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.  


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Faribault, Martin & Watonwan Counties Kick-Off SHIP 3!

Local wellness efforts receives boost from Statewide Health Improvement Program grant

SHIP works to build a foundation of good health for all Minnesotans.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced Monday that it has awarded $545,607 in Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funds for two years to Human Services of Faribault and  Martin Counties in collaboration with Watonwan County Human Services (Faribault, Martin and Watonwan Counties SHIP). These funds will support community wide efforts to improve health though increasing the availability of active living, healthy eating and tobacco-free environments.

"SHIP is the most successful program I have been involved with that brings the community together. This has truly been a success for Watonwan County," says John Baerg, former Watonwan County Commissioner and current SHIP Community Leadership Team Member.
Launched in 2008 as part of Minnesota’s bipartisan health reform effort, SHIP works to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives while building healthy, vital communities.  SHIP encourages healthy eating, active living and avoiding commercial tobacco by working with school, communities, workplaces, and healthcare to make healthy choices easier. Statewide, the 2013 legislature supported SHIP with $35 million for fiscal year 2014 and 2015, and now SHIP funding will be available statewide once again. When SHIP began four years ago, it was statewide with $47 million over two years; however, in 2012 and 2013 SHIP received a 70 percent cut and the 15 million allocated only covered about half the state, which included Faribault, Martin & Watonwan Counties.

“We’ve been fortunate to have continued SHIP funding since the program began,” says Faribault, Martin and Watonwan Counties SHIP Coordinator Chera Sevcik, “We are excited to have this opportunity to take our ideas and work to the next level.”

Faribault, Martin and Watonwan Counties SHIP will be able to begin new projects across the region, while continuing its existing community health improvement work, such as:  

·         Working with the Active Living Coalitions in Blue Earth, Wells, Butterfield, St. James, and Madelia to implement policies and practices that create active communities by increasing opportunities for walking and biking.

·         Partnering with our local school districts to improve healthy eating & physical activity during the school day for both students and staff.

·         Partnering with multi-unit housing managers/owners to adopt and implement smoke-free policies inside apartment complexes.

 “We know from research that to really make a real, long-lasting change in the rates of physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco exposure and use, we need to help communities make it easier for their people to succeed,” says Michelle Larson, Interim Director for the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives, the home for SHIP at MDH. “That is why working with communities has been a cornerstone of SHIP since its inception.”

Grants were awarded to community health boards across Minnesota, which are made up of one or more counties and cities. Faribault, Martin and Watonwan (FMW) Counties SHIP received both implementation and innovative grant awards, allowing our partners to build on its existing health improvement work. The implementation grants are aimed to work with communities, schools, worksites, healthcare and childcare organizations to improve opportunities for healthy eating, physical activity and reduce use of and exposure to tobacco. In addition to the implementation grant work, FMW SHIP also received two innovative grant awards. The first will be to develop a multifaceted, coordinated approach to improve the health of our senior citizens in Martin County. The project includes increasing access to healthy foods, specifically fruits and vegetables for seniors, increasing access to walking and biking and other evidence-based programs aimed to help senior citizens live longer, healthier lives in their communities.  The second project is to work with the community of Madelia to implement a sugary-beverage reduction campaign, similar to what has been done in other communities around the country. This includes implementing policies and practices to reduce consumption of sugary beverages, which have been directly linked to the obesity epidemic.

“We are thrilled to continue our work we started four years ago. SHIP has meant a lot to our community, and we know we have only just begun,” said Sevcik.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

NEW for SHIP Partners in Faribault, Martin & Watonwan Counties

You can access documents from the informational meetings, health care meeting and partnership documents such as the letter of intent by clicking here!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Area Schools attend training on Physical Activity during the School Day!

Nine area schools attended a training in June with a focus on improving opportunities for physical activity during the school day. The day started off with Principal Gary Anger from Red Pine Elementary School in Eagan, MN. Gary talked about how his school has really championed wellness initiatives and how school administrators can really helped foster and encourage wellness as part of a school lifestyle. SHIP Supervisor Chera Sevcik provided an overview for attendees on the connection between academics and physical activity. Research continues to demonstrate the more physical activity provided to students, the better the test scores, academic outcome, attention spans and behaviors. Several research studies have been done which show this connection and were shared with the group. Scott Kelly from the Public Health Law Center (PHLC) provided an overview on developing gold standard wellness policies and discussed how schools can work towards good policy change. Several resources were shared from the center and schools are able to access the PHLC at no charge for consultation on their school wellness policies. The training ended with an overview of what schools can expect in SHIP 3 and a brief discussion of the timelines and funding available. About fifty participants attended the training including school physical education staff, school nurses, principals and superintendents, food service directors, community education directors and school teachers.

St. James School Recess Run improves mile run times in phy-ed!


St. James Northside Elementary School phy-ed teacher Marcia Eggen has spent the last year encouraging classrooms to be more active. In addition to providing active classroom resources on a monthly basis to all teachers, she encouraged classrooms to participate in the Recess Run challenge - which meant everyday, the participating classrooms would take their students outside and run - in the snow, rain or sun. Two classrooms faithfully participated in this challenge every day and the results are nothing short of amazing! Students mile run times were recorded in the fall as a baseline and then again in the spring. Of the students participating in the challenge, 92% had decreased their mile run times from the fall to the spring, with some students cutting their mile run time in half! The kids reported  that the challenge made them feeling better, running easier and was a lot of fun! In addition to improving student's physical health, research also shows that moving students more throughout the school day improves their mental capacity and improves classroom attentiveness and behavior issues. Northside also recently decided to increase physical education minutes next year! Great job Marcia and Northside Elementary!