West Union makes Healthy Choices Count!
West Union, located in Fayette County and home to 2,400 residents, is one of 15 communities across Iowa receiving grant funding from the Iowa Department of Health to implement projects that support the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! initiative.
West Union has been a leader in not only embracing 5-2-1-0, but building community partnerships to make their efforts more sustainable and finding fun and creative ways to make the healthy choice the easy choice for all ages.
This is how West Union makes Healthy Choices Count!:
Community Teaching Kitchen
You're never too young or too old to learn how to cook healthy meals: In its first year of operation, the Gundersen Palmer Community Teaching Kitchen saw students from age 8 to 98 participate.
"The classes were able to accommodate every age and ability to develop skills and knowledge to improve choices impacting their nutritional health and wellbeing," said Jes Wegner, community health coordinator at Gundersen Palmer Hospital & Clinic.
The community teaching kitchen is a mobile, eight-station classroom complete with all necessary cooking equipment and a demonstration table. All of the kitchen supplies are stored in a trailer that can be transported to the cooking class location.
“The community teaching kitchen is a unique opportunity that brings hands-on nutrition education directly to residents of Fayette County," said Wegner. Most of the 2019 classes were held at the county fairgrounds in West Union.
What originally started as an idea among co-workers, the community teaching kitchen was made possible by 5-2-1-0 funding in addition to invaluable collaborations between community partners, policy and public health systems development.
Iowa State University Extension & Outreach was one of those key partnerships leveraged, providing education and demonstration, including a "Healthy & Homemade" series and food preservation courses.
"The impact was beyond expected," said Wegner. She estimates that the community teaching kitchen has served more than 400 participants since it began in January 2019 with plans to continue programming into 2020.
LEARN MORE: Access free 5-2-1-0 resources
Cyndii Lamphier had been dreaming about creating an outdoor lobby at Gundersen Palmer Hospital & Clinic for many years.
"The spot is ideally placed in a sheltered area between our clinic and hospital," said Lamphier, patient quality satisfaction and infection prevention coordinator. "But I just never could make the right connections to get it done."
That changed when West Union's 5-2-1-0 coalition saw the project as a "place making" opportunity to design a public area that promotes health and well-being.
While a waiting room is generally sterile and sometimes stressful, the new outdoor lobby provides the opposite experience. The outdoor lobby features benches built by North Fayette Valley High School's industrial arts class, plus hula hoops and chalk.
"A beautiful day now doesn't have to be wasted sitting in a clinic waiting for a doctor appointment," said Lamphier. "Children that are full of energy can use the area to play and use sidewalk chalk for their masterpieces."
The outdoor lobby was also welcomed by patients recovering at the hospital as well as staff who wish to clear their mind and get some fresh air during breaks. Staff also used the outdoor lobby to house container gardens where they grew herbs, tomatoes and peppers. Harvested produce was then served on the staff salad bar and used in dishes at the hospital cafeteria.
"The outdoor lobby turned out much better than I ever even dreamed!" said Lamphier.
GET INVOLVED: Become a 5-2-1-0 Registered Site
Walking School Bus
Kent Halverson was serving as mayor when the idea of a "Walking School Bus" was presented to the West Union City Council in 2013.
"I said 'I support you, as long as you never ask me to walk all the way up to Kaleidoscope (Kids Child Care Center)," said Halverson. "Next thing you know, I am walking twice a week."
The West Union Walking School Bus program relies on volunteers, like Halverson, to walk with kids to the elementary school and child care center. It operates five days a week – rain or shine – on multiple routes across town during the fall and spring months.
"It has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life," said Halverson. "I look forward to being around the kids every week."
The Walking School Bus not only provides students an opportunity to get physical activity before school, but the program also allows them to interact with their peers.
"These kids get to visit all the way to school. They talk the minute they walk out of the house and they don’t quit until we get there," said Halverson.
Walking to school also helps teach children active transportation habits and increases the likelihood that they will make active lifestyle choices as teens and adults.
"It gets the kids on their feet," said Halverson, who also admits its good exercise for him, too. "Community members see the kids and me walking – it's something we should all do."
Learn more about 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count!
5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! is a health-focused movement for kids that’s under the nationally recognized program, 5-2-1-0. It all starts by encouraging them to eat and play the right way.
This proven, scientific method helps keep kids healthy by focusing on the importance of four habits:
- 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables
- 2 hours or less of screen time (television, computer, video games, phones, etc.)
- 1 hour or more of physical activity
- 0 (or reduce) sugar-sweetened beverages - drink more water!
To learn more about how you can get your community, workplace, school, health care clinic or child care site involved in 5-2-1-0, click here.