By: Jennifer Brady, CPHMC Project Coordinator
In September, thanks to Loudoun County’s close proximity to Washington D.C., our CPHMC team was able to host both Anna-Maria, our program manager, and Quinney for a site visit. While the visit was remiss of outdoor adventures, it was full of meetings with key stakeholders in our community and, of course, good things to eat.
The day started at Loudoun County’s central government center building where our sub-coalition team meets weekly to discuss progress on our CAP. The week that Anna-Maria and Quinney visited, the team was excitedly reviewing the preliminary analysis of our WIC survey results. The WIC survey was designed by our team and was conducted over two months this summer at the local WIC agency’s two clinic sites; 191 families were interviewed, representing close to 12% of the local WIC population. Initial findings reveal that women are not meeting their breastfeeding goals and there is limited knowledge of vitamin D supplementation in our population. At this meeting was: Jennifer Brady the Project Coordinator for the CPHMC project, Dr. Janine Rethy the Physician Advisor for the leadership team, Dr. Sina Gallo from George Mason University, Dr. Gallo’s research assistant, Amara Channel Doig, and two GMU students: Michelle Apple and Raechel Eddy. Raechel is one of two nutrition students from GMU who is currently completing her 200-hour practicum with our team. Also, a special guest appearance was made by the Loudoun County Health Director, Dr. David Goodfriend.
Following the meeting, we took a quick trip upstairs to show Anna-Maria and Quinney the permanent Nursing Moms’ lounge created for the Loudoun County Government before heading to lunch. Everyone was impressed with the design of the room as well as the amount of educational materials available for employees.
Since the Loudoun County Government building is located in the historic district of downtown Leesburg, it is within walking distance to many great restaurants. A weeks long debate over whether to go out for soup (we all know how much Quinney loves soup!) or go out for tacos resulted in a trip to Señor Ramon’s Taqueria, one of our leadership team’s favorite places to eat. The empanadas from Señor Ramon’s were recently voted one of the best new foods in all of Northern Virginia! Lunch was delicious as always and we used the time to tell Anna-Maria and Quinney more about Loudoun County.
Following lunch, we went to visit a coalition partner organization, Mobile Hope, an organization working to improve the social determinants of health for the most at-risk youth in our county. They serve children 24 years of age or younger who are at-risk, precariously housed, or homeless. Mobile Hope has a bus that goes out to seven different locations in the county twice a week to deliver their services, including everything from supplying basic needs items to assisting with Medicaid enrollment. Mobile Hope also has an amazingly well-organized and inviting warehouse where families can also access their services and “shop” for supplies: clothing, books, toothbrushes, food, and much more. Donna Fortier, CEO and Founder of Mobile Hope and Loudoun Pediatric Obesity Coalition member, took us on a tour of the facility and the bus and gave a very thorough description of the services they provide to our guests.
Mobile Hope has been working closely with our leadership team to increase fresh fruit and vegetable access for vulnerable families and raise awareness of assistance programs available. This summer, Mobile Hope worked with LPOC members to become a part of the gleaning network in the county, and as a result, increased the amount of fresh produce they were able to provide as part of the bags of food they distribute on their bus routes. After being trained by our leadership team on assistance programs available in the county, Mobile Hope invited us to attend one of their monthly shopping nights where our leadership team was able to provide education to families on assistance programs and offer on-site enrollment.
From Mobile Hope, we hopped in our cars and just a short drive away found ourselves at Loudoun Hunger Relief (LHR), a food pantry that provides fresh groceries to those in need in our county. We met with Erika Huddleston, coalition member and Associate Director of LHR, who gave us a tour of the pantry while telling us about what they do and who they serve. Last year, LHR served approximately 11,000 individuals through 73,000 visits and gave out over 1.2 million pounds of food! Erika told us that the food pantry is working hard to improve the nutritional quality of the food they provide and, on the day we visited, Anna-Maria and Quinney were able to see the abundance of fresh produce at the pantry gleaned from our local farmer’s markets. Loudoun Hunger Relief and the Loudoun County Health Department are currently partnering to find additional ways to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for vulnerable populations in the county.
If the DC Metro area is known for something, it’s known for terrible traffic, so after visiting Loudoun Hunger Relief, Jennifer, Anna-Maria, and Quinney made a quick stop at a local coffee shop before our visitors got in their cars to head home and hopefully beat the traffic. I never found out how long it took them to make it back east, but I hope it wasn’t too stressful! We really enjoyed the privilege of having both Program Managers at our site visit and hope they will both be able to visit us again for any exciting happenings with the Loudoun Pediatric Obesity Coalition or for hikes in Shenandoah National Park.