Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blue Earth Area Schools Adds Food Preservation to Family Consumer Science Class

A common barrier we at SHIP often hear related to eating healthy is food preparation, storage and preservation. One teacher at Blue Earth Area Schools is changing her curriculum to ensure students who take her Family and Consumer Science class leave with the skills they need to safely preserve food. Canning, in particular, is considered a 'lost art' in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century. By incorporating food preservation into the course curriculum, they are working to once again, revive a long lost practice. The first group of Culinary Arts students were able to make use of fresh garden produce in the fall by dehydrating apples and canning salsa.  "Students really enjoyed the apples and experimented with a variety of flavors by treating with lemon juice, cinnamon or cinnamon/sugar.  Students were also very serious about canning salsa and making sure that no one needed to worry about botulism.  They washed equipment, fresh veggies and hands even more carefully than normal.  They were sure to process jars carefully.  We had one jar to taste in class and they each took their own jar home for their families.  Several mentioned that there was no salsa left after the weekend!" Barbara Carlson, Family Consumer Science Teacher at Blue Earth Area Schools.
In addition to adding the curriculum in the Family Consumer Science Program, the school district plans to utilize the canning equipment in their Community Education Program to provide food preservation community classes. Working with Family Consumer Science Programs provides a unique opportunity to benefit both the students and the program. "Often, budgets are tight and Family Consumer Science Programs turn to low cost baking items for their class curriculum, adding education for students on canning and freezing provides students with basic life-long skills," Dar Holmseth, Community Education Director at Blue Earth Area Schools.

Students at Blue Earth Area Schools demonstrating their newfound canning abilities!

Improving Walkability in Martin County!

Communities across Martin County are taking steps towards more pedestrian friendly communities after participating in walkability workshops conducted by Minnesota Department of Health and Region 9 Development Commission. Community groups which included representation from schools, childcare, seniors and county commissioners came together in both Trimont and Truman to learn about the importance of active living and pedestrian walkability in their communities.

Areas of concern were identified during the walking audit portion of the training, including gaps in sidewalk continuity, poor sidewalk conditions, dangerous street crossings and problem areas around school buildings.  In Trimont, the walk included discussing the downtown area, and included crossing County Highway 4 near Trimont Elementary. The group continued walking and discussed possible development opportunities in the community. This included a grocery store that is being sited just south of town. The group discussed the importance of considering walking and bicycling access to the store. There was also discussion of safe access from the Trimont Healthcare Center. In Truman, the walking audit included the Senior Living Community, community park, school zone area and downtown. During the walking audit, MNDot was in the process of upgrading Highway 15 which runs through the community. It was noted that the Martin County Commissioners requested MNDot pave four foot shoulders to allow for pedestrian travel, to which MnDot agreed.

Upon returning from the walking audit, each community group identified barriers as well as opportunities for improvement.

Some potential next steps for Trimont include:

·         Create pedestrian plan, bike plan, or active living plan.

·         Build partnerships with stakeholders County and create a discussion about a bike path to connect both communities

o    MnDOT is already scheduled to service this section of Hwy 4 around 2020 (time frame could still change)

§  Create plans now so that they are taken into account when MnDOT is ready to work – major reduction in cost

·         Explore Safe routes to school

·         Coordinating with development of new grocery store so that there is access for pedestrians and bikes

o    Possibility of creating a route in the area by the senior living facility that runs parallel to Hwy 4

o    Opportunity to try developing Main St instead of putting new grocer on Hwy 4

In Truman, possible next steps include:

·         Create pedestrian plan, bike plan, or active living plan.

·        Better markings for crossings, repair and complete sidewalks, look at ADA compliance in downtown area

·         Explore Safe routes to school

·       Traffic calming strategies near school and downtown area (Ciro Street).
These workshops were part of our work with the Martin County Senior Project, an innovative project aimed at improving the health of seniors across Martin County.

Wells Active Living Creates Rebel Route


With the new school building opening in fall of 2014, Wells Active Living Coalition partnered with United South Central (USC) to successfully apply for MNDOT infrastructure grant that will support safe routes to school. The primary focus of the infrastructure grant was to safely connect the community with the new school site located on the edge of the community. The grant, amounting to $262,086 will include new sidewalks and a rapid rectangular flashing beacon (RRFB) which will help students safely cross State Highway 22. Partnerships with the city, Region 9, MNDOT and community entities were essential for success. 
The grant infrastructure is scheduled for 2015, which required the committee to meet and develop a temporary SRTS plan to safely get students to the new schools until the improvements are made. The committee, which includes the city administrator and school superintendent, brainstormed potential improvements. A plan was developed which identified safe routes (coined Rebel Routes in honor of the USC Rebels) to the new building. The committee worked with the city council to adopt a no parking ordinance during school arrival and dismissal times.  Information was disseminated to home owners along the routes about SRTS and the plan for safety improvements for students. A bike lane was striped along the route, signage was installed and Rebel Route was stenciled along the route.
Wells Active Living Coalition budgeted $2,000 of SHIP funding to use towards Safe Routes to School. With that money, $1600 was used on signage and stencils. The city donated the paint, and the map of rebel routes that is displayed in the school office. Starting the first day of school, the Wells Lion’s Club volunteered to provide crossing guards before and after school to encourage parents to allow their children to walk, as well as help slow down traffic until we receive the rapid rectangular flashing beacon (RRFB).
The committee provided a plethora of education and encouragement to the community to utilize the Rebel Routes, which included information in the local newspaper, flyers for families and a booth set up at the school Open House to promote the program. Students have been taking advantage of the route, and the buses that are currently making a couple stops in town, may be discontinued in the future. The SRTS committee, along with multiple volunteers and community members, has proven to invest interest and value into students walking to school safely.

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.