From St. Louis, I drove south through Missouri (or Missoura, depending on who you ask) to the Ozarks. Just across the border in Arkansas sits Boone County. A predominantly white region, Boone County is home to several KKK factions that are still present and active (I was told that a community film screening several years ago on the history of U.S. race riots got picketed by Klansmen).
In Harrison, the county seat, and the city where the partner group is based, blacks were nearly universally driven out of town in two separate race riot incidents in 1905 and 1919, earning it the label of a “sundown town." The North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education, located within North Arkansas University, is the IFC partner I met with, and a recently named RWJF Healthy Kids Healthy Communities site. They serve Boone and neighboring Newton Counties. Both counties have a substantial proportion of residents who live below the poverty line (nearly 17 percent in Boone and almost 22 percent in Newton). Over 66 percent of Boone County is overweight or obese, and the group’s mission is both to provide healthier food sources and increase the amount of physical activity opportunities. They are currently working on several initiatives, including a new walking trail, and the installment of community gardens.
At the meeting, one of the organizers noted that while implementing the physical education mandate was somewhat clear cut, the food and nutrition piece was a bit harder to piece together. “We seem like we know what we want to do in terms of physical activity, but are kind of confused in terms of food,” said NAPHE Director Dr. Rick Hinterthuer, adding that issues around food access kept popping up. “You can give a kid beans, but what do you do if the kids doesn’t know how to cook them. This (project) might be a good piece of the puzzle … I hope this can help folks.”