Health Hero Award Winners
ASSIE CRAFT AND SARA NESTOR (PLAINS, MT)
Clark Fork Valley Hospital Virtual Baby-Bistro/Baby-Friendly Team
It is an unfortunate fact that rural families, especially new mothers and infants, face many hardships in their attempts to access maternal health, nutrition, wellness, and lactation support. Geographic, time, and budgetary constraints often prove difficult to overcome. Cassie and Sara knew that offering on-site classes would only benefit the few mothers that were able to make the meeting time work. With a vacant room, table and an iPhone these two women started what can now only be described as an extraordinary virtual support service. Tuesday Talk was started with the intent to inform new mothers on lactation, breastfeeding, and milk supply. Since then, thousands of viewers from the Plains community and beyond have benefited from this exceptional service and the education has expanded to whatever mothers need. Topics such as sport concussions, physical activity during pregnancy, and birthing plans have also been explored on the web series.
On top of sharing their expertise, Sara and Cassie also invite other healthcare experts from their community to share their words of wisdom. For many families, especially those that live in rural locations, isolation and disconnection are real. The duo has provided a friendly and accessible virtual environment at Clark Fork Hospital, so that women can connect and share their stories.
Director of Montana Team Nutrition Program
When it comes to childhood nutrition and wellbeing, Katie Bark has made strides in her efforts to ensure that Montana children, and children elsewhere receive the best nutrition possible. Through her efforts to improve access to healthy foods, enhance nutrition education, and build lasting relationships, Katie has been at the forefront of brining attention to childhood nutrition and the barriers associated with it. Katie has received a USDA Team Nutrition grant nearly every time she has applied because of her excellent reputation of administering exceptional grant projects. Katie’s accomplishments include working with OPI and MSU to manage 22 USDA Team Nutrition grants totaling over $6.5 million. A few of the areas that Katie’s work has shed light on include, recess prior to lunchtime, adequate time to eat, food waste and childhood hunger. It is through her perseverance, deep commitment and passion for making the world a healthier place that she has not been afraid to take on the tasks that have been deemed “unchangeable” by others.
Katie’s 25 years of providing effective nutrition education has not only been aimed at what she wants to share, or her knowledge and passion, but she has also worked tirelessly to ensure that the future is filled with competent, committed and professional leaders.
Hinsdale Public Schools
One of the best gifts you can give a child is the gifts of support. If anyone knows the important role that support can play in the life of child, or anyone, it is Joyce. She consistently goes out of her way to ensure that she is creating a cafeteria that is warm, welcoming, and safe for all. Through collaboration with others, including the children that she serves, Joyce has created a community based on giving, support, and care. In her eyes, support can come in many forms other than the traditional ways that many might think of, one of those ways being food. Joyce has proven that food is more than just nutrition by demonstrating the ways in which food can bring people together and further enhance the support given and received within a community.
Of the many wonderful pursuits taken on by Joyce, is her Thanksgiving and Christmas meals that are homemade with love and effort from students, faculty, and community members combined. In her kitchen every effort is made to ensure that food is not wasted. One of the best ways Joyce goes about food sustainability and the lowering of food costs is by having the students grow a lot of the produce that they consume, and welcoming donations from many of the community members.
AMANDA LOUISE PHAM AND TIFFANY SPENCER
Hellgate PTA/Missoula K-8
Amanda and Tiffany, co-leaders of Hellgate School District PTA, use their understanding of health to take Hellgate schools to the next level. With the incorporation of nutrition, physical activity, community involvement/connection, peer-to-peer interactions and so many more elements of wellbeing, this PTA duo has created a school, family, and community environment that fosters health, support and sustainability for all involved. They work closely with the Wellness Council to assure all PTA functions model best practices in student health. From making sure that only Smart Snack compliant snacks are present at PTA events to handing out passes to Currents pool as incentives these two ladies make sure that families are eating right, getting out and staying physically active.On top of being RN’s, Amanda and Tiffany continually show an unfaltering dedication to student health. PTA membership and involvement has skyrocketed to 176 members due to their recruiting efforts. Parent education is also at the top of their list as is communication with the school and community to ensure that information is up to date and available. The PTA goal was to send every child in every grade, in every classroom to “outside the classroom learning programs because not only is hands on learning is more effective, it gets students outside and moving.” The PTA raised money through a wide variety of fundraisers to pick up the costs of fieldtrips. Additional donations of money and physical activity equipment helped meet their goal of getting kids to be more active during all times of the year through such measures as a new climbing wall, snow toys, hosting Governor’s races and a Day of Awesomeness with obstacle courses set to music. Through the collaboration with the School Wellness Council, the Hellgate PTA is a model that can inspire PTA/PTO groups across the state.e.
MT No Kid Hungry
Linda has gone far beyond just providing healthy meals as the School Breakfast Counselor for No Kid Hungry. She has also put forth much effort in building an environment that is free of shame and ridicule that is safe for all. It under Linda’s leadership that the number of children facing food insecurities has decreased and improvements in behavior and focus have increased. Being open to any idea and being willing to implement anything that has a chance at inspiring students, staff, administrators and law makers is what makes Linda’s efforts so successful. Whether she is dressing up as a carrot or preparing a barbershop chorus to perform a song about school nutrition in front of state law makers she is always doing what she can to improve the health and experiences of those in her care and around her.
Linda’s work extends bar beyond the state of Montana and into India where she has worked tirelessly to support the homeless via the non-profit that she founded. Many of the young residents of the shelter have since gone on to complete college, start a family, and become active members of their own communities.
DR. PEPPER HENYON
Dr. Henyon played a crucial role in helping develop the 12-week YMCA afterschool program, ReFuel. Dr. Henyon took control and wrote the grant to secure funding for the program. Through engagement in healthy exercise, nutrition counseling, and psychological exercises on how to deal with the effects of weight struggles and peer-to-peer encouragement, the 5 year program demonstrated excellent results indicating weight loss and decreases in cholesterol and triglycerides for all who participated. Dr. Henyon also was a leading force in advocating for the YMCA. By leading the fundraising of over 6 million dollars, she was able to raise funds to build Bozeman’s first ever YMCA facility.
Dr. Henyon’s work extends far beyond her role as pediatrician and program planner. She has also served on the Bozeman School District Wellness Advisory Committee (WAC) for at least 8 years. She advocates for increasing access to healthier snack and beverage choices in school nutrition and vending programs as well as and providing education to students and parents. It is evident that Dr. Henyon’s efforts go far beyond the requirements of her job and that she cares about the health and well-being of all children and parents, not just the ones that she sees in her clinical practices.
MT FOOD BANK NETWORK
The Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) believes that each and every person possesses the basic human right to have access to nutritious, high-quality food so that they may feed their body, mind, and soul. Through the formation of partnerships with neighborhood food banks, community pantries, homeless shelters, schools and many other social organizations, vast amounts of teamwork aimed at ending hunger in Montana has occurred. These many partnerships have also made securing large amounts of food through donations, grants, or wholesale possible. MFBN strongly believes that the public deserves to be informed about hunger and have their voices heard in upcoming bills and legislation. By conducting research, monitoring data, educating policy makers, and listing upcoming events on their website they aim to make sure everyone has access to the information they need to become empowered. MFBN testifying at legislative sessions, to assure the that issues important to food security in Montana are addressed.
The partial government shutdown that lasted 35 days affected millions of Americans, including over 120,000 Montanans, who had to stretch that money out from the middle of January to the beginning of March. During that time MFBN provided food assistance, distributing over 23,000 pounds of food were distributed. MFBN’s Grocery Rescue Program empowered partners across the state to safely rescue food not suitable for sale in retail grocery stores but is still perfectly edible. Nearly 8 million pounds of food, including produce, dairy, meat, baked goods, and even non-food items like hygiene products, was saved from being discarded in the landfill in 2018.
Rebecca has worked for 12 years as the Eat Smart Program coordinator at Missoula City-County Health
Department. Eat Smart is a Community Nutrition program focusing on population based approaches to improving public health nutrition. Over the years, Rebecca has led many policy and program initiatives to increase access to healthy food choices in Missoula County: Hit the Tap, Bone Density Screening, Summer Food Program initiatives, trainings for Child Care providers, building the Breastfeeding Friendly Businesses program, actively supporting breastfeeding in Missoula by volunteering as a CLC regularly at our new mom support group Baby Bistro, and participating in Missoula Breastfeeding Coalition. Most notable is the long term commitment Rebecca has shown in working with our local school district Wellness Committee to recommend and implement new wellness procedures for nutrition and physical activity. In this, Rebecca has done a significant amount, if not the majority of the work. Rebecca has committed countless hours to conducting Smart Snack Assessments and Smarter Lunchroom Assessments to help our school districts work toward compliance, and has spent numerous hours over the years preparing for and leading meetings to move these changes forward.
Rebecca has researched and created handouts as resources for teachers for non-food rewards and celebrations. She has worked on increasing access to school meals and to improve the quality of the meals. Most recently she started assisting a district food service director to include information about the quality of school meals on the monthly menu. Rebecca also researched and drafted a policy for worksite vending and food at meetings and events for Missoula County. This has resulted in a continuously evolving culture change within the county and a greater awareness of the importance of having healthy food available in the worksite. Additionally, Rebecca provides numerous presentations tailored for groups of seniors, high school students, and people with disabilities.