Two local entities are finalists for Wellmark’s 2020 Healthiest State Annual Awards.
The city of Washington is a finalist for the Healthy Hometown Powered by Wellmark Community Award. TenderCare, a day care in Mt. Pleasant, is a finalist for the Early Care Provider Award.
Each year, Wellmark honors individuals, schools, businesses and cities for their efforts to improve the physical, social and emotional well-being of Iowans. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony Feb. 6 in West Des Moines. Each winner will be granted a monetary gift to continue their work focused on improving the health and well-being of their employees, students or residents.
Gladys Movall has run TenderCare, a home day care, since 2006. At the moment, she takes care of nine children, some part-time but most of them full-time. They range in age from 8 weeks to 6 years, though she’s looked after kids as old as 12 years before.
Healthy living is a big part of Movall’s day care. She is conscious about the food she gives the children, doing her best to ensure the food is fresh and organic. In practice, this means growing a lot of the food herself in container gardens, flower beds and hydroponic gardens. Movall practically grows her own produce section of a grocery store, full of potatoes, onions, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, and so much more.
She even grows her own pineapples, which take four years to mature and produce only one plant. But Movall doesn’t mind, because they’re an “awesome looking plant,” and one that’s hardy, too, not easily damaged.
“We do lots of zucchini, yellow neck squash, rhubarb and strawberries, too,” Movall said.
Movall doesn’t just feed her kids good food. She teaches them nutrition. The kids learn how to clone plants such as tomatoes, rosemary, mint and basil.
She finds fun ways to get the kids to drink more water by putting funny cartoon characters on their water bottles.
“We talk about how our body is mostly water, and if we don’t keep hydrated, we’ll wither like a raisin,” Movall said. “We talk about how we don’t need junk food, about how it will just weigh us down and hurt our body.”
These discussions on health are not lost on the younger kids. Movall said children as young as 2.5 to 3 years of age understand these concepts, about why healthy food is better than food from a box or a can. Even the infants receive fresh food that has been blended.
Movall estimates that 90 percent of the food the kids consume is organic, meaning it was not grown with pesticides or herbicides. For the food that she can’t grow at home, Movall relies on farmers markets, either in Mt. Pleasant or surrounding towns.
“I don’t like canned food myself,” Movall said. “And I give the kids what I eat and what our family eats.”
Movall said she attended the Farm to School conference in Pella recently, a conference where child care providers learned tips to improve the meals in their day cares.
“For this past year’s conference, we learned about how to incorporate local plants into your menu,” she said.
Sometime last year, a friend sent Movall a link with an application to receive one of Wellmark’s Healthiest State Awards. The friend told Movall that if she liked a challenge, this would be a neat one to do, so Movall signed up.
Movall said she will attend the awards ceremony in February. She remarked that it was interesting to see one of her friends, who owns Little Steps & Beyond, a day care in Iowa City, is one of the other four finalists for the Early Care Provider Award.
In addition to the awards presentation, the keynote speaker of the event will be Lyndsey (Medders) Fennelly. She will tell her inspirational story of living with a mental illness. Fennelly is a former Iowa State University women’s basketball player, owner of CampusCycle spin studio and passionate advocate for mental health. She is married to Iowa State Women’s basketball assistant coach, Billy Fennelly, and they live in Ames with their two children.
“Lyndsey gives a voice to the 1 in 5 Iowans who will experience a mental illness in their lifetime,” said Jami Haberl, Healthiest State Initiative executive director. “By talking about her experience, she helps to eliminate stigma and encourages those living with a mental illness to seek the help they deserve.”
The Healthiest State Annual Awards are sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Hy-Vee, Inc., and Nemours.