HEAL Appalachia grant recipients see great results in nutrition programs; kids grow a green thumb at South Side Elementary


JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. – Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Appalachia, a community collaborative between Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and East Tennessee State University, is designed to combat obesity levels in the Southern Appalachian region. The 2013 HEAL Appalachia Symposium will be held at Marriott MeadowView Convention Center in Kingsport, Tenn. The day-long event will feature three keynote speakers, breakfast and lunch and the announcement of the 2013 micro-grant recipients. Jonesborough Farmers Market, a 2012 micro-grant recipient, used the money to teach elementary students how to garden fresh produce.

“At first some of the kids were reluctant to jump into gardening,” said Karen Childress, Director of the Jonesborough Farmers Market. “But after each week passed their enthusiasm really grew. More and more kids got involved.”

Childress helped organize the gardening program with the director of South Side Educare - an afterschool and summer daycare program for kids in kindergarten to fifth grade at South Side Elementary School in Johnson City. The school had four garden beds that weren’t being used so the farmers market brought the seeds and volunteer gardening instructors while Educare provided the pupils.

The gardening program lasted from February to December 2012, allowing the kids a chance to grow, harvest, cook and eat all kinds of fresh produce.

“It became really popular with the kids,” said Childress. “Educare encouraged us to continue the program at other schools so we have applied for another grant this year to keep it going. This time we are looking for better ways to involve the parents so these healthy habits can be incorporated into the home lifestyle, too.”

In order to first receive a grant from HEAL Appalachia, an organization must to apply with a proposed program that reflects HEAL Appalachia’s Call to Action, the 5-2-1-0 message, and focuses on the four key areas of a person’s life that facilitate change: where a person learns, works, heals and worships. The 5-2-1-0 message stands for five or more servings of fruits or vegetables, two hours or less of recreational screen time, one hour or more of vigorous exercise and zero sugary drinks, more water and low-fat milk.

Those in attendance of this year’s symposium will have the opportunity to learn more about 5-2-1-0 and other programs designed to combat childhood obesity. Three key note speakers, Heidi Kessler, a nationally-certified school nutrition specialist, Stephanie Cihon, Corporate Director of Community Relations and Advocacy at ProMedica, and Ron Fink, School Nutrition Program Director for Bristol Tennessee City Schools, will address the crowd before the 2013 grant recipients are announced.

This year 19 micro-grants will be awarded,

To attend the 2013 HEAL Appalachia Symposium Preregister online at www.healappalachia.com/symposiumregistration.

About HEAL Appalachia

HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Appalachia was established in 2008 as a collaborative effort between Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) to build momentum in the fight against childhood obesity in Southern Appalachia. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the past 30 years. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and emotional issues related to poor self-esteem. Healthy lifestyle habits can lower the risk of obesity in children, and stem the risk factors associated with it.  HEAL Appalachia believes that childhood obesity is an issue that cannot be solved by one initiative, organization or even one community. However, as a community we can work collaboratively to develop, implement and promote solutions that work within that community’s unique culture.

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