Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America (ABFHA) announced today $745,000 in grants to nine cities who were winners of the 2023 Childhood Obesity Prevention & Environmental Health and Sustainability Awards. The grants, which were awarded during USCM’s 91st Winter Meeting, aim to support programs that address childhood obesity, environmental health, and sustainability by encouraging community members to engage in healthier behaviors.
Since the beginning of their partnership in 2012, USCM and ABFHA have jointly awarded 68 cities across the country with 75 grants worth $5.8 million. Those awards have supported programs for enhancing health, wellness and environmental quality of life for children and families.
The 2023 winners include a program in Charlotte (NC) that educates young people about recycling and reducing food waste; a program in Lansing (MI) that provides mini-grants to find solutions to local food deserts; and an initiative in Oak Park (IL) to empower 15 communities and several local nonprofits to cooperate on climate action.
“Being there for our neighbors is something that is part of the DNA at America’s beverage companies. While we represent some of the most iconic global brands, our products are made and brought to market through local bottlers with deep roots in cities and towns of all sizes,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association and president of the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America (ABFHA) Board of Directors. “Our long-lasting partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors has proven invaluable as we work together toward our shared goal of solving problems and investing in strong communities.”
“Thanks to our years-long partnership with the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America, the Conference has invested in cities to innovate on their most pressing health needs. America’s cities are on the front lines of the nation’s health and environmental struggles, and mayors are rising to the challenge. We are proud to enable these kinds of local-led, community-driven solutions,” said Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of USCM.
The nine U.S. cities receiving 2023 grant awards are:
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Arlington, Texas
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Lansing, Michigan
- Allentown, Pennsylvania
- Gastonia, North Carolina
- Oak Park, Illinois
- Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
- Mount Vernon, New York
Brief descriptions of each winning program can be found below:
1st Place: Village of Oak Park, IL (Mayor Vicki Scaman)
The Cross Community Climate Collaborative (C4) is a partnership between 15 communities and several local nonprofits that have committed to work together to address the climate crisis and achieve equity and sustainability outcomes, with a specific focus on engaging and supporting Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), and other under-resourced communities. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs for BIPOC and low-to-moderate income (LMI) residents, projected outcomes of the initiative include enhancing solar energy access in the residential commercial, municipal, and institutional sectors; building out electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure; developing residential curbside food scrap programs; and a robust youth development program that will train and support young people to participate in the annual United Nations COP Climate Summits.
2nd Place: City of Aguadilla, PR (Mayor Julio Roldán Concepción)
Located in the Sandy Schatz Urban Forest near the site of a planned dog park, the 400-meter Recycling Interactive Walking Trail will promote recycling via QR codes and signage along different sections of the trail that will link to videos of the Mayor speaking about the importance of recycling. There will also be recycling bins located strategically along the walking trail, to motivate families and children to properly dispose of regular and recycling waste in dedicated bins while visiting the park. As a hybrid program, the Recycling Interactive Walking Trail promotes both public health and environmental goals in the Aguadilla community.
3rd Place: City of Mount Vernon, NY (Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard)
Through the Healthy Living Café, participants (both young people and seniors) will be offered a hands-on experience where they are instructed on shopping for the best ingredients, cleaning and prepping in the kitchen, and cooking and presentation of healthy meals. The goal is to provide program participants with a fun, engaging and hands-on approach to learning about cooking and nutritional well-being.
1st Place: Lansing, MI (Mayor Andy Schor)
Grow Lansing is a neighborhood mini-grants program that aims to help Lansing residents dismantle food deserts, gain access to nutritious perishable foods, and address other food inequity and insecurity issues. As a mini-grants program, Grow Lansing is designed to empower neighborhoods, local schools, and community leaders to develop the solutions that work best for them. The primary target populations will be school-age children (kindergarten to 8th grade) with a focus on BIPOC communities, limited income communities, and marginalized limited resource communities from the 2020 Census tract. Through Grow Lansing, the Mayor and the City aim to support the development of local farms, farmers markets and community gardens; to encourage home gardens; and to incentivize planting community gardens on vacant lots.
2nd Place: Allentown, PA (Mayor Matthew Tuerk)
The Jordan Creek Greenway Trail, slated to be completed in spring of 2023, will connect various city parks to create an uninterrupted fourteen-mile route along the Little Lehigh and Jordan Creeks. The Marathon Mayor initiative will encourage the use of this trail, and other parks in Allentown, by installing infrastructure that will make the trails more interactive and functional, expanding several physical activity programs already in existence, and increasing community engagement. Ultimately, the initiative highlights Mayor Tuerk’s love of running along Allentown’s beautiful trails and his effort to encourage the youth of Allentown to do the same.
3rd Place: Gastonia, NC (Mayor Walker Reid)
Litter Free Walkways is a partnership between the City of Gastonia, the nonprofit Catawba Riverkeeper, and other stakeholders to install a trash trap on a Gastonia stream, which will collect litter that ends up in streams when it rains via runoff. Trash traps installed in other North Carolina cities since 2020 have so far collected more than 21,000 pounds of litter. In addition to installing, cleaning and maintaining the trash trap, Litter Free Walkways will also host quarterly stream cleanups and operate a quarterly litter education program in Gastonia. All residents of Gastonia, as well as those who live downstream, will benefit from a reduction in litter.
1st Place: Charlotte, NC (Mayor Vi Alexander Lyles)
Through the Deputy Diversion program, middle school youth throughout Charlotte will participate in a three-hour Saturday morning program to learn how to better recycle and reduce food waste. Envision Charlotte, partnering with the City of Charlotte, has created a 36,000 square foot Innovation Barn, which will be the site for the program. The Innovation Barn houses a “Micro MRF” (materials recovery facility) for plastic and aluminum, an aquaponic garden that raises edible freshwater fish and vegetables together in a symbiotic environment, a garden of mushrooms grown on sawdust in shipping containers, a teaching kitchen used for teaching sustainable cooking and reducing food waste, and an Incubator Lab – a space for entrepreneurs in the circular economy to experiment with innovative ideas for (re-)using materials destined for the landfill.
2nd Place – Arlington, TX (Mayor Jim Ross)
In collaboration with a wide range of community partners and stakeholders, Healthy Connections: A Healthy Arlington Initiative aims to further walkability in Arlington, and in particular safe walks in Arlington, and other health and wellness disparities by conducting a walk audit of the City (a walk audit is an assessment of the pedestrian safety, accessibility, and comfort of a particular area that can identify street inequities and lead to safer and fairer street environments) and designing ten-minute Safe Walks based on the results of the audit, via smartphone app. The City will Identify and establish a series of safe ten-minute walking trips to healthy food sources, recreational, and educational locations for Arlington families. These walks will be highlighted in a webinar series for City residents, as well as shown on the Healthy Connections webpage hosted on the City’s website.
3rd Place – Louisville, KY (Mayor Craig Greenberg)
Louisville is Engaging Children Outdoors, or Louisville ECHO, began in 2008 with the launch of a pilot outdoor education program focused on fourth-grade students; it’s since grown to serve 2,500 youth aged three to 21 annually, and complementary park infrastructure in west Louisville has either been constructed (a boat ramp, a bicycle pump track, construction of the first hiking trail in west Louisville) or are “shovel-ready” or under construction (such as the restoration of a contaminated pond for fishing and kayaking, and most importantly, the proposed Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center). Through Louisville ECHO the City will staff and outfit the first outdoor learning center in west Louisville, a temporary facility that will increase community Impact and engagement, while actively raising funds to construct the permanent Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center. Louisville ECHO aims to double its program capacity to serve 5,000 youth in calendar year 2023 and increase the number of discrete program activities offered to youth each year from 157 to 320. (Note: this program was proposed by former Louisville Mayor Fischer, who was still in office at the time of the original application was submitted).