Emily Neischburg, Executive Director of the Big Timber Community Alliance, welcomed the gathering at the Lincoln School on North 10th Street, Wednesday, January 18th. Some of the attendees were new to the Alliance, which is just getting formulated for their programs in the community. Others had been on hand for several years, through Prowers County LiveWell and Healthy Places. Neischburg explained in her welcoming statement, “Big Timbers developed from the past two programs we’ve had in the community, and this is one that will be on-going for years to come.”
The past projects were concerned with information gathering and preparing outlines and projects which would identify local needs to help reduce the level of youth obesity in Prowers County, the highest level in the state. Another important segment was creating areas in which parents, kids and neighborhoods would become active in addressing healthier and more physically active lifestyles which included a diet that promoted better nutritional values through affordable meals.
Neischburg has been working with The Civic Canopy group, led by founder and executive director, Bill Fulton, Ph.D., who was the main speaker and facilitator at the Wednesday gathering which offered suggestions as well as a balanced dinner consisting of deli sandwiches and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable platters for a mixed age group. One thing this reporter has noticed from attending meetings of this type is the number of youngsters who heap their plates with raw vegetables and fruit as if they were candy bars or potato chips, and when available, are usually passed over.
Fulton said Civic Canopy works to develop community partnerships around Colorado and the next phase for Big Timbers Community Alliance will be to map out existing supports in Prowers County and choose indicators what will provide benchmarks in how well goals are being met for healthier eating lifestyles.
Suggestions from the audience ranged from being able to distinguish between healthier and more nutritious food purchases from learning how to read product labels, encouraging healthier food offerings from local schools, using local store’s shopping tours which educate clientele on how to stretch their grocery budget or the local Cooking Matters classes which plan healthy menus for families. Fulton related his experience of developing a group of people who would, once or twice a month, cook an especially large meal, freeze it and then swap it for other meals prepared by others in the group. “That way, you can save some time and money and still enjoy a delicious meal that offers a variety in the menu,” he explained. Some single people explained how it was easier sometimes to just dine on drive-thru meals rather than cook a single serving dinner, but that choice impacted their budget and their health. They said Fulton’s suggestion made sense for their situations. Another said it becomes hard to shop in a small community if you’re on a particular, restricted diet and your choices are limited.
Neischburg explained that The Alliance will look at some of the suggestions for healthier foods including food markets, community produce gardens, green houses for year-round growing seasons, backyard gardens and media sources for ‘best buy’ commodities available in local grocery stores. Two more meetings have been scheduled: one for February 9th to examine data on current healthy eating habits and brainstorm potential strategies/activities to address barriers to healthy dining and on March 9th, the meeting will refine those strategies and form action teams to initiate the findings.
By Russ Baldwin
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