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:

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!


Madelia Community Helps Local Restaurant Choose Healthy Drink Options!

La Plaza Fiesta in Madelia, owned by local, Krystal Hernandez, partnered with FMW SHIP and the Madelia: Rethink Your Drink Project to introduce a new healthier drink options to the menu.  Staff at La Plaza Fiesta
created three fruit-infused water recipes and held a contest with customers to help them decide which flavors should be added to the menu. Throughout the month of July, customers could sample three different fruit-infused water flavors - Cucumber Mint, Berry Blast and Citrus Kiss. Both Berry Blast and Citrus Kiss were favorites among voting customers, so both flavors were added to the menu beginning in August. Patrons can now enjoy  healthy, naturally-sweetened water for less than the price of a soda!
“We are excited to try the fruit-infused waters and see how people like it. We think it will be a great partnership to have with SHIP and will help Madelia stay healthy.”-Krystal Hernandez, La Plaza Fiesta owner.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

BEAM encourages healthy eating for mentors & mentees!

 Influenced by a mentor’s concern and supported through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), the Blue Earth Area Mentors (BEAM) program was able to develop a nutrition policy that would encourage mentors and mentees to chose healthy food options.

 The policy implementation is most visible during their planned monthly activity when all mentors and mentees come together. A meal is planned and prepared by the advisory council consisting of a two high school and 2 middle school students and the BEAM coordinator, Katy Gonzalez.

Kyra Ober, the president of the advisory council for three years shares that she “was surprised by what was available locally at Jubas Supervalue for healthy foods.” She also stated that kids asked “why?” at first in regards to eating healthy. Kyra response was that its “actually fun to be creative and plan a meal.” She was excited to have input on their monthly menu planning where they either came up with ideas, got them from the internet, or from foods class at Blue Earth Area High School. Her favorite menu item that has been repeated includes fruit salsa consisting of strawberries, kiwi, orange juice, apples, fruit preserves and honey, paired with a baked whole wheat tortilla strip sprinkled with cinnamon. Other favorites included fresh vegetables with chicken as in fajitas, wraps or salads.

“The influence came from a mentor’s concern to discuss healthy eating in a non-offensive way,” states Gonzalez, while reflecting on how it got started. After talking with the mentor, Gary Holmseth, it was evident the impact the mentors have on the mentees and vise versa. When they are with each other one-on-one, there is a great opportunity and responsibility to educate in that time. He is encouraging his mentee to try new things and limit his sugar intake.

The January banquet brought together not only mentors and mentees but family members as well for the first time, where they featured a healthy three course meal, did activities, and conducted a survey on the nutrition policy.

In an effort to continue educating the mentors, mentees and family members, Katie has decided to submit the featured menus in the monthly newsletter and is interested in developing a recipe book.
For more information on BEAM or the policy, visit:


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.