Moore & Montgomery Counties, North Carolina


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

The Moore and Montgomery counties HKHC project worked on an array of complex healthy eating, active living challenges and environments in order to influence the thinking of advocates and decision makers and achieve large-scale impacts over time.

For more information, read the full story.

July 2014

The beauty of gentle, pine-dotted hills hides an acute impoverishment through the southern midsection of North Carolina. In Moore and Montgomery Counties, too many children have lived below the federal poverty level, and their health reflects these rates. To address this, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) partnership focused on five communities in the largely rural region where overweight and obesity among elementary school students has exceeded 50 percent at times.

The project is led by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a comprehensive healthcare system. The organization and its partners, namely the towns of Southern Pines, Aberdeen, Robbins, Mt. Gilead and Candor, aim to remove some of the barriers and create better opportunities for children to be active and eat healthfully.

With funding through HKHC, the partnership identified problems in the built environment that affect weight gain, from a rural area’s lack of infrastructure and recreational facilities to the food-shopping limitations when a small town has only a convenience store with processed and packaged foods. Then the partnership tackled the problems. In the five communities, GIS (geographic information system) mapping and analysis was used to craft land use plans that promote sidewalk and trail development. It’s all about “comprehensive connectivity,” and such paths, if they link home to school, are an important first step in getting children to be more active on a daily basis, explained project director Melissa Watford.

“GIS mapping and other tools show us where we need sidewalks and trails, and healthy food outlets so that kids can walk safely to school and eat healthy,” Watford said.

Using these types of assessments, and building on existing momentum and obesity prevention in the region, the HKHC partnership identified Community Champions to help tailor and lead healthy eating and active living efforts in each of the five project areas. The Community Champions were also engaged in a HKHC network across Moore and Montgomery Counties to brainstorm ideas, share lessons learned and successful strategies. Despite distance, limited financial resources and a small pool of volunteers, the HKHC partnership has created more opportunities for healthy eating and active living across Moore and Montgomery Counties.

The partnership has never viewed the region’s high rate of obesity as an insurmountable obstacle. Rather, it’s a challenge that it has an obligation to meet. “I think the health of our children is our future,” Watford said adding: “We have strong partnerships here that will help us meet the challenges together, in collaboration.”

Key accomplishments include:

  • Adoption of healthy eating policies by the Towns of Mt. Gilead, Candor and Southern Pines. Comprehensive healthy eating policies for all town-sponsored events were adopted by the Town of Candor and Mt. Gilead. Healthy eating policies for summer camps were adopted by the parks and recreation departments in Mt. Gilead and Southern Pines, and Southern Pines Parks and Recreation changed its policies to only offer healthy lunches and snacks for camps and after-school programs. Mt. Gilead also adopted a physical activity policy.
  • Approval of a bicycle plan in the Town of Southern Pines and the addition of signage, sharrows and high-visibility crossings along two miles around Southern Pines Elementary School.
  • Adoption of pedestrian-friendly plans and policies in the Towns of Aberdeen and Mt. Gilead. Both town included ordinances requiring sidewalks in new developments.
  • Installation of walking amenities including lights on the community walking trail at Mt. Gilead Elementary School and a 1/5-mile paved trail around Fitzgerald Park in the Town of Candor.
  • Inclusion of health in the goals of the adopted Moore County Land Use Plan which will guide future planning decision in the county.
  • Established a farmers’ market in the Mt. Gilead downtown area, and implemented SNAP-EBT acceptance at all three Moore County Farmers’ Market locations. An incentive program that provided SNAP participants $1.50 in SNAP tokens for every dollar spent at the farmers’ market was made available in Moore County.

Increased availability of 1% and skim milk in gallon-size containers at two corner stores in the small town of Candor, where the closest grocery store is five to six miles away.

Moore & Montgomery Counties, North Carolina