Living a healthy lifestyle is more than choosing to eat well and exercising. Our health is most determined by where we live, including whether we have access to healthy foods, opportunities to safely be active outside, and a network that encourages us to be healthy. 

5-2-1-0 is a community-wide effort, led by United Way of Central Iowa, that encourages families to practice these healthy daily habits:

  • Eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies
  • Spend less than 2 hours on recreational screen time
  • Be active at least 1 hour
  • Consume 0 sugary drinks.

A big part of this effort is changing our schools, child care centers, health care clinics, and communities to make these habits the easy choices for families to make. We encourage everyone to play their part in making central Iowa healthy. 

Here are five ways you can improve health in your community.

1. Practice healthy habits with kids in your life.

It starts with all of us making a commitment to live 5-2-1-0 every day. Make your house the place where you serve a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, serve water to drink, and take an hour to play active games. Find tips and creative ideas at or follow @5210dsm on Facebook and Pinterest.

2. Engage in your school's efforts to encourage healthy practices.

Schools become healthier when parents speak up. Seek opportunities to volunteer or join groups/committees at your child's school or the school district. Encourage all fundraisers to have healthy options and encourage your child's classroom celebrations to feature non-food treats or healthy alternatives. Ask your district about its local wellness policy that guides student health efforts and how you can help update it. Find lots of ideas at Iowa's Team Nutrition

3. Learn more about the decisions local officials are making that impact your environment.

Many cities are considering proposals that focus on creating safe walking routes and places to play and increase access to trails and other opportunities to exercise. MoveDSM is a transportation master plan that outlines a course to advance work around creating a complete and safe transportation network in Des Moines for all users. The Central Iowa Well Kids Coalition is advancing initiatives like this one through our advocacy agenda

4. Give back healthy options to your community

Join a community garden or your Giving Garden at work (better yet, start a Giving Garden at your workplace!) and help harvest produce to donate to local food pantries. Or when donating to food pantries, make sure you're giving healthy options, including low-sodium canned food. If you're hosting an event, look into food rescue options for your leftovers--especially if you're making your food choices healthy. Learn more about food rescue from Eat Greater Des Moines

5. Seek out volunteer opportunities that engage kids.

Help encourage kids to spend less time on screens and more time getting exercise and reading. United Way offers a lot of options to mentor kids in reading, as well as to engage in other volunteer activities. In the process, you'll build social connections, which improves children's mental health and well-being--and yours! 

Find more ways to practice 5-2-1-0 in your community and become a champion to make healthy choices count!

LEARN MORE about 5-2-1-0 

Topics: Health

Erin Drinnin

Written by Erin Drinnin

Erin Drinnin is United Way's former Community Impact Officer for Essential Needs and Health & Well-Being.