Throughout the year, our blog will feature AHA volunteer stories of survival and hope. We know there are thousands of stories like these - thats why we want to say “Thanks” to all of you for giving your time and sharing your lives with us. You can’t spell CURE without U! Thank you for all you do to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. YOU’RE THE CURE!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Reaching Minnesota's Hungry Kids Through Farm to School

From Public News Service-MN

WILLMAR, Minn. - During the school year, one Minnesota child in three relies on free or reduced-price school meals for two-thirds of their daily food intake, and yet many low-income children continue to go without the food they need.

In that situation, one popular nutrition initiative may help reach under-served kids. Stephanie Heim, Farm to School coordinator with the University of Minnesota Extension, says research has found when schools become engaged in Farm to School programs, school meal participation rates actually increase.

"Kids get excited about the local farm-fresh food that's being offered to them. Oftentimes this is paired with education and outreach with the students so they learn about where their food comes from and how it was grown. When they feel a connection to their food, they're often more likely to actually eat and taste the food."

Heim says Farm to School initiatives connect schools with local farms to serve healthy meals in school cafeterias, improve student nutrition, provide health and nutrition education, and support local small farmers in the process.

For a rural community, Willmar Public schools serves an increasingly diverse student body, and over half of their pupils are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Annette Hendrickx-Derouin, director of food and nutrition services, says Farm to School has been a great resource for Latino and Somali students, who make up a third of the district's population.

"They may or may not be familiar with some items that our other students would be, so it's important that we do that nutrition education, and agricultural education along with the program."

She says the district takes field trips to a local bison ranch and farm, and has regular educational activities to teach how different food items are grown, and what food products are made from them.

Considered a pioneer in the local Farm to School movement, Willmar Public Schools have been bringing locally-grown food to student lunch trays since 2004. Hendrickx-Derouin says they have intentionally started the program in the early grades.

"We primarily focused on our kindergarten through grade five program, because we felt that if we could impact what those students were eating, then we would have buy-in for the rest of the years they were in our school district."

Hendrickx-Derouin says their program has been sustainable because they incorporate food items the kids will actually eat. The district took a unique, and highly successful, approach to deciding what made it on the menu. Children taste-tested foods ranging from oven-roasted potatoes, to coleslaw, to wild rice blends, and then voted by placing their trays in bins labeled with happy or sad faces.

The University of Minnesota Extension offers an online Farm to School toolkit for school districts that includes menu planning, recipes and food safety tips, available at

Click here to view this story on the Public News Service RSS site and access an audio version of this and other stories:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unequal Distribution of Health to air on TPT

National research suggests that a person's health is strongly influenced by social determinants, including income, education and neighborhood conditions. This month, TPT is airing a program focusing on the findings of a Twin Cities health inequities study commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, including a contribution from the Minnesota Budget Project.

The program will air on TPT's MN Channel on Sunday, February 13, 2011, at 8:00 p.m., and Monday, February 14, at 2:00 a.m. The program will also air on the tptLIFE channel on Sunday, February 20, at 12:00 p.m.

More about Unequal Distribution of Health in the Twin Cities Read the Minnesota Budget Project's contribution to this project

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tell Governor Dayton Minnesota can’t afford NOT to Fund SHIP!

Minnesota is a leader in focusing on prevention efforts through legislation that passed in 2008. The Minnesota Legislature and Governor Pawlenty started the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) in 2008 that promised to bring down health care costs by addressing obesity and tobacco use. By addressing these two primary preventable risk factors for heart disease, Minnesota could see a 5% decrease in health care costs by 2015 through the full implementation of SHIP. Who wouldn’t want to see health care costs go down by over $2 billion by 2015?

The program is up and running in every county in the state promoting physical activity and access to healthier food in workplaces, schools and communities, and reducing tobacco use. But this program is in jeopardy. Please take one minute to help us keep this program going by following the link below to send Governor Dayton a letter urging him to fully fund SHIP.

Ask Governor Dayton to Fully Fund the SHIP Program for a Healthier Minnesota

The Governor will present his budget to the legislature in a few days so he needs to hear from you TODAY—keep the vision of a healthier Minnesota; focus on preventing heart disease; fully fund SHIP. Your action today will ensure that many more Minnesotans live to see another day, children have a healthier start at life, and healthier food choices and opportunities for physical activity are available to every person in our communities.

Ask Governor Dayton to Fully Fund the SHIP Program for a Healthier Minnesota

Thank you for your continued support!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Angie celebrates a special anniversary on Wear Red Day

Happy National Wear Red Day Minnesota! All across the country, people have been wearing red today to show their support for Go Red For Women and to help raise awareness of heart disease. One of our You’re the Cure Advocates right here in Minnesota is wearing red for a very important reason today.

After being a healthy 25 year old woman, Angie found herself facing a scary diagnosis – idiopathic cardiomyopathy, a rare but serious condition that causes the heart muscle to become inflamed and to work less efficiently. Over the next six years, Angie would be implanted with two ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillators), be listed on and off the transplant list, work with doctors to be put on the correct medications and become a proud mother to her son. As things finally started to calm down for Angie, she began having issues with her stomach. After undergoing many tests and having her gallbladder removed, doctors determined it was her heart causing the problems. At the end of last April, Angie was admitted to the hospital and put on the transplant list for a new heart. After months in the hospital, Angie received a new heart on July 4th. Since her surgery, she is able to be a mom and wife again. She is able to play with her son and is not in constant need of care from her husband. Today, on National Wear Red Day, Angie is celebrating 7 months with her new heart!
Happy Anniversary Angie! Thank you for being an active advocate in Minnesota, especially on women’s heart issues.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Calling all Minnesota residents who like to breathe!

The fight against big tobacco in Minnesota isn’t over. In the last two weeks, things have been heating up in St. Paul and two credible threats to the Freedom to Breathe Act have been introduced in the House and the Senate. We can’t afford to go back; we must protect Minnesota’s health. It’s time for you to Raise it for Health!

Join us on April 7, 2011 for our Heart on the Hill Day at the Capitol. Learn about protecting your family and community from the tobacco industry, rally in the Rotunda and meet with your lawmakers urging them to:

· Significantly increase the price of all tobacco products,
· Treat “little cigars” like cigarettes to protect kids,
· Protect the Freedom to Breathe Act.

Do you know others interested in raising their voice to keep Minnesota healthy? Invite them to join the event! Just simply forward this posting. Thank you for your continued support!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ask Minnesota Legislators to Wear Red on Friday, Feb. 4th!

It's February 1, which marks the start of American Heart Month! There are exciting things happening across Minnesota and our nation this month as we work to raise awareness about America's number one killer - heart disease.
Join us in wearing red this Friday, February 4, for National Wear Red Day.

A recent report from the American Heart Association stated that the cost of treating cardiovascular disease will TRIPLE over the next 20 years unless we are focused on education, prevention and advancing positive public policy changes. That is why it's important that you Tell Your Legislators to Wear Red on Friday, Feb. 4 and work on public policies that will make Minnesota - and our nation - healthier for all of us!

Thank you for your continued support!

Your MN Advocacy Team,
Anne Simaytis, Justin Bell and Rachel Callanan