By Lauren Kollauf on Wednesday, September 29, 2021


LINK Grinnell, the 2021 out-of-school program winner, used their award to fund their summer garden programming in addition to other projects. They are pictured at the Ahrens Park garden in Grinnell.

2021 winners show us their projects

Earlier this year, the Healthiest State Initiative recognized schools, workplaces, individuals and communities working to improve the health of Iowans at the 2021 Healthiest State Annual Awards.

Each winner received a monetary award and, over the past several months, they were able to use their prize funds on projects to continue their efforts to create healthier environments for their students, employees and fellow citizens.

Let's check in with our 2021 Healthiest State Award winners who were honored back in February: 

Early Care 

Handy's Home Daycare and Preschool (Norwalk)

Handy's Home Daycare used their $250 award to expand their garden area and purchase more indoor activities: "This has been our most successful gardening year yet! We were able to purchase more soil, pots, fertilizer, plant food, seeds, and seedlings.  We were also able to purchase watering cans so that everyone can help with watering the garden as well as tomato stands to help our plants grow and not break. We also purchased a couple of rainy day activities that we can do for physical activity with the kiddos on the days it is too muddy to play in our normal play area."

APPLY NOW: 2022 Annual Awards applications open!

Des Moines Area Community College Child Development Center (Ankeny)

DMACC used their $500 award to order a variety of items (micro grow lights, tomato and pepper cages, pocket pruners) to support our garden curriculum and development for all children: "The garden “tools” allowed our children and Early Childhood Education students to have exposure to planning, planting, watering, growing and transplanting garden seeds for our three outside gardening spaces."


Riceville Elementary, the 2021 K-12 school winner, used their award to fund the installation of play and movement equipment (pictured above) along a nearby walking trail. 

K-12 School

Riceville Elementary 

With their $5,000 award, Riceville Elementary installed movement and play equipment along a nearby walking trail: "We have a walking trail that was built around our school/playground. Not only do our students and staff use the trail, but so do many of our community members. Our school thought having some new equipment along the trail that provides different movement, use of different muscle groups, balance techniques, etc. would provide even more health benefits."

APPLY NOW: 2022 Annual Awards applications open!

Out-of-School Program

LINK Grinnell

LINK used their $500 award to fund programming for LINK summer camp: "In addition to gardening, we did a Remembering Mollie event where we read her poetry and made to canvases with art around her memory. We also took the children to the county fair and to a local farm to learn about cows and to feed a bottle calf."

trail connection

Natalie Lancial, the 2021 Individual Award winner, designated her funds to the City of Malvern to purchase a wayfinding sign for their new trail connection from Wabash Trace to Boehner Pond. 


Natalie Lancial (Malvern)

Natalie Lancial designated her $1,000 award to the City of Malvern which is in the process of purchasing a wayfinding sign to place at the new connection of Boehner Pond to the Wabash Trace Nature Trail: "The trail is a focal point of the City, and is something that Malvern actively promotes. Due to the pond's close proximity to the Wabash Trace, Malvern's Healthy Hometown group connected the pond to the trail in order to increase its exposure to users of the trail. In addition, Malvern also created a walking/biking trail around the pond. This upgrade to Boehner Pond and addition of new amenities will make it the perfect spot for residents to become more active."

market bucks

FAMILY, Inc., the 2021 Small Workplace Award winner, used part of their funds to purchase Council Bluffs Farmers Market vouchers for their employees to spend during the season. 


FAMILY, Inc. (Council Bluffs)

Family, Inc. divided their $1,000 award between several projects, including farmers market vouchers for their staff members, printing of an employee cookbook and indoor gardening materials: "Each employee was given a dollar amount at the beginning of market season to spend how they saw fit. Many have had delicious sweet corn and local mushrooms while others picked enchiladas and homemade salsa. We are excited to get our FAMILY, Inc. cookbook printed and bound for all team members and have it as a thank you gift for our clients that are involved in our advisory committees. FAMILY realizes that many find their stress relief through having their hands in the dirt, so we are super excited to purchase pots, soil, and air plants to create this space for our team. The planting will be done during a team building activity once team members are back to working in the office full-time after the pandemic slows down."

Delta Dental of Iowa (Johnston)

Delta Dental of Iowa used their $1,000 award to provide fruit as a healthy snack bi-weekly for employees working in the office.

Hy-Vee (West Des Moines)

Hy-Vee used their $1,000 award to launch a new child care benefit for their employees: "We recently announced a new partnership with WeeCare, the nation’s largest child care network. WeeCare provides our eligible employees access to their concierge service to find affordable, high-quality in-home child care options. This is not a common benefit and we are very excited to be able to offer this to employees."

APPLY NOW: 2022 Annual Awards applications open!

Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Community

Each of the winners received $5,000 to continue the efforts in their communities. Read more about their projects:

2022 Healthiest State Annual Awards

awardsApplications are now open for the 2022 Healthiest State Annual Awards. Applications are due no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 29. and finalists will be announced in January. Finalists will be announced in January 2022 and winners will be announced in February 2022. 

The categories for the Healthiest State Initiative Annual Awards include:

  • Workplace
  • Education (K-12 School)
  • Early Care
  • Out-of-School Program
  • Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Community Award
  • Individual Impact

Each winner will be awarded a monetary prize to contribute towards a health and wellness-related project that benefits their employees, students or fellow citizens.