Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative: Creating Vibrant, Healthy Communities

Last year, 1,200 Northeast Iowa preschool students tasted and learned about healthy, local food through a farm-to-preschool program. More than 500 early child care providers learned how to incorporate more daily movement and fruits and vegetables into their programs. And farmers reported that local food sales had increased to $2.58 million, up from  $25,000 in 2006. 

These are just a few of the successes of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (NIFFI). This collaboration between community members, local farmers and organizations has been shattering the old stereotype that young children want nothing to do with healthy foods.  

NIFFI’s mission is to increase access to healthy, locally grown foods and to provide abundant opportunities for physical activity and play for children, especially those in the most vulnerable groups.

For more than a decade, NIFFI has worked in strategic alliance with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, sharing best practices and resources and convening partners to impact health and wellness in six rural counties in Northeast Iowa: Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek. 

“CFGD helped us create a framework for collective impact in our region,” says NIFFI Initiative Coordinator Ann Mansfield. “While the WK Kellogg Foundation was our backbone funder, CFGD coached us to work with multiple funders and build many streams of support. CFGD gave us the liberty to do business where it made sense to create healthy outcomes for kids and families in Northeast Iowa.”

NIFFI is one of more than 240 Northeast Iowa nonprofits that relies on earnings from an endowment fund at CFGD for a reliable and sustainable source of income. (See page three for more information on endowment funds.) 

“Citizens across the region take pride in the health outcomes supported by NIFFI,” says CFGD Director of Affiliates MJ Smith. “From walking school buses to school lunch salad bars to vibrant farmers’ markets, one can taste and feel the impact of this decade of community engagement. The Community Foundation has provided a backbone of support for many voices and organizations to join around a compelling vision that ‘the healthy choice should be the easy choice’ for our kids and families.”

The project is part of a collaboration among Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Luther College, Northeast Iowa Community College, the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission, the WK Kellogg Foundation Food & Community Program, the Northeast Iowa Business Network, Northeast Iowa Funders Network, and the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. 

Learn more or make a gift to support this initiative at

Photo caption: Local students feed and pet cows at WW Homestead Dairy in Waukon during Edible Earth Camp, a week-long summer camp that teaches students about locally sourced foods firsthand.



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The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque envisions a vibrant and inclusive Dubuque region where everyone can thrive. Since 2002, we have inspired people to give back to their community, and we turn this generosity into lasting change across our region, increasing access to resources and opportunities that help all people succeed. 

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