On Oct. 1, MaineHealth was awarded a two-year grant of $2,425,220 for improving physical activity and healthy eating, and decreasing tobacco use in seven rural Maine counties.

The grant is part of the federal government’s support of public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health care spending in small communities.

The funds will be used to support child and family-related obesity and tobacco prevention activities through hospital efforts to implement community health improvement activities.

As part of that grant, Waldo County General Hospital will receive funds to work on increasing the number of food services in Waldo County that have farm-to-institution programs. The hospital will then establish a template for how to work toward that goal that can be used in other counties as well.

Waldo County’s project has several objectives:

• to have institutions that feed adults serve more locally produced fruits and vegetables, including continuing the efforts underway at the hospital and expanding to two local institutions that serve adults;

• to purchase the equipment that is needed to process those fruits and vegetables, such as 3-bay sinks, salad spinners and special knives;

• to train the cooks on how to prepare and use those fruits and vegetables;

• to set up a program to help the farmers and institutions connect; and

• to work with retirement homes and other businesses to help them connect adults with farmers, including on-site Community Supported Agriculture drop-offs or providing transportation to Farmers’ Markets.

Another thing the hospital would like to do is work with the new local food-processing plant so the local fruits and vegetables can be used year-round.

During the second year of the grant, Waldo County will receive templates from two other counties that can be used for obesity-reduction activities for young people and to help healthcare practices work on decreasing tobacco use among their patients.