Mt. Ayr makes Healthy Choices Count!
Mount Ayr, located in Ringgold County, is perhaps best known as the hometown of NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. However, this southern Iowa community should also be known for the efforts it has made in recent years to create healthier environments for its 1,700 residents.
Mount Ayr is one of 16 communities across Iowa currently receiving grant funding from the Iowa Department of Health to implement projects that support the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! initiative.
This is how Mount Ayr makes Healthy Choices Count!:
Kayaks at Liberty Lake
Liberty Lake, located just north of Mount Ayr, is a new addition to the Ringgold County Conservation Board and is set to become an destination for outdoor recreation in the area.
“Ringgold County Conservation is proud to partner with the 5-2-1-0 to bring new and exciting recreational opportunities to rural Iowa," said Kate Zimmerman, board director for Ringgold County Conservation.
The 40-acre park includes a 12.5 acre lake (previously known as Mount Ayr Reservoir) and a shelter house. Recently, three docks were installed at the lake, including a kayak launcher. 5-2-1-0 grant funding was used to purchase six kayaks for use on Liberty Lake.
“Outdoor recreation has played a vital role during the pandemic, providing safe opportunities to improve your mental and physical health," said Zimmerman. "Ringgold County Conservation is committed to improving the health and wellness of our communities through environmental educational programs like kayaking.”
Ringgold County Conservation hosted a series of kayak sessions, which included a brief instructional lesson from Zimmerman, this summer. All sessions were free and open to the public.
5-2-1-0 funding was also used to purchase a disc golf course at Liberty Lake which was recently installed. Future plans for the site include constructing cabins, a campground and a trail that will circle the lake.
One of the most popular places for physical activity in Mount Ayr is Judge Lewis Park, located on the west side of town. The park includes multiple playgrounds, shelter houses, a swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts and youth baseball/softball fields.
The most recent addition to Judge Lewis Park is a Friendship Swing and a green space natural playground which were both funded with the 5-2-1-0 grant.
"The swing allows for a more dynamic swing experience pairing socialization with activity," said Amanda Cannon, assistant city clerk for Mount Ayr. "It’s double-the-fun!"
A Friendship Swing is a multi-user swing that allows children and adults to swing together and promotes inclusive play because people of all ages and abilities are easily able to use it.
"It allows an opportunity for grandparents to swing with their grandchildren or parents to swing with their children," said Cannon.
The Friendship Swing is also centrally located near one of the park's shelter houses and serves as a starting point for the park's two walking trail segments.
A vacant lot in a central part of town was transformed into a community garden this summer. The Ringgold County Wellness Coalition and Ringgold Outdoor Alliance partnered to build the garden with the use of 5-2-1-0 funds.
The new garden is one of two gardens organized by the Ringgold County Wellness Coalition. Both gardens are tended to by community members and anyone is welcome to harvest the fruits and vegetables that are grown.
"Gardening has always been an important part of my family life," said Andy Kellner, Ringgold County Wellness Coalition volunteer. "I think it is something that can help bring people together just as much as sharing a meal."
A large area was tilled for the garden and raised beds and planter tubs were also added. A large variety of produce is grown on-site including green beans, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, melons, squash, and cucumbers.
"I'm excited to incorporate more partners each year and have opportunities for people new to gardening and lifelong green thumbs," said Kellner. "I view the new community garden as a step along a path of sharing experience, knowledge and the fruits of our labor."
This isn't the first time 5-2-1-0 funds have been used to support a garden project. Last year, grant funds were used to improve the garden located at the Ringgold County Child Care/Family Resource Center with additional raised beds and fruit trees.
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.