By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
JASPER–An event to kick off a Walker County initiative for healthier lifestyles called “Shape Up Walker County” will begin at Garden Fest in Jasper on Saturday July 28, 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. where they will be offering live music, games, a moon walk, arts and crafts, light concessions, free health screenings, educational information on Shape Up and non-profit organizations of Walker County, Home Depot Garden Club, and more at the Jasper Community Garden and Farmers’ Market.
Following a 5K run beginning at 8:00 a.m., Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) will speak at 9:00 a.m. Reed said that after he took office a study was conducted by the University of Alabama ranking Walker County at 65 out of 67 counties. After some research he found that other areas in his district (western Jefferson, Winston, northern Tuscaloosa counties) had similar numbers in mortality and morbidity.
Reed said, “It is not an issue of access to healthcare. Walker County ranked at 26 in availability. It is more about the attitude of the citizenry about taking care of their health.”
As a result, Reed developed an idea called “Shape Up” which is “a conglomerate of a couple of different ideas that could work within a community to help people to be healthier.”
With the help and support of Baptist Health Systems (Baptist Walker and Baptist Princeton) and Walker Area Foundation and Heritage Foundation (a foundation in Walker County that funds things that are good for the health of Walker County) they have developed programs addressing healthy living education.
“If it has an effect on one community, one neighborhood or one group of children then that is going to be important for the future of those folks,” said Reed.
A program currently ongoing trains individuals, in particular low-income families, in how to spend grocery money wisely on nutritional foods.
Another program is available in the state through the state Department of Education that is called “The WAV Program.” This program provides training for teachers to work into their classroom activities instructing kids how to live a healthier lifestyle. The intent is getting those children to involve their parents and grandparents in decisions on how to have a healthier lifestyle with exercise, food choices and food preparation. This program is available at no expense to the school system.
A third program involves a community garden that is located on public property at the old airport in Jasper. Citizens can work at the garden and then have opportunities to harvest items from the garden that are distributed to people in need. This program is in conjunction with the Alabama Farmers’ Federation and the Farmers’ Market in Walker County.
Walker Area Foundation offers healthy alternatives for all the schools that want to participate in offering healthier things in the concession stands at sporting events. “Where you can buy an apple and a banana right along with a candy and a bag of chips,” said Reed.
As part of the kick off event the Farmers’ Federation will hold their free tomato sandwich day. Last year it is estimated that they made close to 1,000 tomato sandwiches. “Just sliced tomatoes, fresh bread, mayonnaise and black pepper,” said Reed.
Bicycle instructions and health instructions will be provided for kids and they can ride their bycycles on the old runway at the airport.
He continued, “We need to help people understand that is important to live a healthier lifestyle, that there are options for us to encourage them to have a healthier lifestyles. We all need to make even a small effort to helping communities be healthier.”