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New Mayo Clinic Health System grant program awards more than $182,000 to nonprofits in northwest Wisconsin

EAU CLAIRE — By investing more than $182,000 in grant money awarded to nonprofits in northwest Wisconsin, Mayo Clinic Health System is working to improve the health of communities in the region.

“When we initiated this concept, our premise was that health is more than just the absence of illness; health is a balance of people’s physical, emotional and social well-being,” says Randall Linton, M.D., president and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in northwest Wisconsin.

“In announcing our first grant recipients, we are proud to support all of their efforts to improve nutrition, increase physical activity and reduce chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. By investing in our community partners, we can make a bigger impact in improving the health of all of us who live in northwest Wisconsin.”

The new Hometown Health Grant Program, created by Mayo Clinic Health System Eau Claire Foundation, opened to applicants in January 2015. New or existing programs in Barron, Buffalo, Dunn, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Pierce, St. Croix and Trempealeau counties were invited to apply. Recipients recently were named:

1. City of Eau Claire: Outdoor Fitness Zone at Owen Park, $25,000: Adult fitness equipment and instructional signage will be installed in Owen Park to provide free exercise equipment in the city’s park system. Organized outdoor exercises classes also are planned. Research indicates outdoor fitness affects psychological as well as physical health.

2. Eau Claire YMCA: YMCA Healthy Living, $25,000: The Y Diabetes Prevention Program — an evidence-based effort to prevent type 2 diabetes in those at risk — will be expanded. Funding also will support development of the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards and the Y5210 program, used in the Eau Claire schools, targeting physical activity and nutrition in youth and their caregivers.

3. Boys and Girls Club of Chippewa, Dunn and Eau Claire counties: Drug, Alcohol & Positive Behavior Program, $25,000: Prevention education will address drug and alcohol use, premature sexual activity and peer pressure, as well as practicing resilience and refusal skills. The program expands on similar successful programming and will reach more than 1,000 children annually in Chippewa, Dunn and Eau Claire counties.

4. Barron Boys & Girls Club: Healthier Out of School Time (HOST), $25,000: This initiative would hire a coordinator for HOST, part of Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which targets childhood obesity through wellness and fitness programming. In Barron County, the Boys & Girls Club operates at six sites in Barron, Cumberland and Rice Lake. The effort will work with in tandem with the Boys & Girls’ Club’s Triple Play program, which combats childhood obesity by focusing on physical activity, nutrition and healthy relationships.

5. Stepping Stones of Dunn County: Project Share a Meal, $25,000: This is an expansion of an existing program that provides weekend meals to children at risk for hunger when school meals are not available. Most food is purchased from Feed My People Food Bank, but Stepping Stones hasn’t had funding for fresh produce, because fruits and vegetables are more expensive. The number of schools receiving meals will be expanded, and meals will include at least two pieces of fresh produce.

6. Feed My People Food Bank of western Wisconsin: Nutritious Foods for All, $20,000: This program will ensure that 125 hunger-relief food agencies will be able to provide healthy food options to those they serve. The program targets individuals struggling with food insecurity in west-central Wisconsin, because this population is disproportionally at risk for diet-related chronic disease.

7. Barron County Health & Human Services: Diabetes Prevention Program, $15,000: Barron County will develop the infrastructure to implement the evidence-based National Diabetes Prevention Program, targeting those at risk for type 2 diabetes. The program will be offered at worksites countywide to minimize transportation barriers in this rural area.

8. Junior League of Eau Claire: Kids in the Kitchen, $12,000: Expanding a program with the Boys and Girls Club of Eau Claire, Kids in the Kitchen will be offered in partnership with the Eau Claire Area School District. Cooking classes for fourth-graders will be offered at Forage in Banbury Place and will include food safety, food preparation and education on sustainable food and agriculture.

9. Community Table of Eau Claire: Senior Meals Project, $10,634: A pilot program with the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Eau Claire County and Feed My People Food Bank will expand Meals on Wheels to those who are disabled or homebound. This will increase access to healthy meals to people who are food insecure.

Mayo Clinic Health System plans to offer grants yearly. The grant application process will open again in January 2016.