TYPE: HEALTHY HOMETOWN Project Start-Up Meeting
Invited Attendees: Mayor Eddie Fulton, Jeanie McDonald (Town of Shubuta/ Alderwoman), William Price (Quitman Schoolboard Member), Pamela Lang Prestage (MS Tobacco-Free Coalition), Brittany Mosley (MS State Dept. of Health/ Health Educator), Donna Speed (SE United Dairy Industry, Inc.), Sharon Iezzi (Quitman Master Gardener), Wendell Carney (Quitman Nurse Practitioner, and Schoolboard Member), Donnis Harris (Quitman School District/ School Nurse and Tele-health Director), Heather Sumrall (Quitman School District/ School Nurse), Kasanda Howard, Community Outreach Director), Khililah Hasan (Owner of The Meeting Place), Nancy Chandler (First State Bank employee). (Christy King and Frankie Trotter were not able to attend, but want to be part of the Committee)
Call to Order: 5 pm. with prayer by Mayor Eddie Fulton.
Introductions: Mayor Fulton introduced attendees to the table.
Purpose of the Meeting: Our purpose today is to address failing health statistics in our City and the surrounding towns of Clark County. This population has a 36% Obesity rate, a major contributing factor to a number of diseases such as Heart Disease, Cancer, Stroke, Diabetes and others. New studies also show a direct link between Obesity and Alzheimer’s Disease. Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug use, a lack of exercise and traffic accidents are also factors in failing health statistics among our population.
In nationwide comparisons, Mississippi residents are at a higher risk of these diseases than many other states. Clark County, in particular, shows a much higher rate of these diseases than the rest of Mississippi. Attached to the Agenda for discussion tonight, you will find some statistics printed out for your consideration. We are here to discuss ways to encourage better health among our citizens. Our targeted audience will be school children and their families — because if we can reach the youth, they will speak to their parents for us. It is hard to ignore the pleas of your child. Those of you invited to attend this meeting are from differing backgrounds in the Health, Educational and Nutritional industry. We welcome the exchange of your ideas tonight.
BIKE CONTEST: On February 1st, the City of Quitman began a program, funded by a generous gift by Bobby Sellers Jr. of Sellers Inc., that will award up to 4 new bikes to teams losing the most weight or walk the most miles in the next 3 months. Teams are encouraged to bike or walk together and t-shirts will be given to winning team members each quarter. Prizes will be awarded at the end of each quarter. The grant will help us encourage residents to exercise. As more and more of our citizens begin the Bike Program for exercise and recreation, the City will be creating new Bike Lanes into the downtown area. This will serve both our residents and the business owners in the core of our City.
COMMUNITY GARDENS: We would like to encourage healthy-eating habits by promoting community gardens in the schools and the churches. Again, children may be our secret weapon because if a child grows something, they will eat it. We will use a grant to assist with the purchase of some basic supplies for gardening and the landscape timbers needed to create small, raised beds. The Committee decided the best size of gardens going forward is 4’ by 4’ or 4’ by 8’. Children or students could compete to grow vegetables of their choice. The gardens should be highly visible as people drive through our town or perhaps tours can be offered through raised beds set up in our schools. Suggestions were that we should offer some sort of prize for the best garden in a quarter or a Garden of the Week. Sharon Iezzi was introduced as a Master Gardener in Quitman. She was asked to help create some simple guidelines for gardening that kids could understand and follow. We want children to be successful in learning to grow food and planting a garden.
The Garden Box idea was discussed around the table. Additional expenses involved in gardening are costs for soil remediation, baby plants or seed starter kits and water. There is an old greenhouse at one of the schools that could be used for starting seeds. The Mayor said he had discussed using it for our project with the biology teacher. Some churches have expressed an interest in making garden boxes. It was mentioned that the time for planting seeds was NOW (best in February or March). School gardens need time to mature before school lets out. Home gardens may be better-suited for longer growth plants such as watermelons. Some families may want to use rain barrels to collect water for their gardens. A need for a Farmer’s Market was mentioned and will be brought to the attention of the City Board of Aldermen and hopefully can be created, perhaps even allowing the children to sell their produce. Sharon Iezzi and Kasanda Howard were asked to come up with some easy-to-do garden projects, supply lists and simple instructions. Committee members were invited to visit Sharon’s garden boxes at her home in Quitman.
HEALTH SCREENING: The Mayor would like to set up some sort of quantitative health screenings that can be published. Many people in our county cannot afford medical care. He introduced Brittney Mosley from the MS Department of Health. Ms. Mosely stated that she may be able to arrange for a mobile health clinic to visit Quitman once a quarter or twice a year to do basic testing for diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart rate. The Committee felt that the best plan would include one every four months (3 per year). Ms. Mosley said health grants are available for cities with Mayor Health Council teams like the Healthiest Hometown Committee. The Mayor said vision and dental testing would also be welcome, but making this part of the screening is still only an idea. Hopefully, we can reach out to these professionals in the near future. Another idea discussed was the possibility of seminars specializing in cooking schools and/or medical information. Our 4H activities include healthy cooking and the Mayor suggested we include them for our next meeting.
More health grants are available to cities that have Smoking Ordinances. The Mayor said he had been unable to pass this idea in Quitman because of the fear of government over-reach. However, because all businesses in Quitman are smoke free already and only 24% of our citizens smoke, the Mayor believes we should keep trying to pass this legislation. Several Committee members were in agreement with the Mayor. Brittany Mosley offered to do a presentation to the Board of Aldermen on why the Ordinance was needed and how the law is a prerequisite to winning grants for our City. Blue Cross/ Blue Shield offers a $50,000 grant and there are other grants available. The Mayor was encouraged by the passion of the committee and will bring the Smoke Free Ordinance up for a vote at the next Board of Aldermen meeting.
SHARED-USE AGREEMENTS: The Mayor said the recent Board of Aldermen meeting initiated a Shared-Use Agreement to be made with the school system. This agreement would permit the use of school gymnasiums and recreation facilities by youth and adult teams after normal school hours. This would permit the development of competitive sports teams such as little league, adult softball, basketball, volleyball, tennis and swimming in our City. Championships can be sponsored by businesses, churches and other organizations. We do not have adequate funding for the construction of recreational facilities such as gymnasiums in Quitman. Shared-Use provides the place for such activities and encourages healthy exercise for youth and adults.
Meeting Adjourn: 6:20 pm.