Partnership Invests in Promising Programs to Encourage Kids’ Healthy Weight & Lifestyle

WASHINGTON, DC — Today The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) announced the winners of the 2018 Childhood Obesity Prevention Awards during the organization’s 86th Winter Meeting in the nation’s capital. The awards went to cities with outstanding programs that encourage healthy weight through balanced diet choices and regular physical activity.


“America’s beverage companies believe in the power of partnerships and the positive impact they can have on communities. The American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America is proud to partner with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to support the great work of mayors across the country who are proactively tackling childhood obesity in creative ways,” said Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America (ABFHA) Board of Directors and president and CEO of the American Beverage Association. “Each of these mayors have designed innovative programs to inspire and encourage young people to stay active and maintain a balanced diet so they can reach their full potential. This partnership shows that by working together, government and industry can bring about lasting change to communities across the nation.”


“In the wake of this epidemic of childhood obesity children these days are at risk for diseases that in previous generation only older adults worried about – diseases such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease,” said Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and executive director.  “From a public health perspective – from a moral perspective – we have got to do everything we can to make sure our kids have the skills and tools and resources to eat healthy and stay active – otherwise, we may be raising the first generation of young people that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”


Six U.S. cities were recognized for their mayoral-based initiatives:


  • Boston, MA
  • Houston, TX
  • Knoxville, TN
  • Providence, RI
  • Perris, CA
  • Port Arthur, TX


The grant program is the result of a partnership between USCM and ABHFA, which was created and funded by America’s non-alcoholic beverage industry and reflects the industry’s long-standing tradition of giving back to communities.   Since 2012, through this grant program, USCM and ABHFA have to date awarded a total of $2.67 million in grants to dozens of cities across the nation.


The awards are divided into small, medium and large city categories, with first place and second place awards given in each category. An independent panel of judges evaluated each application based on innovation, creativity, replicability and potential impact.


A brief description of each winning program appears below.


The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are more than 1,200 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Find us at, on, or follow us on Twitter at


The American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America (ABHFA) seeks to make a significant contribution to the health of local communities, by providing grants to support charitable programs at community organizations that work to advance both the physical health of their local citizens and the environmental health of their communities. For more information on ABHFA, please visit the foundation’s website at



Large City


1st Place ($150,000): Boston, MA, Mayor Martin J. Walsh


BOSFoodLove aims to increase participation in and consumption of school meals, with the goal of increasing consumption of healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, by young people the Boston Public Schools, and decreasing food insecurity among these youth as well.  BOSFoodLove takes a two-pronged approach. First, taste studies will measure what students discard and what items are being regularly consumed, to determine where menu changes ought to start. Second, a coalition of students, parents, staff, and other key stakeholders will advise on menu changes and participate in tastings, fruit and vegetable samplings and education, and other activities to build excitement around fresh food at school. While all BPS students may not choose to consume school meals, the aim is to make all students feel as though school meals are a good option for them. In addition to students benefitting from enjoyable, healthy meals at school, families facing food insecurity will benefit from BOSFoodLove, as it will reduce their burden to provide healthy meals for their children.


2nd Place ($25,000): Houston, TX Mayor Sylvester Turner


Get Moving Houston Farmers Market (GMHFM) aims to bring locally-sourced fresh fruits and vegetables, and nutrition education, to communities with limited access to grocery stores and other fresh food retail outlets, by operating six farmers market sites throughout Houston, all located within or near low access, low income areas. On average, each market serves approximately 100 patrons per market occurrence. Funding will go toward adding another layer of services to GMHFM, by implementing the Wholesome Wave Foundation’s Fruit and Vegetable Rx (FVRx) program, which is designed to reach pediatric patients age 0-18, and their families, who are food insecure or are at risk of diet-related disease. Program participants are required to attend 3 visits or classes in a 6-month period where they discuss their health and set healthy eating goals. The children’s height and weight are measured, and they receive free fruit and vegetable vouchers at each visit in which they can exchange for produce at local farmers markets.


Medium City


1st Place ($120,000): Knoxville, TN, Mayor Madeline Anne Rogero


Neighborhoods to Nature encourages citizens to discover nearby parks and greenways, and to incorporate park visits and physical activity into their daily lives. Mayor Rogero, City Council members and other City officials accompany residents on walks from their homes to nearby neighborhood parks, where everyone gathers, plays, discusses issues and enjoys healthy refreshments. The grant will allow the City to expand the program Participating families will have a wide variety of age-appropriate, in-park activities to choose from, with a special effort to encourage parents and kids to play together. Neighborhoods to Nature will also include weekly cooking demonstrations and/or tastings to show families how to prepare healthy, affordable meals that are easy to prepare, using ingredients found in their local grocery stores. In partnership with Beardsley Farm, Knoxville’s urban demonstration. As an extra incentive, families that participate in the food demonstrations will receive gift cards to purchase the ingredients for the meal they learned how to prepare.


2nd Place ($25,000):  Providence, RI, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza


Eat Play Learn PVD addresses both summer weight gain and summer learning loss, in alignment with research showing that obesity-related behaviors increase during the summer (due to behaviors including increased television time and eating fewer vegetables) compared to the rest of the year. Eat Play Learn PVD will target underrepresented youth of color (Latino, African-American) and girls, while also aiming to engage entire families for multigenerational physical fitness opportunities, by offering free and low-cost fitness opportunities in neighborhood parks and community centers. In addition, the initiative aims to provide greater access for the target populations to summer camps, summer meals, and learning opportunities that will address both childhood obesity and school readiness.


Small City


1st Place ($100,000): Perris, CA, Mayor Michael M. Vargas


Green City Farm/Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge was established to address the soaring rates of obesity among children, adolescents, and adults in the City. The vision of the program is to build a sustainable edible garden that will serve as a model to facilitate horticultural and nutrition education for the community inspire healthier lifestyles and increase access to healthy, affordable foods. Phase I of the garden, completed in March 2016, includes an assortment of innovative growing techniques, such as aeroponic, hydroponic, and aquaponic growing towers along with traditional growing systems. The modern growing systems use less space than traditional gardens, consume 90% less water and yield 50% more harvest. The grant will assist the City with its goal of building an additional thirty food gardens throughout the City at local schools, faith-based organizations and residential shared spaces.


2nd Place ($25,000): Port Arthur, TX, Mayor Derrick Ford Freeman


Fit Commit/CATCH aims to reach youth aged 8-13 in their out-of-school time, with two age-appropriate, science-based curricula (one for youth in grades 305 and a second for grades 6-8). CATCH, which stands for Coordinated, Approach to Child Health, uses a stoplight model to categorize foods into three groups: GO, SLOW, and WHOA foods. The goal is to get youth to eat more GO foods than SLOW foods, and to eat WHOA foods only in very small amounts. GO describes foods that are whole grain, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, lowest in fat, contain no added sugar, and can be eaten daily. SLOW describes foods that are slightly processed and may have some added salt, fat or sugar; and WHOA describes foods that have the highest fat and/or sugar.