The Loudoun County Health Department has won a two-year, $140,000 grant from the National Women, Infants and Children Association and the Centers for Disease Control to fight childhood obesity.
The department will work with the National WIC Association and the Loudoun Pediatric Obesity Coalition to bring fresh, local produce to needy families, create a “Living Healthy in Loudoun” resource guide, and help mothers access breastfeeding services and support, and promote better exercise habits.
Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend said that coalitions and partnerships, such as with farmers’ markets, are a “key piece.”
“Part of it is looking at our communities to see where are good, safe places for people to exercise, where they can walk, run, and bicycle in a safe manner,” Goodfriend said.
Dr. Janine Rethy, the health department’s physician advisor for chronic disease prevention, said the grant money will also be used for public education.
“We found that many, many people who are eligible for SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits are not receiving SNAP benefits, and we know that families who receive SNAP benefits have much better health outcomes and lower rates of obesity,” Rethy said.
SNAP benefits can now be used at three farmers’ markets in Loudoun, in many cases paying double.
“Maybe we need to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to people where they are,” Rethy said. “Maybe we need to help people understand how to enroll in SNAP in the first place.”
The county is also working with businesses to allow breastfeeding by new mothers, keeping mothers in the workforce and their children healthier. Rethy said county government is implementing a breastfeeding support policy for mothers and has opened a breast pumping room in the county offices.
“We feel that stakeholders and providers in this community need also to be able to understand what’s out there, and understand what resources we do have, and communicate that that to the people who need it the most,” Rethy said.