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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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CDC Report - Heart Disease Still #1 Killer

When the news broke this week with the latest statistics about the leading causes of death in the United States, we knew the news would be good, and that we’d see a continued decline in heart disease and stroke. And we did! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), death rates for the leading causes of death dropped as follows:

  • Heart disease dropped 1.8%
  • Cancer dropped 1.5%
  • Stroke dropped 2.6%

While that’s all great news, I’ll be honest. I had hoped this would be the year heart disease finally fell off the top spot…because we are so close!

Thanks to you and other supporters like you, we have reduced the number of people dying from heart disease each year, making remarkable progress over the last 12 years, falling 30% in that span. No other disease has dropped like that. Experts say the reductions in deaths can be attributed to ongoing efforts to better prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease and stroke, including:

  • fewer people smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke;
  • improvements in emergency and more routine treatments for heart disease and stroke;
  • lifesaving scientific research breakthroughs;
  • changes in laws to build healthier environments; and
  • increased awareness about healthy living.

The American Heart Association plays a key role in each of those efforts, through advocacy, scientific discovery, the creation and dissemination of science-based guidelines for treatment, CPR guidelines and training, and through public policy and education. If you’ve volunteered, donated, sponsored or spoken on our behalf, YOU’VE played a key role in helping achieve that unprecedented progress as well!

But we’re not there yet. More people than ever are now living with cardiovascular diseases and dealing with risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and unhealthy diets. In the U.S., 82.6 million people are living with cardiovascular diseases, including the after-effects of heart attacks or strokes. The good news is: we know how to change all that.

You are how we do it.  And life is why we do it.

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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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Minnesota: Building Coalitions to Improve Public Health

Want a behind the scenes glance at some of the reasons for our success in Minnesota around Safe Routes to School? Then check out this great article on the success of our coalition work around obesity prevention.

Minnesota: Building Coalitions to Improve Public Health

One way to encourage children and youth to be more physically active, and thereby helping to reduce obesity rates, is to make sure they can exercise safely, particularly in low-income minority communities. This is the central premise of the

Safe Routes to School(SRTS) movement. Funded by the federal transportation bill, SRTS helps communities make it safer for students to walk and bike to school. The program is so popular in Minnesota that yearly funding requests have outstripped available dollars by as much as 5 to 1.

This demand, combined with a reduction in federal funding for the SRTS program as well as changes in the way that funding is allocated, caused a broad coalition of health advocates in Minnesota to begin a campaign in 2012 to fund a Minnesota-based SRTS program.

"The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota reached out to the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition to partner on establishing a state Safe Routes to School program," says Rachel Callanan, regional vice president of advocacy for the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate. "We knew from the federal funding applications that demand was strong. We tapped this unmet demand to build a strong coalition."  Read more here.

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Share Your Story: Mark Olson

Mark Olson Richfield, MN

Beware the Ides of March, little did I know that this saying would gain new meaning for me on the morning of March 15th 2008. My wakeup call came in the form of shortness of breath and chest pain the evening of March 14th. I figured I was just having an asthma attack even though the chest pain was new. So I used my inhaler and went to bed having received some relief. Around 3:30 am on the 15th I awoke feeling chest pain again. I immediately dressed and drove to the hospital about 1 mile away.  Boy did I get a lot of grief for driving myself from both family and hospital personnel. The emergency room personnel quizzed me and had me in cardiac care suite within minutes. Tests were run nitroglycerin was administered and a mild heart attack was diagnosed. I was surprised! I was frightened! I was too darn young to have a heart condition.

As I spent the next few days in hospital I learned that I wasn’t too young, that I shouldn’t have been surprised and that in this instance fear is a pretty powerful motivator. In consulting with my family I found that my maternal uncle had experienced a heart attack at the same age. We then began discussing the cardiovascular history of my family and found that my surprise was also misguided. When we started counting heart attacks, strokes and aneurisms in family members there was significant reason for the entire family to look at the one thing we can control lifestyle.

I can’t speak for my entire family but I can certainly share what I have done since my personal Ides of March. In order to live healthier I have added doctor prescribed medication to control cholesterol and blood pressure.  I have made walking a focus of my day. I have made dietary choices that increase heart health a focus of my meal plans. I have eliminated things that caused me stress and added things that bring me happiness. Thanks to my niece I have rediscovered a passion for theater and boy is that fun.  This combination has helped me to reduce my risk and live a happier life.  

Ah, but those personal changes were not enough for me. I wanted to make a difference for my niece, nephews and generations to come. Having dabbled in policy change in my work life, I decided I should use the skills I have gained to change health policy. Yeah, I know, there goes that reducing stress concept right. But I took the leap connected with the American Heart Association and have been a volunteer advocate ever since. Working with AHA staff and volunteers has been a good kind of stress. We have had a lot of victories in Minnesota since I joined the State Advocacy Committee like a smoke-free state, an increase in the state’s tobacco tax, CPR as a graduation requirement for all Minnesota high school students to name a few.  I look forward to having more victories on things like AED registries, comprehensive stroke and STEMI systems and funding a state Safe Routes to School program and I want you to be a part of it. Join the You’re the Cure Network at  and work with me and many others to bring them about.

I’ve made changes to my lifestyle that improves my health. I’ve connected with the health advocacy community to make change happen for everyone. And I can now say that having a heart attack at age 46 has led me to be a healthier happier person.  Follow my lead folks make changes to live healthier and happier but skip the heart attack.  By making changes now you probably will.


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Move MN Campaign Update from Erik

Wanna know the latest about the Move MN campaign and the American Heart Association's involvement? Then check out this message from AHA Campaign Coordinator, Erik Petzel.

 We have been busy this summer building support for passing a multi-model transportation funding package, including dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in 2015. As part of the Move MN coalition, a growing coalition of more than 200 elected officials, communities, organizations, associations, and businesses dedicated to fixing Minnesota's transportation problem, AHA attended several events throughout the summer to help build awareness for this work.

Thanks to the help of some of our awesome You’re the Cure advocates, AHA has collected over 1,600 petitions in support of Move MN and improving our state’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure at events around the state, from the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour to the Northland Heart Walk in Duluth. A BIG thank you to all of you who volunteered!

You’ll be hearing a lot more from us on this large initiative throughout the next year, so we thought now would be a great time to help answer the question we get asked most frequently. Why is AHA involved in transportation? The answer is simple:

The proposed bill that Move MN supports would be a historic win for health and active living advocates in Minnesota by providing, for the first time in the history of our state, significant, dedicated and statewide funding for developing and improving the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Minnesota. Even better, Safe Routes to School, a program AHA has been instrumental in advocating for over the past several years, is named in the text of the bill as a program that is eligible for this funding!

Minnesota is experiencing an obesity epidemic. More than 60% of Minnesota adults are overweight or obese. This means 2.2 million of us are at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. AHA sees dedicated investments that promote and encourage safe and convenient transportation options for pedestrians and bicyclists as a major step in our efforts to help build healthy lives in Minnesota, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke, by providing the conditions necessary for people to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.

  • Nearly half of Minnesotans’ trips are three miles or less and 27% are no more than a mile, ideal distances for walking and bicycling for most people, but as many as 69% of these trips are taken in motor vehicles.
  • Communities throughout Minnesota lack basic infrastructure to allow more walking and bicycling. Less than a quarter of Minnesotans report their neighborhood as having bicycle paths or sidewalks on most of the streets in their neighborhood.
  • Transportation options such as walking and bicycling help reduce air pollution, which poses a major health risk and can lead to breathing problems, lung tissue damage and contribute to cardiovascular events like heart attacks. If half of all short trips in the Twin Cities alone were done by bicycle in just the summer, each year an estimated 300 deaths and $57 million in medical costs from lung diseases, obesity and heart disease would be prevented.

Are you willing to get involved and help us pass this historic campaign? Then let us know! Contact Erik Petzel, at

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