Through the One for Good initiative, stations are set up throughout area stores to educate shoppers about healthful choices.

Eating well works best not as a 30-day fast, a fad diet or a New Year’s resolution, but as a lifestyle.

Establishing a healthy lifestyle works best as a coordinated effort of not only individuals, but communities and the organizations and industries that are part of them.

Through public and private collaboration, Healthy Washington County works to provide people in the region with ways to understand their personal health status and realize their healthiest potential.

Paul Frey, president and chief executive officer of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said The Consumer Goods Forum, an international program comprised of large retailers, took note of forward-thinking initiatives within Washington County.

“The U.S. Chamber gave me a call. They heard about our wellness initiative, Healthy Washington County, and asked if we would be interested in a pilot program,” Frey said. “We said we would.”

About two years ago, Washington County jumped on board with the The Consumer Goods Forum’s One for Good program, which hosts an ongoing series of community events focused on healthier food choices, exercise, smoking cessation and medication adherence. Global participants include Barilla, Campbell’s, Pepsi, Kellogg’s and many more.

Upcoming events include Walmart Wellness Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at the Garland Groh Boulevard and Walmart Drive stores in Hagerstown. Organized in part by Family Healthcare of Hagerstown, the Washington County Health Department and Maryland Area Health Education Center West, the events will feature vendors with education materials, handouts and giveaways.

Relatable Language

“The idea was to put the initiative into language that the public would understand,” Frey said. “One for Good embraces the idea of one small step at a time for better health. If people are not eating fruits and vegetables, to eat one fruit or vegetable a day. Don’t try to change your whole life in a week, but take it one step at a time.”

Large store events typically offer five or six stations where consumers can learn about eating more healthfully.

“One of the reasons why we connected with The Consumer Goods Forum is because we can reach out to 10, 20, 30 people at a time, while Walmart, Walgreens and Martin’s see hundreds, thousands of people, sometimes in a day. They are much more visible and accessible,” he said.

Through collaboration with manufacturers, store events generate conversations and excitement about healthy eating among store associates and customers.

“As a customer, I can go into Walmart. If I like yogurt, someone will teach me how to look at the food label to determine how much sugar is in the yogurt,” Frey said. “If I choose unflavored, they will talk about things like what I can do to add flavor by mixing in raisins or nuts.”

Station workers have similar conversations in the cereal aisle and throughout the store.

One for Good partnerships benefit the entire community, Frey said.

“This is for the wellness of Washington County and our residents. Something we have going for us is that the business community is very involved,” he said. “If we can get this message through to employers, we will have a healthier workforce. That makes us more attractive to businesses who want to grow here and relocate here. So, this really is a workforce-development issue in the big picture.”

Spreading Positive Effects

Cindy Earle, Meritus Health’s manager of community health and outreach, works with One for Good on the initiative’s collaboration with the farmers market at the Robinwood Professional Center atrium, which operates from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays from March through October.

“Our shared value is awareness,” Earle said. “We want, from the Meritus side, to promote awareness of healthy eating through providing recipes, health-education classes and cooking demonstrations.”

Last month, market workers demonstrated how to make a kale wrap.

Stations at the market also provide education about using available resources to identify healthful foods. For example, she said, Martin’s uses a star system on shelf tags and packages to help customers choose products with consideration of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, whole grains, fats and other factors.

“Some stores are marketing so that consumers can easily recognize that something is considered to be a healthy product. Walmart also has a system,” she said. “We are partnering with both the for-profit world and nonprofit public-health world in order to make an impact on the health of our community.”

Pasta manufacturer Barilla donated a mobile kitchen to Meritus.

“It has different hot plates and utensils. We had a training for some staff, and we are now able to do some cooking demonstrations. We can increase awareness by saying, ‘Here are some recipes for you and this is how to make it.’ We use produce from the farmers market that some of the farmers might be selling, along with some of the pasta.”

Through a partnership with Kellogg’s, once a month, the market has a table offering free samples of Special K cereal.

“Most people think about cereal as something that you pour in a bowl with milk, then you go ahead and eat it,” Earle said. “Kellogg’s said, ‘Wait a minute. We have created, with dietitians, recipes for folks who are busy and want healthier choices.’”

Local One for Good events are planned involving various agencies, manufacturers and stores throughout the year.

“There are probably 30 organizations in our county that support this in some way, shape or form,” Earle said.

The local One for Good initiative is the only one in the United States, Earle said. Partners have applied for a grant through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in hopes of compiling and sharing data to support similar programs elsewhere in the future.

“We hope to have data to show that people are making better choices, one choice at a time, for the good of their health,” she said. “If we can show there was a positive effect, then corporations will spread this type of initiative throughout the country, along with other organizations.”

For more information about farmers market events, community members are welcome to call Earle’s office at 301-790-8624.  Find out more information about One for Good.

By Alicia Notarianni

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail