The health of our communities is important, and thankfully, LiveWell in Greenville and Partners for Active Living in Spartanburg are working to make each community a place where making healthy decisions is easy.

“We want to remove the barriers to being healthy,” said Sally Wills, executive director of LiveWell. “Our tagline is making the healthy choose, the easy choice.”

LiveWell is doing this through partnerships with schools, businesses and churches. Recently, LiveWell hosted a pastor’s summit. The result was a partnership with 15 local churches. Some of the churches have built movement into every youth and children’s meeting. Others have incorporated healthier choices in meals.

“One of my favorite changes was a church that has made it a policy that every meal must have two servings of vegetables and one serving of fruit,” she said.

Greenville County Schools have also become national leaders in high quality school lunches.

“We are working now to bring that same quality to breakfast and snacks,” Wills said.

The group is also focusing on early childhood by partnering with daycare centers to provide young children with healthier menus.

“We are working to educate teachers to model and support behavior so that kids get the highest nutritional value,” she said. “We also are teaching them not to give up quickly if kids say they don't like foods.”

The group is also encouraging movement by promoting Greenville’s many play places, such as the Swamp Rabbit Trail and numerous parks. It’s popular Park Hop is a free, summer-long scavenger hunt in parks across the county through which participants can earn prizes. This year’s Park Hop begins May 19.

Spartanburg’s Partners for Active Living is also encouraging its residents to live a healthier life.

“We focus on three key areas that all point to healthy eating and active living: childhood obesity prevention, trail development, and walking and bicycling for everyone,” said Lindsey Graham, PAL’s resource development director. “We want our initiatives and programs to have a lasting positive effect on residents for years to come.”

One place where the group’s efforts are sure to have a lasting effect is in the development of trails and places to be active. PAL has worked with the city and others to expand existing trails and create new ones and is currently working to create a new park, the Forest Avenue Park.

The long-range plan is to have 20 to 30 connected miles of off-road paths. One of the newest trails is the 3-mile Drayton Trail. The group is also working to expand the Mary Black Rail Trail.

The group’s program Spartanburg BCycle allows residents to rent a bicycle at five locations in the city and return it at any location. Greenville has a similar bike rental system.

In addition to expanding places to play, PAL is working with schools to decrease childhood obesity through its Eat Smart Move More Initiative. The initiative partners with local schools and daycares to help implement policies for healthier meals and snacks and to help schools find ways to encourage movement. One such initiative is walk to school day, held each fall.

Children are not the only ones who benefit from the increased focus on health. PAL hosts group runs, Yoga and the Square and other initiatives to help adults stay healthy and active.

“We are working to make Spartanburg a healthier, more active, more enjoyable place to live, work and play,” said Graham.

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