Most experts will tell you, when it comes to getting healthier, it's best to do it in small, manageable steps. Whether you want to lose weight, start an exercise program, or just change your diet, your best chance at success comes with setting goals that are realistic and achievable.
The same goes for developing a healthier community.
When Activate Allen County first launched almost two years ago, the team had one basic goal — to make the healthy choice the easy choice for the men, women and children of Allen County. It seems like a simple enough goal, but in a big county populated by a people of diverse needs, backgrounds and opinions, it is a grandiose goal.
But those baby steps have started adding up to some big programs that can result in substantial and lasting changes for the better for Allen County.
On the Healthy Eating and Breastfeeding fronts alone, Activate Allen County has lead or partnered on a variety of programs in the past few months.
•Breastfeeding Friendly workplaces and public venues — Activate leaders have worked with businesses, nonprofits and government offices to promote the idea that workplace policies can improve the chances that a new mother will breastfeed her baby. As of today, we have 11 Allen County businesses and nonprofits that have been declared Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces, and 12 public venues that have committed to providing space for women who choose to breastfeed in private.
•Active Menu Challenge — We know the healthy choice needs to be the easy one when you go out to eat too, so we have worked with local restaurants to showcase those healthy options on their menus. Right now, there are 11 restaurants in Allen County displaying the Active Menu Challenge logo, including The Meeting Place on Market, Panera Bread, Beer Barrel, Happy Daz and Applebee's.
•Businesses with Healthy Eating policies — Those doughnuts at the morning meeting may be delicious, but some of us would like a healthier option. Activate Allen County is working with businesses across the county to develop policies that include those choices — everything from offering fruit at the next meeting to stocking the vending machine with healthier options.
•Food Council — In April, Activate helped pull together people from across the county, many of whom were already engaged in their own efforts to promote healthy eating. The Allen County Food Council now meets regularly to strategize ways to promote their vision of making Allen County a place where all thrive and have access to good, healthy and affordable food. They are currently working with the Philadelphia-based Food Trust to develop a county-wide Food Action Plan that will include a Corner Store Initiative, promoting opportunities to get healthy foods in to the shops that are most accessible to people.
Those are just a few of the programs Activate Allen County has tackled since its inception. That doesn't include highly visible programs such as the Mobile Produce Market, the new Downtown Lima Farmer's Market and the Breastfeeding Coalition and Food Desert Workgroup.
And that's just the beginning of what needs to happen if we plan to develop a healthier Allen County. To find out more about the current efforts, or to suggest the next one, visit http://activateallencounty.com.