Jump IN’s Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge

Did you know? Jump IN for Healthy Kids is fortunate and honored to be one of the 50 organizations competing for the $250,000 Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge.  The Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties. The partnership empowers small to mid-size U.S. cities and counties to create a positive health impact. 50 communities were selected by competitive process to be part of the Challenge, and Jump IN’s community demonstration project in Greater Lawrence and the Far Eastside (GLFE) was selected as one of the 50. Jump IN’s work and the work of our partners is broad and deep, and we’ve listed nearly everything below that we’re up to in GLFE, so it’s a bit of a long read, but we really wanted to tell you about our work.  It’s a lot, and there are wonderful partners and grassroots efforts that are helping improve the health of residents every day.  If we are fortunate enough to win the Challenge, the prize money will go directly into the GLFE community to continue and expand our work. 

Kids at Harrison Hill jump during an assembly

Why GLFE? Families will find it difficult, if not impossible, to engage in healthy eating and active living if they live in neighborhoods where they lack access to affordable, nutritious food and safe places to play and be active.  In early 2016, Jump IN launched our first “community demonstration project” in Greater Lawrence and the Far Eastside:  a program to pilot numerous strategies and interventions simultaneously in one geographic region. This community, comprised of the City of Lawrence and Lawrence Township, boasts strong partnerships between its schools, health care providers, local government, and community organizations.  But the area also presents serious economic and health disparities between the residents in the northern and southern parts of the community; for example, the poverty and pediatric asthma rates for children in the southern half of Lawrence Township are five times higher than for children who live just a few miles north. The Challenge will continue through fall, 2018. What we’ve done so far:

  • Healthy Food Access:
    • New community gardens have been created that are serving both food pantries with donated food and neighborhood individuals through mobile delivery and retail sales at affordable pricing.
    • Three food pantries in partnership with Purdue Extension began adding “healthy nudges;” to make the pantry healthier and increase consumption of healthier, less processed food: increasing labeling of healthy food options, incorporating cooking education workshops, and providing other resources to pantry and retail consumers that help them make good food choices.
    • In December, 2017, Jump IN received a $50,000 grant from the Glick Fund to pilot the Food Trust’s approach to healthy corner stores, training community partners (Marion Co. Health and Marion Co. Purdue Extension wellness staff) to identify corner stores in Lawrence and the far east side to increase offering healthy options at affordable pricing. The Food Trust is a national organization based in Philadelphia that has established a proven system of improving the quality of food offered in convenience stores, gas stations, dollar stores and other corner stores – at affordable prices.  Lawrence and the Far Eastside are rated as a severe food dessert; this project offers a solution relatively quickly. Rather than waiting years hoping for a full-service grocery to arrive, this initiative will create access to healthier food within a matter of months.  This pilot will be fully implemented in 2018.                                                                                             
  • Schools: Jump IN worked with Lawrence Township Schools to create a District Wellness Committee in 2016, with all Lawrence Township Schools participating. Jump IN, pushing the Healthiest Cities projects, joined with Stephanie Thornberry of the Marion County Department of Health to get approved a District Wellness Policy in 2017.  More than 2,300 Lawrence students in grades 4-12 completed FitnessGram assessments.  The District Wellness Committee established two goals.  The first was nutrition-focused:  they adopted a Healthy Celebration policy, restricting celebratory (and unhealthy) food to once a month and favoring incorporating healthy snacks celebrations.   The second goal was to include 30 minutes of physical activity in the elementary school day.  Some of that activity takes the form of P.E. and recess while a different type of activity occurs with GoNoodle.  Jump IN cultivated support from the Colts to install GoNoodle in Lawrence elementary classrooms.  GoNoodle is an interactive screen tool that takes children through a physical activity during intervals of schoolwork.  For example, for every hour of classwork, GoNoodle will display an activity and lead children through 10 minutes of a physical exercise activity.
  • More than 6,000 students in 15 Lawrence schools (as well as three IPS schools and one charter school in Lawrence Township) took the Student Health Assessment Questionnaire in 2017 to determine family eating and physical activity habits.  The questionnaire collects data on family meals, tracks fruit and vegetable consumption, exercise habits, and family interactions over making choices about eating and activity.  The data collected creates a representative sample of a community behaviors.  What families are doing = what communities are doing.  The questionnaires are repeated each May to compare habits from year to year.
  • Child Cares: Twelve providers participated in and completed the Taking Steps to Healthy Success training program to promote healthy habits. Five more are participating in the program right now.
  • Employee Wellness: With assistance from the Indianapolis Chamber and the Lawrence Chamber, Jump IN has identified two employers to implement employee wellness programs around good nutrition and physical activity based on each unique employer’s needs.  Our goal is to engage an additional eight employers in 2018.
  • Built Environment: Jump IN has met with the City of Lawrence to prioritize their built environment plans to include aspects that facilitate physical activity with bike lanes and sidewalks, trails, and parks. Lawrence Township is in the process of a approving a new bike and pedestrian plan and in 2019 construction will begin on the Purple line, bringing much-needed public transportation to GLFE.

Jump IN is very grateful to the many partners in GLFE that we’re working with, and will continue this work long after the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge is over.  The work is important, and we are dedicated to helping all residents have access to living a healthy lifestyle so that we can reduce childhood obesity and the dangerous health problems associated with it.  More information about the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge can be found here.