Weatherford Democrat

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April 30, 2013

Coalition works to boost county health

By Judy Sheridan

The Long Live Parker County Coalition met recently to listen to the efforts of a grant team charged with appropriating a $420,000 annual state grant — up to five years — awarded to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Azle to improve the health of residents of Parker and Hood counties.

The grant was handed down from the Center for Disease Control with a goal of impacting the amount of chronic disease nationwide.

In Texas, the grant is called Transforming Texas. Its three initiatives are making fresh produce more available, affordable and accessible to outlying areas; encouraging businesses to adopt smoke-free policies and focusing on chronic disease itself by offering chronic disease self-management workshops.

Members of the Texas Health Resources grant team include Casey Williams, heading up smoke-free initiatives; Debbie Reid, focusing on community gardens and chronic disease; Melanie Nieswiadomy, leading efforts to develop farmers’ markets and community food hubs; Jennifer Ashley-Beck, working to boost produce in convenience stores, as well as developing farmers’ markets; and Heather Bailey, in charge of chronic disease self-management workshops.

Ashley-Beck said she is working to enable mom-and-pop convenience stores in outlying areas to provide fresh produce for their customers. In Tolar and Lipan, she said, the closest grocery stores for some are up to 20 miles away.

“We are also looking for places in Parker County that might be willing to form a group,” she said. “Convenience stores don’t have the ability to buy in bulk with produce. To make a profit they have to mark it up, and a lot of people are not going to buy it. Then it’s spoiling, and the convenience stores are losing money on it, so they’re not purchasing it.

“If we can create a group that can buy in bulk and distribute that across the five or six of them, they can sell it for less, and they’re making that produce available.”

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