Project helps make Herkimer County a healthier place to live


HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - "Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Eat"- that's the goal and the name of a grant funded program in Herkimer County. The County was awarded a grant from the state back in 2010. Friday, a symposium was held to discuss ways that money can make Herkimer County healthier.

"We've gotten together a bunch of people we work with as part of our "Creating Healthy Places" grant," said Adam Hutchinson, Executive Director of Herkimer County HealthNet. "We're putting on a presentation basically to each of those people and to the community at large."

Each year, the county receives about $175,000. That money can be used in several ways- the main goal is to promote health and physical fitness for residents. The grant dollars can go towards building or restoring playgrounds and parks, or fixing up the trails that run through Herkimer County. Ideas were bounced around at the symposium, people were talking about how improving the trails can provide a boost to the local economy.

Money from this grant helped build the new playground at Benton Hall Academy in Little Falls. A ribbon cutting was held earlier this month. "That was a playground project where two dozen organizations all contributed in some way," says Alison Swartz, Project Coordinator for 'Creating Healthy Spaces.'

The program helps provide healthier options at convenience stores. Several stores are already taking part including Melrose Super Market in Frankfort, The Country Store in Salisbury and the Nice N'Easy in Poland.

The stores are all offering more produce to their customers. "Generally when you go into the convenience store you look at unhealthy items, for the most part," says Swartz. So we're making the effort to encourage them to sell healthy items and then also at the same time educate their customers on things they can do with vegetables." That encouragement is coming in the form of brochures that are handed out when a customer buys a vegetable they may not be familiar with. "It's a vegetable of the month brochure and the our partners Cornell Cooperative Extension has created a nice recipe book that focuses on some of those vegetable recipes that they've shared with customers of these convenience stores throughout the year," said Swartz.

Another example of how the money was used is in Ilion. Last year, the village became the first municipality to receive "Complete Streets" funding. Some curbs were cut to make it safer for pedestrians.

The Complete Streets program is designed to improve roadways and sidewalks, creating safer places for people of all abilities. Complete Streets Workshops have been held throughout Herkimer County.

There is still grant money available for towns and village to apply for some "Creating Healthy Places" grant money. The deadline is Friday, November 9th.

To apply, give Herkimer County HealthNet a call at (315) 867-1499. Be aware that you have to have more than an idea to apply for the grant. A plan must be in place.

"Take part in helping to clean your parks. Take part in activities and rediscover recreational areas and keep in mind to eat healthy, play and have fun doing it," said Swartz.

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