HEAL Appalachia named to First Lady of Virginia's Opportunity Hall of Fame


The Abingdon, Va., Farmers Market and Appalachian Sustainable
Development created the Farm Fresh Kids program, where kids learn
about the importance of fresh produce and
how to shop for healthy food.

The HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Appalachia program, which battles childhood obesity in our region, has been selected as a 2014 inductee into the First Lady of Virginia’s Opportunity Hall of Fame.

The honor comes from FLITE (First Lady’s Initiatives Team Effort) and includes a $2,000 grant recognizing HEAL Appalachia’s selfless efforts to serve Virginians and to make a real difference in the community.

“HEAL Appalachia is honored to be recognized by the First Lady of Virginia for its work in Southwest Viriginia,” said Joanna Swinehart, social responsibility coordinator for Mountain States Health Alliance. “We are committed to improving the health of children throughout the region, and addressing childhood obesity is such an important health issue that our youth are facing.”

Swinehart accepted the honor from First lady Maureen McDonnell during a ceremony at the Executive Mansion in Richmond.

HEAL Appalachia is a collaborative effort of Mountain States Health Alliance and East Tennessee State University. It was created in 2008 to build momentum in the fight against childhood obesity in Southern Appalachia. HEAL Appalachia’s three key areas of involvement are the community grants program, an annual obesity symposium, and legislative activity.

Mountain States Health Alliances provides funding for 19 HEAL Appalachia annual grants for $2,000 or $5,000 to support and empower local organizations to carry out activities that measurably impact childhood obesity.

The Opportunity Hall of Fame honor relates to HEAL Appalachia’s work in Southwest Virginia. Since 2010, 27 HEAL grants have been awarded to Virginia schools, non-profit agencies and communities promoting youth activities. Over 9,800 children and families have been impacted by HEAL Appalachia in Southwest Virginia. In addition, more than $77,000 of additional funding was leveraged by the agencies receiving the HEAL grants.

The program’s mission of reducing childhood obesity aligns with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s vision of “A Commonwealth of Opportunity,” which calls on Virginians to get involved in the life of the Commonwealth.

“HEAL Appalachia’s involvement in the communities of Southwest Virginia is the essence of getting involved and giving back,” Swinehart said.

For more information on HEAL Appalachia, visit www.HEALappalachia.com.

Other First Lady Opportunity Hall of Fame honorees were The Blue Ridge Marathon, which benefits Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway; Final Salute Inc., which assists homeless women veterans; and Lisa Kratz Thomas, leader of an innovative, one-of-a-kind prisoner re-entry program in Virginia.


Gov. McDonnell, in his Inaugural Address, called on Virginians to pursue the vision of “A Commonwealth of Opportunity” by seeking opportunities to get involved in the life of the Commonwealth. FLITE recognizes programs, activities, organizations, or individuals who embody the ideal of “getting involved and giving back.” Its purpose is to bring attention to the great work being done by selfless people around the Commonwealth who are taking the opportunity to leave Virginia a better place than they found it.

The FLITE Foundation recognizes people and organizations in four key areas:

  • Preventive health care and wellness
  • Economic development through promotion of Virginia wine, film and tourism
  • Service to the military and their families
  • Women in business

One-hundred women from across the Commonwealth are members of the FLITE team. They identify programs, activities, individuals and organizations that meet the criteria for recognition. Each year, the First Lady announces the FLITE recognized programs named to her Opportunity Hall of Fame.


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