Partnership Invests $4.3 million overall in Mayors and Cities since 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America (ABFHA) announced today $745,000 in grants to nine U.S. cities that are the winners of the 2021 Childhood Obesity Prevention and Environmental Health and Sustainability Awards. The grants, which were awarded during USCM’s 89th Winter Meeting, go to mayors who initiate exceptional programs to enhance health, wellness and environmental quality of life in American cities in ways that help children and families thrive.

“The quality of public health and the environment in a city is essential to a vibrant community, so addressing these issues in a cohesive manner supports mayors’ efforts to deliver even greater impact for their citizens.” said Katherine Lugar, president of the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America board of directors and president and CEO of the American Beverage Association. “Congratulations to all of the winning mayors and cities, whose extraordinary programs are more than deserving of these grants.”

Since the beginning of their partnership in 2012, USCM and ABHFA have jointly awarded more than $4.3 million to 54 cities across the nation. Awards are made in small, medium and large city population categories. For 2021, the program was significantly expanded to increase the amounts awarded to 1st and 2nd place winners, and a 3rd place grant was added in each population category. The scope of the award was expanded as well to allow mayors to submit proposals for a greater range of environmental and sustainability initiatives while continuing to support proposals that address childhood obesity interventions.

“Mayors have long understood the critical role that safe, clean, and green spaces play in improving the health status of children and families in our cities,” said Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of USCM. “Through the generosity of ABFHA, this new iteration of the awards will enable us to provide greater levels of sorely needed support to more cities, and to encourage more innovative and comprehensive approaches to improving quality of life for our residents in greatest need.”

The 2021 winners include an Atlanta program that teaches young people and their families in low-income neighborhoods how to prepare affordable, nutritious meals at home; a multi-lingual initiative to identify and train community “ambassadors” in Tacoma, Wash., so that they can educate other residents on proper recycling, yard waste management and food waste reduction techniques; and a Burnsville, Minn., plan to increase opportunities for locally grown produce, as well as enhanced access to open space and physical activity for their most vulnerable residents.

The nine U.S. cities receiving 2021 grant awards are:

  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • San José, Calif.
  • Tacoma, Wash.
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Camden, N.J.
  • Burnsville, Minn.
  • Oviedo, Fla.
  • Gonzales, Calif.

An independent panel of judges evaluated applications based on innovation, creativity, replicability, mayoral engagement and potential impact. A brief description of each winning program appears below.


  • 1st Place ($250,000): Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

The Cooking with C.H.O.I.C.E.S. family workshops are a series of free three-week workshops offered at the C.H.O.I.C.E.S Community Teaching Kitchen in northeast Atlanta that teach young people and their families how to prepare nutritious meals at home. The workshops provide families with strategies to stretch their limited food budgets through effective advance meal planning and smart shopping at farmers markets and grocery stores. The program also engages parents and other caregivers in addressing their own health and chronic disease issues through healthy eating choices.

  • 2nd Place ($50,000): Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez

The Virtual Reality Recycling Program lets people transform art on Miami’s recycling bins into a virtual reality (VR) experience using their smart phones. The experience will include games and other interactive elements, with language options in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. A citywide art contest will determine which community members showcase their artwork on bins. The program will also highlight the benefits recycling offers to Biscayne Bay, the largest estuary on the southeast Florida coast and a local/regional treasure for its role in food provision, transportation and commerce, and for the boundless recreational, educational other opportunities it provides.

  • 3rd Place ($15,000): San José, Calif., Mayor Sam Liccardo

Veggielution is a 6-acre community farm with a mission to connect people from diverse backgrounds through food and farming in East San José. Veggielution Youth Garden: Pathways to Health will make the Veggielution Youth Garden more accessible to the thousands of families and individuals who visit each year, especially to people with walkers, in wheelchairs or with other stability issues or physical limitations. The grant will improve the entryway to the garden from the parking lot; allow for the installing of accessible pathways throughout the garden and the building of new seating options and accessible raised garden beds.


  • 1st Place ($175,000): Tacoma, Wash., Mayor Victoria Woodards

The goal of Recycle Reset Community Ambassadors is to recruit a team of diverse, multilingual Community Ambassadors who can assist the city in promoting proper recycling and waste reduction strategies. City staff train Community Ambassadors and then work with them to develop action plans to improve waste reduction and recycling practices within their respective neighborhoods and communities. The award will help the city expand the program to two new target audiences: residents living in multifamily housing and residential customers who are interested in proper yard waste management and food waste reduction techniques.

  • 2nd Place ($50,000): Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley

Dayton Sprouts aims to educate children ages 6-17 and their families about making healthy eating choices while also minimizing their carbon footprint. During Dayton’s eight-week summer camp, children will learn about different sustainability and healthy living themes. A paper/digital Passport program component highlights activities around the city that encourage healthy lifestyles; multiple Passport versions will be produced for different age groups. Participants will be encouraged to complete as many Passport activities as possible; for each completed activity, participants will receive a Passport stamp and, once enough stamps are collected, be entered into a raffle for a chance to win prizes.

  • 3rd Place ($15,000): Camden, N.J., Mayor Francisco “Frank” Moran

Eat Well Mobile Grocery Store (MGS) is a converted New Jersey Transit bus selling healthy foods at below-market prices in neighborhoods considered food deserts. MGS will operate year-round on a set schedule so that customers can rely on MGS for their weekly shopping. MGS will employ a registered dietitian who will offer demonstrations and train MGS staff in quick lessons they can share with customers at point of sale, such as how to read nutrition labels, and a Community Health Worker (recruited from the communities they serve) to screen customers and connect them to needed social support and/or healthcare services.


  • 1st Place ($125,000): Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz

Grow Burnsville focuses on creating opportunities for healthy eating for the city’s most vulnerable residents: families in poverty, families with nutrition access limitations, and families underserved by park space. The program will provide access to locally grown healthy food through the development of a “Community and Market Garden,” which will offer education and internship opportunities for youth while providing locally grown produce to more families than can be served through existing efforts. It will also pilot a “Food Forest,” a new approach for putting underutilized public land and rights-of-way to work as spaces to grow fruits and vegetables through sustainable permaculture.

  • 2nd Place ($50,000): Oviedo, Fla., Megan Sladek

Healthy Hearty Habitats will help children aged 3 to 5 get active and develop their fine motor skills through athletic educational programming. The program will teach children and their parents how to identify native plants that grow wild in Central Florida that are safe and nutritious to eat; implement 100% safe-to-eat native landscape plans in select parks and publicly accessible areas, implement planting strategies that eliminate harmful pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer use, and create spaces where the community at large can learn more about edible native plants.

  • 3rd Place ($15,000): Gonzales, Calif., Mayor Maria Orozco

Through the Healthy Gonzales Initiative, the city will work with its Youth Council to create and maintain a community garden and use food grown there for cooking demonstrations and classes, and to plan an event called Ciclovía Gonzales (ciclovía is a Spanish word meaning “cycleway” or “bike path”) where families come together for recreation such as biking, walking, running and skating. In addition to raffle prizes (including bikes), the event hosts a kids’ zone with activities and games, music and space for community agencies to share information and resources. Gonzales youth receive stipends to support their leadership and planning efforts.