Tensas Parish event aims to improve healthful activities

Karol Osborne  |  9/13/2016 8:27:08 PM

( 08/23/16) ST. JOSEPH, La. – The Tensas Community Health Center hosted a “Wild About Tensas” health fair event on Aug. 11. Other partners were the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities project and Cross Keys Bank.

Over 300 people filled the Tensas Parish Ag Arena for the Wild About Tensas celebration, where parish volunteers pooled their resources to kick off National Health Center Week in St. Joseph.

“Nobody has things like this here,” said LSU AgCenter agent Victoria McDonald. “Free food, fun, family oriented, this is great!”

During the four-hour event, children and adults enjoyed music, games and prizes, educational demonstrations, face painting, a petting zoo and more.

Promoting physical activity and teaching people how to eat better is the goal, said McDonald, who directs the AgCenter Healthy Communities project in Tensas and Madison parishes.

“The community really came together,” McDonald said. When rain was forecast for the afternoon, volunteers organized the move from the downtown amphitheater in less than 24 hours.

Tensas resident Raven Birdon said she understands the importance of living in a healthy community and wants to see progress and recruit more people to get involved.

“The kids are really excited. They are all smiles, all sweaty; they’re running around, which is what we wanted,” said Emily Coady, director of Teach for America for northeast Louisiana.

“I want to see more of this, where we’re coming together for positive reasons and promote healthy activities for our children,” said Coady, a member of the Healthy Communities coalition in both parishes.

Children hovered around the bike blender stations supervised by AgCenter SNAP-ED agent Alethia Lawrence.

The modified bicycle with a blender attachment intrigued young and old alike.

“In order to make the smoothie, they have to ride the bike to make the blender work,” Lawrence explained. The healthy snack was made with bananas and strawberries, spinach, honey and apple juice.

“This is the biggest event we’ve had,” said Elisabeth Altazan, AgCenter Healthy Communities program manager in Tensas, Madison and St. Helena parishes. “It’s just a fun way to bring the community together and let them know what we’re doing.”

Precious Richardson and Sydney Cephus, both seniors at Tensas High School and Regional 4-H Teen Leadership Board members, assisted Lawrence at the bike blender station.

“The most fun was working with so many people from the community,” Richardson said. “We don’t have a lot of events. The education of the community is probably the best thing.”

Kristen VandeVen with Cross Keys Bank, who serves on the Healthy Communities coalition, spent the day promoting financial literacy and budgeting. She believes helping children and parents learn about healthy food and taking better care of themselves means less money spent for health care.

“You say overweight, not obese, because obese hurts people’s feelings. But it scares people. It gets people eating right,” McDonald said.

Many residents walk because they don’t have transportation, she said. Improving the walkability in these communities will increase safety and promote physical activity for health and recreation.

Developing bike and walking trails, painting crosswalks and building and repairing sidewalks are some of the ideas being considered by coalition members.

The Healthy Communities project is funded through a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that partners with the LSU AgCenter, the Southern University Ag Center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

(This article has been revised to reflect that this event was hosted by the Tensas Community Health Center.)

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Tensas Elementary fourth-grader Thomas Mason uses peddle power to make a healthy smoothie. Regional 4-H Teen Leaders Precious Richardson, left, and Sydney Cephus, center, demonstrated the popular bike blender at the Wild About Tensas celebration held on Aug. 11 in celebration of National Health Center Week. (Photo by Karol Osborne, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter agent Victoria McDonald distributes nutrition information, water bottles, gardening pads and other resources promoting health and physical activity for Tensas Parish residents at the Wild About Tensas celebration on Aug. 11 in celebration of National Health Center Week. McDonald directs the AgCenter Healthy Communities project in Tensas and Madison parishes. (Photo by Karol Osborne, LSU AgCenter)

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