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Heart of a Healthier Tennessee - Notes on The Commons to THE HILL

David Barto - May 26

One could say that the Collegedale region was a healthier Tennessee community before it was cool. The Commons is meant to amplify the work that has already been done. By building a regional farm to table market in the center of a thriving suburban community we will be showcasing the many health benefits of our area. A family will be able to park at The Commons and be able to spend the day mountain biking, trail running, walking on the Green Way, and then come back and shop at the Collegedale Market, and enjoy a concert or movie in the park. The Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation is committed to working with our friends at Southern Adventist University to offering health and wellness classes in The Commons facilities, teaching folks who to buy vegetables at the Market and then how to cook them right.

      When talking about becoming a healthier Tennessee community I feel as a Tennessean I should take a moment or two to talk about TennCare and the epidemic of loneliness. It is obvious to anyone looking at the numbers that heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other lifestyle related illnesses are destined to nearly bankrupt our State. Scientists are now pointing to loneliness as a key causal element which is at the root of many of these illnesses. It seems the more “connected” we all are on Facebook, Instagram and other social media, the more “friends” and “followers” we have, the more lonely we are all becoming. The Commons is about bringing folks together, it’s about seeing people, bustling about with people, meeting the family that grows your vegetables or the elderly gentleman who crafted a piece of art. Burlington Vermont has one of the most successful farmers markets in the US, and to quote a farmer who sells there; “The market isn’t just about $8.00 per pound organic arugula, it’s about people and community”. Collegedale, Tennessee is making a big and bold statement with The Commons, we are inviting folks to the heart of our community from our region to get together in the great circle of The Commons.

      I am not promising that we can cure loneliness in our region but it’s a step, and similar to overcoming many of our worldly ills, one must start somewhere. For many, coming out to The Commons will be that first step. Think about it another way: If we can make a difference in the lives of 40 Tennesseans in a substantive way through The Commons, meaning that they not only embrace humanity again but they start walking or biking or learning to cook fresh vegetables from the Market. Then the investment you make in The Commons will mean that 40 Tennesseans will live longer, they will be happier and more productive, they may, just may not cost the insurance system as much. A healthier community is beneficial in many many ways, it could even save us all quite a bit of money over time.

     The Commons to THE HILL embraces about the simplest exercise folks can do – walking. It also embraces comradery, as the group of folks walk together across our great State.

Heritage Health Foods, makers of numerous vegetarian meat substitutes and Kim’s Simple Meals will be sponsoring the support RV and feeding the walkers. Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters from Blue Ridge, Georgia will be sponsoring the walkers with hiking shoes, hiking clothing, and needed goods. Our partners at the Chattanooga Market will be supplying the group with locally sourced vegetables and breads as we cross the State as well. Walking, eating right, comradery are all important aspects of creating a healthier community!

The following is a personal note I attached to a fundraising letter to one of our locally based health insurance providers, as we have tried to enlist their involvement in The Commons to THE HILL walk. Who knows if it will do any good, but I think it speaks to the issues at hand and especially why an entities who ensure folks should be interested in The Commons and especially this walk.

“Dear ****,

296 is the number the actuaries at **** ***** **** ****** ** ********* need to be aware of. 296 pounds is what my "Doc in the Box" told me I weighed a few months ago. Instead of going on diet pills, or letting it get worse and getting diabetes or a heart attack I started walking. Your actuaries should care because you have me insured and I could have been an insurance nightmare. I am dropping the weight, which will help **** ***** **** ****** ** *********'s bottom line.

Robin Smith has been helping us with The Commons to THE HILL. I know folks ask your company to get involved in various charitable endeavors all the time, but maybe, just maybe an investment in a community dedicated to prevention, to locally sourced vegetables, and community is a smart thing to do - for the profit margins.