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Live Well Springfield inspiring topic for Founder’s Day program

Whitten explaining Live Well Springfield


Maggie Whitten (above), speaker at the Congregation’s July 15 Founder’s Day, is Program Director for Mercy Medical Center’s “Transforming Communities Initiative.” The initiative has a 2.5 million dollar grant given over five years from Trinity Health that is benefiting the city’s Live Well Springfield (LWS) Coalition. Program priorities include reducing childhood obesity and tobacco use.

The Coalition (approximately 30 organizations) is working to provide Springfield residents, particularly those in poor neighborhoods, with greater access to healthy eating and active living opportunities.

Whitten’s presentation, coupled with Trinity Health’s video “Live Well Springfield,” focused on some of the sobering realities facing certain Springfield neighborhoods. “We are told,” said Whitten, “to eat healthy foods and get exercise. But if your neighborhood does not have a full line grocery store,” which poor neighborhoods often do not, “your access to healthy foods is severely limited.”

While people of color predominate in the poorest neighborhoods it’s not about race but about its residents not having grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or produce stands. Fast and junk foods are available instead, truisms nation-wide.

Working towards change
The Coalition is working to attract grocery stores to the city’s blighted areas. It already has a Go Fresh Mobile Farmer’s Market on the road and is successful in establishing community, at-school, and at-home vegetable gardens. Farmer’s markets and produce stands now dot the city and fresh produce is available in Mercy Medical Center’s lobby, city libraries, etc. To eliminate school hunger, the Springfield Public School System, a Coalition partner, provides its 31,000 students with breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and in some instances, a dinner program as well.

With support from Trinity Health and the Transforming Communities Initiative, the Coalition is collaborating with Springfield Public Schools as they construct a 25 million dollar Culinary and Nutrition Center. The Center will prepare school meals from scratch using locally grown food, and will train school cooks, and students interested in culinary careers.

Trinity Health, through the Transforming Communities Initiative, has also helped to support the creation of the Wellspring Harvest hydroponic greenhouse in Indian Orchard, a worker-owned cooperative supplying fresh greens and herbs to Big Y, Mercy Medical Center (MMC), and other locations.

Dr. Louis Durken, chief of emergency medicine at MMC, says the overriding question in “population health” is “How do we make the population outside these hospital walls healthier?”

The Coalition sees increasing the availability of healthy foods, teaching children to grow and eat healthy foods, and promoting active living opportunities as part of the answer.


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