The Investigation Station is the go-to place for elementary school-aged children in Landfall. Upon arrival, kids flow toward the activity spaces that offer music, games, woodworking, computers and Legos. They can read in the library and collect stars to earn books. Staff assist kids with daily homework assignments and longer-term projects. Visiting artists nurture art skills while a nutrition educator teaches youth about food groups and food preparation. Research supports that elementary school students who regularly attended the high-quality afterschool programs demonstrated significant gains in things like standardized math test scores, work habits, and social skills (Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007). The program is supported by FamilyMeans, a nonprofit agency committed to strengthening communities by strengthening families. The organization has a satellite office in the basement of Landfall city hall, offering a presence in the community.
Located below the Teen Center, the Youth Bicycle Program propels students to get fit and explore the community around them–see the health benefits of cycling. A well-equipped repair shop allows youth to learn and practice bike repair skills, ranging from fixing a flat tire to building a wheel. Weekly bike rides take cyclists to Dairy Queens, surrounding communities, and into Wisconsin. The youth cyclists and mechanics report pride in what they accomplished, becoming stronger and safer cyclists, achieving more than they expected to, and gaining skills they can use later in life. In 2017, 36 youth participated in the program, collectively riding 4,394 miles, roughly the distance from Landfall, MN to Paris, France.
Landfall is a two-time honoree of KaBOOM’s Playful City USA, a national recognition program honoring cities and towns that ensure that kids in their communities, particularly kids from low-income families, get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. The median household income in Landfall is $33,750, significantly lower than the median household income of Minneapolis, $52,611. In 2010, local teens in Landfall presented a plan to the City Council for building a skate park. It didn’t pass, but the Council allocated funds for a bus route that would take teens to an existing park nearby. “It was an ingenious solution, especially in our economic times,” said Mike Vietti, communications manager at KaBOOM. Landfall plans to apply for grants to build a skate park in the city.
Playful City USA
Detroit Mountain was a family owned alpine ski operation for over 50 years. Shortly after it closed in 2004, local community members began discussing how the mountain could be revitalized into a year-round recreational facility. With support from the local community and beyond, Detroit Mountain opened in the Winter of 2014. “People give a lot, whether it’s time, money or both,” reflects Kelcey Klemm, City Administrator. “Detroit mountain was basically done through donations.” The mountain features an all new terrain park, tubing hill, cross country ski trails along with biking trails that host all levels of mountain bike enthusiasts. Educational programming aims to help develop the health and wellness of children, families and the community. To provide equal access to all users, the Detroit Mountain Recreation Area developed a scholarship program for individuals and families who need assistance.
Walk, Work n’ Play is a community program designed to encourage residents, employees, and visitors to get outside and make the most of the walking paths and sidewalks in their community. “We try to provide those amenities that make it attractive to live here, so it is a lot of park space, and a lot of recreational options,” explains Mayor Matt Brenk. The project is supported by the Community Wellness Grant from the Minnesota Department of Health and is operated by PartnerSHIP 4 Health, a collaboration of community and public health partners in Becker, Clay, Otter Tail, and Wilkin Counties. The organization works to prevent chronic disease through sustainable changes that increase physical activity, healthy eating, and reduce tobacco use and exposure. Walkable communities reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, support health and well-being, and boost economic development.
With a full spectrum of senior living opportunities on the Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital and Clinic campus in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Lincoln Park offers 30 independent living apartments for residents over age 62. Situated under sprawling oaks and adjacent to the shopping, dining and entertainment of a bustling downtown, this facility is designed for carefree living that’s close to healthcare.
Essentia Health-Lincoln Park Senior Apartments
Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Photo credit: Tara Ekren of Essentia Health
Wilder Foundation’s Minneapolis Bike Equity Report (2016) notes that, “In Minneapolis and throughout Minnesota, social and economic conditions vary significantly by neighborhood, often as the result of long-standing policies and historical practices that divest resources away from some communities” (p.5). Communities of color face significant health disparities. In North Minneapolis, where 57% of the population is Black, the city is planning to implement a bicycle boulevard on Queen Avenue by 2021. According to the Bike Equity Report, “…expanding Minneapolis bikeways can improve opportunities for residents to engage in healthy activities and access employment, education, and other community resources” (p.1). The signs, pavement markings, and other traffic calming measures of bicycle boulevards make streets safer for pedestrians and motorists as well.
Lead poisoning, which can cause serious health problems and developmental delays, is 100% preventable and the Sustainable Resources Center hopes to spread that message by offering outreach and health education. The Leadie Eddie van is a mobile lead testing unit and puppet show that travels to neighborhood events offering educational materials about the dangers of lead and strategies that families can take to protect themselves in English, Spanish, and Somali. “We have community partners who go to events, who speak multiple languages, who are [able] to engage people in the communities,” says Patricia Fitzgerald from Hennepin County Community Works. Families also have an opportunity to learn about free in-home visits and about grant funds that could help remove lead hazards from their homes. By reaching where people already gather, this effort makes homes healthy places to live.
Brooklyn Center’s Health Resource Center offers free and low-cost medical, dental, vision, and mental health services to youth of Brooklyn Center Schools and the community ages 0-19. The 2,300-square-foot clinic is located within Brooklyn Center High School, built in former classrooms, paid for through donations, and supported by Park Nicollet and Pohlad Family foundations. Close to 57.5% of residents in Brooklyn Center are people of color, who may be uninsured and underinsured. Low-income communities with racial and ethnic minorities often face unmet health needs and inadequate health care resources and School Based Health Centers have been documented as able to reach this population (Brindis, Klein, Schlitt, Santelli, Juszczak, & Nystrom, 2003). A health clinic in a high school provides these students with access to health professionals and medical, dental, eye, and mental health care.
Rec on the Go is a mobile recreational activities program that offers crafts, games, literacy projects, science experiences, and snacks for children and teens in low-income areas of Brooklyn Park. The summer programming schedule typically runs four days a week from mid-June to mid-August in many locations across the city, from parks to apartment complexes. The program was created to increase access to parks and recreational facilities. A national study found that children living closer to recreational programs and parks had much lower rates of obesity than children who lived further away. However, the study also found that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have fewer parks and recreational facilities than more affluent, white neighborhoods (Wen, Zhang, Harris, Holt, & Croft, 2013). Rec on the Go bridges this divide, providing opportunities for youth to learn and engage.