Choose to Change, a multidisciplinary obesity prevention program at West Virginia University, has awarded a round of mini-grants to community organizations that share a similar mission.

Choose to Change, funded by a $4.7-million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, aims to make community environments healthier for young children and their families in Kanawha and Monongalia counties.

“Everyone can help ‘choose to change’ the prevalence of being overweight and obese,” said Elaine Bowen, health promotion specialist with the WVU Extension Service and one of the project’s investigators.

“The organizations receiving mini-grant funds are leaders in building healthier communities for our young children,” Bowen added. “Community-level change and social support will help families to make lasting improvements in their lifestyles.”

The following projects are receiving mini-grant funding:

The Monongalia Family Resource Center, $965: “Reveal the Healthier Me” is a walking contest for parents and young children at the Shack Neighborhood House. In addition, “I am Moving, I am Learning” materials, developed by Morgantown-based Choosy Kids LLC, will add to their fun in being physically active together.

Christian Help, Inc., $4,000: Christian Help and the Morgantown Farmer’s Market will incorporate fresh, local produce in food baskets for low-income, at-risk families visiting the food pantry. Families will learn about healthy food choices, food preparation, healthy recipes, and stretching food dollars, as well as taste new fruits and vegetables.

Kaleidoscope, $775: Afterschool programs will feature jump ropes to increase cardiovascular health and offer an alternative team physical activity option for students who aren’t interested in traditional team sports.

Monongalia County Health Department, $4,000: The “Choose Health” campaign will promote seasonal health messages through newspapers, social media outlets and banners.

Shack Neighborhood House, $4,000: This project creates a sustainable Morgantown Farmers Market “Power of Produce” (POP) club. POP club members, aged five to 12, will receive nutrition education, money to spend at the market, plants, a POP button, and their own grocery tote and apron. WVU Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway Dietetic Interns will facilitate weekly market challenges, ideas for using fresh fruits and vegetables at home, and physical activities to add to the fun.

Members of Diversity, $4,000: The Healthier Today/Fit 4 Tomorrow Initiative is designed to increase the physical activity of program participants. “Second Saturdays” events will offer families of preschool children structured physical activities and lessons on physical activity and nutrition.

Charleston Cavaliers, $500: The goal of this project is to increase physical activity opportunities and develop the physical skills with young children who participate in the Charleston Cavaliers program. Funds will be used to purchase developmentally appropriate sports and physical activity equipment.

First Presbyterian Preschool, Charleston $2,530: This project aims to increase physical activity in preschool children by renovating their current playground into a natural playscape. This will acquaint children with nature, while providing opportunities for endless play and discovery to all families.

CAMC Health Education and Research Institute, Inc., $3,250: In collaboration with the School/Youth Garden Support Network- a project of WVU Kanawha County Extension and KEYS 4 Healthy Kids, this project will increase community gardening opportunities to low income youth and families. Children and families will be able to harvest and prepare healthy, tasty dishes straight from the garden.

YMCA of Kanawha Valley, Inc., $2,000: The “Walk WV Simulated Hiking Trails Program” is designed to increase the physical activity of YMCA afterschool program participants. Throughout this program, children will learn about nutrition, physical activity, and the history and culture of various locations in West Virginia.

East End Family Resource Center, $3,100: The “Get Fit” program is a comprehensive approach to encourage neighborhood families to make healthy food choices, exercise and play together. Families will learn about being overweight and how they can work together to prevent it.

CORA/Rand Community Center, $4,000: The community of Rand does not have a safe, quality play space for children. This project will begin the planning process and initial implementation. The CORA board would like to raise enough money to eventually build a playground, which will offer a play space that is handicap/wheelchair accessible along with an adult physical activity equipment area.

Bob Burdette Center, Inc., $2,500: “On the Move” is an afterschool program offered through the Bob Burdette Center and the Junior League of Charleston to increase physical activity and nutrition. Six one-hour sessions will be offered each week.

St. Agnes Child Development Center, $2,650: This project aims to increase opportunities for outdoor play for children, families and the community with a “natural playground.” In addition to a natural play space, they will expand the edible garden and offer community education.

“Supporting community organizations with these mini-grants offers innovative and exciting strategies for engaging families and could serve as models for others to adopt,” Bowen said.

Over the next year, Choose to Change investigators expect to see the efforts of these organizations leading to sustained, ongoing programs and healthier environments.

“When families and young children experience fun ways to be physically active and make healthy food choices, they will likely influence others,” Bowen explained. “We are trying to inspire as many as we can to build healthy communities.”



CONTACT: David Welsh, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design

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