Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation is working to transform the health of underserved Louisville residents, thanks to a $200,000 grant over two and a half years from the Johnson & Johnson Community Health Care Program Award for the Prevention of Childhood Obesity.
The Farm-to-Family Obesity Prevention Initiative is designed to connect underserved youth and families with fresh foods, the people who grow it, the land, and each other in cooperation with health care providers at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital, the Food Literacy Project and New Roots. The program will seek to influence the long-term health and food literacy for students at Hazelwood and Wellington elementary schools.
More than 90 percent of the students at Hazelwood and Wellington elementary schools are on the free or reduced price lunch program. The schools are located in “food deserts” or areas with limited access to stores providing fresh vegetables and fruits.
“A vital part of our mission is to address the root causes of poor health outcomes, particularly in underserved neighborhoods,” said Alice Bridges, vice president of healthy communities for KentuckyOne Health. “Understanding the importance of good, wholesome, fresh food, where it comes from, and how to incorporate it into your daily diet are building blocks for a lifetime of health and wellness. This generous grant from Johnson & Johnson is helping to do just that among the children and families in Shively and south Louisville.”
“We are grateful for this engaging, hands-on opportunity for our students,” said Bonnie Ciarroccki, coordinator of the health services/health promotion schools of excellence department for Jefferson County Public Schools. “This grant complements district efforts to teach our children about healthy food options and will help remove barriers to students’ success one healthy choice at a time.”
Angelique Perez, assistant director of the Food Literacy Project, a Louisville nonprofit that inspires a new generation to build healthy relationships with food, farming and the land, serves as the project director for this initiative, which in addition to hosting food access projects at the schools, furthers knowledge and experience with fresh fruits and vegetables through farm-based education, after-school clubs and family engagement programs. Through experiential nutrition education that emphasizes growing and preparing fresh vegetables, the project’s goal is to promote healthy lifestyles for the prevention of childhood obesity by increasing the nutritional proficiency of children and their caregivers and increasing families’ access to fresh, local foods.
“The program builds higher demand for fresh vegetables,” Perez said. “Young people and their families become connected to these foods as they plant, explore, harvest and cook them through farm-based education experiences, family engagement programs and the Field-to-Fork after-school clubs.”
“We provide positive experiences with fresh fruits and vegetables that unleash the power of discovering real food for students and their families,” said Carol Gundersen, executive director of the Food Literacy Project. “Families also have access to these healthful foods through school-based food access projects.”
New Roots, a Louisville nonprofit that works to ensure that every family can access fresh, local food and by doing so, increase their health, provides a Fresh Stop at Wellington Elementary. Fresh Stops are food-access projects where families can pool their money and SNAP benefits to purchase from local farmers in bulk.
“We recognize the importance of providing access to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Karyn Moskowitz, executive and program director of New Roots. “By focusing on families pooling their benefits, we are able to support healthy eating and organize the community to provide guidance and encouragement.”
The grant is administered in coordination with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which matches a doctoral student to work with the organization over a span of two and a half years to provide technical assistance with a goal of increasing the capacity of the organization to build on this obesity prevention work.
The goal of the Johnson & Johnson Community Health Care Program is to provide support and resources for community and public health initiatives that positively impact the access and delivery of quality health care services for medically underserved populations with a focus on childhood obesity prevention.
The Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Foundation is one of just seven organizations to receive the grant. Other recipients include nonprofit groups in Chicago, Las Vegas and Charlotte, NC.