HEAL SPotlight: Capitol Heights, Maryland
As a member of the HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign, the Town of Capitol Heights, Maryland promotes healthy Eating and Active Living through affordable and accessible options for all residents. Capitol Height’s Neighborhood Services Department Director Venus Drummond recognizes the challenges that many residents face to be healthy and stay active. The Town is leading the charge to address these challenges by implementing policies, practices, and programs that promote a culture of health.
The recent closure of the town’s only full-service grocery store has left many Town residents with limited options to buy healthy, high-quality food. Some residents are forced to travel over three miles to visit the nearest grocery store which can be further complicated if a family doesn’t own a car. To address this challenge, the Town has partnered with Feeding 5,000, a nonprofit that runs an urban farm/community garden where residents can grow their own food. The Town designated a plot of land for the garden and Feeding 5,000 maintains it and provides planting education including teaching residents practical ways to grow food in a small space.
While the Town leads many of its own active living initiatives, further partnerships and collaboration strengthen the Town’s policy and practice implementation. The First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights and the Spirit of the Living God Baptist Church partner with the Town to host active living events, share information, and promote community engagement. In addition, the Town is in the process of facilitating a new activities program with the Young Marines to offer an eight-week boot camp to get Town employees and residents out and active.
Active living is also encouraged through workplace wellness initiatives such as an employee one-hour work-out time permitted when employees have access to free exercise equipment initially purchased through a HEAL Campaign mini-grant. To address the health needs of residents of all ages, the Town dedicates 30% of its community affairs budget to programming to support active and healthy living for its senior residents. This includes chair aerobics, yoga, bowling, Zumba, and shopping trips to promote healthy eating and movement and activity.
The HEAL initiative has been influential in encouraging local initiatives to prioritize healthy eating and active living and promote policies and programs that impact residents’ health and wellbeing. “Recognizing that we’re a HEAL community helps push forward certain initiatives or legislation that may not have been a priority before… it has made us rethink how we do business as a Town” explains Ms. Drummond. The Mayor and Town Council have supported the Town’s HEAL initiative and are working hard to push new policies and practices forward through legislative action and local government support.
Their efforts are further supported by the HEAL Campaign staff and resources. “The [HEAL] staff have always been extremely helpful with any assistance we may need.... Anytime we may have stalled or weren’t sure, they’ve been helpful and resourceful in helping us work toward overcoming those roadblocks” comments Ms. Drummond. Through these collaborative efforts involving the HEAL Campaign, government, and local community groups, Capitol Heights has pooled resources and combined efforts around a common mission— investing in the health and wellness of the Capitol Heights community. The Town was recently honored as a Gold Level member of the HEAL Campaign in recognition of its success!