East Waco Voices: Feeding the (Healthy!) Body and Soul at Carver Park Baptist Church – Part 1

(Carver Park Baptist Church is helping to lead a healthy food revolution in East Waco through their food related ministries.  They have so much going on that we couldn’t squeeze it into one post. This is Part 1 of the story.  Stay tuned for Part 2! – ALW)

By Khristian Howard

In the South, food is the social apex of our culture. In a region that is known for its hospitality and deep religious roots, food could not have a more important role. Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the church. At Carver Park Baptist Church, Evelyn Moore has been leading the Culinary Arts Ministry in healthy, innovative directions.

As the name suggests, the Culinary Arts Ministry is more than just a food and fellowship team. Under Mrs. Moore’s direction, this ministry is introducing the church and community to healthier ways to prepare and eat cuisine that they have enjoyed for generations.

Evelyn Moore has been a part of the Waco community for over seventy years and a part of Carver Park Baptist Church for over forty. After leaving Waco as a young adult, she returned with her husband to raise her children here. “When it came time to raise my children, my husband and I talked about it and we felt that Waco was a quiet, reasonably positioned place to raise children in,” she says.

Having been raised in church, Moore was no stranger to serving the community. As a young mother, she and other church members were involved with neighborhood improvements like advocating for paved streets, getting a local landfill closed, and school integration. Moore says, “Community situations have always been a part of what our life was…we were involved with everything political or that had to do with improving the community.”

In the Culinary Arts Ministry, Mrs. Moore and her team approach service with thoughtfulness and creativity. “We make sure that whenever we have a church function, we have a reasonably healthy meal,” she shared. This includes two Sunday breakfasts, a mid-morning snack for the children, bereavement meals, meetings, and other church events.

When asked how she classifies a meal as “reasonably healthy,” Mrs. Moore explained that the meal components consist of two to three vegetables, little to no fried foods, whole grains, and as many fresh greens and fruit as possible. She stated, “Whatever is in season and is reasonably priced is what we offer on the menu every Sunday.” She explained that improving your diet is all about making informed decisions about what ingredients, foods, and processes to substitute, for example baking instead of frying, having 2% rather than whole milk, and substituting agave for sugar.

In the past, due to kitchen limitations, nutrition was sometimes compromised for time and ease of preparation. The church would often send out for fried chicken when there was an event. Moore says this was one of the first things they opted to change, “We wanted to get away from that fried chicken because fried chicken is…fried chicken! It’s saturated in fat, and it’s not always good for us.”

So, how has this nutritional shift been received by the church members? Evelyn says, “People who never ate carrots before, eat our carrots. People who never ate beets before, eat our beets…They’re learning how to prepare things they’ve never made before.” The key is creating familiarity for people who are afraid to branch out. To help create this, the Culinary Arts Ministry implemented a tasting day, “We have even done a heart healthy menu…We wanted to show people on that particular day that you could have tasty food, without it being bland and it can still be healthy.”

The Culinary Arts Ministry makes it a point to educate the rest of the church staff as well. Every third Sunday, they host a class where they discuss foods from the Bible, give hospitality training, and share tips about what to expect when hosting guests.  More specifically, among Carver Park’s senior Bible study group, Moore is sharing more detailed information about health, nutrition, and exercise. “They’re lifestyle changes, not a diet. Our whole objective is to make us better, and to help others be made better by what we learn and do.”

For the community at large, Carver Park Baptist hosts an annual event titled, Feed My Sheep. Here, community members can join them for a healthy dinner and can receive food basket donations. Aside from this, people can come in to any service and eat there at any time.

The abundance of knowledge and resources within the Culinary Arts Ministry begs a pertinent question: Why doesn’t the community make healthier food choices? “I actually believe that people don’t eat healthy because of finances,” Moore shares. She began to reflect on previous attempts to connect the people in East Waco to healthy food. One of those early efforts was the “Veggie Van” organized by World Hunger Relief, Inc.  As the name implies, the organizers would bring a van full of fresh vegetables to East Waco on a regular basis and offer them for sale.  “I thought that the produce wagon that used to come through was pretty good,” Mrs. Moore says, “but they were a little bit expensive for the people in the neighborhood.”  To remedy this, Moore has high hopes of rebuilding the church garden which would provide fresh produce to the community each week – with no obligation to turning a profit.

Another key ingredient Moore says is needed to help the community eat healthier is education – not only for nutrition, but for buying fresh with a low budget. “We need to get people educated on what they can eat without it being so expensive. Everybody says eating well is so much more expensive, but if [they] knew how to eat and how to prepare it [they] wouldn’t spend as much money.”

Moore is a strong believer in making a plan and sticking to it. Her advice to those who are new to or struggling with eating healthier? “Go to the market with your budget and your menu and have what you buy be geared to that. Work within those parameters. The next week do the same thing, and you’re going to learn that the food is much more tasty and makes you feel much better.”              

Evelyn Moore continues to be a leading voice in improving the nutritional components of meals within her church and her community. However, she is just one of a team of individuals at Carver Park Baptist, and in East Waco, who are seeking to improve lives through better food. Another of these individuals is Helen Lewis, who manages Carver Park’s expansive food pantry. We will share that story in Part 2 of this series.

Khristian Howard is an Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She has a passion for empowering communities through service, and seeks to connect advocacy to creativity. Currently, she is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Texas Hunger Initiative Waco, where her work focuses on fostering collective impact to improve health and eating habits in East Waco. When she is not working, you may find her sharpening her culinary skills or exploring new poetic and artistic pathways.  

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

The Business of Health Care: Cancer Care

By Glenn Robinson

Cancer is now the leading cause of death in the United States and globally.  Few among us have not already been touched by cancer in some way, whether it be ourselves, someone in our family or dear friends and colleagues.  With that in mind, the following are a few notes on cancer care that will hopefully be helpful if cancer becomes a part of your life.  


According to a study in The American Journal of Medicine, cancer forces 42 percent of patients to exhaust life savings in two years. It is expensive to treat, with patients facing potential surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments – in addition to expensive imaging tests. There are hospital stays, multiple doctor appointments each month, and many tests… not to mention the high cost of cancer-fighting medications, or income lost from missing work.

A recent study found that cancer patients, on average, are more than twice as likely to declare bankruptcy as those without cancer. Should you or a loved one face a cancer diagnosis, here are steps that may reduce some of the financial burden:

  1. Talk to your health insurance company and make sure you understand deductible and copay requirements.
  2. Take someone with you to doctors’ appointments who is not afraid to bring up the cost question on your behalf, if necessary.
  3. Tell care providers that cost is a potential issue.
  4. Discuss therapy options – and their cost – with your provider. Beyond choosing a lower cost therapy, avoiding low-value tests and procedures can save a lot of money.
  5. Consider hiring a financial counselor to help guide the family through this aspect of care.

Following these steps can help patients focus less on finances, and more on getting better.

Alternative Therapies

Nearly four in ten Americans believe that cancer can be cured solely through “alternative” therapies, such as oxygen therapy, diet, and herbs – according to a survey by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Many in the medical community were shocked by this finding and the danger it represents. A 2018 study underscores the danger, finding that patients with cancer using alternative medicine were more likely to decline potentially curative conventional cancer treatment, thereby increasing risk of death.

The National Institutes of Health has declared that no alternative health product or practice – such as acupuncture, chiropractic medicine and herbal medicine – has been proven to cure cancer. While these services may help patients manage cancer symptoms and side-effects from treatment, relieve stress, and improve quality of life, they are not a cure.

Patients facing cancer must keep in mind that delaying conventional cancer treatment can decrease the chances of remission or cure, and that using unproven products or practices to postpone or replace conventional medical treatment may be a costly mistake.

Even if they don’t delay conventional care, some alternative therapies may interfere with cancer treatments or be unsafe for cancer patients. Anyone diagnosed with cancer should consult their cancer care providers before using any alternative therapy for any purpose — regardless of whether it’s cancer-related.

Alternative therapies often do have a role in cancer care. As part of an ongoing discussion, patients and their physician can determine which therapies are safe and supported by evidence.

Advanced Treatment Options

For decades, when it comes to treating cancer, there have been three main options: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Often these treatments are used in concert with one another to rid patients of tumors and eradicate any traces of the disease.

While these will likely remain staples of cancer care for the foreseeable future, a host of new advanced treatment modalities are coming online and are expected to expand the cancer care toolbox.    

One is immunotherapy, which looks for ways to bolster the body’s immune system to prevent the spread of cancer. Some cancers take hold and spread throughout the body because they aren’t susceptible to the body’s immune response and even develop immunity to chemotherapy drugs and radiation. Immunotherapy attacks the cancer’s defenses, potentially allowing for effective treatment.

A related field of cancer study is therapeutic viruses and dendritic cell vaccines. These are biological agents, engineered in a lab, capable of seeking out and destroying cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue alone.

Another exciting development in cancer research involves nanoparticles. This advanced, microscopic technology can be used to more precisely target cancer cells in multiple ways without harming normal cells. For instance, nanoparticles can deliver heat to tumors to shrink them, or be loaded with medication and sent to hunt down cancer cells.

There may never be one silver bullet to cure cancer, but rapid progress on many fronts hopefully will someday lead to its demise.       

Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

5 things every Wacoan should know about Family Health Center

By Rae Jefferson

For nearly 50 years, Family Health Center has tended to the medical needs of Wacoans from every corner of our community. FHC is a nonprofit organization with a rich history rooted in high-quality, compassionate healthcare. We offer a number of full-scope medical services, some of which are an unexpected take on maintaining health. Here are five nuggets about FHC, the work we do, and why we are in the business of caring for Waco and McLennan County residents.

1. We believe everyone should have access to quality primary care. Regardless of background, financial status, or medical history, everyone deserves tools that will lead to the longest and healthiest life possible. FHC is dedicated to providing medical, dental, and behavioral health services to underserved communities across our region. Of the nearly 60,000 patients served in 2017:

  • 97% were at or below 200 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • About 9,300 indicated they were homeless, and
  • 31% were uninsured.

Services at FHC are designed with patients in mind. We operate 14 clinical sites to maximize accessibility, as many of our patients have limited mobility or access to transportation. Additionally, some FHC clinics accommodate working patients’ schedules by staying open 55 hours per week, including most evenings and Saturday mornings. The main site (1600 Providence) features an in-house pharmacy that provides significant discounts to qualifying patients for brand-name prescriptions. FHC also works to maximize reach and impact through partnerships with groups like McLennan County Health Services, local hospitals, United Way, MCC, Baylor, and others.

2. We will celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2020. FHC was founded in early 1970 after local medical providers identified a gap in care for Wacoans without commercial health insurance, as well as a shortage of doctors in the Waco area. The center was developed by leaders in local business, politics, and medicine. Since that time, FHC has been committed to its mission of providing primary care to those for whom access to healthcare has been historically limited.

3. We are home to one of the most competitive residency programs in Texas. The Family Medicine Residency Program (FMRP) began when Family Health Center first opened. It helped address the shortage of doctors in the Waco area and was one of the first accredited family medicine training programs west of the Mississippi River. Today, FMRP is in the top three percent of all programs nationally. More than half of the family medicine doctors practicing in McLennan County are program graduates, and more than half of all program graduates practice in Texas. The program is widely recognized for innovation in electronic health records for patients, curricular design, and quality of graduates.

In 2019, FMRP is a finalist for the Baldwin Award, a national honor recognizing residency programs that teach compassion-based patient care and provide excellent treatment of residents – which has been historically problematic in medical education environments across the country. Only six out of more than 10,000 residency programs across the U.S. are being considered for the award.

4. We are a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). This means we qualify for special government funding, receive enhanced reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, serve underserved people in a comprehensive way (medical, dental, behavioral, etc.), and provide a sliding fee scale for uninsured patients (that’s #5). FHC has to meet several other requirements – like having a board of directors that is majority FHC patients – but each requirement ensures the center provides the best possible care to patients.

5. We have options for the uninsured. With registration for the Affordable Care Act falling 4 percent this past December, it’s reasonable to assume more Wacoans will be uninsured than in recent years. The Good Health Card is a sliding fee scale offered by FHC to low-income patients without health insurance. Patients qualify for one of four categories, labeled A through D. Each category determines appointment co-pay (up to $20) and the percent paid by the patient for any services rendered (up to 50%). This sliding scale payment system is required for FHC to maintain its FQHC status, but it also helps create a system where traditionally underserved members of the community have access to necessary medical, dental, and behavioral health services across McLennan County.

Rae Jefferson is a creative, Netflix binger, and marketing professional, in that order. Originally from Houston, she stuck around Waco after graduating from Baylor University with a B.A. in Journalism, PR, & New Media and a minor in Film & Digital Media. Now she’s the Communications Director at Family Health Center, where she gets to spend each day serving Waco. When she’s not working, find her at home snuggled up with her dog-daughter, Charlie, watching “The Office” for the hundredth time.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Live Well Waco Asset Map: The Road to a Healthier Lifestyle

by CeRon Ford

Cheeseburgers and French fries have you down in the gutter? Tired of paying for expensive salads at drive-thru restaurants? Do you want to work out but not sure where to go? No need to waste any more time searching for the most affordable salad or settling for just any gym– we have everything mapped out just for you!

Ever heard of the Live Well Waco (LWW) Asset Map? No? Well, you may want to pay close attention to this. Live Well Waco is a coalition dedicated to improving the health of people living, working and playing in McLennan County. The Live Well Waco Coalition began more than 5 years ago as a collaborative effort between community businesses, organizations, and individuals who are dedicated to the health of McLennan County residents.  LWW focuses on improving area health disparities by hosting events such as community cooking demonstrations, physical activity programs, and more. The Live Well Waco Leadership team created the asset map to promote a better understanding of diversity within the community while helping community members locate fresh produce and healthy foods, exercise facilities, healthcare facilities, and other local resources.

The asset map includes a list of locations that provide access to healthy living opportunities all within the City of Waco. With the LWW Asset Map, we want to help protect and conserve the local traditions, customs, and resources that are prevalent in Waco, Texas.

Maps can often be tricky, but the best way to learn is just to dive in!

Here’s the link: www.batchgeo.com/map/livewellwaco

And here are some tips for using it! :

Use the drop-down box located in the bottom left hand corner to select the category that you want to search. The 4 categories are type of space, quality, neighborhood, and amenities. To narrow down the locations shown in the map, you can select one group or multiple groups shown as the colorful circles to the right of the drop down box. For example, “Type of Space” would be the category, and “Store with Produce, Agency, and Public Space” would be considered groups. You can further target your search or search by other criteria by changing the category from the drop down box and selecting additional groups to the right of the box. As you select the groups, they appear in gray boxes, and if you want to delete a selection, just click the “X” on the left hand side of the gray box.

Here is what you will find within each category.

Type of Space:

  • Stores with produce- includes grocery and convenience stores
  • Agency- social service agencies
  • Public Space- free space for exercise such as parks
  • Gym- locations of gyms to engage in physical activity
  • Healthcare- locations to access health screenings or vaccinations
  • Recreational Facility- locations of community centers
  • Other- locations that do not fit into the previous categories such as libraries where access to a computer is available


  • Healthy Living- includes locations for accessing healthy lifestyles
  • Healthy Eating- includes locations with fresh produce or healthy food options
  • Active Living- includes locations that offer free or low cost opportunities to exercise

Neighborhood: If applicable, the locations are broken into which neighborhoods the assets are located. For example: Lacy Lakeview, Kendrick, Bellmead, University, Waco and Others.

Amenities: If available, different assets are listed such as locations where playgrounds are located. For example: Playgrounds, outside fields, Library, fresh produce, school w/ playground, Playgrounds and Others.

The colorful circles on the map represent the groups within the different categories you have selected, which is shown in the image below. Click on a circle inside the map to see detailed information about the location. To look at another location click the “X” on the right hand side of the box or simply click on another circle.

To view a list of all the locations shown on the map, first, make sure your cursor is not hovering over the map and then scroll down the page. Under the black square you will see the locations itemized in a list format. This list will change as you select specific categories and groups.  You can also use the scroll bar located on the right hand side of the page.

To zoom in and out of a specific area on the map: (1) Use the + and – signs located on the left hand side of the map (2) Click on the map in the area with the circles and use your mouse to scroll forward to zoom in or backwards to zoom out.

The Live Well Waco Asset Map is an awesome tool that helps providers and community residents identify assets and strengths around the community. Types of resources are clearly and easily categorized into stores with produce, local agencies, public spaces, gyms, healthcare facilities and recreational facilities across the great City of Waco, Texas. The LWW Asset Map can save you time and money as well as improve your quality of life, so let’s SHARE it! By promoting the LWW Asset Map tool within local clinics, doctor’s offices, local food banks, and through other local organizations, we can provide this asset map as a public service to the entire community so that patients, clients, and partners can support and encourage one another to make healthier lifestyle choices. The LWW Asset Map is already linked to the Live Well Waco website, but the opportunity to spread awareness of this great resource on other organizations’ and partners’ websites will go a long way.

The Asset Map tool not only provides a visual representation of local businesses and resources, but it also provides valuable information that will ultimately help all community residents lead a healthier lifestyle. The time to improve healthy eating and increase physical activity is NOW! Let the Live Well Waco Asset Map guide you to health and success! Although the journey is not easy, Live Well Waco Coalition challenges you to take the highway and merge into a healthier lifestyle!

CeRon Ford moved to Waco in August 2013 to attend Baylor University. He received his Bachelors of Science in Public Health, and had the opportunity to intern at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District as a Live Well Waco intern during his final summer in Waco. CeRon will further his efforts of pursuing public health by attending Morehouse School of Medicine’s Master of Public Health Program in Atlanta, Georgia, In the Fall 2017.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Your health during pregnancy: Tips for a good visit with the doctor

By Ashley Steenberger

“Doctors need to be more compassionate. First pregnancy I felt like I was just a statistic. I’m just going to rush you and get you out in 15 minutes. I’m not going to get paid that much anyways. It’s not about that. It’s about making me feel more comfortable in my pregnancy. Letting me know the risks and what can go wrong and what can go right.” — Patient Participant

If you’ve never heard about the Healthy Babies Coalition (HBC), we are a group of dedicated community agencies in McLennan County that provides services to mothers and babies. Our focus as a coalition is to reduce existing health disparities, improve birth outcomes of mothers and babies, and improve women’s health throughout the life cycle. Currently, we meet on the third Thursday of every month from 2-4pm.

In order to better understand the barriers to accessing women’s healthcare and decreasing preterm birth and infant mortality, the Healthy Babies Coalition partnered with the Prosper Waco Women’s Health Workgroup in 2015 to conduct eight focus groups and one interview with Waco community healthcare providers, patients (women of childbearing age) and patient support systems (men and grandmother type supports). The focus groups were implemented to gain information regarding the community’s knowledge and perception of women’s health services in the community and its relation to our birth outcomes.

We received a lot of helpful data that have informed and shaped our work as a coalition and our community to better serve the women of McLennan County. Among one of the most powerful statements we heard from the focus groups was the previously mentioned quote from a female patient: “Doctors need to be more compassionate. First pregnancy I felt like I was just a statistic. I’m just going to rush you and get you out in 15 minutes. I’m not going to get paid that much anyways. It’s not about that. It’s about making me feel more comfortable in my pregnancy. Letting me know the risks and what can go wrong and what can go right”.

It is no secret that doctors are busy- they have a schedule to stick to throughout the day and that often leaves little time to address all of your concerns. But, there are ways you can play an active role in ensuring you make the most out of the time you do get with your physician as this is also your responsibility as the patient.

Here are a few tips that can help you talk to your doctor and ensure a quality appointment time:

  • Write down a list of questions and concerns before your appointment. If you have a health issue, make sure to include any symptoms you may be having, when they started, how often it happens, and if it prevents you from doing something. Tell your doctor you have this list and share it with them.
  • Be honest and open. Clear communication is vital in ensuring the smartest decisions are made for your health. It will help your doctor better understand your lifestyle and the best treatment choices for you.
  • Consider bringing a close friend or family member with you. They can help calm your nerves as well as help you remember the tips your provider may share with you.
  • Take notes about what the doctor says, or ask a friend or family member to take notes for you. If you don’t remember what the doctor shared with you, you can easily look back to your notes for reference.
  • Learn how to access your medical records so you can keep track of test results, diagnoses, treatment plans, and medications and prepare for your next appointment.
  • Ask questions– especially if the information you are hearing seems confusing or unclear.
  • Ask for the doctor’s contact information and his/her preferred method of communication in case you have further questions or concerns.
  • Remember that nurses and pharmacists are also good sources of information and can be very helpful in your health journey.

Above all, remember that you and your doctor are a team and your relationship is a partnership. You can and should work with your provider to solve your medical problems and keep yourself healthy.  Your health is important so make it a priority. Take an active role in this partnership to ensure the healthiest you!

Ashley Steenberger is a second year Master of Public Health student at Baylor University from Northwest Arkansas. Currently Ashley works with the Healthy Babies Coalition as the Healthy Texas Babies Grant Graduate Assistant at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and an Intern with Nurse Family Partnership Waco.


Some tips to Overcome Food Cravings

By Kodie Talley

“All behaviors come from underlying desires and changing the root cause of that behavior could have more affect.”  – Anne Hsu, a Behavioral Scientist at Queen Mary’s University of London.

Chocolate. Cookies. Brownies. I crave all the yummy creamy delights with ice cream on top! For a while I was eating ice cream every single night…sometimes even in replacement of dinner. I’m not kidding. I thought that since I spent an hour at the gym it wouldn’t matter. And then I wondered why I wasn’t seeing progress on my weight and health goals!

As a fitness coach and health advocate, I hear from a lot of people who get discouraged because they work so hard and yet they aren’t seeing the results they envision. It’s difficult to desire progress and use it as your motivation each day only to feel you have not improved months later.

Well, something many of these people have in common is submitting to their cravings. Even if it’s not every day it can still make an impact on your progress. Oftentimes, people will eat clean for 5 days and allow the weekends to be a free for all with alcohol and all the foods they restricted during the week (pizza, burgers, ice cream). Even if you’re eating clean most of the time, all the garbage you’re allowing two days of the week is going to set you back.

Many people try to take an 80/20 approach to their diet. This means that 80% of the time they eat clean, and 20% of the time they give in to their food cravings. But what people don’t understand is that the 20% doesn’t mean 2 days out of the week you can just eat whatever your heart desires all day long. In my opinion, what 80/20 really means is Saturday you allow yourself the bowl of ice cream (but let’s not go crazy, only have 1 serving (3/4 cup)). And then maybe Wednesday you treat yourself to a dinner out. Another example is, if you have a wedding or a dinner party, or some social event, you can eat the food! Use that as your 20%, just plan ahead.

Personally, I follow a 90/10 approach to my diet. This means 10% of the time I give in to my cravings. It’s typically about 1 weekend a month and it usually falls on some holiday or monthly celebration.

Here are a few ways to get rid of your food cravings to stay strong during your 80%:

1) Distract yourself –  The theory is that cravings are caused by your imagination – imagining how good that ice cream is going to taste.  According to some recent research by Anne Hsu, a Behavioural Scientist at Queen Mary’s University of London, “If you hijack that part of the brain [that is imagining the food] then it can’t sustain the craving anymore. ” In her research she used an app to get people to imagine something different – a forest, or a white horse, for example – when they felt a craving.  The results showed significant reductions in unhealthy snacking.  A different study recently showed that the computer game Tetris, if played for just three minutes, can weaken cravings for food.

3) Find alternatives  – Try grapefruit, small red baked potatoes, carrots, and salads filled with greens and fiber. These foods work by filling people up quickly, but they all work by buying time, particularly the grapefruit as the slow, strategic method of eating one can lead to a craving forgotten.  This is according to Mary Beth Sodus, a Nutritional Therapist and Registered Dietician at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

4) Be Mindful – When you try these alternatives be MINDFUL about it. I’d advise, if you’re craving ice cream, eat something that has the same texture as ice cream, maybe some healthy yogurt (you could even freeze the yogurt). While you’re eating this alternative close your eyes and feel the food on your tongue. Let your taste buds savor it.

5) Attack the root cause – Think about why you’re craving this food item. Is it because you just finished dinner and you want dessert? Maybe you’re an emotional eater and something’s bothering you. Or quite possibly you’re just bored. Be mindful of the root of your cravings and maybe you can change something about the underlying cause.

kodieKodie Talley graduated from the University of Idaho with a B.S. in Exercise Science and Health and a minor in International Studies. She hopes to use her degree to pursue a career in Fitness Entrepreneurship and travel abroad to serve underprivileged communities. Kodie is originally from Washington State and moved to Waco in May 2016 to intern at the Health District and live with her significant other who is attending Baylor for his masters. So far she is loving Texas and how welcoming the Waco community has been!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.



We accept the Challenge to be a Healthy City!

By Courtney Restivo Wollard

Did you know that not eating enough fresh produce can lead to poor health problems such as obesity and heart disease? Data shows McLennan County residents don’t eat enough fruits or vegetables.

more-healthy-daysWacoans are making great strides to eat more fruits and vegetables, so we have been accepted as one of 50 communities to compete in the National Healthy Cities and Counties Challenge to increase healthy eating of fresh produce in order to improve the health of residents. The challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties and will allow for winners able to show measurable change over the course of several years to be awarded prize money for their community.

We plan to show measurable change by addressing the Healthy Behavior Domain, one of five health domains to choose from, to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in two years by implementing or expanding six programs:

  1. Offering monthly cooking demonstrations at our local farmer’s market,
  2. Offering Healthy Soul food and Tex-Mex demonstrations at community centers and churches,
  3. Adding more locations for The Veggie Van,
  4. Working with local farmers to get more fresh produce to our food pantries,
  5. Working with Mission Waco to open a non-profit grocery store featuring low cost healthy foods and nutrition educators on staff, and
  6. Starting a Community Health Worker Program to connect residents to healthy resources.

The challenge comes at a critical time for Waco. Based on the 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment, 65.7% of adults in McLennan County were considered overweight or obese, and 51% were not eating the recommended servings of produce.

group-1The nine local partners involved in Waco’s Healthiest Cities Challenge are Baylor University, Caritas, Live Well Waco, Mission Waco, Waco Downtown Farmers Market, Waco Foundation, City of Waco, Waco-McLennan Public Health District, and the World Hunger Relief Veggie Van.

Waco-McLennan County has accepted the challenge to eat more fruits and veggies! Try to challenge yourself and your family to eat more fruits and veggies!

To learn more about the Challenge, please visit www.healthiestcities.org.

To see the 50 communities selected, click here and find Waco-McLennan County’s section here. 

courtney-restivo-wollardCourtney Restivo Wollard is a lifelong Waco resident who works as Public Health Education Specialist Lead at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and serves as Chair for Live Well Waco, the group working to decrease obesity rates under the Prosper Waco Health Committee Initiative. She is also an alumnus of the Waco Foundation LeadershipPLENTY Institute. Courtney graduated with her Masters of Public Health from Baylor University and right away began her career as a health advocate. She is married to Kyle, with whom she has two fur babies – a Chihuahua and a Labrador. Courtney hopes to continue to create healthier environments for McLennan County residents filled with healthy eating and physical activity opportunities.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.








McLennan County Improves Health Infrastructure and Policy  

By Courtney Restivo Wollard

I am the Public Health Education Specialist Lead for the Health Education Program at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and for the past two years, the department has been working on projects under the Texas Healthy Communities Program, a program of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

silverThis program helps communities assess their existing environments and implement change in local environmental and policy infrastructure.  The program encourages  the adoption of priority public health practices to reduce risk factors for chronic diseases. Communities that promote recognized best practices for preventing and controlling cardiovascular disease, stroke and other chronic diseases are then recognized by the program. This year, the Waco-McLennan County Health District has achieved Silver level status for the county for preventing and controlling heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases.  This is an improvement from Honorable Mention in 2014.

Communities are assessed on eight health indicators to determine recognition as a Texas Healthy Community: physical activity, healthy food access, mother-friendly worksites, healthy worksites, healthy schools, tobacco control, healthcare quality, and cardiac and stroke response.  Some examples of activities within these indicators include:

  • Offering physical activity areas
  • Offering healthy eating options
  • Mother-friendly worksites promoting breastfeeding
  • An evidence-based health curriculum in schools
  • 100% smoke free city ordinance
  • EMS system which maintains a rapid response time for cardiac events
  • Treatment of stroke and a medical emergency in the community with appropriate acute stroke treatment protocols in place

The biggest improvements that increased our scores from 2014 included the implementation of the 100% Comprehensive Smoke Free Waco Ordinance passed in July 2015 by City Council that went into effect January 2016 as well as an increase in the number of worksites designated as mother-friendly.

Back in 2014, there were only 2 recognized mother friendly designated worksites whereas in 2016, there are 13 designated mother-friendly worksites. A worksite is considered Mother Friendly if there is a policy in place to support employees choosing to breastfeed their infants. To determine if your worksite could become a mother friendly worksite, you can visit the Texas Mother Friendly Website.

We have received confirmation that we were approved for an additional year of the program funding, which will go towards improvements in several different parks in the city to improve physical activity opportunities for residents. (See the accompanying table for the scores received within each health indicator.) Hopefully, next year, we can reach the Gold Status for the program! 


courtney-restivo-wollardCourtney Restivo Wollard is a lifelong Waco resident who works as Public Health Education Specialist Lead at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and serves as Chair for Live Well Waco, the group working to decrease obesity rates under the Prosper Waco Health Committee Initiative. She is also an alumnus of the Waco Foundation LeadershipPLENTY Institute. Courtney graduated with her Masters of Public Health from Baylor University and right away began her career as a health advocate. She is married to Kyle, with whom she has two fur babies – a Chihuahua and a Labrador. Courtney hopes to continue to create healthier environments for McLennan County residents filled with healthy eating and physical activity opportunities.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.



Other communities recognized at the Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention Level this year:

  • Gold Level: Harris County, City of Houston, Nueces County, Webb County
  • Silver Level: Angelina County, Lubbock County, McLennan County, Smith County, Tom Green County, Wichita County
  • Bronze Level: Hidalgo County, Lamar County, Parker County, Taylor County, Victoria County
  • Honorable Mention: City of Red Oak, City of Waxahachie, El Paso County, Jasper County, Nacogdoches County, Newton County, Waller County, Wood County





The Importance of Worksite Wellness Programs

By Hannah Parrish

Beat the heatThis summer, I planned, implemented, and evaluated a five-week worksite wellness program called BEAT THE HEAT for the staff of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District (WMCPHD). I am graduating from Baylor University this August with my bachelor’s degree in Public Health. As a part of my summer internship, I was given the opportunity to connect my studies to public health practice. My experience with BEAT THE HEAT has allowed me to grow in my understanding of public health in many ways, but it has specifically taught me the importance of worksite wellness programs.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), worksite wellness programs can help “maintain and improve the health of employees,” and they can also reduce the employees’ risk of developing “costly chronic diseases” (WH 101 Resource Manual). According to the Worksite Health 101 Resource Manual developed in partnership by Viridian Health Management LLC and the CDC in 2016, a healthier workforce can lead to “lower direct costs such as insurance premiums and workers’ compensation claims,” and it can also “positively impact many indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity” (WH 101 Resource Manual).

The worksite wellness program, BEAT THE HEAT, was designed with the mission to equip the employees of the WMCPHD with the tools and resources necessary to promote total wellness in their daily lives. On a broader scale, BEAT THE HEAT offered accountability, motivation, and education to the staff of the WMCPHD in an effort to instill long-term practices of wellness. BEAT THE HEAT carried out these missions through a period of five-weeks, and the program included motivational, educational, and accountability components. The program allowed the employees of the WMCPHD to focus on several dimensions of wellness, and encouraged them to make daily choices that would “add up.” The employees were provided weekly activity logs, and each activity focused on a different dimension of wellness. A certain number of points were designated to each activity on the log, and the activity logs changed week to week. By the end of the five-week program, the top five individuals with the most points earned chose their prizes.

I partnered with local businesses, The Mix Café, Oh My Juice!, and D1 Sports Training, to ensure that nutritionally and physically healthy prizes were offered to program participants as incentives. BEAT THE HEAT was marketed through the use of informational and motivational flyers, which were administered to the staff of the WMCPHD to generate interest. About half of the WMCPHD participated in the program, which doubled my initial goal of reaching twenty participants. Here’s what a few participants had to say about the program:

“This program encouraged me to add different wellness activities into my daily health regimen…activities that I would not normally participate in on my own.” – Janet Jones

“I have definitely gained a lot from the past 5 weeks, even though I consider myself a pretty healthy person to begin with.  This program has been great because everyone can gain something from it. BEAT THE HEAT made me more intentional about some aspects of wellness that often get overlooked, such as getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. Knowing that you’re going to have to submit your points at the end of the week is a great motivator.  I would start trying to talk myself out of a workout and then remember – I need those points!” – Katy Stone 

My experience with the BEAT THE HEAT wellness program has taught me the importance of planning, implementing, and evaluating wellness programs in every workplace. I learned that wellness is only truly achieved when every dimension is viewed as an impacting factor. In 2015, about 70% of employers in the United States offered a “general wellness program” in their workplace (Forbes). While this estimation is higher than I predicted, there is always room for growth in the areas of specificity and goals of these programs. Does your worksite incorporate a monthly, quarterly, or yearly wellness program? If not, now is the time to start. Many worksites have a wellness coordinator to create wellness programs for employees. If you are interested in some ideas for wellness programs, the DSHS has compiled a list here. Many worksite wellness programs focus on physical and nutritional wellness; I decided to include every dimension of wellness in BEAT THE HEAT because every factor is important and contributes to our total wellness.

Finally, through my experience, I learned that creativity is key, and each person is different in their interests; these realizations made for a diverse program. I thoroughly enjoyed planning, implementing, and evaluating the BEAT THE HEAT wellness program for the staff of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District!

Hannah ParishHannah Parrish moved to Waco in August 2013 to attend Baylor University. She received her degree in Public Health from Baylor in three years, and had the opportunity to intern at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District during her final summer in Waco. She loves traveling, fitness, community, coffee, and reading. She hopes to spend the next year teaching English overseas, and subsequently attend nursing school.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Fitness Fads – Friend or Foe?

By Crystal Hernandez

Maybe I age myself by admitting that I’ve been working in the fitness industry for 20 years. Although I did luckily move into the field just behind leg warmers and sweat bands, I did ride in on the wave of step aerobics. So over the past 20 years I’ve seen lots of changes. I’ve seen dance fitness become a craze, boot camps become the latest and greatest, and I’ve watched pilates and yoga emerge and re-emerge in facilities all over.

So many times I’ve heard, “________ is the greatest workout ever. You have to take this class.” Fill in the blank with every new fad that has ever been.  Well, you know what? None of them are the greatest, but they are all great!

Here’s the bottom line, exercising is important, but there isn’t one way that is the best for every single person out there. When you’re choosing your form of exercise, choose what you enjoy. If going to dance fitness with your best friend makes you feel like you have two left feet, try something you like. In the end, if you like it, it becomes a habit probably something you will do your entire life. If it feels like torture, your sneakers will be in the back of the closet gathering dust. If boot camps make your knees and back hurt, but water aerobics makes you feel lovely, then that’s the great workout for you! You don’t have to choose the latest fad. What you do need to consider is what you enjoy doing and what is safe for your body.

Regardless of the type or types of exercise that you’re doing, make sure that you’re following these guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • Acquire at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular activity per week. Aside from heart health and weight control there are a ton of other reasons to do cardio, like improving mood and alleviating anxiety.
  • Get your strength training in. Not only is this important for gaining muscular strength and endurance but also for building bone density and increasing your metabolism. Aim for resistance training 2-3 non-consecutive days per week, and try to get in 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions for each major muscle group.
  • Don’t forget to stretch. Stretching improves range of motion, flexibility and just like resistance training, makes activities of daily living easier. Muscles stretch best when they are warm so save your stretching for the end of your workout. Get some serious stretching in at least 2-3 days per week, stretching each muscle to the point of tension (not pain), holding for 10-30 seconds (building up to 60 seconds) and repeating that stretch 2-4 times. Catch all the major muscles and remember that chest, shoulders, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves tend to need a bit more flexibility work.
  • Neuromotor exercise is important too, especially for those of us that are getting older, and who isn’t. Focus on balance and agility work 2-3 days per week spending 20-30 minutes at it.

Find a facility to be a part of that doesn’t just offer one format or type of exercise and allows you to try numerous types of exercise so you can discover your personal favorite. Additionally, changing your workout, or cross training, can reduce boredom and lower your risk for injury. Your needs and likes will change over time and so will your workouts. Good luck discovering what makes you want to stay healthy, even if it includes leg warmers and sweat bands, and remember that frequency, intensity and duration are all important when it comes to reaching your goals.

crystal hernandez2This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Crystal Hernandez. Crystal is the Chronic Disease Specialist for the Waco Family YMCA. She received her degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the University of Memphis. She and husband Shawn are blessed to be the parents of 4 beautiful children. In her free time, she loves hitting the pavement and pounding out a good run.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.