Growing a Healthy Charleston

By Paul Gramlich Charleston Express

A group of Charleston residents met last week at the Charleston Public Library to discuss making Charleston a Growing Healthy Community.

Franklin County health rankings and their overall relation to the state were reviewed and discussed.

The possibility of creating a local Farmer’s Market project in Charleston was discussed, as well as seed swap program and the possibility of hosting one at the Charleston Public Library.

A bicycle rodeo that would include safety education is another possibility.

The Growing a Healthy Charleston committee would also like to pursue starting a Community Garden.

Growing Healthy Communities (GHC) is an initiative of the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP). Since 2009, the Coalition has been helping Arkansas communities by increasing access to physical activity and healthy foods, as well as implementing environmental and policy changes that support healthy living.

Healthier environments produce healthier people, Joy Rockenbach, ArCOP Founding-Chair said. “And healthier people produce greater economic outputs, consume fewer healthcare resources and lead better, longer lives.”

ArCOP is focusing on making the healthy choice the easy choice, Rockenbach added.

The coalition’s mission is to improve the health of all Arkansas communities by increasing access to physical activity and healthy eating to reduce and prevent obesity. GHC, the Coalition’s primary project, brings together individuals, companies and organizations across sector lines to recognize that a healthy community is a better community on virtually every measure of success.

We have 57 Growing Healthy Communities across the state, with each one engaged in activities to make their community healthier, more livable, and more economically sound, Rockenbach said. “ A healthier community is more economically sustainable.”

Communities all over the state are accepting Governor Hutchinson’s challenge from the Healthy Active Arkansas plan and becoming a healthier community.

The Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention wants to help all communities increase their access to healthy foods and physical activity, Rockenbach added. “People think that all this takes a lot of money to implement but the last time I checked, walking was still free.”

Maintaining a healthy diet is difficult for families who don’t have convenient access to affordable healthy foods, Miranda Curbow, RN,Community Health Nurse Specialist, Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative, said. “Many families are surrounded by high calorie, low nutritional value options with minimal access to affordable healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. A Farmers Market is one way to help alleviate this problem.”

Sensible eating and regular physical activity can help us feel better and possibly prevent diseases later in life, Miranda said. “We all benefit from making smart food choices and promoting active lifestyles.”

Historically, seed swaps were a matter of survival because many farmers were subsistence farmers. Without the seeds from the previous year, there was nothing to plant. Now, saving seeds is a growing trend across the country because many varieties of food are being lost due to the creation of hybrid seeds.

Seed Swaps are dedicated to protecting and improving the diversity of heirloom seed varieties, Misty Hawkins, Charleston Public Librarian said. “Arkansas farmers and gardeners have a legacy of heirloom seeds that are in danger of being lost. Sharing seeds will encourage production of diverse varieties for posterity.” The great food and the family stories and traditions that go along with the seed swap are an added bonus, Misty said.

Communities awarded with GHC recognition levels have set out to get healthier, economically, policy-wise, nutritionally and physically.

Significant GHC infrastructure already exists for new communities to plug into and to communities already recognized to reach a higher level, Rockenbach said. “Guidelines, resources and experts are available for everyone to rely on.”

The foundations of GHC are simple—increase availability of healthful foods, create healthier built environments and develop and implement a healthier policy, Rockenbach said. “Communities across Arkansas are succeeding.”

The next Growing a Healthy Charleston meeting will be held immediately following the Charleston Chamber of Commerce meeting on July 6th. Anyone who is interested is invited.