Barry County Coalition begins second phase

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Barry County Connections Coalition has a new focus. The local organization is beginning the second phase of its Local Public Health Agencies (LPHA) health grant. The coalition will concentrate its efforts on nutrition to fight obesity.

The coalition was formed in 2006 and consists of doctors, pharmacists, representatives from Mercy and Cox Hospitals and a variety of other members.

Certain elements are necessary to maintain a coalition. Members must frame the issue that brings them together and form trust in each other and believe that their peers have a credible commitment to the common issue or goals.

"The coalition is basically showing support and giving information," said Leesa Ginther, registered nurse at the Barry County Health Department and president of the group.

During the first three years, the coalition focused on tobacco through its Breathe Easy program. Beginning this year, the coalition will concentrate its efforts on obesity issues in the county, offering information and, during the third phase information on physical activities will be shared.

To kick off the initiative, 98 different surveys were sent to schools, daycare workers, after-school programs, work sites, grocery stores, restaurants and city officials. From the surveys, an assessment was done in the area on what is already here and what are some of the needs. The coalition received a 47 percent return on the surveys, which showed that knowledge, resources and funding were the greatest barriers.

The program will target daycares serving 2- to 6-year olds and their parents.

The coalition will encourage programs such as CDC's "Lets Move Child Care," "Taster Tuesday," "Cooking Kids Day" and vegetable gardening. Nutrition information and recipes will be provided to parents through the daycares.

In addition the group will use community nutritionists and diet centers in restaurants to assist "Heart Healthy," "Healthy Choice," and "Low Fat" options on their menus.

The coalition will encourage "Taste it Tuesdays" specials and the purchase of vegetables through local farmers' markets.

In grocery stores and farmers markets, the goal will be to provide posters that give the importance of each vitamin and mineral, display nutritional values with foods and provide recipes for in-season fruits or vegetables.

Farmers will be encouraged to grow more produce to offer to schools, restaurants and farmers markets.

In schools, the coalition will work with school nurses and cafeteria directors to provide resources on evidence-based nutrition programs for school-age children.

The goal for worksites will be to offer nutritious vending machine choices and to provide health foods for lunch and dinner, discounts for weight management programs, nutrition classes and healthy recipes.

Communities will be encouraged to provide space for farmers markets and community gardens and to promote festivals that celebrate food harvests, healthy food choices, community baking, canning and food preparation.

"I truly believe that the obesity problem is from a lack of knowledge of nutrition," said Ginther. "The art of cooking is not a reality anymore. People have lost the art of how to shop, how to cook and how to prepare. It is a lost art, and we have to bring it back.

"It is only complicated and overwhelming to parents because they haven't ever done it," continued Ginther. "They were not raised with it. It is a busier world, and we have to bring it back. It has become too easy."

To expand the coalition base, the group needs nutritionists, farmers, Extension centers, FFA members, grocery store managers, restaurant managers, daycare owners, inspectors, school officials and city leaders to join the effort.

A community round table will be held at 5:30 p.m. on March 26 at the Barry County Health Department in Monett, located on Highway 60. Those interested in helping with the goals and becoming a member are invited to attend.

For more information, contact Ginther at 417-354-8686.

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