HEAL SPotlight: The Town of Haymarket, Virginia
In 2013, the Town of Haymarket, Virginia passed a HEAL resolution to encourage healthier environments for their residents and staff. Their resolution included goals related to a built environment that enables physical activity and active transportation and provides fresh and healthy food access. Further, they sought to facilitate a healthier workplace through supporting health and wellness policies and practices among municipal staff. For the past five years, the Town has worked to accomplish its resolution goals and launch new programs and practices to enable healthier choices for residents and visitors.
Every year the Town holds four events for residents and visitors including a Holiday Celebration, Haymarket Day, Earth Day, and a Health and Fitness Day. The annual Health and Fitness Day is a collaborative effort between the Town’s events committee partners and the Novant Health UVA Health System. Through this partnership, the town provides free blood pressure testing, diabetes screening, live fitness demonstrations, and vendors from local health, fitness, and wellness companies. The Lions Club and Novant hospital donate mobile vans to provide free eye, hearing, and mammogram testing to attendees. “The Fair is starting to pick up and become a really popular event here in the town,” said Denise Andrews, Business & Community Relations Specialist for Haymarket. “It’s an event that we promote not just for the residents of Haymarket but also the surrounding area!”
This year’s Earth Day celebration, another popular town event, will feature the launch of an Eagle Scout project to build a community garden at a local park. “We’re looking to partner with some of our local preschools to sponsor the garden. Anything that’s grown in the garden they can take and bring back to the schools. We’re looking for ownership from the Town, residents, and schools. It’s there for everyone,” commented Ms. Andrews. The new garden will be located at a local park that will eventually be home to the Town’s farmers market. For the past eight years, the market has been steadily growing with the addition of new vendors selling a wide variety of local foods like meat and poultry. The farmers market is considering new opportunities to relocate the market, extend the season throughout the year, and accept SNAP/EBT benefits (formerly known as food stamps).
The Town’s emphasis on events and programs has been a pivotal component of the Town’s approach to promote healthy behavior change. In addition to the annual events, the Town seeks to sustain this momentum through regular monthly activities including a new program called Walk a Mile with the Mayor and Council; where residents can discuss Town issues and raise questions with the Mayor and Councilmembers. This demonstrates the Town’s leadership’s commitment to modeling healthy behavior. Elected officials have also been instrumental in regulating meeting cut off times to facilitate physical activity breaks and providing water at municipal meetings.
The town is eager to advance its health and wellness goals through policy and infrastructure updates that will help solidify the Town’s commitment to achieving longer term healthy eating and active living goals. This commitment is emphasized through policy changes and updates to the Town’s Comprehensive Plans that will include provisions around healthy eating and active living. The Town is also working on finalizing a Streetscape plan to build new bike lanes and complete sidewalks for an entirely walkable downtown environment.