UMES Extension’s Well Connected Communities team was recognized February 1 for its “dedication and diligence in community service to the Town of Princess Anne.” The group of faculty members and educators has lent a hand in breaking down the barriers that may prevent residents from living the healthiest life possible.
“The Well Connected Communities program has been instrumental to the community in teaching them proper nutrition and how to grow their own foods through the community garden,” said Garland Hayward, vice president of the Princess Anne Town Commissioners. He said the recognition came on the heels of WCC’s implementation of a contactless food drive for some 600 Somerset countians.
A part of the Culture of Health Initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the national program aims to address the physical, social, mental and environmental health of selected communities chosen by participating land-grant universities.
UMES’ initiative, administered by the UMES Extension Nutrition and Health Program, includes projects in Fruitland (Wicomico) and Pocomoke (Worcester) in addition to Princess Anne. In each of the communities, said Dr. Virginie Zoumenou, director of the program, a health needs assessment was completed followed by action plans. A collaborative group of youth, adults in the community, community-based organizations, governmental agencies and local businesses was formed in each of the municipalities to implement several projects.
Residents of Princess Anne have benefited from the Well Connected Communities project through the creation of a youth-building “Reading and Group Therapy Garden,” three mini fruit orchards and a monthly social event to strengthen parent-child relationships and improve mental health, particularly among youth. Food drives, Zoumenou said, are continuing to be organized to “help put food on the table during the pandemic.”
“UMES Well Connected Communities is a dedicated team striving to ensure healthier communities as a proud part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Initiative,” Zoumenou said. “Being honored by the Town of Princess Anne leaves no doubt that the team’s activities in Somerset County and beyond are valued by the community.”
UMES WCC members joining Zoumenou on the team are: Drs. Naveen Kumar Dixit, Marie Therese Oyalowo, Bridgett Clinton, Kieu Do, and McCoy Curtis Jr., Emily Hitchcock, Susan Jayne, Ricki Reavis and Caitlin LaComb. To reach one of the Well Connected Communities program assistants, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Where we live shouldn’t determine how long or how well we live. In our communities, we all should be surrounded by conditions that enable us to live the healthiest life possible, such as access to healthy food, quality schools, stable housing, good jobs with fair pay, and safe places to exercise and play.”
Gail Stephens, agricultural communications and media associate, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences, 410-621-3850, email@example.com.