Healthy Communities gains grant to start walking school bus program
By STEPH TAHTINEN
Mt. Pleasant News
Healthy Henry County Communities has received a $16,355 grant from Wellmark for its walking school bus program.
Kelly Carr, HHCC coordinator, made the announcement at the HHCC board meeting on Tuesday, where the board approved signing the contract for the grant.
In a walking school bus, and adult volunteer would walk with a group of children to the school or a bus pickup point to help increase physical activity and also safety on the way to school.
For now, Carr and Henry County Community Health Director Travis Johnson will taking the helm of the program and will be looking for people to help lead and coordinate the walking school bus program in the various communities throughout Henry County.
“We’re going to start with the WACO school district,” said Carr. “We’ve already spoken to them a little bit.”
The goal is to have the program in place at WACO by spring 2013 and it will eventually be in all school districts in the county.
Related to the walking school bus program, while Carr was applying for the Wellmark grant, she found that the Iowa Bicycle Coalition puts on safe routes to school workshops.
“At the conclusion of the workshop, they would help communities develop an action plan that best serves their specific needs,” continued Carr. She noted that the coalition has not put on a workshop in the Mt. Pleasant area yet but has indicated an interest in doing so.
The board voted to proceed with hosting a workshop and representatives from all the school districts in the county will be invited.
The walking school buses are part of the HHCC board’s overall action plan to help reduce the number of overweight and obese people in Henry County. The board brainstormed action steps at its September and October meetings and came up with the following list:
• Assess at least four restaurants, make recommendations and provide incentives
• Develop and promote cooking classes
• Contact fitness centers to develop an incentive program
• Plan and/or promote at least one fitness event in the county per quarter
• Commit to participate in and promote the Live Healthy Iowa Challenge
• Compile and promote existing wellness resources/activities
• Begin walking school bus programs in the county
• Work to add healthier options in concession stands
• Develop parent education about nutrition
• Expand after school physical activity opportunities targeting elementary school kids
At Tuesday’s meting, the board identified who was responsible for each action step and also brainstormed possible partners and resources needed, as well as setting goals for when to have the programs in place.
As the action steps fall into the two basic categories of nutrition or physical activity, the board developed both a nutrition subcommittee and an activity subcommittee to work on the action steps, though each step has one or two board members responsible.
The specific programs included under each action step will be determined by the subcommittees and the person in charge.