We are pleased to announce new federal funding for comprehensive health, nutrition and wellness policies and education in area elementary schools and summer and after-school programs, and doubly pleased to introduce you to Sara Salo, the newest employee at the health department. Here is Sara’s story, in her own words:
This May, after 9 months and 5,000 miles of pedaling, I was thrilled to complete my nationwide bicycle program – The School Food Tour – in a community that so ardently shares my passion for cycling and healthy living. Riding the Tour’s final miles along the Houghton waterfront accompanied by 70+ students from Houghton Middle School not only impressed upon me this area’s commitment to active transportation but as a native Yooper it was also personally meaningful to witness Houghton’s next generation appreciate bicycle travel and healthy snacks.
The following week was filled with presentations, meetings and inspiring conversations. I was reintroduced to Houghton’s diverse Healthy Community efforts and was impressed with the robust community gardens, the recent completion of a Complete Streets policy and increased Safe Routes to School activities. I felt proud to have ties to this area and share my journey with the many local folks interested in transportation and food issues. Little did I know that once again very soon I would become a permanent member of the community.
I now write this blog not only as Sara Salo from the School Food Tour but also as Sara Salo, Health Education Coordinator for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. It was a whirlwind month of transitions but I have finally settled into my new position and am focused on the many tasks ahead. My primary role is to implement a collaborative school health initiative known as CATCH, or, the Coordinated Approach to Children’s Health.
The CATCH program will integrate physical activity, wholesome food choices and other supporting health promotion efforts into the school environment. Classroom lessons, cafeteria operations, health screenings, health consultations and active wellness committees will all be key components of this initiative. Our goal is to assist local schools in bolstering their wellness efforts as a means to improve overall child health in the region. CATCH will also involve families and communities with activities such as cooking classes or Safe Routes to School events.
The Health Department, in collaboration with BHK Child Development, will begin CATCH by integrating the program into Great Explorations after-school sites in fall 2012. CATCH K-5 will begin in five districts in 2013 with additional schools being added through 2015. The initial CATCH sites include Houghton, Dollar Bay, Lake Linden, L’Anse and Bessemer Schools. Funding for this new program comes from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
I am energized to dive into this exciting new project and want to thank the Health Department for the opportunity to interface with such wonderful coworkers. If you have questions about CATCH please contact myself or Ray Sharp at the Health Department office in Hancock.