Live Well Alabama
Desiree Hutcherson-Bates continues to help urban schools in Birmingham find ways to be physically active through her role as SNAP-Ed educator for Jefferson County. Throughout the past two years, Hutcherson-Bates worked with schools to create safer routes for walking to school and teach the importance of physical activity through riding bicycles.
In 2019, Desiree’s work with the Gulf State Health Policy Center encouraged the City of Birmingham to make improvements around Booker T. Washington K-8 School for safer pedestrian traffic to and from the elementary school. Such renovations included installing a bridge over a set of railroad tracks and implementing new signs to streamline carpool lines and transportation around the school.
Safe Pedestrian Traffic
In 2020, as a member of the Jefferson County Community Coalition, Desiree helped Washington K-8 begin a wellness committee as part of Quest for Healthy Schools, which is a SNAP-Ed initiative to support schools in improving nutrition and physical activity practices.
One of the initiatives Desiree helped bring to life was a walking school bus, which consisted of supervised routes that enable children to walk to school safely.
“The walking school bus was implemented every Friday from March through May 2019,” Washington K-8 Principal Antonia Ishman said.
According to Ishman, the walking school bus has four goals.
- Teach children how to obey traffic laws
- Help children recognize potentially unsafe situations
- Build rapport between parents, teachers, and students
- Use walking as a safe and fun way to increase daily physical activity
Desiree also spends time supporting the wellness efforts at CJ Donald and Oxmoor Valley Elementary Schools in Birmingham. At these institutions, Desiree helped to facilitate bicycle safety events funded by United Way of Central Alabama. During what has been termed “Bike Rodeos,” schools promote physical activity by teaching children to learn and practice safe bicycling habits.
Parents who volunteer in the program say not only are the rodeos good for the children but also an excellent way for parents to get involved.
“Having bike rodeos promotes bicycle safety and being active,” R. Short, parent volunteer, said. “It teaches hand signals, where and how to stay safe while riding and having fun. The kids had a great time at the hydration station learning about fruit-infused water recipes. I really enjoyed volunteering and assisting the children learn how to ride the bikes.”
Another parent volunteer, H. Collins, said the bicycle safety program should be a mainstay at all schools.
“It also affords students in urban areas the lost art of learning to ride a bike and the joy of playing outside as opposed to gaming,” Collins said. “This is a vital program that should continue to be offered at schools.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how all SNAP-Ed educators have been able to do their jobs, Hutcherson-Bates said she’s continued to offer virtual Zoom classes for her clients to continue providing evidence-based nutrition education.
Additionally, she said she’s partnered with the farmers markets in Jefferson County to coordinate produce give-a-away sites. During these events, she said she hands out bags with Live Well Alabama recipe cards and teaching tools for clients to provide ideas on how to prepare and enjoy the produce.
“I’ve learned through the COVID-19 pandemic that remote learning and providing resourceful information is just as important as face to face learning,” she said.
To find more success stories about SNAP-Ed educators, visit LiveWellAlabama.com.