Grant helps Clark County Combined Health District address food deserts

The Clark County Combined Health District’s closes out 2019 looking back on a third successful year with Springfield Ohio Urban Plantfolk (SOUP) and other community groups in partnering with the Springfield City School District setting up summer farm stands to alleviate hunger and allow healthy food options in south Springfield.

CCCHD now looks forward to launching new opportunities in 2020 on the strength of a renewed $100,000 Creating Healthy Communities competitive five-year grant awarded by the Ohio Department of Health. The current grant expires at the end of 2019.

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According to Emma Smales, CCCHD Health Planning Supervisor, Springfield earned the grant renewal while larger cities including Dayton and Cincinnati didn’t. Part of the requirement is focusing on three priority communities.

The group had previously worked in New Carlisle and saw south Springfield as a food desert, with limited grocery stores and several lower-income families. SOUP operates a community garden at Perrin Woods Elementary School and opened the farm stands there and at the School of Innovation on Selma Rd. on Friday afternoons in the summer months.

The stands offer fresh, locally-grown produce at a low cost and also accepts EBT. While SOUP coordinated the food, CCCHD had the infrastructure to accommodate the program.

“We recognized we could have a big impact in that small area,” Smales said.

The farm stands served 341 customers in 2019 with about 200 pounds of food weekly from purchases or donations. Remaining food is donated or given to volunteers.

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SOUP coordinator Sherry Chen said those numbers are gratifying.

“Having fresh food close to home has made a difference for so many,” she said. “People appreciate it and the foods are good. Everything is going to people who need it and that’s what’s important to us.”

Chen said the farm stands are expected to set up again in June 2020.

Other contributions CCCHD made under the previous five-year cycle included wayfinding and bike trail patrols and improvements at Smith Park in New Carlisle

Smales is enthused about CCCHD’s other plans for the new year, starting with a Produce Prescription pilot program with Rocking Horse Community Center. Dayton Children’s has a similar program being used as a model.

“It’s being looked at as food as medicine,” she said.

Rocking Horse patients can come in for an appointment and can gain a prescription for food for free, which can be especially helpful for people with chronic conditions like diabetes. CCCHD is working with Second Harvest Food Bank for the food.

Smales said it should launch in summer 2020.

Other plans include working with community gardens in the county - namely Enon - and city and with National Trail Parks and Recreation and Promise Neighborhood on Selma Road Park. An accessible path for those with disabilities was recently installed there through the partnership.

“We want to address what the community needs,” Smales said.

For more information on the farm stands, contact Ashley Shearer at 937-390-5600, ext. 255.

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