On August 23, last year, Martha Snider from Caldwell, just outside of Lewisburg, found herself at the Our Children Our Future policy workshop in Bridgeport, listening to West Virginia Senator John Unger (D – Berkley) tell the story of visiting his wife’s third grade classroom. He said he asked students if they would rather have more recesses or two lunches. One student told him he wanted two lunches, so he could take one home to his brother, who didn’t have any food at night. As Unger talked about his awareness of child hunger and involvement with the Feed to Achieve Act, Snider was inspired. As a result of the act, public school students will now get breakfast and lunch by the fall of 2015.
For Snider, the Northern Regional Policy Workshop was a revelation. Everyday West Virginians had access to legislators and were invited to partner with them to create state policy. Snider, a nurse, who is doing clinical work towards her doctorate degree through Walden University at the Rainelle Medical Center, was already working on health issues related to nutrition and exercise when her supervisor, Dr. Patricia Lally invited her to go to the workshop.
Several of the sessions were on policies like healthy food access and local farmers markets, and Snider was energized. Since then, she has thrown herself into rallying her community around healthy policies. Through the Rainelle Medical Center, Snider is working on mini-grants to create healthy eating/exercise pool parties for youth in her community and walking groups with pedometers and weigh-ins for adults. Snider is so excited about the potential for getting her community involved that she offered to help organize the Southern Regional Policy Workshop in Lewisburg, scheduled for July 17, this year.
“It totally blew me away,” said Snider, who grew up in D.C., where she described the attitude of most as, “We can’t affect government.” Snider, who moved to the Lewisburg area 19 years ago, still works in an ICU in D.C. on weekends where she often sees young people dying from obesity-related illnesses. She said following the workshop, she couldn’t stop talking about it to her D.C. colleagues. The experience had a big impact on her family life as well. Snider runs a home schooling co-op, and she took about 15 of the kids to the annual policy symposium in Charleston last January. While there, they listened to a senate session and got to see a little of how state government works. Several of the students expressed interest in becoming pages.
Martha Snider, above, teaches children how things grow in nature.
On her own two acres of land, Snider is in the process of building new gardens, and she and her husband have increased their goat and chicken population and added a cow. Her son Tyler is currently bartering for a pig. The Sniders also grow lettuce, cucumbers and all kinds of fruit. She is a believer in the value of kids growing their own food because she can see its effect on her son. “He loves peaches and apples because he can go get them right off the trees.”
Tyler Snider takes a siesta under a tree on his family’s property in Caldwell.
These days, Snider is busy with preparations for the workshop in Lewisburg where policy issues slated for work include: energy-efficient affordable housing construction, juvenile justice reform, umbilical cord testing for substance abuse, wearable video cameras for law enforcement officials and prescription-only status for Pseudoephedrine drugs.
The Our Children Our Future Regional Policy Workshops are organized by the West Virginia Community Development Hub, theWest Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, and the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.