By Justin Saglio
Northborough – Allison Lane, recreation director for the town of Northborough, announced during the June 27 Board of Selectmen meeting that the town has received a grant to help promote a healthy lifestyle among the town's youth. The grant, which is nearly $60,000, was awarded by the MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation (MCHCF). This is the second year in a row that Northborough has been awarded the grant.
The grant money will help to fund “Building a healthy Northborough,” a program designed by Lane and her colleagues in 2009. The program was founded after town officials became concerned about the rising body mass index rates in children attending Northborough's public schools, according to Lane.
“It wasn's surprising that there were overweight children; it was surprising that there was nothing being done about it,” Lane said.
Awarding over $30 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and governments, the MCHCF seeks to improve health services in the region, according to the organization's website at www.mchcf.org.
The additional funds mark the beginning of the second phase of the “Building a healthy Northborough” program. Board of Health (BOH) officials will lead an initiative to enhance the community gardens, fitness education programs and after-school exercise programs that were implemented in 2010.
Various health programs will be expanded, and new initiatives will be formed with the second infusion of funds.
“Take 10,” a classroom physical activity program that has already been implemented in the Marion E. Zeh Elementary School, will be expanded to the town's remaining three elementary schools.
The BOH will begin to work with Northborough restaurants in an effort to promote healthy eating by asking restaurant owners to provide calorie content and nutrition facts on their menus.
The Northborough community gardens will be expanded to add 10 additional plots to the gardens that were built on Valentine Road in 2010.
During the selectmen's meeting, the BOH received praise from the board regarding the news that Northborough had again won the grant.
“Realistically, this [the various programs] would probably never happen without a grant,” said Selectmen Chair Jeff Amberson. “You all should get a lot of credit for a lot of work.”
Selectman Aaron Hutchins questioned the involvement of the town's BOH and the School Health Advisory subcommittee in ensuring the quality of school lunches.
“My question is, “Does this committee have any sway or pull over the food served in schools?”” he said.
BOH officials hope that the town will be given a third grant in 2012. According to Lane, a third phase would focus on educating whom she said are most responsible for overweight children – parents.
“Life is hectic and going to McDonald's is easy…but I think we need to get the parents to realize sometimes it's more important to cook with your family,” Lane said. “90 percent of it comes from the parents.”