Monday, September 29, 2014

Area Childcare Providers Doing the "Twist & Sprout"

FMW SHIP partnered with Provider’s Choice, a local food program working with home daycare providers to offer free trainings in Fairmont and St. James aimed at giving daycare providers information and tools needed to create healthy childcare programs.  Twist & Sprout is supporting child care providers on many levels: from engaging, in-person workshops to recipe and menu ideas. The training also coincides with Minnesota’s Parent Aware Program.  Over 50 childcare providers from Faribault, Martin and Watonwan Counties participated in the Twist and Sprout childcare trainings. The training is focused on encouraging providers to adopt best practices related to child health and wellness. The areas of best practice in the Twist and Sprout training include:

·         Creating a place for breastfeeding and safely handing of breast milk

·         Planning menus with vegetables offered two times per day

·         Serving family style meals

·         Provider eating meals with the children

·         Scheduling time for active play

·         Providing portable play equipment

·         Including health policies in the parent handbook


After the training, providers who incorporate these best practices into their childcare programs can apply to become “Twist & Sprout” certified. A childcare provider in Fairmont was the first in the area to become certified and as a result, received portable play equipment package valued at over $150!

The program is available to all providers, whether or not they use Provider's Choice for their food program. More information about the Twist and Sprout Program can be found:

Madelia Active Living: Connecting Residents to Resources

It all started with a small group of interested community members, and grew into a huge community-wide effort to improve walking and biking for the residents of Madelia. The Madelia Active Living Coalition identified several issues related to safe walking and biking opportunities in the community. After working with Region 9 Development Commission to develop an Active Living Plan for the community, the group now has begun the process of implementing their plan.

One of their first priorities was to work with city and county officials to develop a plan for implementing a pedestrian lane on Drew Ave SE (County Road 58) which is a county state aid road that will connect pedestrians from Main Street to the hospital, high school, Tony Downs Foods, Luther Memorial Home and recreational areas such as the community park, pool and soccer fields. This plan includes designating one side for pedestrians and bikers. Roger Risser, Watonwan County Engineer and Julie Pace from the Madelia Active Living Coalition presented their plan to Madelia City Council who needed to approve as well as designate no parking along the side of the road with the pedestrian lane. After reviewing, the city council adopted the plan and passed resolutions for no parking along Drew Ave. The group also partnered with the light department who were able to install new, brighter lights along Drew Ave to increase safety and visibility at night!

The Madelia Active Living Coalition was also able to work with the city to develop a vacant lot into a cinder trail that would connect Drew Ave pedestrian lane to safely cross Benzel Ave to access the community park, pool and soccer fields. The city and county are planning to do curb cuts to ensure the crossing is safe for those on wheels or feet. This allows pedestrians to avoid a dangerous triangle intersection. In the future, the city plans to build a new fire station on the vacant land and plans to make the path permanent.

This past summer, during Madelia Park Days, the Active Living Coalition also held an Open Streets event encouraging people to walk and bike within the community. Children attending the event were greeted by area mascots: Mankato Moondog Muttnick, Victor Viking and Goldy Gopher. Around 100 community members attended the event.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Madelia: Rethink Your Drink! Park Days Activities!

When exploring opportunities for engaging the community about the Madelia: Rethink Your Drink Project, the Madelia Community Based Collaborative (MCBC) decided it was best to go where the people are: the annual Madelia Park Days Celebration. The group planned several activities to co-inside with the town celebration and kicked ok the event by hosting a Sidewalk Chalk Contest. The contest encouraged both young and old to get out the sidewalk chalk and create drawings which featured ways people could rethink their drinks towards healthier options. Community members were encouraged to create their drawings outside Luther Memorial Home, the Madelia Community Hospital or their own home, and upload their photos to the project Facebook Page. Two Madelia family fun pack prizes (which included four passes to the pool, bowling alley and movie theater) were awarded, one at random and the other based on the number of Facebook ‘likes’ received. 


 The group also participated in the Park Days Family Night, where a movie was shown in the community park. MCBC set up a booth which featured an educational beverage display which detailed the amount of sugar found in popular beverages. The group also provided three fruit/veggie infused water options, water infused with lemon/lime, water infused with orange and water infused with cucumber.  The cucumbers provided for the taste testing were grown in the edible landscape by the children at the Early Childhood Education Program at the Madelia School. “The kids loved the water, some were surprised by how good it tasted. I was equally surprised at the number of kids who preferred the cucumber flavor over the orange. One little girl kept coming back for more water. I consider it a huge success!” Jodi Ulman, MCBC member.


To close out Park Days, MCBC participated in the city parade. Volunteers handed silicon bracelets which read Rethink Your Drink in both English and Spanish. Volunteers also had fun squirting parade viewers with none other than, water.

Our Vision: A More Bikeable Blue Earth, MN!

The Blue Earth Active Living Coalition has their sights set on becoming a Bikeable Community and one of the first steps was to host a Bikeable Communities Workshop. The workshop overviewed current concerns as well as strategies Blue Earth can take to become more ‘bike friendly.’ Having recently completed major infrastructure changes to Highway 169, which includes three roundabouts, the community was praised on having made sure the new changes allowed pedestrians and bikers to safely navigate the busy highway. The workshop was attended by 25 participants, which included representation from the school, city council, city engineer, police department, chamber of commerce and Region 9 Development Commission, just to name a few. As an outcome of the workshop, several priorities were identified to move the community towards their goal. These included: 1) Creating a master plan for biking and walking- broaden survey base to include youth- identify routes to connect top destinations, 2) Complete gaps in trail near high school 3) Consider a parking study of downtown  4) Begin an effort for before school – remote drop-off, corner captains, include buses, work with churches 5) Incentivize 8th grade to bike to school (8th grade moving to H.S. this year), 6) create safe route map for riding to high school and  7) Re-establish bike safety day – with a bike rodeo. The group is also utilizing SHIP funds to enter a contract with city engineering firm, Bolton & Menk to assist coalition in completion of Bike Friendly Communities Application.  The group is also considering way-finding signage on designated bike routes to link community resources and pedestrian/visitor travel.
 All of the bikeability talk in Blue Earth has caught the attention of the Chamber/Visitor Bureau   In the long-term, the Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Bureau is looking to relocate their offices to the Green Giant Statue. Over 2,000 visitors per day stop to visit the Giant, so a bike check-out station is also in the group’s radar. Chamber Director, Cindy Lyon, not a bike owner herself, borrowed a bike to participate in the workshop. She was so excited by the prospects of a bike friendly Blue Earth, she went out and purchased a new shiny green (jolly green giant color) bicycle the next day. Now, instead of driving to meetings and when running errands, she now rides her bike. WHEW! I rode my new bike out to the Giant Statue this morning to do some work. Back on the bike trail I saw so many things we do not see in a car or even a motorcycle. I got a close look at the river, the camp site, and the fairgrounds! Giant goal...ride to the way side rest sites! Thanks SHIP & Active Living for the tender push to get my bike!” Cindy Lyon, Chamber & Visitor Bureau Director, City of Blue Earth.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blue Earth Area Schools uses Snowshoes to Meet Curriculum Requirements

Blue Earth Area Schools Physical Education department struggled for years to find ways to incorporate the outdoor curriculum component to their PE class, especially in the brutal Minnesota winters. That all changed when the school district utilized SHIP funding to purchase snow shoes back in 2010-11. With the abundance of snow this year, students swapped their gym shoes for snowshoes and hit the trails at local Steinberg Park in Blue Earth. Brenda Smith, the middle school PE teacher at Blue Earth Area Schools explains, “Without these snowshoes purchased by SHIP, we really didn’t have a lot of options for fulfilling our outdoor curriculum requirement in the winter months. These snowshoes introduce students to an activity they might otherwise not get to experience.”  In addition to utilizing the snowshoes through physical education, they can also be rented for $5 per weekend through Community Education at the school for community use. According to Dar Holmseth, Community Education Director at BEA Schools, “After using these snowshoes in physical education class, we have had a lot of community interest in rentals. Many parents came in telling me that their student came home talking about how much fun they had and asking their parents to check them out. As a result, we have had snowshoes checked out nearly every weekend this winter!”

The Faribault County Register ran a great story featuring this project and how it has impacted not only the school children but also the community! Way to go Blue Earth Area Schools!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Watonwan County Human Services Board Passes Local Foods Resolution

In SHIP 2, a local group formed to develop priorities for advancing and promoting healthy and locally grown foods in a five county area. This group worked to develop a local foods resolution with plans to present at each of the five county boards. The team included representation from local growers, concerned citizens/parents, county commissioners, dieticians, seniors and others who were invested in advancing healthy, locally grown foods in our communities. The group worked over the course of year to identify priorities and develop the resolution. During SHIP 2, the resolution was presented and passed in Faribault, Martin, Cottonwood and Jackson Counties. With the start of SHIP 3, the primary goal was to present the resolution to stakeholders in Watonwan County. Working with representation from the Food Policy Council and the board chair for the Watonwan County Human Services Board, we were able to allocate time on the agenda during both November and December meetings. At the November board meeting, the board previewed the film, A Place at the Table, a documentary overviewing food insecurity and obesity in the United States. The use of the documentary helped local stakeholders identify with similar issues happening locally and signified the need for local policy to influence healthy food access. At the December meeting, the Local Foods Resolution was presented and unanimously adopted by board members.

 The adoption of the local foods resolution was an important first step in creating a healthy food environment for our communities. It also signifies the important role SHIP has in helping to increase access to locally grown foods for our community members.

First "Complete Street" created in the City of Wells!

Before the street renovation

The Wells Active Living Coalition (WALC) has been a grateful recipient of mini-grants in SHIP 1, 2 and now 3.  The work that was begun with an MDH Walkability Workshop in December of 2009 laid the groundwork that recently became visible in the first “complete street” in the City of Wells.

When WALC learned that the county was reconstructing a main access street in Wells the team went to work to learn what they could do to insure the street was safer, more accessible and easier to use for everyone, a complete street. 

The WALC team took pictures of the existing sidewalks, which zig zagged from side to side and were nonexistent at places and presented their vision for a better way to the Wells City Council.  Working with the county engineer, and the city engineer, the City determined that this was indeed a possibility and a worthwhile investment for the City to make. 

Before the street renovation
The effect on safety showed immediate results when the new street was opened to the community this Fall.  Young parents who were pushing strollers down the street, or even on Hwy 109 just a block over, were now able to cover the entire 3 blocks with the uninterrupted and accessible sidewalk located on the North side of the street.  Away from a processing plant with potentially high truck traffic and off of the highway the new street affords safe access for all modes of transportation.  What was once a hodgepodge of interrupted and unsafe sidewalks on a busy connecting road is now a safe and attractive model for city planning and future reconstruction and sidewalk projects?  

After completion of the renovation project
The next step?  The partnerships that were formed to realize this project included individuals from the community, United South Central Schools, City government, county commissioners, Region 9 Development Commission, Bolton and Menk Engineering and MnDOT. Those partners have continued to work together with the Safe Routes to School committee and Sidewalk/Trails committee formed at the first workshop. These committees have a vision of connecting important destinations in the community with safe streets and trails including the new school site opening in the Fall of 2014.  A Sidewalk/Trail Plan has been developed and will be presented to the City Council, along with a request for policy to be put in place to insure future development will provide safe access about the community.

In the future it is hoped that Wells will be a healthier community that encourages a healthy lifestyle for all.  The impact of planning now will provide long term benefits.