WATERVILLE — Many people in this city work together to help ensure that children and adults have healthy food to eat, parks and trails for improving physical and mental health, hospitals and other health care facilities to help them stay well, and school, college and city officials who promote wellness.

The city has a farmers market, summer food program for children, and community gardens available to the public.

But the poverty rate in Waterville is high. The median household annual income is about $33,000 a year – lower than the state median of $49,000 – with 13 percent of families living in poverty and 25 percent of children living in poverty.

Across the U.S., adolescent obesity quadrupled from 1980 to 2012 and 35 percent of adults are obese.

At the Albert S. Hall elementary school in Waterville, 75 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch and 79 percent at the George J. Mitchell School qualify.

Those were statistics Alana Brasier, community planner for Renaissance Planning, based in Orlando, Florida, pointed to Monday night as part of an event called Healthy Places for Healthy People, hosted by Healthy Northern Kennebec and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at Senior Spectrum’s Muskie Center.

More than 100 people, including residents, officials from the city, local health organizations, the EPA, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture turned out for the program, which was designed to identify issues, help improve the health of its residents and the environment and increase economic growth. Ben Tucker, regional representative for U.S. Sen. Angus King, also attended.

Healthy Places for Healthy People is a new, two-day EPA program in which a visiting EPA team helps the community and health care facilities develop strategies and an action plan to address ways to improve health, public safety, basic infrastructure and jobs.

In many communities, health care facilities can be catalysts for economic development and investment in neighborhoods can help improve walk-ability, protect air and water quality, conserve open spaces and natural resources and encourage cleanup and reuse of contaminated properties, according to the EPA.

Waterville is one of only 10 communities nationwide selected this year for the planning assistance program, for which 50 communities applied. Bangor also was chosen.

In Waterville, Healthy Northern Kennebec applied and Waterville was chosen because of its commitment to advancing health efforts linked to community livability and economic diversification.

“Waterville is a community that’s just so full of so many great assets,” Stephanie Bertaina, senior policy analyst for the EPA, said just before the event started Monday.

Bertaina, who works in Washington, D.C., said Waterville was selected because there is a lot of good momentum in the city. But the city needs some assistance, she said, and organizers are bringing everyone to the table to help create a vision around creating a healthy Waterville.

Fran Mullin, director of Healthy Northern Kennebec, introduced City Manager Michael Roy, who spoke about being of French-Canadian descent. His grandfather, he said, walked from Quebec to the city’s South End in 1902 to settle because Waterville was where the jobs were.

“Waterville’s very, very thrilled to have this opportunity to show what we can do and I think we can do it, for sure, with people like Fran …” Roy said.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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