The three grants had to be applied for individually in previous years, but were grouped together this year to make the application process easier and less time consuming for community groups. The first of the three grants, totaling $45,900, comes from the Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP). According to DVCP director Cindy Hayford, this grant will be used to focus on tobacco use prevention, and will include educating youth, as well as tobacco retailers, on the effectiveness of tobacco advertising.
“Our goal is to educate the entire community on tobacco advertising,” said Hayford. “Studies show that the more youths are exposed to advertisements, the more likely they are to use tobacco. A huge piece of this is getting kids to know they’re being targeted, so that when they look at an advertisement they can recognize they’re being targeted.”
The DVCP has been active within middle and high schools over the past four years, helping groups such as Twin Valley High School PRIDE create their own campaigns to educate fellow students on the dangers of smoking. These campaigns use private money given to the DVCP by towns, but because the HPDP grant is state-funded, it will be used toward more state-geared campaigns, including adult- programs like 802 Quits.
Hayford said the DVCP is also promoting smoke-free parks, a project the group has worked on for three years. At a May 21 selectboard meeting in Wilmington, the town gave its approval for signs in three public places, which will discourage smoking. “They’re not ‘No smoking’ signs,” said Hayford, “basically these signs are making folks aware that if kids are playing there, they should consider not smoking.” The DVCP got approval to hang the signs at Buzzy Towne Park, Bank Park, and Lake Raponda, and is considering other locations in Wilmington, Dover, and Whitingham.
“This grant helps to expand this initiative,” said Hayford. “If you look at the data we’ve collected we have a high percentage of local kids being exposed to secondhand smoke, and that’s something we wanted to work on.”
The second grant comes from the department of health’s alcohol and drug abuse programs and totals $45,635. This grant will be used toward the DVCP’s focus on hosting family friendly, alcohol-free events. The DVCP has hosted the alcohol-free Blueberry Block Party over the past four years, and was successful in lobbying the chamber of commerce to make last year’s Fourth of July celebration on Baker Field alcohol-free. Hayford said the goal is to create fun without the necessity of alcohol. “If we want to prevent early substance use, we have to look at our environment. In our community, most events have alcohol involved, and a big piece of that is sponsoring events like the block parties which are alcohol-free.”
Funds from this grant will also be used for DVCP’s parenting courses, which promote skill-building for parents, positive family communication, and guiding good choices. The partnership will also be teaming up with the West River Valley THRIVE group to host events.
The final piece of the three-part grant will be for a nutrition initiative that aims to increase community access to locally produced food, as well as the local market for local farm products. According to Hayford, DVCP will be working with Food Connects, a non-profit organization that promotes healthy food and farm connections in classrooms, cafeterias, and communities in and around Windham County. The grant, totaling $9,900, will support the creation of a Food Policy Council, which will assess food supply and distribution, and identify gaps and opportunities for access. The second purpose of the grant is to bolster farm-to-school efforts within the Deerfield Valley.