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Published on July 11, 2013

CentraCare Health Foundation Renews BLEND Grant

Fight against childhood obesity enters 7th year

The CentraCare Health Foundation awarded a $450,000 grant to be disbursed over two years to continue the BLEND (Better Living Exercise & Nutrition Daily) program.

Started in 2006, BLEND was designed to improve the health of area children by reducing the incidence of childhood obesity in Central Minnesota by 10 percent by 2016. BLEND will celebrate its seventh birthday this year with opportunities to win prize packages for the entire family. Visit or for details. For every “like” that BLEND receives on Facebook by July 25, they will donate $1 to area food shelves up to $2,000. BLEND is supported by the CentraCare Health Foundation.

“Obesity is one of the major problems facing the health of our nation,” said David Tilstra, M.D., co-chairperson of the BLEND medical committee. “Childhood obesity is really a challenge for any one group to take on, but through the efforts of BLEND to bring the community together, it becomes a problem that can be tackled.”

With the help of community partners, BLEND works with schools, youth-serving organizations, local government and the medical community to raise awareness about good health and to increase daily physical activities and good nutritional choices for kids and families. This is done through public programming, community events and advocacy.

BLEND is committed to promoting and encouraging increased physical activity to children and families in Central Minnesota. This includes measures like Complete Streets policies, Safe Routes to Schools and community sidewalks. “We want to ensure our built environments make the healthy choice, the easy choice,” said Jodi Gertken BLEND coordinator. “It’s not just about educating our kids to lead healthy lifestyles — we have to provide them safe environments which encourage them to be active.”

The Fit Kids Club Series encourages kids to have fun and enjoy being active. By encouraging participation in endorsed race events, BLEND’s goal is to give children and families the opportunity to try something new, pass on the idea that exercise is fun, provide a sociable setting and reward children for positive behavior. In return, by promoting daily exercise in childhood, the tone is set for a lifetime of physical activity and improved health.

In partnership with Coborn’s, Inc. and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, BLEND launched the NuVal® Nutritional Scoring System in eight St. Cloud area stores in October 2010. Under the NuVal® System, foods are graded on a scale from one to 100. The higher the number, the more nutritious the food is overall. Now, the NuVal® System is available in Sartell schools and Coborn’s, Hy-Vee, Lunds and Byerly’s throughout Minnesota.

BLEND supports the Walk-At-School movement to encourage schools to implement walk-a-thons and reduce the amount of unhealthy foods sold as fundraisers. Walk-At-School complements other BLEND efforts such as Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets. More than a dozen Central Minnesota schools have successfully implemented Walk-At-School fundraisers, resulting in positive shifts to improve the overall health of kids and exceeding their fundraising goals for the 2012-13 school year.

The CentraCare Health Foundation averages more than $8 million each fiscal year in grants to improve health throughout Central Minnesota. The Foundation’s grants support projects that promote health education, conduct research, provide services or programs that improve health and health care for residents of the region served by CentraCare Health.

For more information, please call (320) 240-2810 or visit or

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