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WYN Receives $5,000 in SABP&T Block Grant Funding for Healthy Snack Initiative

Western Youth Network (WYN) received $5,000 in funding from the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant to begin implementing comprehensive health initiatives in the after school program. This funding has allowed WYN to offer healthy snacks and nutrition education for all of the students enrolled.

Western Youth Network has an ongoing partnership with Bare Essentials Natural Market.

This program serves an average of 30 Watauga County students in grades 6-8 from all 9 elementary schools. These initiatives are a part of WYN’s holistic, preventative approach for this population. Evidence suggests that when youth are involved in an after school program that provides a variety of healthy activities and options, it increases their protective factors and helps prevent or delay the onset of drug and alcohol use.

In a time where healthy options are limited for low-income, rural populations, WYN believes that every member of the program deserves at least one healthy snack option per day. Fridays are the kids favorite snack day. They have the chance to build their own trail mix with options ranging from seeds, nuts, and dried fruits. After school leader, Deanne Wesemann, commented “I have been surprised that the kids have adapted so kindly to the healthy snacks. There are many days that they want seconds.”

Margie Mansure, from the NC Cooperative Extension, teaches a nutrition workshop for the youth once a month. She prepares food in front of the students to demonstrate healthy cooking and teaches them the importance of incorporating whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in their diet. After each workshop, each student is sent home with a nutrition packet to look over with their parents. Margie insists that, “the parent’s role is vital because they are the gate keepers of health.”

Western Youth Network has an ongoing partnership with Bare Essentials Natural Market. All of the snack ingredients have been bought at this local, natural grocery store. Most of the products are organic, which increases the nutritional density of the snacks. A group of students from WYN will take a field trip to Bare Essentials in April to tour the store and learn about the differences between conventional and organic food.

WYN intends to implement best practices in order to sustain the program and enact policy change. The program is modeled after a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and staff members have identified ways to continue offering healthy snacks and nutrition education for years to come. A youth enrolled at after school expressively commented on the impact of the program saying that, “the healthy snacks help me nourish my body better and help me build strong muscles.” WYN believes that the program will not only impact the youth immediately, but encourage them to change behaviors and continue making healthy food choices throughout their life.