Celebrating 2022 projects and looking forward to Be Healthy’s bright future

In 2019, Be Healthy was selected to participate in a five-year cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control’s High Obesity Program — also called HOP — to increase physical activity and access to healthy foods in two of West Virginia’s most rural counties: Clay and McDowell. 

So far, Be Healthy has supported 43 projects with more than 30 community organizations and groups. Physical activity-based projects have ranged from building segments of community recreation centers, to establishing pickleball leagues, walking trails, and healthy food-oriented projects have included produce distribution, funding much-needed equipment for local food pantries, nutrition education for children and their families, mobile markets, and more.  

In addition to benefiting residents’ physical health, these projects have created space for meaningful community connection. 

Through the Clay Senior and Community Services, senior residents have collaborated with Clay County High School’s woodshop students to create, plant, and maintain flower boxes in downtown Clay. At the Community Care of West Virginia at Big Otter Clinic, the walking trail built for patients awaiting their appointments is being used by various groups in the community, including a local special needs class. 

At the Risen Lord Catholic Church Food Pantry, new freezers and a trailer have given church leaders a way to reach more Clay County residents. Through the McDowell County Commission on Aging’s senior produce bag distribution, volunteers have, at times, delivered fresh foods to residents who have limited mobility or transportation. The Kids Market at the Store initiative purchases many of its fresh foods directly from local farmers.

Beyond the projects, HOP has expanded our network of collaborative partnerships, enabling us to connect current and previous projects with additional resources as they expand or sustain their work. HOP has also brought together WVU staff and faculty to volunteer annually at these sites. We feel so fortunate to work with some of our state’s most fierce community advocates. 

Though 2023 marks the ending of this HOP program, we’re not finished just yet. For many of our communities, these efforts are just getting started, and we’re eager to see these projects continue and inspire more projects to emerge in the future. 

We will soon be announcing our Year Five partners, so keep an eye on our Facebook and on our website for the latest project developments. We are ecstatic to be kicking off the new year with so many wonderful and inspiring efforts underway!

Our Year in Review: Year Four Projects

  • FARMacy at Community Care West Virginia at the Big Otter Clinic: In our fourth year, Be Healthy helped sponsor costs of the CCWV’s FARMacy produce prescription program. The FARMacy project, which originated in northern West Virginia, is a clinic-based effort that enables providers to “prescribe” fresh produce and health foods to a select group of patients experiencing chronic illness or diseases with prepaid produce vouchers. In 2022, the CCWV FARMacy program included 25 patient participants who were given $20 credit for 15 weeks. The voucher program, combined with educators’ cooking demonstrations, nutrition education, and medical support from the Big Otter Clinic, resulted in A1c reductions for 13 participants and weight loss among 17 patients. 

Read more about West Virginia’s FARMacy initiative here. 

Check out the CCWV team’s FARMacy recap.

  • Risen Lord Catholic Church Food Pantry: Risen Lord Catholic Church has been a Be Healthy partner since the beginning. Today, their food pantry serves nearly 200 families per month in Clay County, and they maintain a backpack food distribution program for local students. With support from Be Healthy, Risen Lord has purchased much-needed equipment like freezers, refrigeration units, and a trailer for transporting food to families throughout the region over the years. 

See Risen Lord Catholic Church Food Pantry’s community impact.

Read Father Thien Nguyen’s interview on Risen Lord’s efforts.

  • Kids Market at the Store in Clay: In 2022, Be Healthy partnered with the Kids Market at the Store initiative to provide six weeks of fresh produce vouchers to school-aged children and their families in Clay County. Once they received their weekly allowances, children could “shop” for fresh fruits and vegetables and redeem their vouchers in select local grocery stores. The goal of this project was to make fresh produce accessible to more families, provide opportunities for families to experiment with new foods cost-free, and support local farmers. Last year, 217 families benefited from this project. 

Read more about the Kids Market at the Store’s impact in Clay communities.

  • Clay Family Resource Network Splash Pad: In Years Three and Four, we collaborated with the Clay County Family Resource Network to help fund construction and the installment of their community splash pad project in downtown Clay. Once completed, the splash pad will be a popular attraction for visitors of all ages. The splash pad project will soon coincide with a new Year Five project partner, the Town of Clay, as part of the community’s recreation site development.