The Change Club of Clinton is an engaged, knowledgeable group of women. They represent three generations—moms, grandmothers, and great grandmothers—who are all passionate about improving the lives of the next generation. Their noble purpose is to improve the health and wellness of Clinton school children by: 1) increasing active transport (e.g. walking and cycling) to and from school and 2) implementing healthy food environment guidelines and policy. Together, we worked through their road map for change. First on the list is for them to do an audit of how many children currently walk to school (they estimate very few) and assessing the existing school food environment.
There are some concerns about the current food environment. One is that the school has instituted a PBIS initiative. The Positive Behavior Incentive Schools is an evidence-based framework for teaching that contains an element of positive rewards to incentivize good behavior and academic achievement among the children. The problem with the system (as implemented in Clinton) is that the school is using candy as one of the rewards—resulting in teachers giving out a lot of candy. This is certainly an area worthy of the Change Club’s focus.
Clinton is a beautiful, small town in rural southern Wisconsin, surrounded by corn and soybean fields. The population is just around 2,000. Walking through the town on the first day of our work provided evidence that Wisconsin’s town planners have done a fantastic job of instituting walkable street policies over the years. Clinton gets our award for the best sidewalks on the tour—both sides of the street, great crosswalks, and green buffers—that we have seen on this tour. We couldn’t find one in-town sidewalk that wasn’t in good repair or not on both sides of the street.
Also of note was the very positive and supportive food environment. There is a butcher who sells local meat, a nearby CSA, small farmer’s market, and medium-size town grocery store. In addition, there are several good local restaurants in town. Connie, one of the Change Club ladies, owns and runs the Clinton Café. The café has been in her family for a long time. She strives to serve in-season produce and all local meat. Her specialty is baking pies. I enjoyed talking to Connie about how she cooks the food, following recipes from her mother that are both healthy and delicious. Her café was definitely the hub of activity in the center of town during lunchtime. The walkable community and wholesome food environment in Clinton will make fulfilling the Change Club’s noble purpose much easier.
We finished our work together on Friday with two events. The first was our physical activity challenge. Nine of us drove a few miles away to a ropes course facility. Guided by “Big Dog” (aka Gary), we were put through our paces, stretching our comfort zone high up on the ropes course.
Many of us broke through barriers, found our strengths, and learned to trust one another as we balanced on taut high wires, logs, and boards, and finished with a plunging zip-line back down to earth. It was definitely a metaphor for the work ahead.
Finally, I gave a public presentation at the Clinton High School Friday evening to an audience of about seventy people—StrongWomen participants, leaders, and friends. Hearing the stories from women firsthand on what the program has meant to them was inspirational. So many of the women have faced major challenges, and the program has given them the fitness, mindset, and strength to persevere.
Thank you Change Club ladies of Clinton! We wish you well!
Please enjoy this short video of the Change Club in Clinton: