Promoting Healthy Habits
Fatimah Muhammed, executive director of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and founder of Be Well Café, Apiary at the Park and the Be Well Farmers Market, is pictured seated at a table at the market May 28, 2022. | Photo by Shelly Schneider
The Be Well Farmers Market opened for the season May 28 at the corner of Salisbury Street and North Florissant Avenue in the Hyde Park neighborhood of north St. Louis. The warm, sunny Saturday drew people from all over the St. Louis metropolitan area to sample flavorful teas, fresh herbs and handmade items from local vendors. Fitness instructors from Move by BJC offered tai chi and yoga demonstrations, and a local chef created fresh wraps with beet hummus and locally grown veggies.
BJC shines a light on Community Health Improvement (CHI) Week June 5-11, established to honor health care professionals who work closely with communities and dedicate their lives to improving health and wellness within the communities they serve.
Kara Hughes is a partnership specialist on the BJC CHI team, which is tasked with eliminating health disparities in under-resourced communities and giving all people an opportunity for a healthy, productive life. BJC CHI’s areas of emphasis in St. Louis include financial well-being, infant and maternal health, school health and wellness, and reducing diabetes incidence by increasing access to healthy food.
Hughes says that in 2022, BJC CHI is partnering with Fatimah Muhammed and the Be Well Farmers Market to increase access to healthy and affordable food, along with access to free exercise demonstrations and health screenings.
Muhammed is executive director of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association and the founder of Be Well Café, Apiary at the Park and the Be Well Farmers Market. The market brings together urban farmers and growers, artisans, health providers, and food trucks.
“We are working with Fatimah as part of the BJC CHI strategic plan,” Hughes says. “We saw an opportunity to extend our reach by participating in the farmers market in the Hyde Park neighborhood, which was already increasing access to healthful foods.”
Uplifting urban farmers aligns with BJC CHI’s emphasis on healthy food access and equity in the region.
“The farmers market brings together a variety of people in one location,” Hughes says. “This is a great way to meet the needs of individuals where they are.”
“Our vision is to provide access to fresh, wholesome food and a diverse local food culture while maintaining an authentic space for all people to share community, fresh foods and healthy lifestyles,” Muhammed says.
The nonprofit started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Muhammed says the word is now spreading, as are the number of local growers and farmers and other vendors.
“I met Kara (Hughes) on Facebook, and our circles are so intertwined with the work that we do,” Muhammed adds. “We talked about how BJC CHI could support our efforts, and we talked about holistic wellness — access to wholesome foods and moving.”
Enter Move by BJC — a fitness center operated and staffed by a team of degreed and certified fitness professionals. Move professionals were on hand on opening day for the Be Well Farmers Market, offering free tai chi demonstrations and lessons.
This partnership between CHI and the Be Well Café grew out of organic conversations between Hughes and Muhammed, and as the conversations continued, more ideas came to mind.
“It grew to health and well-being, because so many people here don’t have access to health care screenings,” Muhammed says. “Kara brought together a team of folks who work in the community, and we all sat down to collaborate on how we could best serve the community. The community is not aware of the outreach services that BJC offers. It’s good for BJC to come here and get the word out, and to show that they are a community-based organization.”
Move by BJC will return to the Be Well Farmers Market June 18. Hughes says BJC’s Community Health Services team will be on hand to offer blood pressure screenings and healthy recipes from 10 a.m.-noon, July 16, and the BJC/Urban League Van will be at the farmers market Aug. 20 with blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol screenings for the community.
Hughes is excited for the future of BJC CHI.
“This is just one of the many ways we can show up,” she says. “Partnering with community nonprofits to offer access to healthy food, free exercise demonstrations and health screenings is one way we plan to engage with the communities we serve — meeting them where they live, work and play.”
For more information about BJC’s Community Health Improvement initiatives, visit https://www.bjc.org/community-health-improvement. For more information about the Be Well Farmers Market, visit https://bewellcafe.apiaryatthepark.com/farmers-market.