Healthy Schools Healthy Communities (HSHC) has operated in Texas County since 2013 to promote projects and programs that help kids and their families be more active and eat a healthier diet. According to HSHC Texas County wellness coordinator Earlene Stoops, numerous plans are taking shape to further the cause in 2018.

HSHC is an initiative of the Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) primarily designed to address the national trend of childhood obesity.

The MFH was formed in February 2000 as a result of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s changeover from a nonprofit to for-profit company, because federal law requires that proceeds from the sale of tax-exempt entities be directed toward charitable purposes. In 2014, Cabool was the first area community to benefit from the five-year HSHC grant period. Houston was added in 2015 and Willow Springs in 2016.

According to MFH data, 28 percent of Missouri kids ages 10 to 17 are obese or overweight. HSHC’s mission is to bring together schools, community organizations, businesses, parents and residents to reduce that percentage by helping increase access to healthy food and physical activity.

Stoops oversees the administration of HSHC funding in Texas County, and has been instrumental in the manifestation of numerous projects and programs funded by the initiative. She said that while details are being worked out with regard to several items, a lot is on HSHC’s agenda for Houston in 2018.

Some of the plans:

• “GirlTrek” will be introduced in March.

It is billed as “a national health movement” that basically encourages groups of women to gather and go walking.

• A restroom will be installed at Rutherford Park on the west side of Houston. The park received major upgrades in 2017, with the addition of a drinking fountain and health-related equipment for people of all ages.

“This is something a lot of people have wanted and it’s much needed there,” Stoops said. “It should happen in 2018 but it might take until 2019.”

• A “We-Saw” will be installed at Emmett Kelly Park in Houston. It’s a four-person see-saw that can handle adult-sized bodies.

• A set of molded bucket swings will be installed at Emmett Kelly Park. They will be similar to the set put in at Rutherford Park; they’re suitable for all kids, including disabled.

“I know of four disabled kids who regularly use the existing ones,” Stoops said.

• Bicycle safety classes will be conducted for kindergarteners.

• A climbing wall will be installed at Westside Park in Houston.

• Multiple restaurants are expected to offer a “healthier alternatives” section on their menus. Stoops said The Frying Pan (on South U.S. 63) will lead the way in the near future.

• The Houston School District will introduce the “Organwise Guy” program, which utilizes puppets and humor to educate middle school and elementary school students about bodily organ health.

• “Fruit for Kids” will be introduced at Town and Country Supermarket. Kids will be offered free fruit to munch on while their parents shop.

• “Kid Tasted, Kid Approved” will be introduced at Town and Country Supermarket. Kids will be given the chance to sample fruits they might not have tried before.

“I want them to be able to try fruits they aren’t used to eating,” Stoops said. “We’ll keep track of the favorites and have statistics about it.”

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