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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Partner in the Spotlight: Poe Center for Health Education

Poe Center Health Educator Natalia Solera Ortiz joined students at Lincoln Heights Elementary to talk about healthy food and physical activity.

Many students across Wake County and the state know the The Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education from field trips. Thanks to  SNAP Education funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, even more children are benefitting from the Poe Center’s mission and resources with direct services for several child care facilities and elementary schools.

Child Care Gardens

At the child care level, Remington Ham, Poe’s Garden Specialist, is providing technical assistance to three child care centers in Wake County: A Safe Place Child Care Center and Apple Tree Day Care in Southeast Raleigh and at Telemon Head Start in Knightdale. The needs are different at each of the child care facilities, so the support provided and the way the funds are used at each site varies.

At a Safe Place, there is large established production garden already as well as an exploratory garden for the children. With the funding Poe is providing via the USDA grant, A Safe Place is building a greenhouse and starting an herb garden.

Because this work is designed to help the child care centers incorporate gardening as part of everyday life at each of the centers, the Poe Center has been creating kits that the teachers can use about what’s growing in the garden, including an activity and something to taste. “We’re providing them with the tools for instant activities, so they don’t have to invest the time in that type of planning,” said Remington Ham.

At Telemon, there is not an established garden, so the Poe Center is helping literally from the ground up and supporting staff to plan and plant the garden and integrate it into daily life at the center.

The Poe & Grow Garden website, launched about a year and half ago, will soon be updated but it’s a great visual resource with links to more information for those who want to start gardens. The goal in creating this resource for educators was to provide just three resources on each topic so it would not be overwhelming to anyone looking to start a garden.

Supporting School Wellness

Supporting East Garner Elementary in Garner and Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina, along with two others in neighboring counties, the Poe Center is bringing its Be Well with Poe program to the schools. They start by serving on the school wellness teams and helping them complete the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program assessment (which is the basis of AHA’s Brain and Bodies Award for local recognition for healthy schools).

Based on the assessment results, they create an action plan together with school staff, determine what the needs are, bring together resources and help the schools secure mini-grants for wellness.

Poe Center staff also provides nutrition and physical activity education to every child in the school. “Poe Center staff took over P.E. class for a week this past year to offer the Be Well with Poe program,” said Rachel Pohlman, MPH, RD, LDN, Nutrition Program Manager at the Poe Center. “We also help with events such as Bike to School Day, reinforcing the work the school is doing on wellness.”

Poe Center staff are also conducting teacher workshops, which include an hour of continuing education credit, at these schools on Promoting Health Literacy: The Connection between Health and Academics, which focuses on the effectiveness of incorporating physical activity and nutrition into classroom instruction. Any school that is Snap-Ed eligible can contact the Poe Center for this training for its teachers; non-SNAP schools may also join in but will need to pay for the training.

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