Thursday, June 24, 2010
Foundation seeks partners for grant
By SUE WATSON
Holly Springs and Marshall County were in the spotlight recently as professionals with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi recruited partners for its four-year grant application - “Healthy Kids/Healthy Communities.”
With 15 sites in the nation funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi is one of the lucky 15. The area foundation was a recent recipient of the “Get A Life” project that fights childhood obesity, and the Healthy Congregation project which included 600 congregations in North Mississippi, according to Peggy Linton. She is responsible for pulling together the Partners and Pathways for a Healthy Community - a new four-year grant the organization hopes to receive.
“We are concentrating on the Upper Coldwater River Watershed - that is what we are calling ‘our community,’ ” Linton said at a meeting with members of the Holly Springs Main Street, Strawberry Plains Audubon, the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce, and local elected officials and friends of the community, including Rust College.
DeSoto, Marshall and Tate counties in North Mississippi will contain the community. The Partners and Pathways to Healthier Communities, that seeks to reduce childhood obesity through healthy eating and living, will promote availability of healthy foods by establishing community gardens and farmers markets. Healthy activities are to be supported through the use of greenway/bike/walking plans and trails.
Education of the residents of the community is an integral part of the project because the community is where the healthy eating/living begins and ends. It is an at-home, in-community, and community-built and supported initiative. Local governmental bodies have been asked to become involved in creating and carrying out the four goals for the four-year proposed project.
Goal #1 asks the community to determine what it wants to do as a partner and will determine policies and environmental changes it wants to implement. This goal is included in the six-month planning process to develop and implement a community assessment.
Goal #2 involves education and training of the community on policies and environmental changes that will lead to active living and healthy eating. These changes can include greenways/trails, joint use agreements between organizations like schools and the community, development of complete streets and safe routes to schools, encouraging corner stores to participate in offering healthy fruits, and organizing farmers markets and community gardens.
Goal #3 is to develop “greenways” (trails and parks) and “blueways” (waterways) and trails, and plans to include healthy eating and active living components. Goal #4 creates an evaluation process to meet the program requirements for the national grant office.
This grant proposes to get governments to put in policies and environmental changes that will support healthy eating/living and therefore the Community Foundation will seek to obtain memoranda of understanding with governing bodies in the three-county area that support the program’s desired outcomes.
In working with youth and adult outcomes, the project would provide safe sidewalks for children to walk to school instead of ride, would promote healthy snacks, the production and sale of less expensive and more nutritious fruits and vegetables.
With farmer’s markets already established in Tate and DeSoto counties, Marshall County would be a target to add one.
Some communities, for example, have zoned out fast-food restaurants, said Shelly Johnstone, evaluation liaison for the project. Enforcement of zoning ordinances is not uniform in Southern communities, she noted.
“How policies are enforced may differ,” she said. “Ordinances may collect dust (on the shelf) or may be ignored or partly enforced. When a community adopts an ordinance, that means somebody has to abide by it.”
To encourage healthy living (activity), communities may adopt ordinances to require sidewalks in industrial areas, at churches, and in other areas.
“Writing an ordinance is easy,” Johnstone said. “Getting it implemented is a political act.”
For example, getting sidewalks in areas that typically have lacked them may require ordinances that industries and residential areas pay for building them.
“Sidewalks, trails, city parks, sharing school facilities - these are the environmental infrastructure policies and sites (in the proposal),” she said.
Johnstone commended Holly Springs’ Main Street plan for making the city a walking city and encouraging people to walk downtown rather than drive around.
“Active living is a part of these goals, already,” she said.
Because Holly Springs has not experienced rapid growth and urban sprawl, it will be easier now to develop walking and biking trails and include them in the design standards of the city, Johnstone said.
“All cities in Marshall County have a good pattern of that,” she said.
Linton added that Strawberry Plains Audubon and the community of Hudsonville have already established walking trails and means to protect land and water resources.
“These fit into the tourism picture, and are not only good for the eye, but for body and soul, too,” she said.
Another way to discourage a lot of asphalt, which encourages parking lots and driving around, is to set design standards to bring buildings closer to the street.
“You have trees and it is a lot easier to walk by,” Linton said. “It is not just infrastructure, but design, too, that attracts people (to downtown).”
The Coldwater River Watershed project will help promote blueways for boating and kayaking from the headwaters to Arkabutla Lake. Cleaning of the Coldwater has already increased recreational use such as kayaking, Linton said.
“If you do the right things, it is going to hit all the healthy things,” she said and added a quote, “You make it simple and easy enough for people to do and they are going to do it.”
Making it easy for people to make healthy food choices can include a simple measure such as a grocers putting fruit and vegetables near the checkout counter instead of potato chips and candy, Linton said.
“We are not the experts,” she added. “We want to be the resource.”
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