Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tobacco Housing Goes up in Smoke

Tobacco-free housing is a priority of Faribault, Martin and Watonwan SHIP, and those counties have made great progress in educating and collaborating with housing complex managers on the impact smoking has on residents of multi-unit housing.

The work began in 2016 with SHIP working on policies, resources and tools to use in meetings with housing managers. It didn’t take long, about six months, for the Mayberry Reality Apartments in St. James, to go tobacco-free, impacting 137 units. In May of 2018, that number has grown to 559 within the Faribault, Martin, & Watonwan County Region!

Linda, a resident of Friendship Village in Fairmont, started smoking when she was 15. Her complex went smoke-free on June 1, 2017, spurring Linda to quit. After lighting up for 50 years, she is now seven months tobacco-free.

“My dog is happy. My cat is happy. My house is happy and I’m happy!” Instead of using the money Linda would have used to purchase cigarettes, she saved that money and bought herself an iPhone. “Where have I been? I LOVE IT!” said Linda.

Linda’s charisma and passion to better her health and others has led a friend to quit smoking.  “It hasn’t been easy. It takes a lot of determination and lots of willpower. A LOT of willpower.”

Linda is happy to be living smoke-free and is a proud advocate of her smoke-free building. SHIP plans to continue with its efforts in 2018 and beyond, and hope to surpass the 600 unit mark.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Several Apartment Complexes going Smoke Free in 2017!

Management at Amberfield Place Apartments in Trimont, St. James, Sherburn, and Madelia passed a new policy which prohibits smoking inside their apartment complexes. This change will provide a healthier, safer, and cleaner environment for their 112 units. FMW SHIP teamed up with the American Lung Association to provide technical assistance and support to Amberfield Place with their new smoke-free policy, which includes 100% smoke-free indoor areas and no smoking within 25 feet from the building. Their policy also includes e-cigarettes. The rule will go into effect by July 2017 or sooner, pending tenant signage of the new lease addendum.

On May 4th, 2016, tenants of Amberfield Place, Madelia, attended a meeting on the new smoke-free policy. The meeting was well attended with over fifteen residents coming to learn more about the policy and the benefits of smoke-free housing. Manager, Sylvia Kunz, presented the policy to residents and discussed Amberfield Place’s decision on going smoke-free. With the help of FMW SHIP, residents were able to learn about the benefits of smoke-free housing and given the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the policy.

Amberfield had an overwhelming amount of support for the policy. One resident voiced her support of the policy claiming that the drifting smoke from apartments makes it difficult to breath and forces her to use a CPAP machine. Several others voiced their praises of the units going smoke-free.



It's All About Walking & Biking in Blue Earth!

In 2011, a small group of community members came together to start discussing the concept of active living. That small group has evolved over the years into the Blue Earth Area Active Living Coalition. Throughout the years, the group has concentrated efforts to ensure Blue Earth is more walkable and bikeable. Partnerships with the City of Blue Earth, Blue Earth Area Schools, Chamber of Commerce and County Engineers, has resulted in some exciting developments. One of the groups most recent accomplishments includes working with MnDOT, the City of Blue Earth and Faribault County in planning that resulted in the complete reconstruction of Blue Earth Main Street. The Active Living Coalition worked with the planners to incorporate active living principles which cater to walking and biking. Upon opening this fall, the new main street area included curb bump outs with cross walks brightly painted and constructed with colored concrete and new, brighter lighting to increase safety when crossing. Additionally, the city made a commitment to repainting crosswalks throughout the town which has helped create safer walking conditions. The city has also utilized planning to improve walking and riding conditions in high pedestrian traffic areas, by installing new signage, striping cross walks and in-creasing enforcement for speeding. By focusing on improving the infrastructure the Blue Earth Area Active Living Coalition has helped make walking and biking the easier choice for the residents of Blue Earth which in turn has improved the overall health of the community.

Beautiful new infrastructure in downtown Blue Earth! Curb bump-outs and highly visible cross walks! 

The coalition has also been very focused on improving biking and walking to school. In SHIP 3, the coalition received a Safe Routes to School Planning Grant. With the help of Region 9 Development Commission, the planning grant allowed the development of a Safe Routes to School Plan which has helped provide direction to the group as they moved forward. The coalition has used the planning document as an action plan and worked to implement strategies. This past Fall, an active coalition member, a recent retired teacher, and avid cyclist completed the Minnesota League of Bicyclist In-structor training. Having someone with this training will not only benefit Blue Earth, but all of Southern Minnesota. A Safe Route to School sub-committee also formed within the coalition and their first goal was to develop an active Safe Routes to School walking plan. Working with a local engineering firm, the group developed a Walking School Bus map with four routes. The team organized a volunteer pool and began promoting the new walking/biking school bus prior to the first day of school. The volunteers will meet at set locations and walk along a designated route and pick up stu-dents along the way to make walking and biking to school safer. The school was also involved with preparations, which included painting huge ladder crossings in all crosswalks around the elementary school, providing training to 5th grade students to function as crossing guards, training the physical education teachers in the Walk!Bike!Fun! Curriculum and promoting National Walk to School Day in October.


SRTS Day Volunteers!

Not only have there been physical improvements in the community as result of planning and policy/practice changes, the community seems to have embraced the changes for the better. According to Dave Kittelson, League of MN Bicyclist Instructor and Blue Earth Community Member, "I now see more people paying attention, car stop-ping for kids in the crosswalks and an overall greater awareness for walkers and bikers in our community."


Community Food Partnerships Continue to Flourish!

Faribault, Martin & Watonwan counties are considered a food desert by the USDA. A food desert is a location (rural or urban) in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good quality foods.  
Faribault County Community Food Partnership Team Meeting

In 2013, County boards in Faribault, Martin and Watonwan counties passed a Local Foods Resolution that provided a commitment to improving access to local, healthy foods. As a next step, FMW SHIP worked to develop Community Food Partnerships (CFP) in each county, to continue the conversation regarding healthy food access and affordability.

In Faribault County, the CFP has worked to better understand the local food environment and needs of their communities. They have developed an action plan which includes improving grocery store delivery and access to foods for senior citizens, as well as supporting healthy food access at the local food shelves.

In Watonwan County, work has also centered around better understanding their local food environment and developing an action plan that pro-motes better food access for all. Improving community-based agriculture opportunities for local citizens as well working with local establishments to adopt the Eat Well! Healthy Restaurant and Corner Store program are included on their action plan. Additionally, they will also be starting a program to encourage community organizations and businesses to grow edible landscaping in portable containersto act as both a means for food as well as beautification of the community.

Work is just beginning to develop a CFP in Martin County. The group continues to meet and assess the local foods environment using the Minnesota Food Charter as a tool for guiding conversations and assessments.

Martin County Community Food Partnership Team Meeting

Community Food Partnership participants include a wide variety of community partners, such as Chambers of Commerce, schools, community education, restaurants, local growers, the faith community, representation from local food shelves , city and county government and citizens. New partners are always welcome to the table!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

St. James Armstrong School Gets Kid's Moving at Recess!

In September 2015, Armstrong School in St. James, MN added new active playground activities to improve their playground climate, and it wouldn’t have been possible without help from the 60+ volunteers and church youth group members. 

Armstrong School had a blank tar area that was transformed into a painted area with spinning circles for use with the SMART strategies, a maze, a running track, a trike track, hopscotch, and many more games to keep students active during their recess time and physical education time. Teachers and playground staff educate students on how to play the games. Not only is the area used for recess, but teachers at Armstrong also bring their students outside whenever the weather allows. Sue Harris, Community Education Director commented, “children need to have downtime in between cognitive practice, and these playground additions are perfect activities to serve as brain breaks.” 

Playtime and class time are equally as important in helping students perform their best.  Painted playgrounds are a low-cost strategy that can help engage children in active play during recess time as well as a great tool for teachers to utilize during the school day!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bike Faribault County!

A chilly morning in late May didn't stop 35 cyclists from participating in the First Annual Bike Faribault County Day event. The Active Living Coalitions in both Wells and Blue Earth partnered to plan and coordinate the event, which was intended to celebrate successes, such as working with MnDOT to pave extended shoulders on Highway 109 to allow for smoother biking and connecting communities throughout the county.
 Chelsea Sonnek, lead coordinator of the 2015 event, was excited about the county-wide participation, “One of the highlights from the event was seeing the representation from each community throughout the county!” 

The towns included along the bike tour were Blue Earth, Winnebago, Easton, Delavan, and Wells. Participants were able to customize their bike ride, choosing they to complete the whole bike tour (12.5 miles) or creating their own ride by selecting their own starting and ending points. Participants were encouraged to stop in communities along the ride, with event coordinators encouraging riders to explore restaurants, parks, wildlife areas, and historic sights. There were also refreshments and registration in each town. The Broken Shop cyclist repair shop of Blue Earth was also on hand to assist riders with any bike repairs during the event.

“Everyone who commented to me said that they enjoyed the route and the ride!” Dar Holmseth, Community Ed Director for Blue Earth Area Schools.
Check out the press coverage from KEYC-TV on the Bike Faribault County Day event: http://www.keyc.com/story/29197432/faribault-county-holds-organized-bike-event

Butterfield Community Comes Together For Hands Around the Lake Event!

242 community members hit the open trails at the Butterfield Hands Around the Lake Event. The event promotes walking and biking and encourages community members to walk the beautiful trail around Butterfield Lake. The Butterfield Active Living Coalition provided education to participants on pedestrian safety and safe walking and biking. One of the goals for this years event was to have enough community members participating to hold hands and circle the entire lake!