The Centers For Disease Control has awarded a $2 million dollar grant for a wellness initiative in Springfield Massachusetts. The money will fund several efforts aimed at improving access to healthy eating and physical activity. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The federal funding will promote recreation on the Connecticut River by purchasing boats for community rowing programs, and bicycles for riding on the city’s 3.7 mile Connecticut Riverwalk. Pedestrian and bike paths throughout the city will be enhanced. A mobile farmers’ market will be expanded to make stops at more senior centers, public housing complexes and pre-schools.
Several agencies and community based organizations will share the grant to pursue projects under the umbrella of Live Well Springfield, the five year old initiative of the Springfield non profit organization Partners For A Healthier Community. Live Well Springfield director Jessica Collins says the goal is to reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension that result from bad diets and a lack of exercise.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts will collect and analysis data to determine the program’s impact.
The “ Go Fresh” mobile farmers market operated by Dave Jackson of Enterprise Farm in Whately, Massachusetts will double to 20 the number of weekly visits to Springfield.
The moble farmers market makes stops at senior centers, public housing complexes and pre-schools. Jan Rodriquez-Denny, the city of Springfield’s director of elder affairs says the mobile market sold 8,000 pounds of fresh food in just 8 weeks this past summer.
The Pioneer Valley Riverfront Club, which operates out of a city owned boathouse along the Connecticut river plans to buy more boats for community rowing programs. It also begin to rent bikes for people to ride on the nearby riverwalk. Club president Jonathan Moss says they’ll partner with pediatricians who have patients that need to burn calories.
The grant will fund a new position in the city’s planning department to do sidewalk inventories, bike-lane assessments and find ways to connect walking and biking trails to the city’s Riverwalk, which Shiela McElwaine and other Riverwalk advocates say is underused.
Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission said the initiatives being implemented in Springfield will benefit the region.
Another strategy of the Live Well Springfield initiative is to bring a full line grocery story to the city’s poorest inner city neighborhood.