lose weight are not healthy. People tend to cut out foods or food groups, go on restrictive diets or spend money on unnecessary supplements and drinks. It can get very confusing.  Using the MyPlate icon and recommendations makes the whole process easier.  MyPlate is based on a 10-inch plate so be sure to check your plate size. Forget about the fads and miracle diets, follow these simple ideas and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy plate.




Weekly Bits – Jan 23

10488067_10153087173584074_2307068262204469033_nFOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
This beautiful mural of Iowa agriculture was the backdrop of the Iowa Regional Food System Working Group meeting in Ames this week.  Local food coordinators from across the state meet once a quarter to share successes, challenges and resources.  I was part of a panel presentation on working with county Extension Councils to support local food work.  We also talked about hospitals as partners and learned more about Farm to School efforts across the state.


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
The Northeast Iowa Funder’s Network has awarded $8,000 to FFI.  The funds will be used to leverage the recent Wellmark Foundation Match Grant funding plan to expand the Farm to Preschool work in NE Iowa early childhood environments beyond Head Start including regional preschools and daycares.


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen
The Northeast Iowa Safe Routes to School Program was recently awarded $4,000 from the Mitchell-Howard County Opportunity Fund, which recognizes projects with an educational and/or environmental focus. This grant will support the Northeast Iowa SRTS Program’s on-going safety education and active school travel efforts in Howard County.


St. Joseph’s Middle School FFI 4-H team is organizing an all-school wellness afternoon of fun fitness activities for their school. The team plans wellness days frequently, and the school supports their philosophy of coming together, cheering for each other and enjoying fitness across all ages.


SCHOOL WELLNESS – FoodCorps and AmeriCorps Service members
Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged the country with the question, “What are you doing for others?”  The FFI service members spent the MLK National Day of Service making freezer meals for a local food pantry.

“It’s funny to plan an “extra” service project amongst the FFI Resource Contacts when volunteering is our full-time job,” reflects Paige in this week’s blog.  “We serve. We serve our communities and schools every single day. We do it because we want to share our work, knowledge, enthusiasm, energy, and positivity to influence others. We serve to make a difference, no matter how significant, because we all have an enormous passion for “Food & Fitness” work. We serve because we LOVE it.


We know that kids who eat healthier and move more perform better in school. It’s not just because teachers and administrators tell us so. Research shows that healthy kids get better grades, attend school more often and behave better in class.


Experts recommend that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. These minutes can come before, during, or after school as long as kids are staying active and having fun!


Active Living Research released a report recently about the effects of physical activity on academic success. The report found that physical activity can have both immediate and long-term benefits on long-term performance, including enhanced concentration.

Watch: The Effect of a Healthy School


Are you trying to start some healthy habits in the new year? Whether you’re trying to save money or eat better, packing a healthy lunch can help you do both! Salad is a common go-to option for people trying to eat better, but not all salads are created equal. Here is a quick guide to simplify packing salads for lunch.

Weekly Bits – Jan. 16

header oelweinYOUTH ENGAGEMENT – Laura Liechty
Oelwein FFA (right) is the first Farm to School Cross-Age Teaching group functioning as part of a high school curricula. The FFA department has integrated this program, including lesson prep and teaching to the elementary students, into their class period.


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
Everyone needs to stay active this winter – here are some fun tips to be active as a family.


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen

Know of a sidewalk in town that is falling apart?
Aware of street crossings that are unsafe for pedestrians?
How about any streets in town that just plain need a sidewalk? Let us know!


FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
I presented on the regional food system work, farm to school and Iowa Food Hub to the Winneshiek and Allamakee County Farm Bureau boards this week.  The Winneshiek board was very interested in farm to school and the Allamakee farmers liked the projects featuring local meat.  Thanks for the invitation!


We are deeply saddened to announce the departure of one of our AmeriCorps members this year. Due to extenuating personal and health-related concerns, Katrina Underwood has left her term of service as of December. We wish Katrina the best of luck as she deals with her health issues and wish her well in her next endeavor!
This is the first time we’ve had a member leave our organization before the end of service in the six years working with the AmeriCorps program. Over the last month, we have been working feverishly to find a resource contact for North Winneshiek and Clayton Ridge schools that will honor commitments for comprehensive school wellness. The stars have aligned and FFI is thrilled to announce the hiring of Michelle Hockersmith to help fulfill the RC role! An avid gardener, cook, and business consultant, Michelle is an experienced professional who has been deeply embedded in the Northeast Iowa community for over 12 years! Michelle will begin her work on January 20, we welcome her to FFI, and we are sincerely grateful for her willingness to step in and hit the ground running!


FoodCorps co-founder and Vice President of External Affairs Debra Eschmeyer has been selected to serve as Executive Director of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, and as the President’s Senior Policy Advisor on Nutrition. She is stepping into a role that was previously held by Sam Kass.


Jan. 24, Decorah. Going Solar Workshop. For those curious about installing solar for their farm, home, or business, the Going Solar Workshop will cover tax incentives, payback times, and installation options.

Feb. 3, Decorah. Taste of Winneshiek County.

By the Spoonful, McGregor, will be offering cooking classes in February featuring local, seasonal produce when possible and delicious creations of food in new, interesting, entertaining and healthy ways.


New Day’s Resolutions — Achieve a Little Health Every Day
In 2015, you don’t need to commit to just one healthy resolution for the entire year; you can achieve simple goals for health every day! Are you hoping to be more active? Resolve to cut down on screen time, take the stairs, or find local active spaces. Would you like to eat healthier? Take a day to de-salt, learn a new recipe, or get your family involved in the kitchen.  Take this month to focus on small daily resolutions that can spark larger lifestyle changes that we can continue for the rest of the year.  Start with one of these resolutions for today.

Weekly Bits – Jan 9

There was a Local Holiday Feast at North Fayette Valley.  The students enjoyed free-range turkey from Ferndale Farm in Cannon Falls, MN. Students also had local butternut squash baked into their traditional “pumpkin bars” for the school holiday meal. Above, students gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up for the food!  More.


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen
Because Valley Elementary is located between two towns, many of the students arrive at various times, often well before the bell. Principal Gearhart started a new program to make better use of this time.  In the multi-purpose room, students gather about 10 minutes before the morning bell. They start off dancing to a “Just Dance” music video projected on the wall and sticker rewards given to the day’s “best dancers”. After the “words of wisdom” for the day about character and being a good student/person, they dismiss students by grade to make their way to the classrooms. What a perfect way to start the day!


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation has announced, that in collaboration with Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, it has raised the $75,000 needed to receive the $75,000 Matching Assets to Community Health (MATCH) grant from The Wellmark Foundation. The grant will enable the Northeast Iowa Community Action to partner with FFI to create a preschool model for nutrition education.  More.


One of the primary activities of the school FoodCorps and AmeriCorps workers is to lead nutrition eduction and taste-tests in the classroom.  Not all school districts have service members, so in those communities ISU Extension staff are leading activities to connect kids to food and farming.  Recently, Clover Kids (K-3 students) in Nashua learned about livestock production and Clover Kids in Elma, Cresco and Riceville learned fun food facts during after-school programs.


FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
How can Master Gardeners support local food systems? In 2015, Iowa Master Gardeners will be exploring this question as part of their Winter Webinar Series.  Each year Master Gardeners are required to complete service hours as well as continued education hours.  The webinars will be offered in Fayette and Howard counties.


SCHOOL WELLNESS – FoodCorps and AmeriCorps members
Molly’s holiday break to-do list sits undone; however, she feel recharged as a person. Reflecting from a fleece cocoon on her living room couch, Molly talks about taking a break from the work in order to set herself up for success. Read her post, “Redefining Success: How I did not work over Christmas break.”

Now, winter break is officially over, Megan is getting back into the mindset of planning lessons, doing cafeteria taste tests, teaching before and after school programming, and all of the other stuff that goes along with being the RC for the Decorah Community School District. While she looking forward to getting back into her regular routine, the thing she is most excited about is getting to see these fruit and veggie lovers! 


Live Healthy Iowa Kids “10 Week Challenge” is FREE for youth in grades K-12 from Jan 26-April 3.  During the challenge, participants aim to be active for 60 minutes a day and are challenged to track their nutrition habits.  Each team needs 5-30 participants and and adult team captain.  Registration is open!

The Allamakee Master Gardeners are hosting a bus trip to the Wisconsin Garden Expo in Madison on Saturday, February 14.  They would leave Waukon at 6 am and return around 9 pm that night. The cost is $32 per person. The price includes bus fare and admission to the Expo.  Anyone is invited to attend.


What’s the most important part of a nutritious diet? Most of us can automatically recite the answer: Fruits and vegetables. And yet it can be tough to eat the daily recommended amount of produce, and most Americans simply don’t.  Part of the problem may be that we don’t really understand how much we were talking about. What does a daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables look like? Here are 10 photos of fruits and vegetables, each one a complete daily serving. It may not be as much as you think!

Weekly Bits – Jan. 2

FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW – Ashley Dress, FoodCorps
Some books are so good that you just need to savor them, carefully devouring each page in much the same way that you would eat crème brulee; because something that special, you want to make last.

The Third Plate by Dan Barber is one such book. Barber is the chef of two New York restaurants: Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located 45 minutes outside of the city. Both restaurants feature farm-to-table menus, which source ingredients locally whenever possible.

The book is chock full of quotable sentences, but I marked my book for the first time, when I read the following quote, said by Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills: Fifty years from now, that’s when my work starts having some kind of meaning. And if I drop dead this instant, it carries on, because it’s out there now.”

He’s referring to the resurgence in popularity for seeds that are bred for flavor and not just yield, which his company distributes. I was struck, however, by how similar his sentiment is to the work that we do here in northeast Iowa.

I am so completely impatient for change. Every time that a student won’t try a taste test in the cafeteria or sneaks candy or chips into his locker, that little voice inside my head wants to scream, “WHY WON’T YOU JUST EAT VEGETABLES?”

And then, I take a deep breath and remind myself that I wasn’t so different at his age. My goodness, I loved me some candy and cookies and cake…the list goes on. And, I still love those things! But, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was my love for vegetables or my willingness to try new things. I had to have education and exposure, and luckily, I have had a number of wonderful people in my life who I owe credit for giving me plenty of both of these things.

Maybe I’ll be one of these people to someone some day; maybe you will. Good work that lasts is usually not done instantaneously, and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to brush our hands and say, “We’re finished.” I do know, though, that the momentum of this movement is too great. There are organizations all across the country and world that are spreading the word and singing the praises of good, fair food, so even though I may get frustrated every once in a while, change is happening, and it’s invigorating to be caught up in its energy.  Happy New Year!  (Read the full post)


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen
Upper Explorerland is accepting regional grant applications to fund Safe Routes to School, Recreational Trail, Scenic Byway and Transportation Enhancement projects.  Applications are due Feb. 27.


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
A new study from the University of Minnesota suggests that 1 or 2 family meals a week can almost cut your child’s risk of being overweight in half.


2015 looks bright! With our Food & Fitness 4-H Clubs, we help youth have a voice. Voices to share their ideas, dreams and wishes to better their schools, communities, friends and families by promoting the importance of improving health and wellness in our environments.

These students are speaking up and taking action… not because they have the almighty solution to all the health issues in our country or even county, but because they want to be intentional in beginning the change making process in their communities. The teams reported at our meeting in December about the work they have been doing this school year and their plans for the second semester.  Check out the plans for your school.


FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
At a day-long workshop January 9 in Ames, stakeholders from Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Cresco will discuss a process they’ve followed over the past year to identify activities that could grow the local food sector in their own communities. The workshop, which is free and open to the public, is hosted by the Iowa State University Community Design Lab (CDL) and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The workshop introduces the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit, a process to set common goals related to the local food system, and to create or connect existing activities such as school gardens, urban farms, food hubs, mobile markets and farmers markets, to accomplish those goals. The workshop will be held at Design On Main, 203 Main Street, Ames. A light breakfast and lunch will be served. Registration is requested by January 5 to provide an accurate meal count.  A  full agenda and a link to registration is here.

Travel scholarships of up to $50 per vehicle also are available for workshop attendees. For more information, contact Long at court7@iastate.edu, (515) 294-2213.


PARTNER NEWS — “I may not be a great farmer or even a slightly good one, but I do like to think that I am part of growing something because I am an Oneota Co-op member,” writes David Lester, Oneota Co-op General Manager in a recent blog.  “As a member I am “growing” a business that is conscious of the products it sells and is trying to be the most sustainable business model that it can be. Members of our Co-op are growing more opportunities for local producers and farming families in this part of the world and are also using their purchasing power to support family farmers in other parts of the world who are growing Fair-Trade items.”


As New Year unfolds, many of us think of things we would like to change in our lives. There are many different approaches to making New Year’s resolutions.  It is tempting to consider making drastic lifestyle changes to accomplish a major goal as quickly as possible. This may not be the most effective strategy; instead, consider making small, manageable steps.


Weekly Bits – Dec 23

header xmasLOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS – Teresa Wiemerslage
Local and regional food system professionals are obliged to rely on imperfect, incomplete, and evolving measures to track economic changes in the local food industry. These data are critical for informing decisions on how to invest limited resources to create optimal impacts. In a recent editorial published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, Corry Bregendahl and Craig Chase (Leopold Center) talk about how the the economic data assessment process — first launched in northeast Iowa and now, statewide — can start to fill in those gaps and craft the story of system change.


ACTIVE LIVING – Ashley Christensen
Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission  was recently awarded $4,900 from the Iowa Cancer Consortium to promote safety and physical activity in upcoming Safe Routes to School (SRTS) activities this spring. The funds will be used to purchase youth bike helmets, reflective safety decorations for bikes and helmets, bike rodeo safety equipment and Walking School Bus volunteer safety vests.


EARLY CHILDHOOD – Haleisa Johnson
I keep seasonal vegetables on my shopping list all the time. Last time I was at the grocery store in the produce section I overheard a little girl ask her mom when it was going to snow. I thought it was because of the holiday season and Santa’s sled, but I was wrong. She wanted to build a snowman and saw the carrots to use for a nose.  Luckily, her mother said they could buy the carrots even if it didn’t snow because they could eat them and buy more if it snowed. I was so proud of this mother.


Wellness Wednesday is an after school program hosted by Decorah high schoolers for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade. This year, they had 75 elementary school students participate.   This a great program program where both big kids and little kids have a great time being active in the gym, playing games, and eating healthy snacks.


SCHOOL WELLNESS – FoodCorps and AmeriCorps service members
Megan Woodward’s (Decorah AmeriCorps) taste tests for December have all been about one thing: moderation. With the holidays around the corner, treats are going to be everywhere and the kids know it too. To get students up and moving and thinking about “Sometimes” foods, she gave every child a food card with either a fruit, vegetable, or sweet on it. If their card was an “Everyday” food, they jumped as high as they could, if it was a “Sometimes” food they squatted down.


TIP OF THE WEEK:  If you find yourself racing to find a last-minute gift, look no further! Here is a collection of Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that make great low-cost gifts.