Successes of the Change the Future West Virginia were highlighted Wednesday during a celebration at the Parkersburg Country Club.

Carrie Brainard, health and wellness director at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said the program has made a positive impact on Mid-Ohio Valley communities since its inception.

"When we first started this project we went to Atlanta and they told us they wanted us to do good things but we only had two years to do it," she said. "They said we want policy change, environmental change and I thought to myself and said 'there's no way we can accomplish all this.'

"Looking back on the two years, we have accomplished a lot of good things."

Brainard said those things include complete street policies where communities are encouraged to look at ways to make their communities safer for people to use bikes and walk. In one county access to a farmer's markets was increased.

"One of the biggest projects has been a connectivity project," she said. "We hired Burgess and Niple and pulled together people from the community to talk about things we could do to make out community more accessible for healthy activities and we were able to come up with a master plan the county commission can use for grants for improvements to walking paths and complete streets."

One project has gained notoriety, she said.

"Our Healthy Check-out Aisles have gotten national attention," she said. "Foodland and the three Wal-Marts in our region, two in Wood County and one in Roane County, have piloted the aisle where everything there met the office of child nutrition guidelines for fat, sodium and sugar content. It's an opportunity for a family to walk down an aisle without their children screaming for candy."

Brainard said in the Healthy Check-out Aisles the children see bananas and that is what they want. She said they have also worked with convenience stores with a new policy where if they carry fresh fruits and vegetables they can get a discount on their retail permit.

"We've gone from one of the 84 in our region carrying fresh fruit and vegetables to 19 now," she said.

A project to supply children with a snack of fresh fruit and vegetables was so successful and seen as important enough that two counties, Wirt and Pleasants, have included the program in their budgets to keep it going now that Change the Future West Virginia is finished, she said.

"The grant is winding down but the work will continue through the coalitions," she said.

Brainard said the program began in 2010 with a grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to create a program to provide communities with vital information and resources to create healthier communities. It was a collaborative effort among the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, the West Virginia Office of Healthy Lifestyles and the West Virginia University Health Research Center.

Wellness coalitions in Wood, Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt counties were formed to create healthier environments in the area.

Coordinators from each made a presentation on the projects they undertook during the past two years that ranged from building or improving walking trails to creating bike paths and farmers markets.

Janet Heiney, community coordinator in Clahoun County, said the coalition helped to open a second farmer's market. She said the one market in Chloe was open on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., making it difficult for people to get there from other parts of the county, especially if they worked during the day.

"We started one in Grantsville at the Wayne Underwood Park in the old high school concession stand," she said. "We had 150 people there on average with eight to 10 vendors making about $750."

Heiney said they also helped make improvements to the walking path from the downtown parking lot to the Minnie Hamilton Medical Center.

In Pleasants County, Beth Tuttle, community coordinator, said they made improvements with the Complete Streets program.

"The Belmont walking trail allows more children to walk to school with safe sidewalks which eliminated a bus stop and we added new playground equipment," she said. "We worked with the board of education for the healthy snack program as part of the wellness program and they loved it. When you give children a choice, they will pick healthy food over junk."

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