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Local Success Stories

Local efforts are possible through the work of partnering organizations.  Please enjoy the healthy stories that SHIP is grateful to be able to assist our community in making a reality.

Healthy, Local Food is Better!

The community of LeRoy started a new farmers’ market in 2015.  This “producers” market, houses homegrown and homeade items from local vendors.  This is a great way to increase access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables to this area of our county.  The Le Roy market is also completely tobacco free, so you can breathe refreshed as you shop.


When they started the market in June of 2015, they had only 8 vendors and now boast approximately 13-14 vendors per week.  The community of Le Roy has really rallied around this new offering as 80-125 people visit the market every Thursday evening.  Some items offered at the market include; fresh fruits and vegetables, locally raised meats, local artisan water, homemade items, essential oils, wood-fired pizza, and much more.


Way to go LeRoy, thanks for letting SHIP Mower County be a part of your great work!



The LeRoy Farmers' Market is open from June to October on Thursday evenings from 4-7. 

Visit their website for more information:

Starting Early

From 2014-2015, SHIP was able to reach many different childcares throughout Mower County by providing trainings for childcare providers.  These trainings were provided to home and center based childcares, covering the topics of healthy eating, physical activity, and breastfeeding support.  Childcare providers learned how to incorporate these healthy habits into their curriculum and environment.


Apple Lane Childcare recently expanded their breastfeeding space, along with an educational resource display for nursing mothers.  Catherwood Childcare recently adopted a garden and is using new physical activity equipment in their daily routines with the children.


Teaching children healthy habits early on will lead to a lifetime of health and happiness.  Congratulations to these childcare providers and their successes in teaching these children, healthfully.

Children at Catherwood Childcare play with some of their new physical activity equipment provided by SHIP.

Smoking: A Thing of the Past


The American Lung Association has been working with property owners and managers in Mower County since 2014.  That work includes sending out information and providing one-on-one support for agencies that want to make their housing smoke free.  SHIP Mower County has made this collaboration possible, working with 6 agencies since 2014 to either implement or maintain smoke free housing facilities.  Since approximately 65 percent of air in apartment complexes is shared, these efforts are eliminating second hand smoke for many of the renters in these units.


Approximately 737 people are now living in smoke free rental properties in Mower County. 

2016 Success Stories


Trail Signs Encourage Healthy Living

City of Austin is taking big strides towards making it easier to walk and bike.  Vision 2020’s walk and bike trail committee has been working towards that goal.  This group’s objective is to connect the community through biking and walking trails.  In cooperation with the City of Austin and Mower County SHIP, thirteen directional signs have been installed at key navigation points to clarify trail routes.


“It gives people a really easy, and low-cost way to exercise as a family and to keep moving. They can then live a more healthy lifestyle knowing that they have more exercise resources available to them,” says Laura Helle, Vision 2020 Spokesperson.

The collaboration between Mower County SHIP and Vision 2020 continue, as both groups look to increase the people who walk and bike in our community.


New trail signage will help to increase accessibility of the City of Austin’s trail system.

Walk and Bike to School Day results in full bike racks in October 2014

Active Schools = Healthy Students

SHIP Mower County is working with Austin Public Schools and Vision 2020 on the Safe Routes to School Project in the hopes of getting more kids active and walking and biking to school.


Walk and Bike to School Day is just one way to encourage physical activity.  In coordination of International awareness days, these encouragement efforts help to get students excited about being active.  Studies show that active students are more focused, attentive and ready to learn and therefore do better academically.


Safe Routes to School is really a community effort and is part of a 5 year process to integrate these ideas into the school system.


Woodson Kindergarten Center students learning how to sprout beans as a part of their new curriculum in the greenhouse.

Digging the New Greenhouse Curriculum

Woodson Kindergarten Center in Austin just started a new curriculum initiative in the spring of 2015, using their new greenhouse.  Students are able to use the greenhouse to learn about gardening within their math and science curriculum.  SHIP Mower County was able to help fund some start up materials for the greenhouse as well as some staff to attend the Schoolyard Garden Conference

"We want them to learn how they can grow their own food at home and would also like to see our produce make its way into the lunchroom so that students see how their hard work provides them with healthy food" Alisha Galle, Kindergarten Teacher.


Students are able to learn hands on, interactive skills that will last them a lifetime.

Elaine Braaten and Ann Odegaard check on the aspargus beans planted in the Our Savior's Church Giving Garden.

Lifestyle Changes Made Easier

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program is a lifestyle improvement program for adults with prediabetes led by a certified Lifestyle Coach.  The program’s purpose is to empower adults with lasting lifestyle changes that will improve their overall health and reduce their chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Currently, diabetes affects nearly 26 million people. Another 79 million have prediabetes and are at high risk of developing diabetes, but only 11 percent are aware of it.

At the age of 34, Danny was diagnosed with prediabetes, a condition in which a person’s blood glucose level is elevated but not as high as in diabetes.  This meant Danny was at high risk for developing diabetes.  In the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, Danny said he learned how to avoid sitting and eating as much as he wanted.  Danny feels his whole lifestyle has changed.  “The food I eat has changed, including more fruits and vegetables.  I feel much better doing the exercise.  I was occasionally exercising before the program, but I do much more now, and feel better physically.  My life is different now – happier and healthier.”  The program meets in small groups.  “Everyone talks about their problems and possible solutions, which helps me.”


The YMCA of Austin has partnered with a local employer, Quality Pork Processors (QPP).  QPP takes the health of its employees very seriously.  In addition to the on-site medical clinic, QPP has taken a lead in diabetes prevention in our community.  QPP has contracted with the YMCA of Austin to pay 80% of the program fee for any employee and/or spouse who qualifies for the program and chooses to join.  Research by the National Institutes of Health has shown that programs like the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program reduce the number of new cases of diabetes by 58% overall and by 71% in individuals over age 60.

SHIP Mower County is proud to support such a great evidence-based program in our area.  This year- long program begins with 16 weekly sessions, phasing to monthly sessions.  Participants need not be members of the YMCA.  To sign up or get more information, contact Jill Wagner at 507-433-1804, or email  

Danny with his daughter Iris, who attended the Diabetes Prevention Program with her father.

Much More than Produce

There are 5 Long Term Care facilities in Mower County; Grand Meadow Senior Living, Sacred Heart Care Center, St. Mark's Senior Living, Comforcare - Good Samaritan Society of Austin, and Adams Healthcare Center.  SHIP Mower County was able to partner with each site and provide funding and resources for the implementation of raised garden beds.  Residents at these sites were able to plant items such as; tomatoes, onions, carrots, beets, green beans, and herbs.  This produce was planted, tended to, and harvested by residents at these facilities.  Residents were able to enjoy their crops in meals and snacks.  "The sliced tomatoes were a hit!"


According to the activity directors at all of these sites, this project enhanced their programming and equated to much more than produce.  These gardens have helped to improve residents social interaction, encouraged mobility, and promoted overall health.  This project was a highlight for many seniors who would have family visits centered around the garden and tend to it every day.  This garden project was even incorporated into occupational therapy sessions at more than one location.


Theresa Turnbull, Chaplain and Activities Director at Comforcare - Good Samaritan Society, commented that these gardens have been "enjoyed by many".  All five facilities are planning on continuing this project for years to come.

Marge at Grand Meadow Senior Living shows off some tomatoes and carrots grown in their new raised garden beds. 

Giving Back, Healthfully

Our Savior's Lutheran Church had an idea in late 2015, this idea was to create a two-part garden on their church grounds that served a purpose for our community.  SHIP Mower County was happy to assist in this process by providing start up funding for this great idea.

Garden Part 1: This part of the garden is to provide some congregation members with a space to garden and harvest produce for their family.  Two people took part, they did not have space at home to garden.  They were able to use the space and provide fresh vegetables for their families.

Garden Part 2: This part of the garden is a "giving garden".  Volunteers planted, tended to, and harvested produce that was to be donated to the local Salvation Army Food Shelf.  As of September, 2016 over 160 pounds of fresh garden vegetables have been donated to the Salvation Army.


This project was really a community effort. A local Boy Scouts Troop constructed the raised garden beds to help earn their merit badge.  U of M Extension Master Gardeners were also utilized to help with planning for the soil, plants, and area to plant.  This is a project they plan to continue for years to come.

Cale Tupy fills up his water bottle at one of the new hydration stations at Banfield Elementary School

More Water for Staff and Students  

Two schools in the Austin now have better access to fresh, clean water.  Both Sumner and Banfield Elementary Schools have received two hydration stations!  Hydration stations are similar to water fountains but also offer a water bottle filling station.  SHIP Mower County was able to assist with mini-grant funding to install these four stations.  The goal was to help decrease sugary beverage consumption and promote an increase in water for both staff and students.  At Sumner they took it a step further and now supply each student a water bottle to have with them throughout the school day. 


Since implementing these hydration stations, both schools have seen a big increase in the amount of water students and staff consume each day.  Janelle, secretary at Banfield often hears comments on how much easier and convenient it is to drink water now. 


2015 Success Stories


Red Bike Project


The Red Bike Project officially kicked off on April 15, 2016 with 30 bikes.  This free bike share program, available throughout the City of Austin was a vision from a local volunteer who is passionate about biking.  The program offers free “red” bikes for people to use and return to a Red Bike rack when finished.

The project promotes healthy living and reduces traffic congestion. By having this free bike share option in the community, residents will be encouraged to make routine trips by bike and ride more often.

This program functions on the honor system with the theme of RIDE, RESPECT and RETURN. Bicycles will be available for use at any of the six Red Bike rack locations in Austin.  There were many organizations involved in this project, including numerous volunteers who helped transform the donated bikes into Red Bikes.


Red Bike Project ribbon cutting ceremony outside Rydjor Bike Shop on April 15, 2016.

2014 Success Stories


Elementary students in Austin choose healthy lunch options at their new fruit and veggie display tables provided by SHIP

Welcome to the Fruit and Veggie Bar!


Approximately 2,000 Austin Public School District elementary students now have better access to the fruits and veggies they want.  Within all five of the elementary schools fruit and vegetable bars are being implemented by the Food and Nutrition Department.  Giving students the choice of what they put on their plates has proven to reduce waste and improve their eating habits over time.  In February 2016, these new fruit and veggie bars started rolling out at the Austin Elementary Schools with messaging of, “Create a rainbow on your tray!” and “Take what you will eat, eat what you take.”  Staff is confident this effort will be successful in exposing students to new fruits and vegetables; they even created a short training video on how students can use the new fruit and veggie bars during lunch time.





“We want kids to love their fruits and vegetables and by offering multiple choices, students will be able to select their favorites and try a few new ones too. There’s even the opportunity to build a salad every day along with trying hummus as a vegetable dip!”

                                                   -Jen Haugen, APS Dietician



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