Healthy Lifestyle Initiative

In 2010, Oregon County received a grant from Healthy Lifestyle Initiative (HLI). The mission of HLI is to form a committee of community stakeholders to help communities develop and implement action plans focused on increasing the availability of healthy, affordable, locally produced food and safe, accessible physical activity.

Oregon County Extension and community stakeholders sent out community surveys in 2010 to determine the needs of the citizens in Oregon County. The results of the survey indicated a need for improved nutrition to school-aged children and childhood hunger. From this need, the Backpack Program developed.

The Oregon County Backpack Program provides food to children in preschool/head start and grades K-6 for the weekend. The food is placed discretely in the child’s backpack on Friday afternoon. The teachers and nurses help to identify children who might need additional food for the weekend, and a permission note is sent home with the child. Once a child is enrolled in the Backpack Program the school teacher and nurse are the only ones who know the identity of the child. To date, children from all of Oregon County’s four schools are receiving Backpacks.

Donations to the Backpack Program can be made at the Oregon County Health Department, Oregon County Extension Office, and the Oregon County Food Pantry. If you wish to donate food to the Backpack Program please donate the following:  Chef Boyardee pasta's with meat (pull-top cans preferred), peanut butter crackers, and microwave oatmeal (box with individual packets). Any monetary donation would gladly be accepted, or you can sponsor a child for $24 a month or $240 for the 10-month school year.

If you have questions about the Oregon County Backpack Program, please contact the Oregon County Extension Office at 417-778-7490 or the Oregon County Health Department at 417-778-7450.

In addition to the Backpack Program, the Oregon County Healthy Lifestyle Initiative helped to purchase portable kitchens that can be used for healthy cooking demonstrations, worked with local community gardens, and purchased cookbooks that feature recipes from the garden. The cookbook, Seasonal and simple: A guide for enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables has more than 100 pages of recipes using simple preparations and seasonings, so you can taste the goodness of a fruit or vegetable at the peak of its flavor. Proceeds collected from the cookbook support the Backpack Program, the cookbook can be purchased at the Oregon County Extension Office for $5.