During the 2015-2016 school year, a study by the CARDIAC project reported that 48 percent of West Virginia fifth graders were overweight or obese. The same study also found that 35 percent of second graders and 34 percent of kindergartners were overweight or obese. The national prevalence rate of obesity in the United States is roughly 17 percent.
A few West Virginians have opted to tackle this pervasive health issues head on. Jenny Anderson is one of those people.
In 2010, Jenny, an involved community member and proud mom, began working with a group of second grade students at Barboursville Elementary School. What initially began as an exploration of how to keep children moving and physically active throughout the school day has had a lasting impact on the students and the community.
Today, those second graders are in middle school and they’re healthy lifestyle trailblazers!
Do you remember your school concession stand? When I was in school, they typically sold an array of hot dogs, nachos, pizza and soda. I don’t recall many healthy options.
The Barboursville Youth Wellness Council is about to change that. The group of 25 motivated students is building a mobile concession cart, supported by a Try This mini-grant, that will feature a variety of delicious, healthy food alternatives.
The West Virginia Board of Education has jumped on the bandwagon and agreed to help fund the cart, which the students fittingly dubbed Wheelie Good Food.
Now, they’re working to construct their cart from the ground up. To craft their menu, the youth wellness council plans to survey the students on their favorite healthy foods.
They are also working with West Virginia Department of Agriculture to expand their school garden, which they’ll use to supply their cart with fresh, tasty, homegrown foods!
The Wheelie Good Food crew is even working to incorporate physical activity components, including a bicycle that, when peddled, will mix a smoothie.
While they recognize that they’re not going to rid their community of sugary snacks and drinks altogether, they say it’s all about simply offering a healthier alternative.
Over the last two years, the Barboursville community has banded together to create a school garden, find funding for water bottle filling stations in both Barboursville Middle and the Village of Barboursville Elementary school, and launched community-wide health conversations.
This year alone, they’ve raised $12,000 for their school garden. How has this community been so successful in addressing childhood health? It’s simple. They engaged their young people in the process.
To formalize their work, parents and educators created the Barboursville Community Wellness Council in 2016 to help bridge the gap between the community and the schools. The Community Council engages educators, parents, and community members to organize, implement and fund health-related projects in Barboursville.
Not only have these folks fostered a culture of health in Barboursville, but they’ve provided their youth with an early crash course in community collaboration!
Interested in positioning health at the forefront of your community? You’ll want to chat with the folks in Barboursville!