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A Bright Future for Long Prairie

It’s a new day in Long Prairie. This small community of 3,500 people has experienced its share of challenges over the years as poverty rates are high, more than 60 percent of school-aged children receive lunch support, and many families may not be able to access affordable, locally grown foods. But new partnerships between CentraCare Health and the community have residents feeling optimistic about the future.

A big part of that optimism comes from Dan Swenson, Administrator at CentraCare Health – Long Prairie. Swenson consistently and enthusiastically champions efforts aimed at improving the health of the community. If it’s good for the community, Dan will find a way to make it happen.

One key partnership has been with BLEND, which enabled CentraCare Health – Long Prairie to pilot a Share Health project that gives 25 participants affected by hunger access to locally grown produce through “shares” in a community supported agriculture program (fresh produce is made available from Sprout, a local food hub). Through a grant from the SNAP-Ed Community Partnership Funding, Blend also coordinated cooking classes and grocery store tours that emphasize the importance of healthy food preparation and smart shopping habits by using NuVal®, found in the local Coborn’s grocery store.

So naturally, when the local farmer’s market was struggling, CentraCare Health – Long Prairie, along with community members, rallied to revitalize it. Changes were made based on community input and today there are more vendors, more produce and more people. On average, 200 people attend the market every Friday.

Hundreds of community members are also engaged with Marnita’s Table, which brings people together through “intentional social interactions.” These events invite people to share a meal and talk about issues facing the community. It’s opened up a dialogue about health, but the biggest benefit is that people are coming together, socializing and really appreciating one another. For Swenson and the partners supporting these community efforts, this is what’s most gratifying. And it’s a big reason people are feeling good about the future in Long Prairie.

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