As an undergraduate at Brandeis University, Mariah Rich immersed herself in the Waltham communityâparticularly as a volunteer with Waltham Kids Club (an after-school program for elementary school children in Waltham public housing communities) and as an intern with Healthy Waltham (a civic group in the CDCâs Healthy Communities model that works to improve community health and well-being).
âOver the course of my four years with Kids Club, I observed the
challenges faced by many of the children in terms of maintaining a
healthy weight,â Rich says. âTo address that challenge, I introduced
mandatory physical activity into the program and overhauled its
Dunkaroos, Doritos, and juice-filled snacks to include whole grains,
fresh produce, and water.â
She didnât stop there. Recognizing an overarching need to address the
childrenâs social and built environments, she worked with Healthy
Waltham to start one of the first school gardens in Waltham at the
Stanley Elementary School.
âWorking with Healthy Waltham, I realized that some of the most
powerful interventions are those that engage communities in hands-on,
experiential learning,â Rich says. âCombined with educational
environmental activities such as taste tests and nature trivia contests,
children who refused to eat carrots were transformed into gardeners
excited about kale.â
As a Schweitzer Fellow, Rich is continuing her commitment to improving the health and well-being of the Waltham community.
CLICK HERE to read a Five Questions for a Fellow interview with Rich on ASF’s official blog.