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New Ulm Medical Center

New Ulm grants support meals, healthy-cooking classes for older adults

Research shows that people with strong community connections and positive social support are happier and healthier.

To support those healthy connections between neighbors and communities, Allina Health offers grants ranging from $500 to $5,000 through its Neighborhood Health Connection program. The money is available to individuals and organizations that promote healthy behaviors, such as active living or better eating.

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Zumba was part of a health-conscious neighborhood picnic that was paid for by an Allina Health Neighborhood Health Connection grant. The picnic also included a healthy potluck, a DJ and exercise equipment that the kids played with and then could take home — hula-hoops, jump ropes and balls.

Helping older adults

Locally, Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota was awarded a $5,000 grant to promote its Senior Nutrition program. Older adults often live alone and have chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Cooking for one can be difficult.

That’s why LSS offers older adults in the New Ulm area a place to come and dine together on hot, nutritious meals at lunchtime. The organization also delivers healthy meals to those who are homebound or who are unable to travel to the New Ulm Senior Center.

“The grant has helped us make more people aware of our nutrition program and has enabled us to encourage people to try it,” said Sarah Anderson, regional supervisor with LSS. “We are all about healthy eating and healthy nutrition behaviors.”

The grant from Allina Health has also enabled LSS to bring in experts who can talk to older adults about topics like how to reduce sodium in their diets and how to eat healthy when eating alone.

Additionally, the grant covered the cost of gift certificates and food vouchers for Senior Nutrition meals. The vouchers are given as door prizes at the educational sessions as an incentive for people to attend.

“We’re hoping it’s like the old Mikey commercial for Life cereal,” Anderson said. “‘Try it; you’ll like it.’”

The goal of LSS and the grant is to reach as many low-income, at-risk older adults as possible in an effort to keep them strong, healthy and independent as they age, Anderson said.

“We are really excited to work with New Ulm Medical Center in bringing this information to our participants,” she added.

Teaching healthy cooking

New Ulm Chef Topher Jacobson has used his grant to offer free classes in basic cooking skills and practices that make it more convenient to eat at home.

“Too many people have gotten away from cooking and rely on convenience and fast foods,” he said.

Jacobson applied for the grant because he believes if people are more comfortable in their kitchens, they will cook more healthy meals at home. The 90-minute classes can accommodate up to 15 people. They are held in the demonstration/cooking space at Chef’s Pantry, which Jacobson opened in May.

Jacobson said every class is different but some, such as vegetables and fruits and baking, are series.

“The classes are hands-on,” he said. “And the skills are basics. If people feel like it’s too hard, they won’t try it.”

To register for the cooking classes, visit the Chef’s Pantry website at

Neighborhood fun

Kim Schlumpberger used her $500 grant to organize a neighborhood picnic in New Ulm’s German Park. The picnic was held on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 15.

About 100 people from her development, Oak Bluff, attended. Everyone brought a healthy dish to be shared.

“We’re a fun, close-knit group,” she said.

The grant paid for reserving the shelter at the park, a Zumba instructor who led a class, and a DJ. It also was used to buy exercise equipment that the kids played with and then could take home — hula-hoops, jump ropes and balls. The National Guard sponsored an obstacle course that everyone had fun trying to complete.

The grant also provided money for a “My Little Library” for the neighborhood. My Little Library is a wooden box in which residents can drop off books on health topics and take ones they want to read.

“Everyone was really excited about the picnic and the library,” Schlumpberger said. “The grants help us do healthy, fun activities together.”

This year, more than 240 groups from central Minnesota all the way to western Wisconsin applied, with 73 grants awarded. To see a full list of the winning projects, and for information about next year’s grants, visit