Group Works to "Refresh" Mower County

Posted at: 10/11/2013 6:23 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- From time to time, we all try to make little changes to live healthier, but on Friday a group of people met to try and make some big changes to improve the health of an entire county.

On Friday morning, members of Mower Refreshed met in Austin for a special wellness summit dedicated to helping county residents improve their individual health and wellbeing.

“Mower Refreshed is about creating tools that citizens have given us input on that can be adapted,” said Sandy Anderson, coordinator for the Mower Refreshed initiative.

The group focused on three main areas: nutrition and dietary habits, mental health, and workplace wellness.

To help people cut calories, group leaders say they want to increase nutrition education and even reached out to local restaurants to try and create healthier menu options.

“We want to make these choices easier all the time,” said Melissa Bonorden, a nutritionist with Hormel Foods. “Every single day, whether it would be with the schools, or in restaurants, or sitting around the dining table at home."

But organizers said even more important than healthy eating habits is a person's mental health.

Mower Refreshed teamed up with students from Austin High School to develop several peer counseling programs to help students deal with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

“We feel like if you open up more you will relieve the stress,” said AHS student Maria Zarete who helps organize the counseling programs. “You won't be so anxious at school, you won't be so jittery and you'll feel more liberated."

But wellness doesn't end in the schools.

Mower Refreshed organizers said they're working with local businesses to try and implement a variety of fitness incentive programs designed to keep workers healthy and active.

“When we have employees that are physically fit and mentally fit, they're going to be more productive,” Anderson said. “They're going to miss less work and we're going to see a decrease in health care costs over time."

Organizers said only through a combination of all three initiatives will they be able to address the health needs of every citizen in the county.

They hope to develop new partnerships with local business and other non-profit groups in the coming months.