How SRTS will make future generations healthier than the generations before them

Safe Routes to School Leads the Way to Healthy Lifestyles


Thank you to the Healthiest State Initiative for sharing this blog post:

The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative has a goal of making the healthy choice the easy choice for the children of their communities.  Safe Routes to School (SRTS), a program connected to the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, has charged the way in creating more organized activities that give children opportunities to get outdoors and get active.  SRTS has targeted the youth of northeastern Iowa with a number of programs including Walking School Buses and Bike Rodeo Safety Education events.


A Walking School Bus is a group of students walking to or from school with adult supervisors leading the way. Bike Rodeo Safety Education events demonstrate bike and pedestrian safety education.  Students learn how to become smart and safe bike riders, and are able to practice their biking skills on obstacle courses under adult supervision.  By increasing the opportunity for physical activity and play in early childhood, SRTS programs are able to change their future community environment to one that is healthier.

We asked Ashley Christensen, the Regional Safe Routes to School Coordinator, if the program is shaping its participants to be healthy adults.  Ashley states, “In a society where students are not meeting recommended daily amounts of physical activity, and where obesity and other disease rates are rising as a result, Safe Routes to School efforts are so imperative. Not only is the Northeast Iowa SRTS Program having an immediate, positive impact on students for a healthier today, the program is also helping students develop lifelong healthy habits for a more productive future for themselves and for the communities in which they live.”  So although most participating kids are thinking more about the gross bugs coming out of the sidewalk cracks or how awesome it is to be riding their bike during the school day rather than their own health, they are indirectly building excitement for healthy habits and lifestyles down the road.


SRTS progress is measured by the number of activities, participants, and volunteers each school year.  Over the last 5 years the program has shown quite the improvement. Last year, 19 Walking School Buses were operated in 9 different communities.  Over 275 students and 50 adults were able to participate.  Six Bike Rodeos were held last year that reached over 650 students with road safety education.  This school year the SRTS anticipates 13 communities to participate in Walking School Buses and 12 Bike Rodeo events to take place.

It might seem intimidating to start a SRTS program for your community, but there are resources that can help!  The SRTS Program is a leader from which other regions can learn.  They have created a 10-step guide to help other regions get started.  Troy Carter with the Iowa Bicycle Coalition serves as the SRTS Program Director for the state of Iowa.  He is a wonderful free resource to any school, community, or region interested in building SRTS efforts.  Contact her at Troy@iowabicyclecoalition.org.

We applaud the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and the Safe Routes to School program.  They are making a huge impact to their community by increasing physical activity for youth and developing them into healthy, happy adults that will lead a more productive future.  Keep it up!

By |October 27th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

Small amount of steps, BIG impact on health




Importance Of Getting Your Steps In



Did you know that walking just 30 minutes per day can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, improve your blood pressure, maintain your body weight and lower the risk of obesity and more? This is great news because walking is a simple, easy activity that almost anyone can do, and it’s a great way to start an exercise plan or supplement the activities you are already doing. Get started with a walking plan and get others involved too because walking with a partner or a group is more fun, will hold you more accountable and also promotes safety. You can even start a walking plan that includes the whole family, from Fido to the kids. Showing your kids the importance of getting daily physical activity early on will help them create the habit now, so they are more likely to continue exercising throughout their life. One great way to get a daily walk in is to walk your kids to school. If you’re unable to walk them yourself you can check around the neighborhood and pair them up with friends who walk to school. Some schools even have Walking School Buses, which is a group of students who walk to school together with the help of volunteer parents to ensure safety. If your child’s school doesn’t already have a Walking School Bus, start one! It’s a great way to make walking a part of the community, and walking with friends is more fun. Take note as you’re walking around your community; do you have enough sidewalks, bike paths and cross walks in areas with high walking and biking traffic or near schools? If you find areas that are lacking these safe routes, then your community may benefit from implementing a Safe Routes to School program. Your community may be able to get funding for this program to add safer infrastructure around schools and neighborhoods, which not only benefits kids walking to school, but the whole community because sidewalks, bike paths and cross walks are for everyone! Find out more information on the benefits of walking at www.Heart.org/Walking and the Safe Routes to School program in Iowa at www.HealthierIowa.com and www.IowaSafeRoutes.org.

By |September 15th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments


By |September 11th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

RAGBRAI riders support SRTS



Today, we ventured out to Eldora to meet some Ragbrai riders and talk about safe routes to school and how important it is to our state.  People seemed to understand our message about the need for more funding for this program and instantly wanted to help.  Please help join the riders by texting heart to 69866 if you are concerned about bike paths and sidewalks in your area.  I know with having my daughter go to school for the first time this year, I am concerned and want my daughter safe as she travels to school.

I am sure I am not alone, as many other parents across Iowa gear up to send their kindergarteners to school for the first time.  Deep breaths, I keep telling myself it will all be ok…….What makes me feel reassured is the great work being done with walking school buses and bike rodeos that the Safe Routes to School program does throughout the state as our little kindergarteners walking to school.  For more information on the great work being done you can connect with the staff of the program at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iowa-Safe-Routes-to-School/239405756094810 or go to their website www.saferoutestoschool.org.

On our adventures, we snapped some random fun photos that capture some of the interesting sites along the route.  Tune in the rest of the week to see some more photos of riders and people we are meeting along the way.  As always, you can visit our newly renovated website www.healthieriowa.com to find out up to date information on our Safe Routes to School Campaign.

Long day, signing off……..

Stacy Frelund, MPP

Government Relations Director- Iowa

By |September 11th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

Historic day for Shared Use legislation

Governor Branstad Signs HF 570 Into Law


Supporters of a bill known both as “Community Use” and “The Sledding” Bill gathered today in Gov. Terry Branstad’s office to witness the signing of the bill into law.

House File 570, which clarified liability protection for both communities and schools choosing to provide facilities where activities such exercise and sledding take place, passed through both chambers of the Iowa Legislature in late March. Specifically, the Bridging Solutions for a Healthier Iowa coalition, led by the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate, advocated for the change so that schools who wanted to open their doors after hours to their community as a place for physical activity could do so.

“It is truly gratifying to see Iowa Legislators understand this was a necessary change to ensure Iowans had access to facilities that encourage activities that support a healthier lifestyle,” said Stacy Frelund, Government Relations Director – Iowa for the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate. “By removing this barrier, schools, in particular, have more opportunities to support healthy recreational activities.

The coalition shared studies that show when people have access to exercise facilities they are more likely to be physically active. For some communities, the school is the only place with the space and facilities where people could exercise. The coalition had commissioned a survey of Iowa’s superintendents in late 2014, which demonstrated more than half of the schools surveyed did not engage in community use agreements because of concerns about liability. Almost 65 percent of the surveyed superintendents indicated they would be inclined to open their facilities with liability protection.

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart supported the bill throughout the process. “Our schools are public, and we encourage community use of our facilities,” he said. “PreK-12 education is our number one priority, but we can’t successfully fulfill this mission without partnering with a wide range of community partners. Working together in our schools helps us develop shared understanding and makes better use of the huge investment our communities have made in our facilities.”

For more information about the community use initiative, visit www.healthieriowa.com or contact Frelund at (515) 414-3207.




By |April 2nd, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

Governor Branstad to Host Formal Signing of HF 570 Clarifying Liability Protection for Schools and Communities

Who: Governor Branstad, the American Heart Association, members of the Bridging Solutions to a Healthier Iowa coalition and volunteer advocates
Interviews Available:
Stacy Frelund, Iowa Director of Government Relations, American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate
What:   Governor Branstad will host a formal signing of HF 570 to make it law.  The bill, known both as the “Community Use” and “The Sledding” Bill, clarifies liability protection for schools and communities who wish to open their facilities for public use and was passed unanimously out of both the House of Representatives and Senate in March. 
Following the signing, the American Heart Association will host a brief reception to thank those that advocated for the legislation.
When:  Wednesday, April 1, 2:00-3:00 PM
Where:  Iowa State Capitol, Governor Branstad’s formal office, Reception to be held in the First Floor Rotunda
Why:  Studies show when people have access to exercise facilities they are more likely to be physically active. Many schools are reluctant to open their facilities to their communities because liability concerns are a primary challenge to open these doors. A recent survey of Iowa’s superintendents demonstrated more than half of the schools surveyed do not engage in shared use agreements because of concerns about liability. It should be noted that 64.2 percent of the surveyed superintendents would be more inclined to open their facilities with liability protection.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. We are the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, contact our local office at 319-378-1763, visit heart.org/DesMoines, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


By |March 31st, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

Sign the Petition to Help Open Doors for Community Use!

Click here to view and sign the Petition for Community Use.

Studies show that people who have parks or recreational facilities nearby exercise 38 percent more than those who don’t have easy access. Unfortunately, safe places to get physical activity aren’t always available – but they could be.

Schools are present in nearly every Iowa community and can offer a variety of safe, clean facilities, including running tracks, pools, gymnasiums, fitness rooms, and playgrounds. Unfortunately, schools that might like to offer these facilities often close their property to the public after school hours due to concerns about liability.

Community Use legislation would not mandate that schools open their facilities after hours, but would simply alleviate concerns about liability for those that would like to provide access to the surrounding community.

By |March 26th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

Community Use Legislation Clears both House and Senate

The Iowa House of Representatives and Iowa Senate both voted unanimously for HF 570, which will open more schoolhouse doors for exercise and recreational activities. The legislation removes barriers to use of school property by clarifying liability protection for schools. Now on to the Governor’s desk!

By |March 23rd, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

Tell Us Why You Support Community Use

We have been working closely with the Iowa Legislature to make it easier for schools to open their doors for community use to give Iowans more places to get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. Why do you support community use of schools? Let us know in the comments below and you could win one of the these cool prizes!

  • First Place: Wrist Activity Tracker
  • Second Place: Mini Bluetooth Speaker
  • Third Place: Kangaroo Water Bottle


By |March 6th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments

Post Funnel Update

This was “Funnel Week” which means that March 6 was the last day for bills to pass out of committee in their chamber of origin in order to stay alive. Below are the bills that passed out of committees this week to remain eligible for consideration this session.

Shared/Community Use of Schools

Our new campaign coordinator, Adam Fanning, has been working hard reaching out to schools across the state to secure quotes and success stories while garnering even more support for our Community Use of Schools legislation. We worked together with school administrators, the School Board Association and trial attorneys to reach an agreement on the language in the bills in order to help move them forward in the process.

Both House Study Bill 35 (formerly HSB 22) and Senate Study Bill 1247 (formerly SSB 1081) have been passed out of committee with unanimous votes! Now both bills will be moving to the floor of their respective chambers.

Safe Routes to School

We continue to have discussions with key lawmakers in both the House and Senate about a $1 million funding ask (Senate File 32) for Safe Routes to School. The Revenue Estimating Conference will be held on March 19th to discuss the revenue estimates and will help the legislature in making budget decisions in the upcoming months. Once the budget targets are set, we will have a better sense of the overall budget and how the funding issues we are working on will be impacted.

Mission Lifeline

On February 3rd, we made a BIG announcement about the Helmsley Family Charitable Trust giving us $4.6 million for our Mission Lifeline program which will enhance systems of care, save lives, and improve outcomes for heart patients in rural Iowa. We are hoping that the state will help us with implementing this program throughout Iowa by adding $1 million so that more areas of the state can be covered.

You can read the press release about these efforts here.

By |March 6th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized||0 Comments