Mass in Motion--Healthy Hampshire

Mass in Motion--Healthy Hampshire is a collaborative effort of Amherst, Belchertown, Northampton, and Williamsburg health and planning officials focusing on healthy eating, active living, and promotion of healthy and safe physical environments. A related grant also brings in the Hilltowns served by the Hilltown Community Health Center.

Northampton is the lead community and serves as fiscal agent for both grants.

The project is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Mass in Motion Municipal Wellness and Leadership Initiative. The effort is staffed by the Collaborative for Educational Services.

Mass in Motion-Healthy Hampshire is focusing on two main themes, both with a strong focus on low income communities:
1. Improving our transportation system to improve health.
2. Improving our food system to improve health.

Healthy Food for Healthy Living

Health Hampshire's helps facilitate access to healthy food to improve health, especially for those with limited resources:

1. Stretching SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps): Low income residents struggle to stretch their SNAP dollars to the end of the month. Farmers’ markets have fresh healthy food, but often higher prices. Healthy Hampshire works with farmers’ markets in Amherst, Belchertown and Northampton to make sure they have the technology to accept SNAP benefits. They are also facilitating a process (including in Northampton and Amherst) to create a regional SNAP incentive program to double the value of SNAP benefits up to $10 at the farmer’s market. This means that if a person with SNAP benefits swipes their EBT card for $10, they would also receive another $10 in farmers’ market tokens to use on fresh, locally grown food available. Several markets already offer some amount of doubling, but with limited funding. A regional program can create a consistent doubling program and align messaging and communication.

2. The Healthy Hampshire Markets Program provides assistance to small markets and convenience stores to stock and promote healthier products. We have provided markets with nutritional expertise on product selection, promotional materials for their in-store use, and assistance in connecting with wholesale farmers in the area. Many older adults go to these smaller markets for the majority of their household food, and benefit from a wider selection of healthier products. Students and their parents who stop by the market after school benefit from a wider selection of snacks and healthy beverages. And the owners and managers grow their capacity to understand what constitutes and “healthy products” and how to read nutrition labels accurately. (See "Be a Healthy Market: A Toolkit for Storeowners (PDF).")

3. We are currently undertaking a regional assessment of 45 stores in Amherst, Belchertown and Northampton to better understand the barriers that small markets face in stocking and promoting healthier options, as well as which strategies would be most effective in helping increase the amount of healthier products available to consumers.

4. The City of Northampton, as part of its larger Connecticut River Greenway, has offered area low income residents the opportunity to use a portion of the Greenway for a neighborhood community garden. Healthy Hampshire has agreed to lead this effort, working with residents, Northampton Planning and Sustainability, and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. Building a neighborhood community garden increases access to healthy food, a sense of community, and opportunities for physical activity, even for those without ready access to cars.

Healthy Transportation for Healthy Living

Northampton, Amherst, Belchertown and Williamsburg support a complete streets transportation system that supports all modes of transportation, including transit, walking, and bicycling that have traditionally been the weak links in the area. Healthy Hampshire is supporting these efforts to improve active and healthy living for all and provide viable transportation for those isolated without access to single-occupancy vehicles.
1. Healthy Hampshire is supporting bicycle and pedestrian access to River Run condominiums, off of Damon Rd, which is isolated by I-91 and Damon Rd. Residents regularly walk on the narrow shoulder of Damon Rd, under the 91 overpass, to get to their jobs or the grocery stores on King St. Healthy Hampshire works with residents and Northampton Planning and Sustainability to improve access to community facilities by advocating for sidewalks and a connection to the bike trail.
2. Healthy Hampshire is working to support bicycle and pedestrian audits, to guide planning efforts, in all four towns.

Healthy Hilltowns

A portion of the grant funds efforts to improve active living, healthy food, and improving clinical involvement in reducing heart disease, strokes and diabetes. This work includes:
1. An assessment of Healthy Hilltowns communities' policies and actions (PDF)
2. A fall 2016 community engagement process, with the American Institute of Architects Sustainable Design Assessment Team program, to involve community members and a national expert team in identifying next steps and future actions.

See also our plan health: Planning for Healthy Living page for our planned December exhibit at the A.P.E. gallery on some of the design process that supports Healthy Hampshire.

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