Written by Melissa Vatterott, Food and Farm Coordinator. Originally published June 2015.

Their Food Story: In 2014, the City of St. Louis Department of Health kicked off the HEAL Partnership in order to identify policies and programs that will reduce the rate of obesity and overweight in the City by five percent by 2018.  The HEAL Partnership is a coalition made up of over 40 St. Louis area organizations that are committed to addressing obesity and diet-related diseases in the City of St. Louis through the lens of healthy food access and nutrition, active living, access to health care, social marketing and data and evaluation.  Made up of five work groups, and with an overall Leadership Team, the HEAL Partnership works with Department of Health staff and has built strategic partnerships, developed work plans and a logic model, drafted reports with key findings, and is identifying policies and programs that will improve the health of City residents for years to come.

The Healthy Food Access Work Group is specifically focused on employing community-based interventions that ultimately will increase people’s access to healthy foods- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and heart-healthy fats.  The work group has been working hard to collect some initial data and develop strategic partnerships with residents and community-based organizations in order to implement policies and systems to improve residents’ access to nutrient-dense foods. MCE’s Food and Farm Coordinator Melissa Vatterott is a member of the Healthy Food Access Work Group.

People Behind the Project: City of St. Louis Department of Health staff work closely with the HEAL Partnership.  Each of the five work groups elected a work group chair(s) to serve as key leadership in the organization.  University of Missouri faculty Leslie Bertsch, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, and Kara Lubischer, Community Development Specialist, serve as work group chairs for the Healthy Food Access/Nutrition Work Group.  They can be contacted at bertschl@missouri.edu and lubischerk@missouri.edu, respectively.

Organization Websites: City of St. Louis Obesity Plan: “St. Louis: The City Where Healthy Living Matters”; City of St. Louis Department of Health website; The HEAL Partnership Facebook page; The City of St. Louis Department of Health Facebook page.