Small Steps to Better Health with Healthy Shasta
● By Laura Christman
By Laura Christman
It’s a movement that moves in many ways, all with the aim of getting North State residents to be active and eat wisely.
Healthy Shasta invites you to try an unfamiliar fruit, cook carrots a different way (roasted with a touch of maple syrup, perhaps), hike a nearby trail or walk to the mailbox instead of pulling up to it in your car.
“Be healthier by doing one small thing. It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of your life,” Healthy Shasta Coordinator Beth Woodworth says. “It’s a movement anyone can be a part of.”
The Healthy Shasta partnership, comprised of 23 agencies and organizations, formed in 2005. Terri Fields Hosler, Public Health branch director for Shasta County Health and Human Services, was on the original steering committee. Healthy Shasta grew out of national concern about increasing rates of childhood obesity, she says. Grant money was available, and a partnership to tackle the problem and pursue the grant dollars made sense, she says. Working together meant having a common message, greater potential for impact and avoiding duplication.
“We were one of the first to have a collaborative of this type — a model we were asked to go around the state and talk about,” Fields Hosler says.
During the past 10 years, childhood obesity rates in Shasta County have leveled and consumption of fruits and vegetables has increased, she says.
“I think Healthy Shasta is really a true testament to the collaborative nature of Shasta County,” Fields Hosler says. “We’re a community where people come together.”
While childhood obesity launched the effort, the scope has expanded. Healthy Shasta’s programs, events, resources and advocacy encompass healthy living for all ages. The collaboration works to get North State residents to eat fruits and vegetables, avoid sugary drinks and be active. It has led to more gardens, made-from-scratch meals, salad bars, running clubs, play equipment and water-bottle refilling stations at schools in Shasta County. It works with workplaces to swap doughnuts for fresh fruit at meetings and offer healthier options in vending machines.
Farmers markets are another focus. At the farmers market in Redding, Healthy Shasta offers cooking demonstrations by chefs and a Farm Club where children get a $2 token to buy strawberries, apples, carrots and other edibles, or garden seedlings. Healthy Shasta set up a system so CalFresh EBT cards (the replacement for food stamps) can be used by low-income residents to make purchases at North State farmers markets.
The collaborative is behind Bike Month every May and events like The Mayor’s Mountain Bike Challenge in Redding, which launched in February and runs through May 19. Healthy Shasta also participates in and supports events put on by others.
Its website features 35 maps of local trails, guides to playgrounds and bike routes, as well as gardening tips, recipes and educational materials.
Key funders of the partnership are Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency, Mercy Medical Center Redding and The McConnell Foundation. Additional grants are used to fund specific projects, such as Safe Routes to Schools.
Healthy Shasta encourages the mindset that making a healthy choice isn’t a tough choice, Woodworth says. It should not be viewed as something to be endured because it’s the right thing to do. A healthy choice should be embraced as fun, energizing, rewarding, delicious.
When Healthy Shasta sets up its bicycle-powered blender at a health fair, the smoothies produced are always a big hit, Woodworth notes. She recalls a boy happily drinking a smoothie, who adamantly told her he did not like spinach. He was surprised when she told him: “You’re drinking spinach!”
“Our vision is making being healthy easy — making it easy to be active and easy to eat healthy,” Woodworth says.
Healthy Shasta partners are:
Anderson Partnership for Healthy Children • City of Anderson • City of Redding • City of Shasta Lake • Dignity Health Mercy Medical Center Redding • First 5 Shasta • Good News Rescue Mission • The McConnell Foundation • National Park Service • Redding Rancheria • Redding School District • Shasta College • Shasta Community Health Center • Shasta County • Shasta County Office of Education • Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency • Shasta Family YMCA • Shasta Head Start • Shasta Regional Transportation Agency • Simpson University • Turtle Bay Exploration Park • University of California Cooperative Extension • Viva Downtown