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8 Iowa communities honored for healthy changes

The highlights

When communities make changes to their environment to make the healthy choice the easy choice, everyone wins. Whether it’s through new or improved public spaces for play and exercise, better infrastructure, or greater access to fruits and vegetables, people’s surroundings can help them live healthier lives.

But communities in Iowa and South Dakota don’t have to do it alone. Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Opens New Window works with communities — at no cost — to identify ways to improve the areas where residents live, work and play. And, on Feb. 17, 2022, during the Healthiest State Initiative’s Annual Awards External Site, these Iowa communities will be recognized virtually for the progress they made last year.

2022 Healthy Hometown Powered by Wellmark Community Award finalist highlights

Dallas Center

  • Hosted a Pop Up Produce location that provided weekly fruit and vegetable food boxes to 60 families throughout the community.
  • Local third grade students planned, planted and harvested six garden beds with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • A grocery store in town installed a new cooler for fresh — and local when available — produce and redesigned another produce aisle that doesn’t require refrigeration.
  • Added an inclusive playground to the community’s largest park, a sidewalk around the play area and to the parking lot, and built wide sidewalks to link all of the sports fields.


  • Implemented measures to slow traffic along Schiller Street, including flower planters, light poles and lighting across intersections, as well as ADA accessible sidewalks and crosswalks to make the area accessible and safe for all.
  • Installed locally-made fish-shaped bike racks in eight key locations along the community bike route where additional bike parking was needed.
  • Completed a bike audit to make sure Guttenberg is a community where bike riding is easy and safe and began implementing the recommendations.


  • Installed outdoor fitness equipment stations that are free and easily accessible to all.
  • Enhanced three local parks with new playground equipment and added shelter space to encourage community gathering and increased movement.
  • Started a drive-thru food box pantry and food bank call center that allowed residents to conveniently and safely stay in their cars while volunteers loaded food into their cars.

Iowa Great Lakes Region

  • Added 4.8 miles of paved trail with improved drainage and built a shelter house at the trail head that includes bike racks and a logo board built by the local high school’s welding class.
  • Created new recreation areas and improved multiple local parks through planting trees and wildflowers, adding new benches, lighting and bike racks, shoreline and landscaping renovations, and much more.  
  • Implemented food rescue programs, including drive-thru food box donations, a free Thanksgiving dinner, and food and non-food donations to local pantries.


  • Executed a road diet on Highway 141 that made the once four-lane highway into a three-lane highway, and planted trees along several local streets.
  • Built a new outdoor pool, splash pad, fencing around the splash pad, and an indoor space for children under five at the Community Recreation Center.
  • Implemented nicotine-free policies at city parks, outside the Recreation Center, the little league fields, sand volleyball courts, along trails and river access points.

New Hampton

  • Paved a one-mile trail around Mikkelson Park that makes it usable by cyclists, walkers, strollers and everything in between.
  • Completed park enhancements, added benches and a gazebo for citizens and visitors to enjoy.
  • Added a pickleball court and created a pickleball club for new and experienced players.


  • Started a community garden with six raised garden beds and a local farmers’ market that was so successful they added two additional markets throughout the year.
  • Held a walking audit that reviewed pedestrian safety throughout the community, and repaired and replaced sidewalks along Halland Avenue, as a result.
  • A private preschool adopted a joint-use agreement with the city to allow new preschool playground equipment on city property for their students' and the public's use.


  • Added an accessible fishing pier, paved trail access, and a handicapped parking area to provide people with limited mobility the chance to engage in fishing, bird watching, and other activities at Greenbelt Lake.
  • Purchased the materials for a mobile gardening cart, with child-appropriate gardening tools and grow lights for year-round gardening, for use in three local daycare centers.
  • Started once-a-month cooking demonstrations at the Urban Farmers’ Market to feature foods that can be prepared using fresh produce from the market.

Get started in your own community today

Inspired by these finalists' success? Learn how Healthy Hometown can help your community eat well, move more and feel better. Check out Healthy Hometown online Opens New Window or email Send Email for more information.