Healthy, Active Living

Why it matters:

Where you live shouldn’t dictate your health. Research shows that where you live – from access to quality schools and green spaces to stable housing and healthcare – profoundly impacts your long-term health. The earlier these basic needs are met, the lower the risk of chronic illness and the greater the chance for a healthy, fulfilling life.

The community health improvement process has highlighted the importance of our physical spaces (the “built environment”) in providing opportunities for people to adopt healthy, active lifestyles:

  • Healthy eating is only possible when people have easy access to grocery stores and other places to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy options.
  • Safe sidewalks, bike paths, and parks are crucial for encouraging physical activity.
  • Affordable, quality housing close to public transportation and essential services is vital for overall health. (Learn more about our focus on Housing)

It also recognized the opportunity to address these issues through community planning, particularly in place-based efforts in East Whatcom County, a geographically isolated area with less access to essential services. 

Community Power: Leading the Change

We believe communities have the power and wisdom to solve their challenges. Instead of dictating solutions, we’re building community capacity by equipping residents with the knowledge and skills to assess their needs and implement their solutions for a healthier lifestyle. Together, we’re working to create a Whatcom County where everyone can live a healthy and active life, regardless of location or background.

Data highlights:

Child & Youth Food Security in Whatcom County

Food security among youth promotes overall well-being, helping to build strong foundations for a healthy future. Access to nutritious food ensures appropriate physical growth and development in young people. Proper nutrition also improves cognitive development, allowing youth to learn effectively…

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Building a Stronger Food System for Whatcom County

While initial efforts to improve our food systems focused on specific areas with limited access, we now understand the need to address systemic problems within the food system. Our two-pronged approach to combat food insecurity includes developing local solutions, such as targeted food access programs like mobile markets and senior meal programs, which are crucial for addressing immediate needs. We also aim to create long-term change by tackling the underlying causes of food insecurity, aiming to build a more equitable and sustainable food system for everyone.

Local Solutions: Building Cross-Community Collaboration

  • The Foothills Community Food Partnership (FCFP) is at the forefront of tackling food insecurity in Whatcom County. In 2019, they updated a food assessment for East County and shared it at the Fall Foothills Food Summit, where the 2021 Food Access Plan was developed. Since then, several initiatives have been implemented, including a senior meal program, mobile market improvements (increased sales, SNAP/Market Match acceptance), and a planned Resource Center Kitchen upgrade. The Food Bank has also expanded distribution efforts. FCFP’s commitment continues with another summit planned for 2024.
  • A collaborative effort led by Whatcom Farm to School, City Sprouts Farm, Bellingham School District, Birchwood Food Desert Fighters, and Health and Community Services tackled food insecurity in the Birchwood neighborhood (formerly a USDA food desert) through hosting a Birchwood Food Summit and developing a Food Access Plan.

Long-Term Change: Food Systems Planning

Since 2011, community partners have been working to assess and improve our food system. Led by the Whatcom Food Network, the call for developing a comprehensive countywide food system plan gained momentum. In 2019, the Whatcom County Council established the Food System Committee as an advisory committee. The Committee is tasked with assessing the food system and developing and implementing a food system plan. The County Council adopted the first Whatcom County Food System Plan in July 2023.

This plan tackles the root causes of inequities in the food system by focusing on five key goals:

  • Cultivate equity and justice in the food system.
  • Protect and regenerate our soil, water, and land.
  • Build a resilient and vibrant local food economy. 
  • Ensure access to healthy food for all.
  • Mitigate emissions from food system activities and adapt the food system to a changing climate.

The 10-year plan is in the implementation phase. To learn more or become involved, visit the Food System Committee’s webpage

How to get involved:

Are you interested in collaborating with us to promote healthy living in Whatcom County, or supporting our work through your organization? Please get in touch: we’d love to hear from you!