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Grant helps agencies, schools, churches adopt healthy habits

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It takes only a small amount of money to make a big change.

That is what school districts and nonprofit agencies in Jefferson County learned through grants they received in a $20,000 allotment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I was very impressed, but most impressed that many organizations made internal changes beyond what they said in their grant,” said Amanda R. Root, resource educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

The allotment was filtered to agencies through the extension office. Small grants were made to each agency that applied for some of the $20,000 to help reduce childhood obesity and examine how and why families have difficulties in accessing healthier options. Some of that money was reserved for a local needs assessment in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Award announcements occurred in January, and money had to be spent by Sept. 30.

Mrs. Root said she was elated to hear the Joint Episcopal Churches of the North Country used its $2,700 not only to create porch gardens for community members as outlined in its grant application, but to develop a healthful food policy that will require all activities and events at its churches to include healthful food and beverage options.

The Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County received $2,775 to provide a fresh produce backpack program. Although the agency doesn’t have money to host the program next year, Mrs. Root said, CAPC has made other agencywide changes.

“I’m on their board, and they serve food at board meetings, and I even saw a switch to more fruits and vegetables,” she said.

At the Watertown Family YMCA sites, the School-age Child Care program received $2,300 to provide equipment to support and enhance physical activity and active play policies. Now, the Y is looking at how it can share equipment among multiple SACC sites, Mrs. Root said.

Also receiving grants were LaFargeville Central School; the Jefferson County Youth Bureau; Lyme Central School, Chaumont; and Starbuck Elementary School, Watertown.

While Cooperative Extension is seeking more funding to offer agencies similar opportunities, Mrs. Root said, school districts, nonprofit agencies and churches also are encouraged to find funding on their own. She said Cooperative Extension would support them through that process and help make changes.

For more information, call Mrs. Root at 788-8450, ext. 273.

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