The event, which coincided with free tomato sandwich day at the Walker County Farmer’s Market, aimed to highlight local resources for fresh produce as well as a new health initiative called Shape Up Walker County.
Shape Up is the vision of state Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper). Reed, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said he felt led to act after learning that Walker County ranked 65th out of 67 Alabama counties in overall health in 2011.
This year, the county fell to 67th in the same national study, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.
“The idea that we cannot do any better in regards to the health of our citizens is not acceptable for us in Walker County. We want to do better. We can do better,” Reed said Saturday.
The Shape Up program hosts healthy grocery shopping tours and also advocates more nutritious options in checkout aisles and concession stands.
Community gardening is another focus of the new initiative.
Students from the University of Alabama helped plan Garden Fest to increase awareness about the 39 raised beds available for rent near the Walker County Farmer’s Market. They also established gardens at area elementary schools as part of their summer internship.
Local programs such as the Walker County Soil and Water Conservation District and Capstone Rural Health Center had booths at Garden Fest. Area businesses provided water and healthy snacks for participants while the students led children’s activities and handed out pamphlets on healthy living.
“Even if it’s for just one family, for one classroom, for one neighborhood in Walker County, if we can make a difference by bringing attention to the idea of living a healthier lifestyle, then it’ll be worth it,” Reed said.