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Suffolk group to use grant to fight obesity

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County will use a $1.2 million state grant to focus on obesity-related health problems in the towns of Babylon, Riverhead and Southampton, the nonprofit said in a news release.

The educational agency's Family Health and Wellness Program has received a five-year grant from the New York State Department of Health and will direct funds toward preventing and reducing obesity issues, said Susan Wilk, project coordinator of Creating Healthy Places in Suffolk County.

Projects included in the grant will include "new farmers' markets sites and community gardens, nutrition education in child care centers and after-school programs, improving walking and biking trails and working with the owners of grocery stores and restaurants to promote healthier food options," the release said.

Wilk said in the release that reducing the effects of illnesses like uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes requires community-based initiatives geared toward more healthful eating and increased opportunities for physical activity.

"Strategies to meet this challenge will require a well-coordinated plan that addresses multilevel changes in policy, systems and within the environment," she said.

Grant-funded projects can included volunteers, elected officials, child-care providers, master gardeners, civic groups and other nonprofits, the release said. "The idea is to create broad community support, awareness and advocacy to promote individual healthy behaviors," the release said.

The release also said one in three American adults are obese and one in five children/teens are overweight or obese, according to government studies.

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