Local organization supports community wellness

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The recent Crawford County on the Move 5K walk/run at the Crawford County Fair ended with these results. The top three females (above, from left) and their times were Ann Boland (27:54) Marguerite Carstens (25:45) and Liz Bransky (23:52). The top males (below) were Al Bark (24:06), Preston Hertel (27:18) and Mike Peotter (31.26). This 5K marked the conclusion of this year’s nine-week Crawford County on the Move program. Approximately 120 people participated in the program in seven different communities across the county.

By Correne Martin

Eating healthy, being active and having access to wellness resources are the focus of Healthy Roots of Crawford County, a coalition that began in 2014 with the intent to promote healthy living. The organization has had a busy year of offering healthy opportunities for local residents.

“Our goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said Healthy Roots member Kathleen Hein, who represents Driftless Wisconsin Grown.

Among the Healthy Roots-funded initiatives making a wholesome impact in Crawford County this spring and summer were: a gardening workshop targeted at day care providers, an Active School mini grant that provided more opportunities for students to be active, and a parks and playgrounds exploration challenge for families. A community resource guide was also developed to assist the public.

“To encourage healthy eating at the preschool level, we held a Ready Set Grow workshop,” said Jane Schaaf, Healthy Roots member and UW-Extension family living agent. Cindy Arndt, a master gardener and day care provider from Fennimore, gave a presentation on container gardening curriculum. “Thanks to True Value and Donna Teynor, a free raised-bed garden box, a bucket, soil and a couple plants were available to all day care providers in the county. Seventeen boxes were given out,” Schaaf added.

This workshop is relative to the Crawford County Farm to School Harvest of the Month program, which introduces produce to children in school, day care and Head Start classrooms across the area and connects them to local grocery stores with recipes and promotions highlighting fruits and vegetables. The Crossing Rivers Health dietary department assists with the recipes for the Harvest of the Month program.

“Healthy Roots has tried to broaden children’s interest in healthy eating by getting them involved with growing the foods and seeing and touching the foods so they might be more willing to eat them,” explained Sonya Lenzendorf, Healthy Roots member and Crawford County UW-Extension nutrition coordinator.

The Active School mini grant obtained by Healthy Roots provided $500 grants to six local elementary schools with the objective being to fill the physical activity gap. Research shows that students who are physically active have better grades, attendance, cognitive performance and classroom behavior. The mini grant encouraged schools to allow for more activity by purchasing equipment such as hula hoops, hop scotch mats, fitness dice, bean bags, ball scoops and dance CDs for use during indoor recess or transition times. One unique example of grant utilization happened at Wauzeka-Steuben, whose Active School team created a hallway activity in which students practiced key developmental skills such as hopping, skipping and jumping when moving from one classroom to another. Prairie Catholic, Seneca, North Crawford, Boscobel and DeSoto-Prairie View also received the mini grants.

“Almost all of the schools tried to implement more brain breaks as well,” Lenzendorf noted. “They also tried to change practices that encouraged inactivity such as letting students sit around and talk during recess instead of being active. One school actually closed the library during recess and another held recess before lunch. It had a huge impact on each school’s environment.”

The Summer Family Fun Challenge was an additional way families got moving this summer. Sponsored by Healthy Roots, the challenge posed questions about 13 of Crawford County’s parks and playgrounds. Families visited those locations and tried to answer at least nine of the questions for a chance to win a prize. Family Fun Nights were a new addition to this program, offering free, organized activities at one of the county’s parks most Thursday evenings.

Also this summer, Healthy Roots was associated with the completion of the Crawford County Resource Directory, now available at tinyurl.com/healthyroots. The guide brings together contact information about all family services in the county.

“The public health department is taking the lead on this and they’re really going to try to keep it updated,” Schaaf said.

“This will be used by agency staff and community members to provide accurate resources to those in need of help,” Hein said.

Through all of these efforts and more, Healthy Roots of Crawford County seeks to connect people to active places and spaces, expand access to healthy foods, and increase access to community resources.

Other substantial county events and programs co-sponsored by Healthy Roots include Crawford County on the Move, the Harvest Dinner, Spring it On at North Crawford Schools and the “Fed Up” film screening.

“We are here to compliment all of the great efforts in the county,” Schaaf said. “We’re working together to build some energy.”

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