Professor Catherine Cubbin and researcher Kristen Carrillo are part of the Community Transformation Team “Working on Wellness (WOW) in Starr County,” which has been selected by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for its annual Superior Service Awards Program. These awards are the highest honor conferred by AgriLife Extension to faculty and staff who have excelled in their job performance.

Starr County 4
One of the school gardens in Starr County

The WOW team seeks to spark local, sustainable initiatives to make healthy choices accessible to residents of Starr County, one of eighteen communities throughout Texas receiving funds from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce chronic disease and promote health equity.

“We can talk to people all day about healthy habits, but if they don’t have places to buy fresh food at affordable prices or safe places to exercise, they won’t be able to act on their desires to make healthy choices for themselves and their families,” said Cubbin.

To date, WOW efforts with the support of Transforming Texas have generated remarkable change in Starr County. Eight schools and one community have established their own gardens. Residents can exercise in three renovated parks and three new walking trails. A local farmer has successfully introduced a mobile market that, during its first 18 months of operation, brought over 46,000 pounds of vegetables and fruits to areas that otherwise would have no access to locally grown, fresh produce. A smoke-free ordinance in the community of Roma has reached an estimated 9,800 residents in restaurants and public spaces. A smoke-free policy on the Starr County campus of South Texas College has cleared the air for nearly 3,000 students, faculty, and staff. And community-wide health initiatives in partnership with the school district and local hospital have increased county residents’ knowledge about diabetes and heart disease. Read more about WOW efforts in Starr County here.