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Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative

  • Need: Close to 70% of adults and 37% of children ages 4 and under in Northeast Iowa are overweight or obese.
  • Intervention: An initiative that provided support and access to locally-grown, healthy foods, along with promotion of active lifestyles, particularly for children.
  • Results: As of 2017, the program continues to engage communities and schools in healthy activities and food choices


The Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative (FFI) includes 6 rural counties of dedicated community members who strive to make their communities a healthier place to live through locally-grown food and opportunities for physical activity.

FFI uses regional learning communities to promote strong relationships.This dynamic promotes policy changes leading to increased access to local healthy food and opportunities for physical activity – especially for early childhood and K-12 schools. Development of local food systems is an another focus.

Additionally, FFI seeks youth involvement in the program’s activities. Currently 18 high school-based Food & Fitness Teams work to develop healthy school atmospheres and policies for food and fitness by working alongside administrators, teachers, wellness committees and food service teams.

Four core partners support the program which received a total of more than 8 years of funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Community Program.


Since its origins in 2008, continued growth is noted in all program areas. A few of the 2017 FFI Regional Impact results include:

  • A 17% increase in Farm to Early Care and Education program (F2EC) settings from 2016 (70 vs. 60)
  • F2ECE offered to in-home daycare providers
  • 14 school districts and parochial schools purchased nearly $65,000 in local food
  • Over 1,800 students engaged in bike safety activities at 24 Bike Rodeos where over 600 bike helmets were given


  • Distance
  • Locally-grown food use


For more information on the locally-grown foods used in the school menus, visit FFI’s Farm to School Cycle Menu section as well as the summary of Iowa-grown foods used in the menu.

In addition to its local food distribution business, the Iowa Food Hub has a social mission to assist beginning farmers, address food access, and further research and education about food systems. Project summaries can be found at the Iowa Food Hub website.

Since the Northeast Iowa collaborative is active in a large geographical region spanning 6 rural counties, distance presents itself as the most significant challenge. Communities utilized many successful strategies to compensate for distance, including: county convener assignments reaching out to new stakeholders; monthly meetings; communication processes across counties through webinars, teleconferences, and emails; region-wide meetings; and topical work groups for county representatives on a monthly basis.

To address policies and concerns regarding procuring and preparing locally-grown food produce in the school system, the State Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship clarified the rules for locally grown food stuffs in a letter to the schools. This letter supported that locally-grown produce could be served if clean and verified.

Contact Information

Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative

Children and youth
Obesity and weight control
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention

States served

Date added
November 2, 2015

Date updated or reviewed
January 22, 2018

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.