Hi again Rowan County! Alyssa here back to share more of the great programs, events, and initiatives that are making Rowan County a healthier place to live. For those who haven’t had a chance to look back at past blogs, I wanted to share a little background on what I do. I have the pleasure of serving as the Executive Director of our community coalition, Healthy Rowan.
A Healthy Rowan County
Healthy Rowan brings together agencies and individuals monthly to discuss the big questions around health – where are the needs, where are we working together, and how can we do better? We’ve had a lot of success over the last few years in improving our County Health Ranking from 76th to 59th by helping Rowan County become more active, have better access to healthy foods, improving access to health care, and by bringing in new commerce and job opportunities to boost the economy (looking at you Chewy!). Our County Commissioners, municipal leaders, social service providers, schools, and churches all have a role to play in helping citizens become healthy. Rowan County as a whole can only thrive if everyone is able to have the same opportunity for health.
Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care
With that said, I’m excited to share a program that is helping our youngest citizens learn healthy habits from the beginning – Go NAPSACC! NAPSACC stands for “Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care.” NAPSACC is a program partnership between Smart Start Rowan and the Rowan County Health Department to ensure that the highest-quality service is provided to child care facilities who wish to improve their facility’s nutrition and physical activity options for their students. The NAPSACC program works with child care centers and homes to improve nutritional quality of food served, amount and quality of physical activity, staff-child interactions, and center nutrition and physical activity policy.
This service is delivered through on-site consultation visits at the convenience of the center staff, either during the day or evening. Each facility assesses its current program and plans its intervention strategies. Workshops are provided for the directors, staff and families, and technical assistance is provided to facilitate meeting the goals of the action plans. Regular assessments evaluate successes and identify goals to continue toward achievement of improving the facility’s overall nutrition and physical activity program, which is monitored by Smart Start Rowan.
One of Rowan County’s Many Heroes – Teresa Mowery
An unsung Rowan County hero – nurse Teresa Mowery – works throughout Rowan County with 13 child care facilities helping them provide better opportunities for outdoor play, healthier snacks, better access to water, and education for parents and staff. This program reaches 176 direct teaching staff and more than 900 children. The goal of this program is to help our children learn healthy lifestyle behaviors from the start.
One of the most ambitious goals for the NAPSACC program in the previous year was to see how they could impact the nutrition of the food served at Head Start facilities in the county. Head Start, as a federally funded program, has a very strict food procurement program it is mandated to follow, making it difficult for any changes to its menus to be developed. However, Nurse Teresa was able to meet with the individual in charge with food procurement for Head Start facilities, and develop ways to diversify the options of healthy foods available.
Head Start began a community garden to allow access to more fresh, local fruits and vegetables. They also increased cooperation with local farmers to receive fresh foods when those farmers are overstocked at local farmer’s markets. Thanks to these efforts, two Head Start classrooms have drastically reduced their reliance on canned fruits and vegetables (and on the often-sugary syrups or sodium-heavy preservatives canned foods are packaged with), instead using fresh fruits and vegetables almost entirely. Rowan County organizations know that the key to health is collaboration and determining ways to work better together and to support other organizations in the community like our local farmers.
Teresa is passionate about helping our youth learn about fruits and vegetables in a fun way. She also promotes seemingly simple ideas – drink more water, eat a healthier snack, and move more everyday. The kids at the centers LOVE it!
Many parents understand how, in a world of fast food and sugary snacks, getting children to try vegetables and grow to enjoy them can be a daunting task. However, Teresa made it a priority to make trying healthy foods a fun, exciting part of a child care facility’s curriculum. One of the facilities she worked with has embraced the tradition of Tasty Tuesdays, a day where children are exposed to a new healthy food each week. Even in those cases where children don’t end up embracing the particular food of the week, they are excited for Tasty Tuesday to roll around, and have been introduced to a culture of trying healthy food options as a result. While this tactic is employed at only one of the facilities Teresa worked with, all the facilities report that they have integrated trying new healthy foods into their curriculum, with most tying the new food to a theme supported elsewhere in their lesson plans.
You Can Support Healthy Living at Home Too!
Finally, we all know we can eat a little healthier, but sometimes it’s difficult with fast-paced lifestyles. Teresa also provides staff and parent workshops to help parents understand how they can support healthy living at home. In addition, she partners with organizations like Happy Roots to place raised garden beds and provide classes on gardening. It’s great to see children playing outside and know it is contributing to their health! Happy Roots also leads the “Farm to Pre-K” program helping expose children to healthy and nutritious foods year-round. Check out their Page for more information and fun photos!
At a recent parent workshop, staff provided education info on nutritional value of microgreens. Parents were given container, soil, and seeds; each family planted their own microgreens to take home. Parents and guardians are supported by attending workshops on how healthy eating supports child development and taught quick, healthy recipes for mealtime.
The Rowan County Health Department and Smart Start Rowan are great community partners and working hard to connect with early childcare centers across Rowan County to give our children a healthier start. Look for more updates to come as this program continues to build partnerships with different child care centers. If you have any questions or want to know if your child’s daycare is a participant, please send me an email at health@YourRowan.org – I’d love to connect and hear your stories!
In good health,