The LiveWell Longmont Blog

Sep 19, 2017

Making Longmont the Bees Knees: simple ways to help save our pollinators (and why we need to)

There’s so much to love about our #HealthyLongmont community. Not least, this is a community that cares for the well-being of its members. This is evidenced in our bike paths, our trails. It can be seen in the vibrant bustle of local farms; in resources supporting mental and physical health needs and awareness; in calls to provide feedback in how to make our thriving, caring community even better. Perhaps best of all, Longmont’s commitment to the health of our community can be seen in the humble recognition that there is always, always much that can be done to keep on getting better. Want to be an integral part of meaningful progress? Longmont Coalition for People and Pollinators Action Network wants to assure you, there is a lot you can do to make a significant difference, one that yields compounding results. And all it takes is mere minutes of active time to get started.

Pollinators are in trouble. Bees have been named by prominent scientists as the most critical species  to survival on the planet. They’ve shaped the evolution of plant life. Nearly 250,000 species of flowering plants depend upon them for pollination after all. They greatly increase the yield of a vast variety of crops upon which we are dependent for food. Honeybees are said to feed more than 7 billion people thanks to their hard work pollinating crops worldwide. Now, the bees are dying prematurely. Their systems are not operating as they should. And it’s not just the bees. All pollinators are in trouble. All pollinators including butterflies, wasps, ants (yes, ants!), birds and bats are in decline. Why? “It’s a complex issue, and there may be no one answer,” says Sue Anderson, co-chair of the People and Pollinators Action Network and founder of the Longmont division. “Pesticides are doubtless a big part of the problem. There are also factors like habitat loss, parasites, climate change to consider. But what we really need to be mindful of is this: everybody is endangered right now, including people, if pollinators disappear.”

A social worker by training, Sue is a community activist with a 30+ year history of non-profit management experience in three states and active involvement in numerous organizations dedicated to supporting community and environmental health. Needless to say, she is and always has been passionate about advocacy, human services and social justice issues. As she puts if, “I’ve been activist since I was born”.  In college she double majored in environmental studies and geography. About six years ago, when Sue started keeping bees, she realized anew just how intrinsically connected all her passions were, for community, health, and the planet. “We need to find better ways to protect our pollinators, within our existing systems,” Sue says. ” At PPAN, we are not trying to be controversial. We recognize how complicated the situation is. But the fact is, there are ways we can promote sustainable agriculture and change our systems to be less toxic. Growing food shouldn’t need to reduce biodiversity, or harm human health. Today, we can’t separate those issues. It’s all connected.”

People for Pollinators Action Network (PPAN) began in 2014, a time when the state legislature was examining and developing policy around pesticides application. “A group of us involved in PPAN were working together to look at ways to impact policy all along the Front Range, and we realized it was a very polarizing issue,” Sue says. “Talking about pesticides and human health issues…that hits a lot of raw nerves. Several of us determined that someone needed to be championing things, ways to come up with policies that could be widely embraced as positive; to protect children, create buffer zones around schools; to educate consumers. We were struck by how much we can actually do simply in our own yards.”

Since it’s founding, PPAN has achieved a great deal in small increments. They have influenced legislation around pesticide use. Last year, PPAN efforts yielded the designation of I-76 as a pollinator highway, Colorado’s first, and have been working with CDOT on plans. The Longmont chapter, begun in 2015, has found City of Longmont government highly receptive, and has promoted development of consistent policy across departments on application of pesticides. In May, the PPAN promoted pollinator resolution, which guides pollinator-protection practices, was adopted by City Council. Currently, changes to weed ordinances are pending approval that make mimicking native landscapes possible.

Will current efforts be enough? We can’t afford to bank on it. Unfortunately, if trends continue as they are, the stakes are catastrophic. But it’s not all doom and gloom. “Awareness is growing,” Sue says. “I was asked by a 5-year old at the Farmers Market, ‘how can we protect the pollinators?’ She knew the word “pollinators”, and she knew the most important thing is not to pick the flowers. That gives me hope.”

What can we do to help? Lots. What’s more, your support can evolve. And, no matter how little you put in, it all counts.

Protect Pollinators: What You Can Do Today:

  1. Learn about the issues. Educate yourself.
  2. Create habitat. “We kill off weeds because we don’t like the way they look,” Sue says. “Hand weeding takes more time, but it makes a great difference. We can also figure out ways to design landscapes in a way that minimizes weeds. Plant native, plant diversity. To me, that’s the most important thing. Pollinators need a grocery store; green grass is a food desert. There’s nothing there for pollinators. Not only that, it takes a tremendous amount of water.”
  3. Reduce and eliminate use of pesticides altogether. “The biggest things affecting pollinators are climate change and lack of forage,” Sue says. “There is also disease and mite problems within managed hives. Pesticides affect immune systems and make them more susceptible to all these things. Pesticides may not be the only problem and may not be even the biggest problem, but it is one significant problem and one we can have some influence over. Plant clover in your lawn if you want green. It’s pretty. Let the dandelions bloom. Go ahead and mow them after, but let them bloom. They are one of the most important plants for pollinators.”
  4. Get together. Talk to your neighbors. PPAN has a Pollinator Safe Neighborhood program. “We’re always looking for coordinators to talk to neighbors, educate community, collect pledges to create a pollinator safe space,” says Sue.  “Talk to your schools. Increasingly schools with parental persuasion are putting in pollinator gardens and incorporating pollinator education into programming. Help kids understand what is a honeybee, what is a wasp. Use the garden as an education tool. Find out about your school’s policy and practice around using pesticides on school grounds.”
  5. Speak up! Help people understand that even insects that sting are important in the environment. Talk to your elected officials. Lots people can do.

 

 

Sep 12, 2017

Snacktastic tips for back-to-school: keeping foods fun, fresh, healthy and interesting

As summer reaches its close, anyone else find a little back-to-school anxiety triggered by the contents of the fridge? Kids aren’t the only ones who may have to work at readjusting to routines when the structure of school kicks back in. Parents have new schedules and routines to take on board again too,  not least when it comes to planning out portable, healthy snacks. Foods that are fresh, fun, interesting and wholesome, too…ideally, ones kids will actually eat.

The most surefire way to ensure kids will eat the lunch that has been packed for them? Let them be the ones doing the packing! “Figuring out what to pack for lunch can be very stressful on families,” says Coach Mel, aka Melanie Potock, M.A., CCC-SLP, author of Raising a Happy, Healthy Eater and founder of My Munch Bug.”But it can also be an opportunity. All kids like predictability and being a part of the process. Ask them to help with choosing, preparing, and packing lunch items. They are more likely to enjoy food when they are involved.”

What if your child’s choices don’t exactly fit into your comfort zone? There are some tips and tricks that will encourage even hesitant eaters to try new foods at school. You’ll want to set some guidelines. Namely, be sure to include items from each key food group, particularly those colorful fruits and vegetables. Plant-based protein options that are also calcium-rich could include hummus and tofu. Taking time to prep for the prep can reap yields in learning and comfort with the lunch itself. Coach Mel recommends taking a picture of your child’s lunchbox and make a lunch-packing map. Together, brainstorm items that can fill the inside. Write down the preferred foods that fit the categories together. “This is a shared activity that will empower and encourage your child,” says Coach Mel. “Be sure to celebrate those small victories.” 

Oftentimes it’s not in fact the contents of the lunchbox that is responsible for the uneaten food that returns home later in the day, or worse, is trashed. For younger students especially, the buzzing, wide open bustle of the cafeteria can be an awfully overwhelming place. That narrow window in the school day for refueling is also valuable social time, too. “Picture a typical cafeteria table with benches made to fit the average fifth-grader,” says Coach Mel. “Your kindergartner’s feet are dangling and she has to balance while her elbows hunch up practically to shoulder level in order to stabilize herself on the table edge. In an effort to ensure that their kids eat anything at all, well-meaning parents pack lunch boxes filled to the brim, typically with seven to eight different options. By the time she gets out all the containers you’ve packed, plus the juice box straw finally unwrapped and poked hard enough that juice squirts her in the face, five minutes have gone by. She’s holding up her other hand to signal the teacher, “Can you please open this lid?” but there are three other kids who need help first. Meanwhile, that nice girl who played with her at the craft table this morning wants to chat—and she just wants to make friends.”

How to mitigate the impact of the lunchroom din and time constraints? Coach Mel has a host of tips available on her website, My Munch Bug. A few key tips specifically targeting cafeteria chaos include sending kids to school with one easy-open container with a drink; packing “grab-and-gab” food, items that allow for less unwrapping and unraveling and more socializing; and making extended use of favorite dinner leftovers.

We all have favorite go-to treats that may vary whether traveling, consuming on-the-go, at school, at work or home. To help stir up your creative juices for this new school year, we’ve checked in with a few of the many health-conscious and inspired Longmonsters for their unique insights on what works best for them when it comes to packing snacks and lunches everyone can look forward to:

Keep your cool. “So many popular junk foods get their appeal from the marketing that goes into them,” says Kat Whitt, mom of Daniel, Nathaniel, and Annabelle. “But it’s pleasantly surprising that with younger kids at least we can compete with the Spider-Man chips etc simply by throwing a sticker on a healthy snack.”

Make it easy (and sustainable) to get packing. “Investing in some sectioned stainless steel containers was really worthwhile, both in terms of not having to use plastic or disposable baggies everyday, and also for preparing snacks that offer variety and are appealing in presentation,” says Courtney Greedy, mom of [?]. Our top snacks are cheese and celery, cucumber and baby carrots, grass fed beef jerky, Stovetop Popcorn, Wholly Guacamole cups, and for a special treat ProBug kefir or homemade healthier muffins.”

Unleash your inner artists and play with your food. “What my kids especially love are Wasa crackers with nut butter, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon with another Wasa cracker on top,” says Christina Edstrom, mom of Violette and Christian. “Something fun and healthy I like to send them with is like apple art. I take an apple slicer and cut almost all the way down to the bottom. I sprinkle all the slices with cinnamon and then put the apple back together so that it looks whole, wrap a rubber band around it and send it off. It’s fun for the kids to pull apart, and the cinnamon disguides any brown oxidation of the apple. This is an especially useful snack when kids are losing their teeth and can’t hack a whole one.”

Don’t fret over resorting to fave standbys. “I’m the boring mom who packs them with a baggie of blueberries or a whole apple,” says Rachel Kulkarni, mom of Nik, Laila, and Anika. “When I’m feeling fancy, they get pretzels. But they love those snacks, I’m happy with them, and they don’t go to waste. It’s a win-win.” Simple canned tuna, chopped eggs, or chopped vegetables like carrots, cucumber, celery, and other vegetables are quick and easy to prep; when it just so happens these are well received by your hungry students, too, why reinvent the wheel?

Keep the conversation open. “Talk, talk, talk about leftovers,” Kat advises. “Whenever possible, involve kids in selecting healthy options. It may be that time is a limiting factor. My kids can become frustrated with foods that takes awhile to chew because snack time is so short. They love fruit–they’re as thrilled with any piece of fruit as with me trying to get fancy. But we peel in advance. Include choice of containers in the conversation. It’s really important that kids can manage their containers independently.”  

Sep 5, 2017

Helping Hands: Tips for Finding Strength at Kids’ Fingertips

Third grader Sam Bertele has found writing on the tiring side in past school years. This year, he’s looking forward to tackling essays, descriptions and other writing assignments with bolstered stamina. All summer long, in addition to getting out mountain biking, swimming, and generally being active, he’s been focused on a fitness plan of sorts for his hands. It’s called Handwriting Club, and it took place in his family’s garage, on long carefully arranged tables surrounded by walls of alluring of bikes and tools. These enticing garage accoutrements didn’t serve as a distraction, however. Handwriting Club was too much fun.

When SVVSD Occupational Therapist Kim Bertele learned that several of her sons’ friends were interested in learning cursive, wheels began turning. She couldn’t resist an opportunity to help build upon their initiative, supporting their skills throughout the summer months at the same time. Casually throwing out the idea of a handwriting club as a possibility, she quickly gained volunteers. It soon became clear that the concept had “two thumbs up” appeal, and Handwriting Club was born.

Throughout the summer, eight students ranging from 2nd to 6th grades gathered in Bertele’s garage once weekly for a total of eight sessions, aka ‘club meetings’ of two hours. There, they refined pencil holding technique, developed fine motor strength, practiced tracking exercises, cultivated focus and imagination, and worked on Brain Gym® exercises. Their hands received regular weekly workouts, but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like fun, and it was. After all, who would suspect activities like cake decorating, cool crafts, and hanging out playing games with your friends as secretly being “work’? “It’s been really fun getting to hang out with friends while learning something new,” says Eli, in 6th grade. Bertele’s sons also acknowledge learning with their mom as teacher is fun. “I’m not even worried about getting into trouble,” says Max, in 5th grade.

“So much goes into the process of writing,” Bertele says. “Fine motor skills, visual motor skills, tracking, focus. Children improve by developing muscle strength, hand eye coordination, and focus. Handwriting skills reveal a lot about potential strengths and limitations, too, and offer opportunity for academic improvement in a wide variety of ways.” Highly conscious of how precious and short-lived the summer months are, Bertele got creative and industrious when it came to planning for each week, prepping a varied range of activities and fun materials for students to explore. “You get to play with a lot of stuff while you’re learning new things,” says Sammy, 2nd grade. Max says his favorite was playing Boggle, while tasked with writing down the words in cursive. And of course, cake decorating was easily a top hit.

Over the course of the summer, Handwriting Club participants found themselves gaining in skills and confidence. “I’ve gotten stronger,” says Asher, 3rd grade. Brae, a 4th grader, and John, 6th grade, developed a new, confident pencil hold. “I used to do a thumb wrap, and that tires your hand out,” each say. Now they have perfected the more efficient tripod grip. All in all, Handwriting Club participants have had the kind of fun that fits summer, and they have all learned to write in cursive. It was easier than expected, the boys all say, and worthwhile. “I can know how to read my grandparents’ cards now,” says Gage, 5th grade. “That’s something really special.”

Thank you for sharing, Handwriting Club! Pardon the pun, but you’ve got the write stuff.  

Want to give your hands some fun fitness routines? Here are a few tips, thanks to SVVSD Occupational Therapist Kim Bertele:

Take a look at your games.  Modify the rules to get your kids playing, having fun, and writing.
  • Put all of the Bananagram letter tiles into a bowl and take turns picking a letter.  Have everyone practice writing each letter that is picked, in upper case, lower case, print and cursive (depending upon their level).  Playing makes you a role model. Add to the difficulty and have everyone write a word that starts with that letter.
  • Pull out the Boggle Jr letter cubes.  When you child creates a cup with their hand it supports the development of the arches in the hand, which are important for the process of writing. Take turns rolling the letter cube.  Everyone must write the letter in lower case, upper case, print or cursive.
  • Play traditional Boggle and allow kids to find the two and three letter+ words while grown-ups find words with four or more letters.  Words can be written in print or cursive, focusing on producing legible writing with speed.
  • Play Hangman but have your child do the writing while you do the guessing.  Remember how to play?  Each letter you guess must be written, either in the blank space of the word you are guessing or to the side so you don’t guess it a second time.
  • Play tic-tac-toe and instead of using X and O vary the letters you use so that your child gets to practice the letters while you’re there to help them (in cursive or print).
Have fun with functional writing tasks.
  • Ask for some help writing the grocery list because it is helpful to have it written really neatly.  Copying is easier but if you have an older child, dictate the list while they write.
  • Have your child write a sticky note to each person in the family, then sprinkle the happy and encouraging notes around the house.
    Address an envelope together.  Have your child write a note, put a stamp on it and walk it to the mailbox.
Find the fun in everything!
Dice, spray bottles of water to spritz the plants, hiding things in putty that must be pulled out, rolling putting and creating letters or rolling and cutting then making “cookies”, coloring on a flat table or taped to a wall or window (a larger piece of paper behind the one they are coloring on will protect your house), drawing in sand, pea gravel, shaving cream  or pudding.
Your laughter and attention+shared focus and fun with your child= a healthy way to support your child’s fine motor development.  
Sep 1, 2017

Get to Know: Steve Laurel

Come late summer, Steve Laurel starts to succumb to a general, overriding antsiness. For the Longmontster, father of three, and Account Manager in the semi-conductor industry, it’s a feeling somewhat akin to back-to-school jitters. Only this restless anticipation is for cyclocross season, and for the much longed for muddy, brutal, concentrated pain. For the perfect storm of intensity that amounts to, for Steve and the many caught up in the magic of ‘cross, a crazy amount of fun.

As a college student, Steve competed in road cycling. Racing was a significant part of his life, something he felt in the back of his mind would always be there. But life evolved as it does, bringing new work and family commitments, and things changed. About twelve years ago, approaching his 40th birthday, Steve took stock of where he was, and he wasn’t happy with his conclusions. “I wasn’t physically or mentally healthy,” he says. “I was depressed. I had high cholesterol. I was over my optimal weight. I was not in a good place.”

Steve chose to make his reflections a starting point, using them as motivator not as albatross. He made it a goal and priority to get healthy again. “I went out and bought myself a new bike,” he says. “I made it a goal to get active. A friend who raced got me back into riding and racing. I started doing some road racing and mountain biking. I tried my first cyclocross race and was hooked.”

The journey back to fitness wasn’t easy, or overnight. It wasn’t a matter of just jumping back on the bike. “Getting back took a lot of  patience and persevering,” Steve says. “It has been a 12-year evolution, really. It took me a number of years just to get back to where I wanted to be in terms of weight.” But the work and patience paid off, as it tends to do. Now entering his 12th year of cyclocross racing, Steve is modest when asked about his accomplishments and in his words, doesn’t really like to talk results. But he consistently places in the top five in his 50+ age group, no minor feat in our athletic community. “If I can consistently place well, I’m happy. I’m competitive but it’s not the driving force. It’s about participating; showing up and putting the number on and doing the best that you can for that day. Race safe and technically sound. I go as hard as I can on the day, and that’s all that matters.”

Results aside, the bigger picture is what ultimately matters most, and brings the most joy. I just want to shape a positive, healthy future, and hope I can continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Steve says. “I’ve always loved cycling and racing helps me put some structure and focus so that I stay active. Sure, I enjoy competing but what really drives me is the process of training for racing. Having goals is important. The discipline that comes from the structure of this hobby I am passionate about carries over to other parts of my life. One of the biggest inspirations for staying active is seeing people much older than me still cycling and I strive to be able to ride bikes as long as I can.”

Your commitment and inspiration inspires us, Steve! Thanks you for sharing!

LWL: How long have you lived in Longmont and what brought you and your family here?
Steve: We moved to Longmont four years ago from Minneapolis. My wife Deidre was born and raised in Boulder, and we met there; I had moved to Boulder right after college. We lived in Minneapolis for 16 years but had always been interested in moving back to the Boulder area. When a job opportunity came up that facilitated making that move, we took it. Coming to Longmont was a lifestyle move.  Longmont has a lot of positives, including affordability and easy access to good riding.

LWL: You shared that you were hooked on cyclocross from your first race. What draws you to it?
Steve: I love the discipline. It’s 40+ minutes of all out racing so you know the pain has a limited length of time! And I really enjoy the laid back cyclocross scene although racing in Colorado can be a bit intense. My goals are pretty simple: pin a number on, have fun and keep my bike upright! Results are just a bonus.

LWL: What do you and your family do to enjoy physical activity together?
Steve: We walk our dogs every day around the paths and trails by our house.

LWL: What do you do as a family to prioritize healthy eating?
Steve: We eat at home a fair amount. My wife is a great cook who understands nutrition.

LWL: What is your favorite healthy food?
Steve: A soy fruit smoothie after a hard weekend ride.

LWL: What would you like to see in a healthy Longmont future?
Steve: I think Longmont is doing some very positive things when it comes to developing trails and paths for walking and biking. Keep up the great momentum!

Aug 21, 2017

Stroll, Stride, or Race Your Way to Longmont’s Downtown Block Party

Summer hit a speedbump? You don’t have to be a student to be afflicted with a little back-to-school blues, and you may even be bursting with excitement to hit the books again, for that matter. As the Dog Days reach their height and Labor Day rears its head on the calendar, it’s easy to fall victim for a little touch of wistful melancholy.

If only symbolic, the end of summer represents the end of fun. So long to carefree days, to poolside drinks (even if mainly in your mind) and half day Fridays. It’s not quite time to break out the winter gear, not hardly, but we may find ourselves mentally bracing for a little chill austerity.

If you’re finding yourself caught on a bit of a mopey road–or not–we’d like to advise a little detour. Why not end summer…no, usher in the coming new season and familiar routines, with a party!? Longmont’s Downtown Creative District will be hosting the all-new Downtown Block Party on Saturday, August 26th from 1-6 p.m. Featuring activities and entertainment throughout the breezeways, alleys, sidewalks and businesses, this is the perfect opportunity to explore the whole of our fabulous Downtown District. And, as a major bonus, you can use it to fit in a workout, too.

This year’s Downtown Block Party will include the second annual Downtown Amazing Race. Longmont United Hospital’s second annual Amazing Race will feature two-person teams following clues to various Downtown businesses and locations. Each stop will feature a five to ten minute, FUN challenge which the teams will have to complete before receiving a new clue and moving on to find the next location (think, tossing water balloons off the Samples’ rooftop, one of last year’s favorite activities).

Last year, Mayor Coombs and then LUH Vice President of Operations Peter Powers began spreading the word by assembling teams. This year, why not continue the momentum and treat yourself to a memorable party at the same time? The race will begin at 2:00, and will feature roughly 15 different challenges along the way. The first team to complete all the challenges and make it to the finish line wins. Teams will receive t-shirts, and will be competing for a $250 grand prize valid at Downtown Longmont businesses. The $30 entry fee is the total cost for each two-person team, and teams must sign up in advance.

Perhaps you’d prefer a more relaxed and self-paced way to explore Downtown and still compete for prizes? There will be a Downtown Scavenger Hunt open to anyone during the Block Party. Various historical and noteworthy signs, features and details will be highlighted throughout the District for people to find. Individuals who complete the scavenger hunt will be entered into a giveaway drawing for prizes. Other highlights of the event include a Downtown fashion and hair showcase, sidewalk sales, an artisan market, roaming performers and entertainers, drama and theatre performances, and a health and wellness treatment area, in addition to entertainment, sales, specials and promotions inside Downtown businesses.

Join the Party! For more information, and to sign up for the Amazing Race, visit www.downtownlongmont.com/calendar/downtown-block-party

Photo credit: Paul Goulart

Aug 21, 2017

From Garden to Greatness: Red Hawk Hosts First Student-led Farmers Market

What if you were offered the experience of a lifetime: one that could be replicated year-round, year after year, was self-sustaining in cost, could be literally devoured by the whole family, and held was guaranteed to include captivating magic? You can expect to work hard, but you’ll love it. It’s abuzz with excitement and calming at the same time. It’s nourishing, to body, mind and soul. It’s as all-inclusive as can be. Best of all, to access you need simply go outside. If you haven’t guessed by now that we’re talking about gardening, consider chatting with any student at Red Hawk Elementary. They’ve got the full cycle of food life down, and they’re getting ready to showcase the wealth of benefits, plus their unique expertise, at their first student-run farmers market at the end of this month.

The 1500 square foot Red Hawk Elementary garden is a bustling, flourishing place of learning. With each year, the bounty yielded from student sweat, careful observation and devotion grows. What better way to celebrate the garden than to further extend the learning opportunity offered by the full agricultural experience in such a way enhances the opportunity even further? That’s why, on August 29th (Red Hawk Elementary Back-to-School Night), students will be holding the school’s first ever student-run Farmers Market from 3:30- 6:30 pm, open to the public. This fantastic event is being funded by Health & Innovation Through Education (HIE), formerly the Red Hawk Foundation, a 501(c)3 which recently changed its name to reflect its expanded mission supporting health, wellness and technology initiatives for all SVVSD students. School garden produce will be supplemented by Longmont’s Ollin Farms and other local providers, with support from SVVSD Nutrition Services. Slow Food Denver School Garden Specialist Andrew Nowak will be providing interactive Chef Demos, utilizing student assistance to teach and showcase how to prepare fresh, delicious salsa out of any garden produce. Proceeds will go toward purchase of equipment for extending the garden’s growing season, such as hoop houses or, one day, even a greenhouse.

In anticipation of the big day, students have been busily harvesting their vegetables, preparing promotional materials, and arranging logistics. Their commitment is tireless and brimming with excitement. What is the driving force behind such dedication? Students well know, throughout their time planning and tending to their garden, they have been and continue to grow with it, in countless ways.

Getting down and dirty goes way beyond dirt. Valuable lessons are continuously reaped, relating to math, science, nutrition, and so much more. Being outdoors and working with the soil provides strong, intimate connections with nature which research reveals brings vast emotional and physical benefits. The calming effect of communion with the natural environment is significantly stress-reducing, which in turn positively impacts mood, lowers blood pressure, and boosts the immune system.

While gardening may be most familiarly associated with a staid, laid-back, grown-up image, in truth it offers an enormous range of potential for physical activity. Want a workout? There’s ample opportunity to get out what you put in. Further, studies are compiling specifically pointing to the moderate to high level of activity gardening promotes in children, and the ensuing benefits. One South Korean study is being used to facilitate garden-based exercise therapeutic interventions for children aimed at both soothing emotional states and promoting a healthy and physically active lifestyle.

Of course, one of the most obvious standout benefits of involving children in the full journey of food life, from seed to plate, involves cultivating adventurous palates. It’s no secret that kids of all ages are more willing to try new foods when they had a hand in the preparation. When they were responsible for the cultivation, too? That brings along meaningful connections and sense of pride that cannot be matched. In fact, analyses of 14 studies of school and community-based garden programs reveals a notable increase in fruit and vegetable consumption following program participation.

Students at Red Hawk Elementary hope that through their activities, not least a well-received student-led Farmers Market, they can serve as a role model for other schools interested in beginning or developing their own garden programs. They’ve been putting in diligent research to ensure success. Slow Food Denver offers a farmers market toolkit which has served as a hugely helpful guide. SVVSD Nutrition Services is intrigued by the possibilities this first Farmers Market represents. “We’re so excited to see this evolve and come to fruition,” says SVVSD Wellness Coordinator Sarah Harter. “When we were first involved, we immediately began wondering, can we replicate this in other schools. It’s thrilling to see the high level of engagement on the part of the students, and their growing awareness of how their hard work is reaping rewards.”

Mark your calendars for August 29th, and come feast your eyes and tantalize your taste buds with a fresh bounty of tri-colored cherry tomatoes, corn on the cob, beets, cantaloupe, carrots, basil, heirloom tomatoes, beans and more. We promise, you’ll not only will you relish the flavors, you’ll find inspiration to savor too. Fantastic work, Red Hawk gardeners! We are so looking forward to this market and more to come. Keep on growing!

Aug 14, 2017

Get to Know: Athena Allen

It’s that time of year already. The buzz of back-to-school bustle is everywhere. It’s hard to believe how quickly summer has flown, again, for everyone. For Athena Allen, transitioning back means an adjustment to a somewhat more laid-back pace of life again.

Don’t be deceived. School days for Athena are anything but relaxed. The exceptional martial artist and World Karate Association Unified World Championships gold medalist somehow manages to juggle rigorous AP classes, swim team, playing the cello in the school orchestra, and singing as part of the top choir comprised of just 14 students at Silver Creek; and, she does so with what appears on the outside to be supreme balance. Perhaps it’s best not to ask about sleep, but rest assured she keeps conscious of the need to fit that in, however creatively and efficiently, too.

The school year may be busy, but the structure of it provides a sort of satisfying relief. Throughout this past summer, the focused Silver Creek Junior was continuously on the go as counselor-in-training for a local horse camp, competitive swimming with swim club at Rally Sport, and martial arts tournaments. Lots and lots of tournaments. “During the school year, I’ll typically compete in tournaments about once a month,” Athena says. “This summer it was more than that. A lot more, actually. Most weekends I’d have something; it’s been a lot of travel. So, going back to school feels almost like kind of a break.”

Athena began studying martial arts at the age of five, after attending a birthday party at a local martial arts studio. She recalls feeling hesitant at first, but when she got on the mat she just loved it. It soon became clear that talent and ability matched her interest. Over the years, Athena’s dedication grew alongside her skills. At age eleven, she came to one of many pivotal points where she had to step back and take stock of priorities. Even as a young child, Athena made it clear she was not one to take on anything halfhearted. As a middle schooler, she had earned a place on a competitive soccer team. As much as she longed to, she knew she couldn’t do both soccer and karate to the level she wanted. Ultimately, it was karate that pulled with the stronger call. “It’s very empowering,” Athena says. “There are all these stereotypes around being a girl. I was never actively fighting those, but I always felt more of a tomboy. I thrived on strength.”

From her first martial arts class, Athena steadily increased time spent practicing in increments. Two 30-minute classes a week became three to four lessons a week, building to three to four nights, three to four hours each night training and also teaching others, by the time she was twelve years old. All the hard training certainly paid off, to say the least. By the time she was a sophomore in high school, Athena had won five Colorado state titles and seven national championships while competing in the North American Sport Karate Association circuit.

In 2016, Athena took competition to a new, even more breathtaking level, representing Team USA at the World Karate Association Unified World Championships.  “It was my first time being on the USA Team, and such a great honor,” she says. “It was amazing to represent my country.” In so doing, she reached the medal round in nine events, bringing home two gold medals, along with a silver and three bronze.

Given her many accomplishments, it may come as a surprise that Athena herself does not consider herself a particularly competitive person. However, on closer reflection, it makes perfect sense that her success comes from internal drive independent of others. Pursuing passions which continually challenge her to improve as an individual while connecting as part of a larger team, Athena brings together incredible focus and dedication, inner strength, and conscious reflection is a way which is no less than awe-inspiring.

What’s next on Athena’s evolving list of goals? The toughest part for such a multi-talented, determined individual is settling on which to put first. She does intend to continue progressing in the NASKA (North American Sport Karate Association) circuit, aiming to earn more national titles and, ultimately, a world title there. She is further trying out a circuit that leads to the Olympics. There will certainly be plenty of diverse noteworthy moments and achievements along the way, let alone upon arrival. Whatever these may be, there is no doubt that Athena has every reason to trust in her capable, grounded center, and the strong community behind her, cheering each step.

Thank you, Athena, for sharing with us! You are an incredible role model, and we look forward to following and applauding your journeys ahead!

LWL: It is mind-boggling how much you fit into each day, taking everything you pursue to such a high standard as well. That must involve a certain amount of sacrifice on your part. Can you talk a little about how you handle that?
Athena: It can be really hard sometimes. I can’t go to a football game, because I have a tournament, for example. I have to give up a lot socially. But I know it’s worth it. I get so much internal satisfaction from knowing I’m doing my best to prepare. And I am really fortunate to have such a supportive community in my sport.

LWL: It seems you’ve developed a very strong community over the years. Can you tell us more about that?
Athena: The national team is a very positive community where we’re all competing yet supporting each other. The coaches are amazing. About four years ago, I really stepped out of my comfort zone in a way that really impacted me when it comes to building community. I went to a camp in Kansas City in the winter. It was three intense, 8-hour days, and I didn’t know anyone. But it was a turning point. I was inspired and realized I really want to be doing this. I also met both my current coaches there, and ultimately ended up being invited on to Team USA and Amerikick National Team due to the contacts I made there.

I’ve definitely made lifelong friends and connections through martial arts. And I’m so grateful for my parents’ support. My mom is my biggest fan. She’s for sure my main person at tournaments, I’m always screaming at her to get things for me. She doesn’t complain. I know I don’t show my appreciation enough.

LWL: You are an inspiring role model. What advice do you have for young people who aspire to pursue their best as you do?
Athena: It’s all about believing yourself. It’s realizing that anything is possible if you put enough effort into it. That’s something I’ve had to work on, on the mat especially. It isn’t something that’s natural or even always steady once you get there. Sometimes I struggle with getting on the mat in competition and doing what I’ve been doing in practice. I have to work on that self-belief, and channeling it.

LWL: What’s your favorite healthy food?
Athena: I love sushi. I go to Whole Foods just about every day for it, for lunch. And I love fruit.

LWL: How have you and your family prioritized healthy eating together?
Athena: We cook together, and salad is a staple meal.

LWL: Any special standout training tips?
Athena: Somehow, make time for sleep. It’s a more important part of training than we typically realize.

Aug 1, 2017

Health for the Healers: Farm-to-Hospital Pop-up Markets

You know the adage, ‘an apple a day’… As much as we may enjoy a warm rapport with our esteemed and friendly physicians, the crisp sweet crunch of a juicy apple (and the many, significant perks of eating a healthy diet) is far more appealing than a trip to the doctor’s office. The phrase strikes a somewhat ironic note however, when one considers the doctors, who could well benefit from a few more fresh apples themselves.

Medical professionals are notorious for being overworked, over-stressed, and emotionally and physically exhausted. Long, intense hours make it far too easy for them to neglect their own self-care.  What can we do as a community to help our healers, in whom we place the utmost trust and responsibility? Lots, probably. We can make healthy food access a little easier, for one thing. That’s exactly what’s happening this summer at Longmont United Hospital.

This summer, LiveWell Longmont collaborated with Boulder County Farmers Market and Longmont United Hospital’s Volunteer Services to bring weekly pop-up Farmers Markets to the hospital on Tuesday afternoons from 3-5 pm. As part of the pilot program, employees and patients can purchase a bag of fresh, seasonal produce from local farms for $25, available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Cash, credit cards, and employee payroll deductions are accepted. “This project has been two years in the making,” says Erika Wey, our LiveWell Longmont Community Engagement Strategist. “We had an idea and approached [Boulder County Farmers Markets CEO] Brian Coppom, who passed on all his market knowledge and lessons learned to help make this pop up market as successful as it could be.” Longmont United Hospital Volunteer Services Director Laura Kinder facilitated volunteers who run the weekly markets, and devoted $5000 of her budget to purchase fresh, local produce. Each week, $500 worth of seasonal produce is purchased directly from local farmers, including Ollins Farms, and offered at the pop-up farmer’s market. Proceeds are returned to volunteer services. “The reception has been amazing,” Wey says. “Our second market sold out in three minutes.”

The first market, held Tuesday July 11th, featured items from Ollin Farms of Longmont, including farm fresh eggs, raspberries, beets, and sunflower shoots. Other participating farms include Red Hen Farms and Morton’s Organic Orchards. “Doctors and nurses are always saving lives, but so often they have no time to take care of themselves,” says Kena Guttridge of Ollin Farms. Thank you, our #HealthyLongmont community, for working together to change that, and thank you, our medical teams, for all that you do!

Hungry for more info? Check out this write-up in Denver Business Journal!

Jul 17, 2017

Get to Know: Brie Michalik

Morning sunshine floods the airy, open room, dressed up with floating feathers. The gently drifting swirls are propelled by the exhalations of rosy-cheeked, sparkly eyed children, roughly ages three to five. It’s Kids Yoga at the Family Garden, and instructor Brie Michalik guides her students with captivating energy that matches and adapts to their every step.

Don’t be let Brie’s spirited playfulness or seeming ease in poses reminiscent of Cirque de Soleil fool you. The Wellness Consultant, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor, and Craft Yoga Founder is a powerhouse of tenacity, strength and drive. She has achieved a vast wealth of skills, knowledge, and the entrepreneurial lifestyle she set her sights on through diligence, intense focus, and hard-earned experience.

Upon graduating high school early with a 4.0, many expected Brie to follow a university track, but she was determined to carve her path her own way. She moved to Frisco, where she went snowboarding everyday, and also read up on accountancy, earned an associates degree in business. A few years later, she launched herself as an independent contractor as she was about to become a single mom. “We learn in life that the easy way and the right way aren’t really the same,” Brie reflects. “You need to be true to what you actually want out of your life. I’ve definitely had my share of setbacks and difficulties, but I wouldn’t change it. I love what I do, I love being a single mom, I love my life. Planning out logistics is always important, but leaps of faith are more important.”

Since she was ten years old, yoga has been a meaningful part of Brie’s life. What initially drew her was the practice of meditation. “There was this little store where I saw these buddha statues that really intrigued me. They cost a lot, about $40, but I started saving up for them and eventually earned enough to buy some. I didn’t know what they were about, but they calmed me. They made me focus on a peaceful life, something I was aware even as a young child that I was after and that everyone deserves.”

When Brie was thirteen, her mother took her to her first official yoga class. “It was hot yoga, and summertime in Arizona,” she reminisces. “I hadn’t realized yoga could be physically intense like that. It was not what I expected.” Brie’s focused yoga and meditation practice became an anchor over the years, supporting her through injury, pregnancy and recovery. “I’ve had a decent amount of injuries,” Brie says, “and every time, yoga is what gets me back. I also had an amazing experience with prenatal yoga and and an amazing labor experience that I think was really impacted by my practice.” Now, Brie’s daughter Evelynn (Evey), age seven, enjoys yoga too, and the bonding shared experience is truly priceless.

Yoga may have been established itself in Brie’s life early on, yet she confesses she didn’t see herself becoming a yoga teacher until she realized she already was one. “I don’t really wear earth tones, for one thing,” she says jokingly. “I’m certainly unconventional in my approach. Now, I realize that my non-traditional approach is a big part of the healthy attendance in my classes. It’s like a Bruce Lee quote I love, ‘Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and then duplicate it’. It’s uniqueness that brings people back.”

Last year, Brie established Craft Yoga, the seed of her nonprofit, to help create community and change through yoga. Craft Yoga classes consist of 45 minutes of all levels yoga flow. They are always free, but donations are accepted and benefit different causes each time. She has teamed up with local businesses including Left Hand Brewery and The Roost, the site of her first official Craft Yoga session last June. “Oftentimes the classes are not what people expect for their Sunday morning,” Brie says. “The poses and sequencing are hard, but there are lots of smiles and laughs, and everyone leaves feeling powerful.”

Inspiration for Craft Yoga has deep roots drawing from longtime volunteerism, and an unexpected catalyst that stemmed from tooth pain. Growing up, Brie and her brother volunteered for Project Angel Heart in Denver. The moving experience compelled her to volunteer at various organizations independently from the time she was sixteen. Then one day, in 2014, she was hit with extreme tooth pain and ended up getting an appointment with a dentist in Brighton. “He didn’t charge me anything,” she says. “I was so grateful and blown away, and he said, ‘we all have something to give.’ I never forgot that. He planted a seed. I realized, I don’t have a lot of money to donate to causes I support, but I can teach free yoga classes and apply any donations to them. That is something I can do. I’ve taught a lot of free yoga since then, and I never feel like it’s a waste of my time, ever. It’s so much fun, and I notice a lot of pay-it-forward energy from it.”

This summer, Brie is offering two free family yoga sessions at Thompson Park, as well as Craft Yoga at Left Hand. Find out more at briescraft.com and follow her Facebook page for more events info plus tips and tidbits.

Thank you for sharing, Brie, and for the many seeds you are continually planting in our #HealthyLongmont community!

LWL: What does your personal fitness routine look like?
Brie: I practice yoga every day, but it always looks different. It has to–I’m self-employed and a mom. I make it a priority to practice meditation every day. Meditation is my number one. You can actually make a lot of physical changes, changing patterns and habits, by not moving at all. It’s amazing. Physically, I practice asana 5 times a week, go for a run or to the gym or do a workout DVD once a week. I always like to pick new poses to learn. Practicing what you preach so important. But it has to be adaptable.

LWL: How do you prioritize healthy eating and active living as a family with your daughter?
Brie: We do a lot of partner yoga. Evey is a little yogi. I’ve never forced it on her, but she loves it. Yoga sparks her interest, and it’s such great connection for us. She is so strong. Eating is so, so important. It’s disheartening how many kids can’t name vegetables. Evey loves to eat tomatoes like apples. She has a lot of choice–she doesn’t like Brussel’s sprouts so I don’t push it on her. She’ll eat asparagus, all kinds of different vegetables. Options are important. And family dinner–every time we eat together we have conversations. We ask each other, what was the best part of your day, and what was the worst? Sometimes we can’t think of a worst part, which is so great, but both are important avenues of communication.

LWL: What is your favorite healthy food?
Brie: Lately I’ve been just loving GT’s Synergy kombucha. Something I always have in the house…mushrooms, kale and gala apples. Those are my staples.

LWL: What do you treasure most about Longmont?
Brie: When I first found out I was moving here, I was not enthused. It didn’t take even a year to really fall in love with this town. It’s such a great community. I see so many people I know everywhere I go. There’s so much support for small business owners.

LWL: What would you like to see develop in Longmont’s healthy future?
Brie: One thing that kinds of bums me out regardless of where I go is littering. Our children deserve a clean place to play. The city is doing a great job of setting us up with great resources. Keeping them that way is up to all of us.

Jul 10, 2017

Promotora Spotlight: Erika Leon

Over the past year or so, you may have noticed we’ve been a bit excited about ongoing developments with a little project we call One Healthy Longmont. As part of this great initiative, we are actively bringing together resources to support community members in successfully advocating for health where it matters most. Notably among these community supports is a remarkable group of promotoras. Over a year ago, we put out calls for promotoras. In recent months, we’ve glowed with congratulations for their hard work. And now we’re realizing, we never really explained…exactly what is a promotora?

We could try to explain our interpretation of  this significant, dynamic term, but we’d really rather show by stellar example. So we’ve asked a few of our generous, charismatic and passionate promotoras  participating in special trainings offered in conjunction with Cultivando to share in their own words a little of what it takes. This month, meet bold, magnetic mother of three from Mexico, Erika Leon.

Erika was drawn to the role of promotora from an early age. She was inspired by her dearest, most influential role model, her mom. “My mother worked for Social Services in Mexico,” Erika says. “Much of her work took place in hospitals. I watched and admired her work. More importantly, I learned her passion. She is selfless and tireless when it comes to helping people. And I especially admire her great vision for improving family welfare and her courage advocating for change. She gave me support in understanding how to navigate the system.”

When Erika’s husband, an engineer, was transferred from Mexico to Longmont seven years ago, her life was turned upside-down. In Mexico, she worked as an attorney, and felt happy with her work-life balance. It was exceedingly comforting that her first child was cared for by family during her work hours. Coming to America, she was faced with the daunting task of learning English, setting new roots, and getting to know whole new government and education systems. Most of all, she was faced with a mammoth task of providing her daughter with a positive outlook and stability even as internally she felt shaken. Seeing her daughter overwhelmed, Erika’s mom joined the family for their first six months in their new world, helping her find new ground. She would later visit another 6 months following the birth of the Salas family’s third child. “She said to me, OK, you need to look and find your community,” Erika says. “She helped me get settled, and she helped fuel my motivation to keep moving forward, get to know my community and continue on a personal path of continual improvement.”

LWL: How do you define, “promotora?
Erika: A promotora intimately knows the needs of a community, promotes and provides information to the community. She serves as a bridge between community and organizations and facilitates collaboration and helping of one another.

LWL: What does it take to be a promotora, and what draws you to that role here?
Erika: To be a promotora, you need to start knowing yourself, then family, and finally community. Your need passion and the desire to help others.

Leaving behind my law career in Mexico, I gave up so much. I cried, so much. Yet I am very grateful for opportunities I have here. I think of others who immigrate here who are not as fortunate when it comes to opportunities and resources as I am.

LWL: What drew you to take the training offered by LiveWell Longmont and Cultivando, “Cultivando mi vos”?
Erika: I have a passion for my community, to learn new things, to help meet needs. I wanted to know more about LiveWell and the training was a great opportunity. My mom really inspired me early to treat training opportunities as gifts–they always bring about improvement, self, for my children, or opening up awareness of resources.

I feel proud to volunteer in organization, to be part of this group of women interested in promoting physical and mental health, welfare of families.

LWL: What would you describe as your greatest passion when it comes to community work?
Erika: Family welfare. Anything that helps families–health, nutrition, resources. Family is what life is about.

LWL: What are your goals and hopes for once the second training, “Cultivando nuestra accion” is completed?
Erika: I would love to work for an organization wherein I can apply my skills and help community more efficiently. I will always work to impact and improve physical and mental health within families.

 

Working Together for One Healthy Longmont (One Healthy Longmont) works collaboratively to increase the health of our community by supporting those living in Longmont most impacted by health disparities and chronic disease. This compelling initiative is made possible thanks to generous funding in the amount of $600,000 awarded through The Cancer Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Disease (CCPD) Grants Program.