Smoky River brings programs to the people Smoky River’s Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) program coordinator has taken to spending lots of time in the local IGA as September nears—and not because she needs to stock up on supplies. Instead, Victoria Champion sets up an in-store table to champion Communities ChooseWell’s 21 Days to Healthy Eating Challenge. Besides handing out information, free snacks and coffee, she helps people register for the challenge on the spot. And her effort pays off. In 2012, the region boasted 107 registrants—a full one-third of everyone who registered across the entire province. Besides helping Smoky River win the Creating Healthy Opportunities award, that feat provided a list of likely participants for programming all through the year. That’s no accident. The Smoky River region (which includes Falher, Mclennan, Donnelly, Girouxville and surrounding area) very deliberately uses 21 Days to Healthy Eating as a season kick-off for wellness initiatives. Some who sign up also attend NutriFit, weekly sessions featuring healthy snacks and exercise. Some drop in on Live Strong, monthly “clean living” bees that mix cooking with learning through food games. Some join a walking group that heads out to various trails to keep things interesting. Some participate in the local Iron Chef Challenge, which runs in February—with honey as the must-have ingredient in honour of
Falher’s status as Honey Capital of Canada. “Attendance keeps growing and the impact on the community has been great,” Victoria says. “It is awesome to see people out with their kids, playing outside, going for walks—and putting down the bag of chips to opt for the apple.” Taking care to practise what she preaches, she avoids serving pop and juice during programs. It’s part of her 2013 eating goal of helping people eliminate sugar drinks, which she terms “a huge struggle in our community.”
We have noticed a significant change in lifestyles, and we believe it is important because people are healthier. We have chosen to encourage as much as we can and the people have chosen to assume a healthier lifestyle. Those who haven’t seem to be encouraged by those who have.
Victoria Champion Program Coordinator FCSS, Smoky River
The key to making a difference, she says, is meeting people where they’re at. To publicize Live Strong, she took a flyer to every single office in town to be posted in staff rooms or coffee stations. She asks grocery stores to put the region’s “Parade of Programs” brochures in shoppers’ bags. She spends time in schools,
Smoky River in Brief which see her presence as a win-win for the students and families they serve. She attends meeting of all four recreation societies in the region, in Falher, McLennan, Donnelly and Girouxville. She runs programs at area recreation facilities to keep clean living top of mind.
4,581 in region
62 km south of Peace River and 413 km northwest of Edmonton
These days, Victoria fields as many as six inquiries a month from residents who want to achieve a healthier lifestyle. It’s a sign that momentum is building, she says. “Having those people come to us, rather than promote-promote-promote without hearing anything back means we’re doing something right.”
Family and Community Support Services
Local municipalities, recreation societies, schools
Creating Healthy Opportunities, 2012 & 2013
Go to the people rather than waiting for them to come to you
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