storm lake

5-2-1-0 WINS!

By Lauren Kollauf on Monday, June 22, 2020

5-2-1-0 brings Storm Lake community together

Storm Lake – a town of 10,000 located lakeside in Buena Vista County – is one of the most diverse communities in Iowa. The meatpacking industry has attracted employees from a variety of cultural backgrounds and there are more than 20 languages spoken in the school district. 


"It’s really important to understand the diversity in Storm Lake," said Erin Pingel, planner with Northwest Iowa Planning and Development Commission and grant administrator. "A big hurdle for the community is bringing everyone together."

However, Storm Lake recently leveraged a community health improvement grant to foster collaboration and better meet the community's diverse needs. Storm Lake was one of 14 communities across the state selected for a 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! grant, receiving $30,000 from the Iowa Department of Public Health in FY20 to help fund projects that support healthy choices.

RELATED: Meet the communities receiving 5-2-1-0 funding

A group of community organizations, including the school district, child care providers, multicultural health coalitions, nonprofit organizations as well as city officials gathered to review project proposals for the grant funding.

"The group knew the needs of their community, which is key," said Pingel. "What can we do to bring the community together? That thought was always around the table. Parks, gardens and education were what the group felt could help the community the most."

Here are some of the projects planned for Storm Lake:

New neighborhood playground 

After a local greenhouse business burned down in 2013, the city of Storm Lake purchased the site to convert into a park. Grass and trees were planted, but community organizations saw more potential for the space.

"We wanted to make the park be more useful and provide a place for kids to play," said Carl Turner, former school district superintendant and member of a local Kiwanis Club. "It will be a benefit to the entire community but especially that neighborhood."


Turner's club and another Kiwanis chapter in town worked together to raise funds and write grants to purchase a playground for the park. Total project costs for the park are $30,000. Funds raised by members, combined with 5-2-1-0 funds and other community grants will make the park a reality.

Due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the playground is now set to be installed in Spring 2021. The Kiwanis clubs also hope to one day build a shelter at the park and use it as a space for community health fair events.

Free nutrition education courses

Mandi De La Cruz leads an 8-week course called "Buy. Eat. Live Healthy." through her role as a program assistant at the county's Iowa State University Extension & Outreach office.

The course, provided free of charge to qualified participants, offers education on how to plan and shop for healthy meals. Participants cook healthy meals together with recipes from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. 

MORE 5-2-1-0 STORIES: Grinnell Hampton | Missouri Valley

"With the economy being uncertain, the classes talk about how to save money in the store while still eating healthy," said De La Cruz. "For people from other cultures, it is helpful to learn how to read a food label that can help them with their nutrition and how to cook recipes with ingredients that are cheap here."


"Buy. Eat. Live Healthy." is currently offered in Spanish and English and De La Cruz is working to find interpreters so she can provide education to more community members. 5-2-1-0 grant funding helped De La purchase and Dutch ovens as an incentive for participants who complete the full program. 

Going from garden to kitchen

An idea from the United Community Health Center to support community gardens grew into an opportunity to partner with another local organization, The Bridge of Storm Lake.

The Bridge already has an extensive garden training program which teaches Storm Lake youth to grow produce and learn about agriculture. Last year they piloted the "Garden to Table" project where students took the harvested produce to a local church and prepared a healthy meal together.

"The kids loved it and learned new ways to use vegetables," said Shelly Rock, executive director of The Bridge. "It’s great to have a garden, but how can we take it one step further and learn how to use the vegetables?"


The Bridge has a small kitchen in office warehouse and they were already in the process of securing grants to remodel it into a training kitchen. Funds from the 5-2-1-0 grant will support the kitchen remodel. UCHC will also be able to use the training kitchen, set to be completed in 2020, for their own community cooking classes. 

"Food brings people together," said Rock. "I think it would be really fun to partner with local chefs and be able to learn more about the different food cooked in other cultures and prepare them in a healthy way."

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

logo5-2-1-0 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.