Hillsborough MPO is honored to take ‘Garden Steps’ into the HealthyCommunity50!

10K ‘seed money’ will increase access to healthy foods in area food deserts

healthy_community_50_bannerheadTo help improve public health through our communities, the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association, and the National Association of Counties announced on September 15 the first-round winners of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. The HealthyCommunity50, the 50 cities and counties selected, each receive a $10,000 community seed grant to implement a program that will demonstrate measurable improvements around key social determinants of health.
The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is thrilled to announce its selection for a HealthyCommunities50 seed grant. Together with our partners – the City of Tampa, Florida Department of Health-Hillsborough, HART, the Planning Commission, and the Coalition of Community Gardens – we will focus on neighborhood access to fresh produce. “The efforts to improve food quality through our community garden coalition, while fostering walkability, bikeability, and transit use, will serve as a guide to other communities interested in improving community health through active living,” said Hillsborough MPO Chair Lesley “Les” Miller, Jr.

Health is being recognized as an emerging focus area for Metropolitan Planning for Transportation, or MPOs. The project, called Garden Steps, has identified food deserts and walkability as two of the city’s biggest problems. To address these concerns, Garden Steps will create community gardens with easy pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access in identified food deserts. The goal is to improve health equity and population health by increasing easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The Hillsborough MPO aims to be a model for the other 26 Florida MPOs in collaboration with our diverse public and private sector partners. “The Planning Commission is excited to partner on this project to further build on the importance of coordinated transportation and land use in creating a healthier community,” said Planning Commission Executive Director Melissa Zornitta, AICP.

Designed to create economically competitive, inclusive, and equitable communities, the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to small and mid-sized cities and counties that are able to show measurable improvements in health outcomes over the course of several years through cross-sector partnerships. The HealthyCommunity50 were chosen out of hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions, and other entities.

An expert advisory board selected these groups to continue to the next phase of the Challenge based on plans to improve the health of their communities. Improvements will be measured around at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/ economic factors, and environmental exposures. An expert panel will conduct site visits to all HealthyCommunity50 members to understand the community’s approach to the project first-hand. At the conclusion of the Challenge, the programs most able to show measurable change will be eligible for prize awards from $25,000 – $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other.

Michele Ogilvie, Garden Steps project manager, accepts the Healthiest CIties & Counties Challenge.

Plan Hillsborough Media Contact:

Lynn Merenda | Switchboard: 813.272.5940 | Direct: 813.273.3774 x342
merendal@plancom.org | PlanHillsborough.org