In existence less than a year, a local health program intended to reduce childhood obesity by 5 percent in Missouri towns is already making great strides.
Healthy Schools/Healthy Communities is helping cities and towns implement changes — such as introducing healthier foods, more opportunities for physical activities in schools, improving parks and sidewalks and installing bike trails — to create lasting impacts.
Tiffany Rutledge, Capital Region Medical Center corporate and community health supervisor, said the program is about three-fourths of its way through its first year. There have been some changes to plans, she noted.
The program had allocated funds for a commercial kitchen in the Capital City Farmers Market's new indoor site. But plans to move the market to the former Blattner Home Furnishings building on Madison Street fell through when organizers determined it would be too expensive to build the commercial kitchen there. They later announced it would go into a neighboring site at 130 E. Dunklin St. this spring.
A fundraiser supporting the market is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets were still available online Friday.
Rutledge said the money had been reallocated for use in some other areas, reiterating the Missouri Foundation for Health has not approved the changes. The approval meeting probably will take place in about two weeks.
Helping continuing development of Complete Streets policies (using bicycle and pedestrian transportation) for Jefferson City and Holts Summit would not cost anything, she said. But creating Edible High Street — building raised planters in tree wells in the 300 block of East High Street in downtown Jefferson City — had an estimated cost of $1,925 (including the planters, dirt, compost, seeds and labor). Jefferson City Parks and Recreation staff would be required to water and weed the planters through the growing season at a cost of about $1,260. The planters would be intended to encourage people to eat fresh vegetables and herbs.
Missouri River Regional Library representatives said they are looking to get some volunteers to maintain the planters.
Other ideas for the reallocated money included installing water bottle refilling stations and healthy vending machines at the Holt Summit Splash Pad. That would be dependent on the city adopting policies regarding healthy concessions at the pad. The council also would like to install some exercise equipment along a Holt Summit's walking trail. Equipment could include a stair climber, recumbent bike, rowing machine, vertical press, back machine and other devices, she said.
Machines range in cost from $2,500-$4,000.
The Holts Summit Board of Aldermen has voted to allocate money out of park funds for half the installation and equipment, City Administrator Rick Hess said.
The city is working on a street for the park, the splash pad, a "Patriot's Plaza" and other improvements, Hess said.
"We expect that once that (exercise equipment) is in, that park will become probably the most used park in the city," Hess said. "We're really excited about it. It's going to be close to the police station, so we're not worried about anything weird happening."
Kelsey Chrisman, Healthy Schools coordinator for Jefferson City, clicked off a list of things done at the four schools under the program — East, South, Thorpe J. Gordon and Callaway Hills elementary schools.
All four schools conduct body mass index (looking at weight and height) measurements in fall and spring. They offer a healthy snack each month, such as Babybel cheese or a particular fruit or vegetable, and students are asked to buy some at home. They bring in a receipt and receive a prize.
Thorpe Gordon received new playground equipment. The school also has just started a cooking class. Five students took home their own blenders.
The Healthy Schools' Halloween Candy Buy Back involved two of the four schools. South Elementary turned in 110 pounds of candy, Chrisman said. Callaway Hills turned in 124 pounds.
The candy was sent off to soldiers overseas.
It was a competition for the students.
"That was a big sacrifice for them too," Chrisman said. "It was fun."