Student coordinates first Fit for Family community program
February 12, 2014
Joe Kalscheur didn't
have to search very long when he needed some healthy role models to help kick
off a new community health program, Fit for Family.
He called his former
teammates with the University of Wisconsin-Stout football team.
Ten of the Blue
Devils, wearing their jerseys, showed up on the first night of Fit for Family
in November. They led light exercises and activities to inspire children and
their families at River Heights Elementary in Menomonie.
including the team's quarterback and kicker, helped families with throwing,
catching and kicking a football. At a fourth station, they tried agility
drills, such as running an obstacle course.
"The diving catch
station was a big hit. Kids got a running start and made diving catches onto a
big mat while being cheered on by the football players," said Kalscheur, a
Kalscheur, a campus-based
AmeriCorps volunteer, organized the program. The first Fit for Family, held one
night a week for three weeks, drew 63 participants from 17 families.
During each of the
three nights, participants exercised and did activities such as laughter yoga
and team-building. They also enjoyed a healthy snack each session while
learning about nutrition.
"We want to inspire
the youth and empower the parents. A lot of simple things can make a huge
impact on our health," Kalscheur said. "Knowledge and education are the
foundation to improving our nation's current health challenges."
physical education teacher at River Heights and Downsville elementary schools,
helped Kalscheur plan the physical activities and recruit participants.
and families was the key, Munoz said. "Education now is more interactive. This
program enhanced what's going on in the schools," she said. "Anytime you can
get families together and educate them all at once it's good."
Kim Kadlec of
Menomonie attended Fit for Family with her four children, ages 16, 13, 11 and
"It was very well
set up. They put a lot of planning into the presentations and activities and
the kids had a lot of fun," said Kadlec.
"We focus as a family heavily on
making healthy choices and staying active. We make it a precedent (in our
family) that after school you eat a fruit or vegetable," said Kadlec, who added
that programs such as Fit for Family are important because they can help re-emphasize
what parents are telling their children. "The best impact for kids is
continuity in day-to-day life."
child, Ariana, is a member of the River Heights Girl Scout troop. More than 30
members of the troop participated, helping them earn health and fitness badges.
Setting a good example
UW-Stout senior from the south-central Wisconsin city of Oregon, knows a little
about health and fitness. He was a safety on the Blue Devils football team
until last fall, when he decided not to try out. Instead, he applied to become
a national AmeriCorps Farm to School member.
As part of his volunteer
commitment, he directed Fit for Family. "I chose this role because I thought I
could make a more substantial impact on the community," Kalscheur said.
An applied science
major with a preprofessional concentration, Kalscheur's goal after graduation
is to be accepted into a physician assistant program. He also is a personal
fitness trainer, so the Fit for Family program is of particular interest to
"What drew me to
this was the childhood obesity epidemic. We're trying to meet that head-on
through a positive environment that speaks to Menomonie community members,"
Kalscheur said. "I think it has been successful.
"We wanted to get a pilot program going that
can be assessed and used throughout the community. We want it to be a fun
program," Kalscheur said.
Kalscheur hopes to
plan and offer another such community health program this spring.
"This program would
not have been possible without the support of all the wonderful community
supporters, such as UW-Extension, Menomonie Market Food Co-op, UW-Stout student
volunteers and the school staff and administration of the Menomonie Area School
District," he added.
Kalscheur also received help with Fit for Family from his AmeriCorps colleague
at UW-Stout, Kara Helget. A recent graduate of Winona State University in
Winona, Minn., she is a graduate student at UW-Stout in food and nutritional
As part of their
yearlong commitment, from August 2013 to August 2014, Kalscheur and Helget each
must volunteer 900 hours at UW-Stout and in the community related to the Farm
to School program in Dunn County.
This is the first year Farm to School has been in Dunn
County, one of 14 sites chosen by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and
Consumer protection. The program
promotes healthy eating and aims to decrease childhood obesity and increase
access to local foods in school.
This spring, Farm to School will provide nutrition
education lessons to fourth-grade students and taste testing for elementary students
in Dunn County.
Kalscheur, community outreach coordinator, and Helget,
nutrition educator, are supervised by Associate Professor Kerry Peterson, food
and nutrition; Mary McManus, assistant director of the Memorial Student Center;
and Michelle Kloser, Menomonie school district food service director.
Kalscheur and Helget
are building on work done by a previous AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer on campus,