Profile of the Week: Strong Women

Strong Women

The primary objective of the StrongWomen™ Program is to help communities nationwide to implement safe and  effective strength training programs for midlife and older women.

Women begin to show decline in muscle mass beginning at age 30 and if this condition is not reversed, women will have reduced strength and other severe consequences as they age. Women need to maintain a healthy level of muscle mass at all ages for optimal health through weight lifting two or more times per week,  but only 17.5% of women meet these recommendations. The Strong Women program, developed by Tufts University, is designed for women to increase muscle strength by strength training for 2-3 sessions per week for fourteen weeks. This strength training program is now being offered through MSU Extension offices in Montana, and the results have been inspiring.  Participation, improved functional strength and balance, and a strong sense of camaraderie and achievement are positive outcomes for Montana’s rural women. These trainings are conducted by Extension educators who have been certified to teach Strong Women programs.

About Strong Women:
The StrongWomen™  program is an evidence-based strength training program developed by the staff of  the Hancock Center at the Friedman School at Tufts University. The primary objective of the StrongWomen™ Program is to help communities nationwide to implement safe and  effective strength training programs for midlife and older women.

Who should attend trainings:
* Professional and community leaders who are working with a non-profit and are interested in the fields of public health, nutrition and exercise or wellness should attend.

* Potential program leaders should be regularly lifting weights/strength training, be in good physical health, and be able to collaborate with local agencies or organizations to provide the Strong Women program in their community.


For a list of all locations and contact information, click here


Sanders County BackPack Program

Providing child-friendly, nutritious food during the weekends and holiday breaks

for children battling chronic hunger

In February 2010 Thompson Falls Elementary in conjunction with the Sanders County Health Department, Montana Food Bank Network, and the Rural Health Initiative Incubator Program launched the Backpack Program for their students. The premise of this program is to provide a prepackaged bag of child friendly, nutritious food during the weekends and holiday breaks for children who appear to be battling chronic hunger. The program began its growth by determining if Thompson Falls Elementary was eligible for this opportunity. This was done by examining how many children within the district participate in the Free and Reduced Meal Program. The numbers we found were staggering. Of the 281 students, 68% receive meals through the program. As the requirements for the Backpack Program state that the school must have at least 50% of the population on Free and Reduced Meals, Thompson Falls more than qualified. The next step was finding community support and ensuring school participation. The local newspaper ran an article on the program and through this we received multiple contacts from the community who were interested in volunteering. One of the local churches donated space to store the food, which is delivered on a monthly basis, and the PTO offered their services in distributing and transferring the bags. After all these obstacles fell into place, it was then up to school staff to nominate 30 children for the program. This included children in grades K-6, as well as their younger and older siblings. The teachers, administration, and other employees were given a recommendation form on which they designated a child and listed reasons as to why they felt this student should be placed in the program. A letter was sent home to the parents describing the program and informing them that their child would be bringing home extra food in their backpack on Friday afternoons.

On the 26th of February the first set of bags went home with the children. The response on Monday was very encouraging. Each child was eager for Friday and another package of food, and one child told a heartwarming story about how having extra food on the previous weekend enabled them to go on a family picnic/fishing day. Since then, the program has gone on without interruption. Next year the program will be run for the full duration of the school year, and hopefully serve even more children.


Sanders County Backpack Program

The Sanders County Backpack Program was designed to help improve the health & welfare of the county’s children.

Sanders County is 2,790 square miles with about 1/3 of the county being on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The county holds an unemployment rate of 15.2%, which is the 2nd highest in the state of Montana. The six schools within the county range from 58-95% eligible for free and reduced lunch. There are many families that are unable to pay bills or purchase enough food for three meals each day. Unfortunately, this leads to chronically hungry children.

In February 2010 Sanders County Health Department joined the Montana Food Bank Network and the Rural Health Initiative Incubator Program to launch a Backpack Food Program. The objective of the program was to provide weekend meals that children could rely on.

The selection process for the backpack program begins with the teachers. When teachers notice specific signs that indicate chronic hunger in their students, they fill out a referral form that is given to the School Coordinator (the principal) who further observes the child to see if there is consistency with the child’s performance and being chronically hungry. From that determination, the child receives food each weekend through the backpack program. A letter is sent home to the parents explaining the program. Although a few families have declined the meals feeling they can provide enough for their children, everyone who is participating in the program has expressed relief and gratefulness. Many children ask on Monday if they will be getting meals again on Friday.

The Backpack Program is coordinated with six schools in Sanders County and the Montana Food Bank Network out of Missoula. The coordinators keep records of how many children from ages 2-18 receive food each week, while the program coordinator from the county orders the food for the children and organizes the program. Each school receives deliveries every six weeks. Some schools do not have the storage space to keep a six-week supply of food, so the program coordinator helps find places that can be used as a storage area. There also are weekly volunteers that help move the food to the schools.

The cost of last year’s (2011-2012) program was about $34,000. The program is feeding approximately 134 children every weekend from the 1st of September to the 1st of June. Each child receives 1 bag of food for every 2 days at $4.00 per bag. The bags contain 2 each of shelf stable juice, milk, cereal, fruit cups, & protein, such as chili. This food program relies solely on grants, foundations, local businesses, and private donations to stay in operation. The Rural Health Initiative Incubator Mini Grant has been a great supporter of the Sanders County Backpack Program.

To learn more about the Sanders County Backpack Program, please contact:

Beth Rice-Groshong