LSU AgCenter, community partners promote healthy living in Assumption Parish

Johnny Morgan  |  11/21/2018 6:01:32 PM

(11/21/18) NAPOLEONVILLE, La. — Encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables and to move more has been a long-term goal of the LSU AgCenter. And now partners are joining the effort in Assumption Parish.

In a parish that is known for agriculture, there are still a number of food deserts, said AgCenter regional nutrition agent Robin Landry.

“We are a very rural parish that produces the most sugar in the state. We don’t have any chain stores, and transportation for many of our residents can be a problem,” she said.

Health issues such as diabetes also are becoming more prevalent in the parish, she said.

Starting with middle school students, Landry, through the AgCenter Healthy Communities initiative, has implemented a three-week nutrition and physical activity module that is taught by physical education teachers who are trained to deliver the program.

Lessons and food tastings are part of the program, which just completed its second year.

“For the final tasting, we worked with the hospital to prepare 1,100 servings of salsa for the students to try. In the first year, the recipe didn’t go over so well with the students, so we adjusted the recipe and made a more traditional salsa for them to try this year,” Landry said with a laugh. This year it was a success.

For the past several years, the AgCenter and Assumption Community Hospital have made some positive changes for the residents of the parish.

Through a $15,000 grant that Landry received through the AgCenter Smart Bodies program, Landry has purchased materials to build gardens and provide signage and other equipment to add to a walking path at the hospital.

Brian Tripode, pharmacy supervisor at the hospital, noted early struggles to get a program started. The hospital sought out the AgCenter as a partner to jumpstart the effort.

A nutritional education program from that partnership provided information to the students so they can make better choices as they grow older.

The hospital secured a $30,000 grant from the Franciscan Ministry Fund for a quarter-mile walking path.

“This was a way to tie in the efforts in the classroom with physical activities,” Tripode said. “The collaboration and progress that was made in the classroom continued as the AgCenter pledged funds through a grant to help with the installation of plants, trees, benches, trash bins and planters that border the path.”

Local government then stepped in and pledged funds for the next phase of the project, which will provide functional exercise equipment.

Stephanie Domingue, administrative assistant at the hospital, said one of her goals is to get the word out and ensure all entities are recognized for their contributions.

“We will be doing a dedication for the walking path in spring 2019 once all work has been completed, and we want to recognize all of the partners who have helped to make this a reality,” she said.

Landry said one of the special features of the project at the hospital is the signage along the walking path.

“We developed signage that is labeled ‘snap it’ so users of the path can take pictures with their phones and use the information from the signs when they walk in other areas,” she said.

In addition to working in the middle schools in the parish, Landry is also working with Head Start and special needs students.

“We’ve constructed raised-bed gardens for the special needs kids so they can roll their wheelchairs closer to the gardens to make the work easier for them,” she said.

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LSU AgCenter regional nutrition agent Robin Landry explains the “Git Fit Ba-You” program to a group recently at the AgCenter Assumption Parish office. The program is a joint venture between LSU AgCenter and Assumption Community Hospital that was fostered by a community health needs assessment. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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Brian Tripode, pharmacy supervisor at Assumption Community Hospital, explains how the hospital and the LSU AgCenter formed a partnership to develop and improve the health of residents in Assumption Parish. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter regional nutrition agent Robin Landry discusses the importance of developing a walking path at the Assumption Parish Community Hospital to help parish residents stay fit and healthy. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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One of the signs showing the partnerships involved in creating a walking path at the Assumption Community Hospital in Napoleonville. Assumption Parish has one of the highest diabetes rates in the state. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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