A $25,000 grant has been served up to the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation division to increase local residents’ access to healthy foods and their nutritional literacy.
The non-matching grant was received by the recreation department in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association. That gift is part of $1.5 million in funding to the association from the Walmart Foundation to support healthy out-of-school time programs in a smattering of localities across the country.
“We really did not think that we had a shot to get it,” city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander said of the grant.
“It only went to 40 communities in the nation.”
The money will be used in Mount Airy to acquire a good-quality used “turtle top” van. It is described as similar to the vehicles operated by the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District to transport passengers for its programs in Surry County.
Alexander said the turtle top van will have a variety of uses in keeping with the goals of the grant program, which include:
• Increasing the number of healthy meals children in low-income communities receive through the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program during out-of-school times;
• Providing nutrition literacy to children and families that creates behavior change by teaching the importance of healthy eating;
• Implementing nutritional standards that expand access to healthier foods and support a healthy eating environment;
• Introducing meal and program efficiencies that increase community sustainability.
Alexander said those goals will be met locally in a variety of ways using the van, including delivering meals to public housing areas during the summer when students don’t have access to school breakfast and lunch programs.
She says that absence makes Mount Airy Park and Recreation’s nutritional efforts, in partnership with city schools, “that much more critical” during out-of-school times.
The parks and recreation director added that this partnership, which involves an after-school snack program as well the summertime meals, has been invaluable. “This (the grant) will only enhance our collaborative efforts.”
The vehicle also will be used to transport youths and senior citizens to participate in grocery store tours, Alexander said.
In addition to the turtle top van, a cooking demonstration table will be acquired to help educate the public in the preparation of healthy meals.
Mount Airy Parks and Recreation also is to receive further support for meals provided through U.S. Department of Agriculture after-school and summer feeding programs, along with nutritional literacy materials to help promote life-long healthy habits among youths.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 during a meeting last Thursday night to officially accept the $25,000 grant.
However, board members did have some questions.
“What continuing cost is there to the city?” Commissioner Jim Armbrister asked regarding the purchase of the turtle top van.
Alexander responded that once the vehicle and any related equipment are acquired, that will be limited to basic expenses such as fuel and maintenance.
She said her department now has two large buses, which are used during the summer to transport youths to camps operated by city recreation personnel.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.