CHARLESTON. W.Va. -- For two years, armed with a $2.5 million grant, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department has been busy creating small healthy, affordable projects that other West Virginia areas can copy to make communities healthier places in which to live.
As part of the "Create the Future WV" project, they persuaded grocery stores and Walmarts to create candy-free "healthy checkout aisles." They talked school concessions sales groups into offering healthy alternatives at ball games. They persuaded convenience stores to carry fresh fruit and vegetables and made sure all eligible schools got free fruit and vegetable afternoon snacks.
"We had a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, yes, but our challenge was to create projects other communities could afford," said project director Carrie Brainard. "So we created many smaller projects that don't require much money but, when you put them together, can really change the atmosphere and environment of a community."
They created farmers markets in six counties and, with volunteer help, connected walking paths through all six counties. They started biking and running clubs in schools and worked with a local hospital to increase the breastfeeding rate. They helped towns build sidewalks and trail signage and arranged after-school use of school buildings for activities like Zumba classes and senior citizen workouts.
A traveling road show of their projects has been touring West Virginia. Now it's Charleston's turn. From 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Charleston Marriott Town Center, they will display and discuss their projects and collect ideas for spreading them into other communities.
The public is welcome to attend. The CDC grant was administered by the state Bureau of Public Health.