Residents in Mason City, Iowa, are dedicated to making their community a healthy one — it's an easy conclusion to make based on the number of community health-focused projects and initiatives the city has undertaken since winning the 2018 Healthy Hometown Community Award last February.
In addition to wrapping up the first phase of a trail project and installing water bottle filling stations in local schools, the city completed a major rehabilitation project on a main stretch of road. Mason City also promoted a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program in workplaces that benefited local growers and encouraged residents to try new foods. And, the city’s Active Living and Transportation Commission is a constant, driving force when it comes to advocating for a community designed to encourage active living.
Now, Mason City is the first two-time winner of the Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Community Award. Learn more about how the community is helping its residents eat well, move more and feel better.
Remaking a major road
If you drive into Mason City from the north, you’ll likely find yourself on U.S. Highway 65 — also known as North Federal Avenue. This particular stretch of road, from 18th Street NE to 6th Street NE, goes through one of the oldest areas of Mason City and is home to a mix of restaurants, shops, houses and other businesses.
Last spring, the city took advantage of an existing resurfacing project on North Federal Avenue to implement measures to calm traffic. Residents saw a traffic light removed and four lanes moved down to three, with two travel lanes and a center turn lane. “We wanted to do what we could to make it safe,” says Angie Determan, community program manager for HEALTHY-Mason City.
The improvements not only make it easier for residents to get out and move more, but also benefit local businesses. “Calming the traffic on that road is making people want to beautify the area,” Determan says. “It gets people thinking that they’d rather stop instead of just flying by.”
Eating local foods
To help residents access healthier foods, HEALTHY-Mason City partnered with North Iowa Fresh External Site — a local Community Supported Agriculture business made up of farmers in the region — to market and help distribute boxes filled with fresh, local produce to employees at participating Mason City worksites.
The North Iowa Fresh Bounty program helped local growers increase their production and invited residents to try new foods. Eleven worksites in Mason City participated in the program from early May through October, which included getting recipes and tips for using the fresh produce in each weekly box.
“It was really eye-opening for a lot of people,” says Determan. “We had a lot of families learning more about different food options in our area that they weren’t previously aware of, and learning how much better food tastes when it’s locally grown.”
Mason City is continuing full-speed ahead when it comes to working on community health-focused projects benefiting its residents. With the help of the Active Living and Transportation Commission and other community partners, the city is currently working on seven different initiatives from 5-2-1-0 External Site, a program through the Iowa Department of Public Health that partners with early care providers, schools, health care facilities, parents and community organizations to help encourage families to live healthier.
The city is working with local preschools to educate kids on how eating healthier can benefit their oral health. And, there’s a big focus on the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables with a new “food prescription” program through 5-2-1-0. Educating people about fresh produce and providing it at a low or no cost has been shown to promote significant behavior change, especially for those with chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
Determan stresses that partnering with community organizations and forming volunteer commissions is crucial to keeping this work moving forward. “We’ve done a good job with limited resources,” says Determan. “But, we couldn’t do this without the expert assistance and guidance from Healthy Hometown.”
Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark
Inspired by how Mason City has helped its residents live healthier lives while increasing community vitality? Learn how Healthy Hometown can help your community eat well, move more and feel better. Check out Healthy Hometown Opens New Window or email HealthyHometown@Wellmark.com Send Email for more information.