The goal of our project is to increase access to and consumption of healthy, affordable food, preferably locally grown and regionally produced as a means to improve the health and well being of all residents. The main focus is on at risk young children 0-5 years of age and their families. Over time increased number of families will be participating through our initiative components like Pop-Up Farm Stands, Mobile Food Cart, Promotion of Healthy Eating, Community Gardens and Health Champions.

Summary: The Laconia and Franklin GROW initiative will engage farmers, conservation groups, home gardeners, food pantries,  families ( parents of young children) and others  to work in partnership,  to educate,

train, mentor and support parents of young children  in developing  the knowledge and skills needed to prepare  healthy meals and snacks, and to provide increased access to affordable produce.

Activity 1: Cooking Matters

    UNH Cooperative Extension in collaboration with the NH Food Bank has been teaching "Cooking Matters" in Laconia and Franklin for the past three years.  Courses have been offered through the Laconia School District, Interfaith Food Pantry, Franklin Parks and Recreation Community Center, and Family Resource Center of Central NH. The focus has been on implementing Cooking Matters for Adults, Families, Kids and Teens.  This program teaches skills to  participants to be self-sufficient in the kitchen. The six week series covers: Meal Preparation, Grocery Shopping, Food Budgeting, Nutrition. Participants take home a bag of groceries to duplicate the recipes made in class each week. Successes achieved include: filled classes, consistent attendance and high marks from the students.   Last year, UNH taught 11 classes (8 in Laconia and 3 in Franklin) for families and teens. This proposal will expand the number of Cooking Matter's sites/classes in Laconia and Franklin and focus on implementing the curriculum for "Cooking Matters for Parents of Preschoolers"  which addresses the particular concerns regarding the diet of preschool-age children (2 additional classes in year 1, 4 in year 2, 6  in year 3) and provide ongoing support to young families.  Pre and post evaluations will continue to be completed by participants.

Activity 2: Harvest Baskets

    Through current funding from HNH Foundation, a Harvest Basket, a box filled with fruit and vegetables has been established at the Bessie Rowell Center in Franklin  (see picture below).  It is the intent of GROW to expand this initiative.  Boxes will be placed at additional locations in Laconia and Franklin.  The box will be filled with locally grown produce and will be free of charge to those taking the produce. Baskets will be placed at sites where low income, young families are likely to frequent.  These include: Family Resource Center, Child Care Centers, Head Start, Low income housing sites, WIC sites, Interfaith Food Pantry, other.  Partners include the UNH Cooperative Extension,  the Lakes Region Food Network, and the Belknap County Conservation District.  These organizations will provide outreach to the farming community to encourage gleaning and to assist in providing gleaning services. "Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest" (Wikipedia). Locally grown produce will be shared amongst the Harvest Baskets and local food pantries.  The GROW project coordinator will work with Harvest Basket sites  to engage them in managing the basket over time to ensure sustainability. Affordable, healthy recipes and nutritional information will be available at Basket locations.

Click here to view flyer

Activity 3 : Pick a Better Snack

    This social marketing campaign out of the Iowa Department of Public Health encourages kids to eat healthy snacks with a focus on fruits and vegetables.  With funding from UNH Cooperative Extension SNAP grant, LRPPH and HEAL Coalitions, project staff have been taking pictures of Laconia and Franklin residents

(fire fighters, families, others).  These will be turned into posters with healthy eating messaging.  The funds and timeline for this project are limited (ends September, 2015).  Expansion of Pick a Better Snack would compliment  the other GROW activities and allow more posters, fliers, public service announcements and videos to be distributed throughout the community focusing on distribution to sites where low income families are.

Activity 4: Local Food Guide

    Local Food Guide of the Lakes Region serves as a directory for farms, pick-your-own locations, community supported agriculture (CSA) shares, and where to visit a local farmers’ market. Sixty-two farms are listed in the guide.”  The guide was printed in 2015 and is expected  to be revised and reissued in 2018.  Nutritional messaging i.e. Pick a Better Snack, gardening tips and donating produce to harvest baskets, food pantries will be included in the 2018 guide and will be distributed widely to include locations where low income families are likely to frequent.

Intended Outcomes for the Target Population

Families with young children in Laconia and Franklin will report an increase in access to and consumption of fruit and vegetables through:
1. More parents of young children will participate in educational programs related to healthy food preparation and shopping.
2 .Parents who participate will demonstrate an increased knowledge of healthy food choices and strategies for stretching existing food dollars to include more healthy choices.
3. Families will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at more locations in the community where they currently spend time. 
4. Parents will have access to an expanded peer support network to support long term change.

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