- Collins, Becky B.
The overall health of Appling County citizens is below the state and national averages. In efforts to improve the health of the citizens, gleaning volunteers are harvesting fresh produce and donating it to feed those on a limited income.
In Georgia, 32% of adults are obese, while in Appling County 39% of adults are obese (CHR, 2020). Obesity and overweight contribute to the development of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), hypertension, diabetes, cancer and osteoarthritis. CVD is the number one killer in Georgia. For every 100,000 people in Georgia, 341.1 people die from heart disease annually compared to 320 per 100,000 nationally (CDC, DHDSP 2016-2018). For every 100,000 people in Appling County, 475.9 adults die from all heart related disease each year. Hypertension contributes to heart disease, kidney disease, diabetic complications and stroke. For every 100,000 people in Appling County, 110.2 people die each year from stroke compared to the Georgia average of 85. While 10.5% of the US population has been diagnosed with diabetes, 11.4% of Georgians have been diagnosed with diabetes(CDC, 2020). Appling County is higher than the state average at 15% of adults diagnosed with diabetes (CDC, 2017). Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Georgia and the US (CDC, 2017). While Georgia has similar incidence and mortality rates to the U.S. for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer, several counties, particularly rural counties, have rates that far exceed national and state averages (SEER, 2013). For every 100,000 people in Appling County, 416.8 people are diagnosed with cancer; cancer mortality rates are 173.3 people (CDC, 2017). Risk for 1/3 of cancers could be reduced by achieving a healthy weight, eating a healthier diet, not smoking and being more physically active (AICR 2007) . Out of the six statistics mentioned above, Appling County ranks higher than Georgia does five times. In addition, only 20% of the population of Appling County has access to exercise opportunities, which is below state norms at 75%. Appling County also ranks higher, at 38% in physical inactivity, than the state at 28%, according to County Health Rankings (2020).
As one of the eleven counties chosen to receive funding from Healthcare Georgia Foundation Two Georgias Initiative, Appling County formed the Coalition for a Healthy Appling County in 2017. Two of the goals of the Strategic Plan are to: Empower all Appling County residents to eat a healthy diet and to Empower all Appling County residents to be physically active. As chair of the Healthy Eating Committee, agent helped choose strategies to meet the goal of this committee. One of the strategies chosen was to support the establishment of a Gleaning Program, which gives volunteers the opportunity to gather leftover produce after a harvest to donate to those in need. This project addresses both goals mentioned above by providing fresh produce to limited income individuals and families, and promotes physical activity to those who glean. In addition, it has helped foster community and a sense of belonging among the volunteers who enjoy working together for a good cause.
Extension partnered with the Coalition for a Healthy Appling County to form the Appling County Glean Team in October 2018, under the direction of Society of St. Andrew. Ten farmers from Appling and surrounding counties have been involved by donating produce that was left after the harvest. One farmer has donated an acre of his land to plant a garden just for this project. Nine volunteers have been trained to be Field Supervisors. Fifty-nine volunteers have gleaned, with a total of 383 volunteer hours, with a value of $10,417.60, based on Independent Sector–Dollar Value of a Volunteer. Some of the volunteers included 4-H’ers, clients from the Appling County Senior Center and Pineland Adult Mental Health Service Center. The gleaning program has provided adults and youth opportunities to give back. Since the project’s inception, volunteers of all ages have gleaned 33 times, and one farm donated pallets of blueberries seven times. This year, four 4-H’ers donated one of their show pigs for slaughter to the food bank. In total, 33,992 pounds of produce and 650 pounds of pork, equaling 34,642 pounds of fresh food, have been donated to feed limited income citizens of Appling and surrounding counties. According to America’s Second Harvest, the dollar value of these donations equal $34,642. In order to educate those receiving food, FACS agent also provided Farm, Fresh and Fast brochures for the food bank to disperse with produce that was gleaned. Therefore, 225 citizens of Appling County have received educational materials, which included nutrition facts, food safety advice and recipes. This project has impacted Appling County citizens in many ways, whether they received food or volunteered their time to give back to their community. Food was donated to several organizations: the Appling County Food Bank; the Appling County Senior Center; Pineland Behavioral Health Center; Called to Love; and the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home. Through the gleaning program, the original goals – to empower all Appling County residents to eat a healthy diet and to empower all Appling County residents to be physically active – are being met with the help of volunteer adults and youth. The main objective of this project is to strengthen the overall health of Appling County, raising it above the state and national levels. The following testimonies represent those who have been involved in this project: A volunteer from the Appling County Senior Center, said “This is a wonderful program. It allows people who wouldn’t normally go to the store to buy fresh fruits and vegetables to eat healthy. It’s such a blessing. I feel that the farmers enjoy not having to waste their crop and be able to bless people too. I’ve so enjoyed helping with this worthy cause. It’s been a blessing to me and to others.” The overseer of the Appling County Food Bank, said “For the people we serve and the food bank volunteers, receiving fresh fruits and vegetables makes their day! Not only for the people we serve, but those people who are serving especially enjoy being able to serve fresh produce to the clients. You know, most people just don’t get fresh produce anymore. It is very rewarding. People get excited about fresh produce!”
Health & Nutrition
- Year: 2020
- Geographic Scope: County
- County: Appling
- Location: College Station, Athens
- Family and Consumer Sciences
- Curry, D. Shane