Iowa Grants Cultivate Food Security & Health

Iowa Grants Cultivate Food Security & Health

Cultivating diverse food system to support healthier Iowans, communities, economies and environment is goal of Wellmark grants.

On April 6, 2012 the Wellmark Foundation presented over $400,000 to three grant recipients in Central Iowa. The organizations were chosen out of 111 applicants to receive funding to implement initiatives encouraging healthy lifestyles through programs that will teach healthy behaviors to children, and school and community gardens.

Iowa Food Gardening Social Marketing Initiative: Cultivating Food Security and Health

The Iowa Food Gardening Social Marketing Initiative, offered through the Iowa Food Systems Council, will cultivate food security and improve health by encouraging more household, community, school and workplace gardens across Iowa and linking gardeners to food pantries.

Left to right: Janet Toering and Kris Fish Kuhlmann of the Iowa 4-H Foundation, Angie Tagtow and Fritz Nordengren of the Iowa Food Systems Council, John Roosa of Iowa State University, Iowa 4-H director Chuck Morris, Matt McGarvey, director of The Wellmark Foundation, and Abbie Parker with Iowa State University.

According to IFSC president F. R. "Fritz" Nordengren, "The Iowa Food Gardening Social Marketing Initiative will encourage many Iowans to grow some of their own food which is an affordable way to put fresh fruits and vegetables on our plates. This initiative will leverage IFSC members and partners in accomplishing the food security and health recommendations outlined in Cultivating Resilience: A Food Systems Blueprint that Advances the Health of Iowans, Farms and Communities."

IFSC gets Wellmark Foundation grant for food gardening & social marketing

The two-year, $130,000 project is focused on three collaborative efforts. First, is to convene the statewide the Food Access & Health Work Group. The goal of the work group is to eliminate hunger by increasing access to nutritious food for all Iowans. Secondly, the initiative will develop social marketing materials that encourage low-resource Iowans to engage in food gardening. Lastly, the initiative will launch a campaign that encourages food gardeners across Iowa to donate their surplus fruits and vegetables to local food banks and food pantries.

"These initiatives will build self-sufficiency, improve household food security, increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, maximize food budgets, build civic engagement and strengthen the food security safety net across communities in Iowa," said Angie Tagtow, Iowa Food Systems Council co-founder and convener of the Food Access & Health Work Group.

Expanding Iowa's USDA FNS People's Garden School pilot program

Iowa State University Extension is one of four state cooperative extension services selected by USDA to work together to develop and run the USDA Food and Nutrition Service People's Garden School Pilot Program. The program will allow for gardening nutrition education with the goal of empowering youth in their communities and will help increase fruit and vegetable consumption in Iowa schools. Nearly 3,000 young people at 17 schools and 20 summer programs will start 130 edible gardens in next two years.

"The Wellmark Foundation grant will allow us to expand the program to ensure that all students in participating schools will be able to receive the same opportunities," says Janet Toering, 4-H Youth program specialist. "The funding will also help fund the project all year, including after-school programs."

Immersion in wellness—trying to help solve problem of childhood obesity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Fortunately, obesity is a health issue we can impact by personal choices and changes to our environment. In order to help Iowans prevent or control the devastating effects of this condition, Iowa State University is focused on creating and delivering experiential health education to immerse youth in an environment that fosters healthy behaviors.

"This program will help foster healthy environments through physical activity, culinary practices, gardening and other activities focused on nutrition, providing young Iowans with the skills and self-efficacy to transfer positive healthy behaviors to their home and community," said Ruth Litchfield, state nutrition Extension specialist and ISU professor.

Wellmark Foundation Healthy Communities Grant Program: Wellmark Foundation is a non-profit foundation that seeks to improve the health of Iowans, South Dakotans, and their communities. In Level II of the 2011 Healthy Communities Grant Program, the Foundation received over 111 letters of interest seeking support for community health projects. The Wellmark Foundation is proud to award a cumulative total of $408,420 to these three grant recipients to serve as catalyst funding for local health projects.

"We are pleased to offer these grants to organizations that will help promote healthy behaviors to communities and schools," says Matt McGarvey, director of the Wellmark Foundation. "Not only will this allow the opportunity to have more access to healthy foods and resources, but they collectively help educate Iowans of all ages the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle."

About the Iowa Food Systems Council: The Iowa Food Systems Council is an emerging member-based non-profit organization whose charge is to monitor Iowa's food and health landscape, to encourage and coordinate connections between food system leaders and decision makers, and to identify policies, programs and research that cultivate a resilient and sustainable food system – a food system which builds a healthier food economy, a healthier environment and healthier Iowans. For further information, visit

About The Wellmark Foundation: The Wellmark Foundation is a private, non-profit foundation created by Wellmark, Inc., doing business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Visit the foundation's site at for new grant opportunities for 2011, as well as a list of previous grant recipients. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield and The Wellmark Foundation are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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