Twin Counties Expands Access to Healthy, Local Food and Places to Be Active

Investments Part of Long-Term Healthy Places NC Initiative

With support from the Trust, the Twin Counties are expanding physical activity opportunities for students and employees, as well as community members in Edgecombe and Nash Counties. The community is also focused on expanding access to local food to support nearby agriculture and promote healthy eating. The investments are part of Healthy Places NC, a long-term Trust effort to improve the quality of life and health in rural, financially disadvantaged North Carolina counties.

The Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount received $149,992 to go toward the construction of a healthy living institute. The institute will serve low-income adults, children, and youth from surrounding areas. The space will include exercise and fitness areas, classrooms, bathrooms, and showers. The programs will aide individuals who are at the highest risk of developing chronic conditions and simultaneously provide support in nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

The Trust also awarded FoodCorpsNC a $141,346 grant to develop Farm to School Food Systems, a program that promotes healthy eating habits through the construction and operation of school gardens. The organization, which is a federal agency under the AmeriCorps umbrella, has worked with 232 farmers over the past year, as well as 1,100 community volunteers. FoodCorps hopes to impact roughly 1,200 children in Edgecombe and Nash counties over three years.

“There is momentum here in the Twin Counties around getting our neighbors moving and making sure they have access to healthy food,” said Shoneca Kent, a catalyst for the Twin Counties. “The Trust is listening to the community—working to understand what we think is needed to improve health in the area—and these investments reflect some of the ways we can start to increase residents’ ability to find healthy food and spaces to be active.”

The Trust also gave $100,000 to Nash Community College (NCC) for a project that will enhance physical activity opportunities for students and employees, as well as residents in Edgecombe and Nash counties. NCC will use the funds to purchase new cardio and strengthening equipment that will be placed in its new fitness facilities. NCC wants to mitigate transportation barriers and provide convenient access to exercise opportunities. Trained staff and volunteers will be on site to assist with physical activity training.

Multiple school-age children in the Twin Counties will also have more opportunities to be active through the Trust’s investment in The Walking Classroom, the nonprofit that gets students walking while they learn. The Trust’s $410,000 grant to the organization will bring the Walking Classroom to school districts in all seven Healthy Places NC counties, including the Twin Counties.

The Trust has awarded additional funding to expand a project that focuses on promoting healthy eating in schools by pairing nutrition education with the development of locally-grown vegetables. Working Landscapes received $306,900 to foster the Chopped Produce Initiative, which will implement a farm-to-cafeteria culture for low-income students and residents in Edgecombe, Halifax, and Nash counties. The project also will establish food ambassadors who address students’ receptivity to these foods through educational programming and demonstrating the economic benefits of eating local.

“When you give people the opportunity to change how they eat and exercise, it really makes a difference in how they live,” said Jehan Benton-Clark, senior program officer for the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “At times, the excuse for not exercising is because of time or convenience. These initiatives serve people right in their communities and meet them where they’re at. We’re really focused on how making small changes daily can boost wellbeing over time.”

The Twin Counties joined the Healthy Places NC initiative earlier this year. The Trust plans to invest $100 million in 10 to 12 rural counties over a 10-year period. To date, the Trust has invited seven counties—Beaufort, Burke, Edgecombe, Halifax, McDowell, Nash and Rockingham—to participate and will announce additional counties in the coming years. In each county, Healthy Places work and projects are driven by the community’s concerns, as well as by where the Trust thinks there’s an opportunity for sustainable, long-term change. For a complete list of grants approved by the Trust’s Health Care Division this fall, click here.