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New Road Map to the End of Hunger Launched in Minnesota

The Public News Service of Minnesota published an article on Food Insecurity in our state.  AHA's Rachel Callanan serves on the Steering Committee of the Minnesota Food Charter. Check it out!

 DULUTH, Minn. - Minnesota is set to roll out a new plan on ending hunger as hundreds of advocates from around the state convene at the annual Food Access Summit, beginning today in Duluth.

Lucinda Jesson, Minnesota human services commissioner, says this year's gathering will include the public launch of the Minnesota Food Charter, aimed at improving access for families struggling to put food on the table.

"This is the result of about a year of public input from a lot of stakeholders," says Jesson. "Basically it's a road map on how we're going to get to the goal of making sure all Minnesotans have access to healthy, affordable food." - Continue reading here

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One Step Closer to Healthy Food Access in Minneapolis!

The Staple Food Ordinance passed the Minneapolis City Council’s Health, Environment and Community Engagement committee unanimously on October 20, 2014. Huge thank you to You’re the Cure advocate Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler for testifying on behalf of the American Heart Association.

The Staple Food Ordinance would remove a key barrier for many to eating healthy by making healthier food more available and accessible to Minneapolis residents. If passed, this ordinance would ensure that stores offer an appropriate variety and amount of staple foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. It would also provide store owners with flexibility to meet requirements using culturally appropriate foods and clarify exemption criteria for business owners across all types of retail food outlets. There are many barriers to eating healthy, but proximity to healthier food is barrier that can be addressed

Corner stores are a frequent source of food for urban residents, youth and families, but often do not carry healthy foods. However, residents living near supermarkets have healthier diets and are 17% less likely to be obese. Additionally white and higher income residents are more likely to eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day compared to lower income residents and people of color.

The American Heart Association recommends that children eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal. But many Minnesota children are falling short. The 2013 Minnesota Student Survey found that 55% of respondents are not eating fruit and 60% are not eating vegetables at least once a day. Even more startling, 7% ate no fruit at all and 1 out of 10 ate no vegetables at all, during the previous week.

Measures like this ordinance will create more opportunities for parents to incorporate fruits and vegetables as part of regular meals and improve the diets of many children.

There was a tremendous show of support at the public hearing! The next step is passing the ordinance at the full Council. Watch for an opportunity soon to contact the Council members and help voice your support for this ordinance.

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Farm to School Program in MN Produces Healthy Results

Check out the article posted this week in the Public News Service about the Farm to School Program happening in our state! (Photo Credit - Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)

ST. Paul, Minn. - October is National Farm to School Month and in Minnesota, it's an event being celebrated in an ever-growing number of districts, in every corner of the state.

The Farm to School program links school districts with nearby farms, to open new markets for those growers and get more healthy and fresh foods into cafeterias. It's also aimed at educating children about where and how their food is grown, says Erin McKee VanSlooten, Farm to Institution senior program associate with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

"Minnesota is really a leader in farm to school," says VanSlooten. "We have been at the vanguard and doing a lot of innovative programs, trying to get more regionally sourced products into their meals." - Continue reading here

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MnDOT Starts Applicant Search for SRTS Grants

MnDOT talks about how they are seeking applicants for the Safe Routes to School grant, check it out!

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota schools and their partners are invited to apply for $1.25 million in Safe Routes to School grant funds for projects that will help more children safely walk and bicycle to school. Applications are due Jan. 9, 2015, and are available at, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Schools in Minnesota may apply for state grants in three categories:

SRTS Infrastructure Solicitation  – K-12 schools, in partnership with cities or counties, will receive grants to support infrastructure identified in Safe Routes to School planning efforts that improve safety or access for children walking and bicycling to school. MnDOT has $1 million in state funds for projects constructed in 2015 or 2016. Continue reading here

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Students Take Part In Walk To School Day

Check out the article posted today on! Children all over Minnesota are taking part in Walk To School Day. (Photo: Elizabeth/Flickr)

ST. Paul, Minn. - Today is Walk to School Day, and the annual event comes as some school districts in Minnesota see a resurgence in students who are getting to class on their own. In the Sauk Rapids-Rice district, Superintendent Daniel Bittman says with the recent addition of sidewalks and crosswalks around Pleasantview Elementary, students, parents and staff are becoming more active.

"It's becoming part of a healthy-lifestyle choice," Bittman says. "It's not just about to and from schools. Families are taking that opportunity to be more active. And we know when kids are more active and engaged in healthier lifestyles, they do better in school."

Bittman says the improvements around Pleasantview were funded through Minnesota's Safe Routes to School program. The effort has helped a number of districts make improvements so kids can bike and walk safely to class, but demand in the state far exceeds available resources. Continue reading here.

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Register Now! "How-To" Advocate for the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP)

SHIP funding will be up for discussion at the Minnesota Legislature in 2015. Thursday November 6th, 2014 - 6:00 - 7:00 PM and Friday November 7th, 2014 - 12:00 - 1:00 PM. Join other advocates across Minnesota to learn about how you can advocate for SHIP! Learn tips and message points from our expert presenters to bring your local success stories to the ears of policymakers:

-Britta Orr, Executive Director, Local Public Health Association

-Rachel Callanan, Regional Vice President of Advocacy, American Heart Association

-Rebecca Thoman, Government Relations Specialist, American Cancer Society—Cancer Action Network

Who should attend? SHIP Leadership Team members, SHIP staff and grantees, local SHIP partners, local champions of SHIP.  This training is free, but advanced registration is required.

Please register here or contact Anne Simaytis at to reserve your spot by November 3rd, 2014.


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Poll Released on Parents Support for Healthier School Food Policies

The American Heart Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the PEW Charitable Trusts released a poll earlier this week which found the majority of parents support national nutrition standards for both school meals and snack food and beverages sold in schools.  Check it out below!

Parents Support Healthier School Food Policies by 3-to-1 Margin

WASHINGTON—The vast majority of parents of school-age children support strong national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during school, according to a poll released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the American Heart Association (AHA). The findings come as school districts implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s "Smart Snacks in School" nutrition standards, which set basic limits on the fat, salt, and calories in foods and beverages sold through vending machines, school stores, and a la carte cafeteria menus.

The nationally representative poll assessed parents’ opinions of nutrition standards for both school meals and snack foods and beverages. Among the findings:

  • Most parents favor nutrition standards for all food served in schools.
    • 72 percent favor national standards for school meals.
    • 72 percent support standards for school snacks.
    • 91 percent support requiring schools to include a serving of fruits or vegetables with every meal.
    • 75 percent think salt should be limited in meals.
  • The majority of parents are concerned with the state of children’s health (80 percent) and with childhood obesity (74 percent).
  • Most parents hold a mixed or negative opinion of the nutritional quality of snack foods and beverages traditionally sold in schools and consider them to be only somewhat or not at all healthy. This applies to    foods sold a la carte (69 percent), in school stores (72 percent), and in vending machines (81 percent).

The Agriculture Department’s "Smart Snacks" standards, which took effect on July 1, 2014, represent the first major updates to national guidelines for school snack foods and beverages in more than 30 years. To meet the standards, a snack food must be a fruit, a vegetable, protein, dairy, or whole grain; have fewer than 200 calories; and be low in fat, sodium, and sugar. These guidelines follow similar nutrition standards for school lunches that took effect during the 2012-13 school year and are being met by approximately 90 percent of school districts.

Research has shown that both student health and school food service revenue can benefit from selling healthier snack foods and beverages. For example, a health impact assessment conducted by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project found that when schools implement healthier standards for snack and a la carte foods, students are more likely to purchase a school meal—a change that improves children's diets and school budgets at the same time, because schools earn reimbursements for meal sales.

The poll was conducted by Hart Research Associates and Ferguson Research. Data were collected via telephone surveys between June 19 and 28, 2014, among registered voters who are parents of public school students.

Pew, RWJF, and AHA are jointly supporting efforts to ensure all foods and beverages in schools are healthy. The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is a collaboration between Pew and RWJF. Voices for Healthy Kids is an initiative of RWJF and AHA, with Pew providing additional expertise.


The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project provides nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations on policies that affect the safety and healthfulness of school foods. The project is a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more at 

Voices for Healthy Kids is a national advocacy initiative focused on uniting the movement to prevent childhood obesity. A collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association, the initiative seeks to help reverse the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic by 2015 by ensuring children have access to healthy foods and beverages, as well as safe opportunities for physical activity. Learn more about the childhood obesity epidemic and how you can help turn it around at


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Letter to the Editor - MN Schools Reducing Physical Education

This weekend the Star Tribune ran an article talking about PE in Minnesota and the waivers schools are seeking in order to close the education gap. We know that fit kids learn better and less Physical Education isn't the answer. Please check out the Letter to the Editor that ran in the Star Tribune in response to this article from AHA's Rachel Callanan, who is the Regional Vice President of Advocacy for Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Minneapolis Public Schools face great challenges in closing the achievement gap. However, reducing or eliminating physical education is not the solution ("No gym, no sweat" Sept. 7, 2014). In fact, data from the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey show that children who report being more physically active also report higher grades. There is a growing body of research that school-based physical activity positively affects student performance, improves classroom behavior, and improves cognitive function. With this evidence in mind, we should be giving students MORE opportunities to be physically active and learn lifelong skills for physical activity through physical education, not reducing them.

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August Recess Recap

During the August Recess, state advocates delivered special puzzle pieces highlighting nutritional foods that "fit" into a successful school day for every child. Members of congress are trying to roll-back strong nutrition standards for school meals, and we want to remind them how important it is to keep our kids healthy! Check out the links below to see the great work our advocates did during the legislative break!

August Recess Visit: Rep. Keith Ellison

August Recess Visit: Congresswoman Betty McCollum

August Recess Visit: Rep. John Kline

August Recess: Representative Peterson

We would like the thank Mark Olson, Jolene Tesch, Helen Bagshaw, Dale Wakasugi, Mary Bertram, and Jo DeBruycker one last time for volunteering!

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The State of Obesity: Minnesota Report

In recognition of Childhood Obesity Awareness month, we are pleased to be able to provide our advocates with the most recent statistics on childhood obesity in our state and across the nation. The State of Obesity report (formerly F as in Fat), a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides a close-up look at our progress toward reducing childhood obesity, and the work that lies ahead of us to ensure our kids are growing up healthy and strong. 

You can read the full report by clicking here to visit

For the past 11 years, this report has raised awareness about the serious nature of obesity, and encouraged the creation of a national obesity prevention strategy. The American Heart Association has worked alongside our partners at the Trust and RWJ Foundation, and others, to develop effective approaches for reversing the obesity epidemic at the state and federal level.

Minnesota is ranked 41st among all states and the District of Columbia. 

Click here to see our state report.

The report also highlights the various policy objectives that are important in our fight to reduce obesity: physical activity before, during and after school, school nutrition, access to healthy and affordable food, food and beverage marketing, etc. Reducing obesity in our communities will take dedication, focus, innovation and cooperation. Please join us in this fight! See how you can take action at

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