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County of Middlesex "Lead the Change Recognition Award"

County of Middlesex "Lead the Change Recognition Award"
Summer Reading Wrap-up Party Ailsa Craig Branch, Middlesex County Library 

Written by Nadine Devin, RD, MHSc, Project Manager, Healthy Kids Community Challenge for Middlesex County  
     In order to make a difference in the health of our children, we need to work collectively in making the healthy choice the prevailing choice in our community.  However, health promotion strategies are often based on educational interventions and have widely neglected environmental-level modifications (Muckelbauer et al., 2009).
     In light of this, the County of Middlesex Healthy Kids Community Challenge developed their Theme 2 ‘Water Does Wonders’ strategy, a comprehensive intervention that was both multi-strategy (awareness, education, skill-development, supportive environment and policy) and multi-sectorial (schools, child cares, libraries, recreation, Ontario Early Years).

Taste-testing sessions at an Ontario Early Years Centre (Ilderton) (top); a YMCA (Strathroy) (bottom left) and a Middlesex County library (bottom right). 

     An integral part of this intervention was the development of a set of sector-specific environmental-level actions and the use of an award and incentive system coined ‘Lead the Change Recognition Award”.  The intent was to encourage sectors to consider methods by which they could create supportive eating environments and advance the promotion of water, vegetables and fruit.  A total of 12 schools, 6 municipal, and 5 community agencies, including Middlesex County Library (a 15-branch rural public library system), participated in the intervention.

      Results from Theme 2 indicated that agencies show a desire to make changes in their food environment and that the environmental-level actions proposed are attainable.  We observed such changes as:
  • removal of sugar-sweetened beverages and the availability of water only as a beverage at events and programs;
  • reduction of the cost of water and portion size of sugar-sweetened beverages in vending machines at recreation centres;
  • shift to non-food items as a reward;
  • adoption of a food & beverage policy by Middlesex County Library that focusses on the provision of water, vegetables and fruit at library events and programs.  
     To continue the momentum of Theme 2,  the launch of Theme 3 in April 2017, ‘Choose to Boost Veggies & Fruit’, included an invitation to community agencies and schools to once again apply for the ‘Lead the Change’ award and participate in the Choose to Boost Veggies & Fruit Challenge.
     The incentive for application included a capacity-building award package: an indoor aquaponics garden-tower to support garden-based food literacy opportunities; funding to support taste testing session(s); and resources to support education, awareness and skill development (e.g. story book package, promotional material & signage, supporting guidebooks for leaders, safe knives for children).
     In terms of schools, in order to be eligible, the Theme 3 criteria required applicants to commit to implementing a minimum of one environmental-level action in the following areas:
  • adopting a school-level policy around healthy classroom celebrations
  • adopting a school-level policy around healthy classroom rewards 
  • adopting a school-level policy around healthy school fundraising
  • increasing garden-based food literacy opportunities
  • increasing food skill opportunities e.g. cooking-skills program. 

Garden Tower harvesting, Corina Baker Licensed Home Child Provider, Strathroy 

     In total, we had 12 of the 26 County schools apply.   We will begin supporting these schools in late August with a brief in-service at a staff meeting about the Choose to Boost Veggies & Fruit Challenge.  In early September we will be offering a training opportunity for 3-4 senior student champions and a teacher champion.  The teacher champion will be trained on the set-up and use of the garden-tower while student champions will be introduced to the Choose to Boost Veggies & Fruit Challenge and activities that they will be responsible for implementing September to December 2017.   Planned activities include:
  • taste testing of various Ontario grown apples using the supplied apple spiralizer,  photo booth and information table at Meet the Teacher Night
  • daily announcements and use of interactive educational videos that promote movement
  • school assembly
  • choose to Boost Veggies & Fruit ‘Make the Commitment’ Challenge
     In addition to these 12 schools, we have 7 child cares, 2 Ontario Early Years Centres, 15 library branches, and 1 YMCA actively involved in supporting the Theme 3 intervention.  Many have their garden towers up and running and have been implementing taste testing in their respective agencies.  You can follow us on Facebook for pictures and updates!
     As we did in Theme 2, we will embark on a full evaluation of the Theme 3 project to determine influence on the environment, adoption of policy, and effect on child and family knowledge and behaviour in relation to vegetables and fruit intake.   This evaluation will be cross-sectorial.
     If you are interested in highlights from the Theme 2 evaluation, you can access the summary infographics at: www.middlesex.ca/healthy-kids-community-challenge/theme-2-highlights.   As well, if you would like more information about the Lead the Change Recognition Award or components of the Theme 2 or 3 interventions, please feel free to reach out (ndevin@middlesex.ca)! 


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