5-2-1-0 WINS!

By Lauren Kollauf on Tuesday, March 30, 2021

5-2-1-0 is 'another tool in our belt' for Ottumwa

The community of Ottumwa is no stranger to working together on healthy eating and active living endeavors. So when the Wapello County micropolitan was selected to receive a 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! grant, they were ready to get to work.

ottumwa"This is not something new for us," said Garrett Ross, CEO/Executive Director of the Ottumwa Family YMCA. "5-2-1-0 has given us the opportunity to promote healthy living in a different way. It’s another tool in our belt to reach out and make the most difference with what we’ve got."

Ottumwa, with a population of nearly 25,000 located in southeast Iowa, is one of 16 communities across the state receiving 5-2-1-0 funding from the Iowa Department of Public Health in FY21. Ottumwa had previously been the site of a community-based research project through the Prevention Research Center at the University of Iowa.

Ross said the 5-2-1-0 Steering Committee in Ottumwa chose to focus on accessibility and inclusivity of their existing programs and active living opportunities. Here are some of the projects that will funded in Ottumwa with 5-2-1-0 funds:

New disc golf course at Liberty Elementary

Ottumwa has multiple disc golf courses within the community, but for multiple years had been seeking funding to create a beginner-friendly course where young players could learn the sport and practice. The 5-2-1-0 grant will help fund a new course at Liberty Elementary.

"Disc golf is great physical activity that is lifelong and intergenerational," said Kim Hellige, Director of Community Programs at Ottumwa Community Schools. "This new course will be designed for novice players and will be fun for all ages. It's a great opportunity to get outside and exercise."

RELATED: Meet the towns receiving 5-2-1-0 funds

Liberty Elementary P.E. class plans to include a unit on disc golf. The school is the also site of the district's before and after school program, so the course will be available to those students as well. Outside of school hours, the course will also be open to the public. 


Liberty Elementary in Ottumwa serves students in grades 2–5. It will soon be home to the community's newest disc golf course.

Sensory pathways in early care settings

Sensory pathways plan to be installed at the Pickwick Early Childhood Center (part of the Community School District) and the YMCA early child care program. The pathways are made up of decals that guide students through physical activities. 

"The sensory pathways are really important to our youth in their development and especially in social emotional development," said Ross. "They're key for gross motor skills and cognitive development. So they’re fun and educational. It gives them a mental distraction along with physical engagement."

RESOURCES: Learn more about 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count!

To further increase physical activity opportunities, Pickwick ECC was also able to purchase additional equipment with 5-2-1-0 funds, including an indoor play obstacle course and parachutes for outside. Both early care programs are also making efforts to get share the 5-2-1-0 message with the families they serve by sending home brochures and hanging up posters.


A drinking fountain near the Market Street Bridge in Ottumwa. Officials are hoping to update it to a frost-free water bottle filling station that can be used year-round. 

What's next for Ottumwa?

In addition to the larger projects, Ottumwa has other projects planned to continue moving the needle on health and wellness in their community, including:

  • Installing/updating additional water bottle filling stations at trailheads and parks
  • Creating "story walks" along the city trail systems
  • Increasing physical activity in the schools through "brain break" curriculum

"Our ultimate goal is to see Ottumwa as a happier and healthier place," said Ross.

Learn more about 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! 

52105-2-1-0 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.