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They are trying to get Carter Countians healthier

John Thompson • Apr 2, 2017 at 5:32 PM

ELIZABETHTON — If you are a little overweight, smoke, and your diet is skimpy in fruits and vegetables, you are similar to a lot of Tennesseans.

But, recently, several groups have been working independently to promote healthier lifestyles in Carter County and provide education and encouragement to those who want to make lifestyle changes.

One of these groups is working to start a farmers market in downtown Elizabethton. Another group is also promoting a supply of fresh vegetables through the planting of community gardens. A third group is working to have Carter County designated a Healthier Tennessee Community, and others are bringing experts on healthy eating to a seminar next month.

The farmers market is not only intended to promote healthier food choices, but also to encourage farmers and other producers of healthy food in the area.

Josh McKinney, community impact coordinator with the United Way of Carter County, said the market will be jointly run by a market manager and a committee of advisers. The group’s goal is stated on the application form for vendors to the market: “Our mission is to connect farms and their locally produced food to the region, and promote healthy living, local heritage, and closer relationships between neighbors. Our vision looks toward a community where local food producers find customers and support, consumers have local, healthy options for food, and the heritage and history of our community is passed to our following generation.”

The market will operate on Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m. from May 23 until Oct. 31.

It will be set up in the public parking lot on East F Street that lies between First Christian Church and the Elizabethton Police Department. The market rules require that all the products sold in the market must be grown no more than 100 miles away.

McKinney said vendors can sell crafts that have been made by them, but no more that 10 percent of a vendor’s inventory can be in crafts. “We don’t want this to be a flea market,” McKinney said.

An information session for vendors will be held April 8 at 10 a.m. in the meeting room of the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library.

While the farmers market is something new, the public is more familiar with the community gardens. This will be the second year for the gardens. They will be planted in the same locations as last year, with a few new locations as well.

The group working to have Carter County designated a Healthier Tennessee Community is called Grow Carter County. The Healthier Tennessee Community program was initiated to improve Tennessee’s health profile, which currently shows that one in five adults smokes, and one in five high school students uses tobacco. Approximately 34 percent of the population is classified as obese and an additional 34 percent are overweight, and type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure are at epidemic levels.

To be designated an official Healthier Tennessee Community, Carter County must identify wellness champions to lead the initiative that engages people in workplaces, schools and faith organizations, and then work to initiate and sustain communitywide events and activities that support physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco abstinence.

Grow Carter County is expected to track and measure outputs and accomplishments of the program. It has one year to complete the work.

One key way to make Carter County’s future healthier is by encouraging its children to be healthier. Toward that goal, a  program on childhood obesity and the benefits of a plant-based diet will be presented by Jane Esselstyn and her husband, Brian Hart. Esselstyn is the daughter of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a surgeon who promotes a plant-based diet for his patients and wrote “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.”

Esselstyn is a nurse and author of the “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook.” She and her husband will present present the program at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Elizabethton on May 13 from 8 a.m,. to 4 p.m. A plant-based lunch will be provided.

Registration for the program can be done online.

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