NWA visits Kenosha, Wisconsin!

By: Tatjana Bicanin, RKCAA Project Facilitator

Exciting things are happening in Kenosha Wisconsin as a result of the Community Partnerships for Healthy Mothers and Children (CPHMC) grant. Grocery stores are brainstorming methods to promote and highlight healthy foods. Farmers are providing suggestions on ways to increase the foot traffic at long-standing community markets with lively signage and evening hours.

Representatives from physician offices, the Health Department, UW-Extension, Racine Kenosha Community Action Agency – WIC, and the YMCA are abuzz developing a non-pharmaceutical prescription pad to improve the health of Kenosha residents. K-HIP, the Kenosha Health Improvement Project is taking the lead on coordinating the activities which will bring about Policy, System and/or Environmental changes and ultimately make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.

Quinney Harris, Grant Project Manager visited Racine Kenosha Community Action Agency (RKCAA) on Wednesday, August 10th . During his site visit, he had an opportunity to learn about the progress on the Community Action Plan (CAP), attend two work team meetings, hear how the CPHMC grant ties into current RKCAA and community initiatives, and tour the city with Tatjana Bicanin, K-HIP Facilitator.  

The day began with an early morning Workgroup #3 meeting to begin brainstorming on the non-pharmaceutical prescription pad to promote healthy eating, physical activity and mental wellness. Dr. Junith Thompson, an OB/GYN in the community is on the leadership team and an active member of K-HIP and Workgroup #3, is leading the effort to engage local physicians in the initiative. Her passion for WIC’s work to improve the health of young families through nutrition education, breastfeeding support, father involvement, and connecting families to health and community resources  provides the medical community with information about WIC services from a medical lens. 

After the meeting, Tatjana introduced Quinney to Farmer Greg. Green Acres Farm is an on-site farm stand every Wednesday at RKCAA which provides WIC families and the community with an accessible opportunity to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables with WIC FMNP checks, Senior Fruit & Vegetable vouchers, or cash. On the first windshield tour, Quinney met farmers at Columbus Park and Tatjana showed him the locations of the other community farmer’s market sites. A significant early success of the project has been an increase in farmers who accept WIC FMNP checks. Workgroup 2 led this effort by educating farmers about WIC and building relationships with them. 

Workgroup 2 also met on August 10th. Additionally, Quinney learned about the promotional work being done to inform Snap recipients about using their FoodShare card at Harbor Market and the new “double bucks” program. Harbor Market is Wisconsin’s second largest farmer’s market and hosts a variety of vendors every Saturday from 9am-2pm.A discussion occurred regarding the lack of access low income families face, and additional transportation opportunities have been proposed. In fact, Kenosha YMCA’s streetcar proposal from the Frank Neighborhood project to the Harbor Market was presented with a conversation on how K-HIP can assist with data and marketing. 

Possibilities abound for new on-site and in-store placement and promotion strategies for healthy foods at grocery stores, and Quinney’s second windshield tour highlighted local grocery stores participating in this initiative. Alana Perez-Valliere, a WIC participant serving on the leadership team and Workgroup #2 is also a Nutrition Educator through UW-Extension. She is bringing valuable insight into strategies that will be effective for busy WIC families. The team is regularly communicating with the store managers and store dietitians to develop strategies that can be sustainable and achievable at the local level. Their enthusiasm and willingness to explore opportunities will be a win-win for the stores and the Kenosha community. 

Over lunch at the Waterfront Warehouse restaurant, Quinney had an opportunity to converse with community partners and RKCAA staff who are committed to PSE work that will improve access to healthy food and beverage options and increase the number of people in Kenosha County with improved access to opportunities for chronic disease prevention/risk reduction/management through community and clinical linkages.