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Walk to School Day Focuses on Health and Safety

Wednesday is Walk to School Day across Minnesota. The idea is to keep kids moving, so they can stay healthy. (
Wednesday is Walk to School Day across Minnesota. The idea is to keep kids moving, so they can stay healthy. (
October 4, 2016

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. – Wednesday is Walk to School Day, and more than 200 schools and thousands of kids across Minnesota are participating. The state and the nation have obesity problems, and Tara Besch, a health educator for Koochiching County, said the annual event is a great way to encourage students to walk or to bike to and from school, as a first step to developing lifelong healthy habits.

"Kids and teens who are between the ages of six and 17 years old, the physical activity goal is really 60 minutes a day," she said. "So, if we can get them out before and after school, that helps to get to that goal."

If kids are going to walk and bike to school, they need a safe passage. Communities have been applying for Minnesota "Safe Route to School" grants, with the money going for bike paths, crosswalk improvements, and better street lighting. Funds have run out though, and the Legislature failed to reach agreement on a funding plan earlier this year.

Besch said her county got a grant to send out surveys to parents, for their opinions about what needs to be done to make local streets safer. Now, they're hoping for funding to make those improvements.

"It concentrates on building up crosswalks and pedestrian signing, and heavy intersections, and really addressing those points where parents might be a little bit uncomfortable for their children to be out there on their own, and makes them safer," she explained.

In Minnesota last year, there were 41 pedestrian deaths and 10 cyclists were killed. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in 2013, one in every five children under age 14 who lost their lives in traffic crashes were pedestrians.

View the CDC's Motor Vehicle Pedestrian Safety page here.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN