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New York State Health Foundation Launches Healthy Neighborhoods Fund Initiative

Contact: Michele McEvoy, 212-292-7293

$2 Million Grant Initiative to Help Communities in New York State Improve Access to Healthy,
Affordable Food and Safe Places to Exercise

February 2, 2015 (New York) – The New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) has selected six communities across New York State for grant awards totaling $2 million to help them become healthier, more active places where residents of all ages can thrive. The six communities supported through the Healthy Neighborhoods Fund will use the two-year grants to increase access to healthy, affordable food; improve access to safe places where people can exercise and be active; and connect children and adults to programs that encourage healthy behaviors.

“From Brownsville to Plattsburgh, we know that people living in neighborhoods without easy access to nutritious food and places to walk and play face high risks of obesity and chronic disease. Healthy food and physical activity need to become easy choices for New Yorkers,” said James R. Knickman, President and CEO of NYSHealth. “The Healthy Neighborhoods Fund communities will be working across sectors to tackle a wide range of neighborhood factors that adversely affect the health of New Yorkers in low-income communities.”

For example, in East Harlem, one project goal is for community partners to work together to establish a local wholesale food hub that will provide neighborhood bodegas and markets with fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables. In Clinton County, funds will accelerate plans to implement Complete Streets policies in 14 townships, which will make streets safer and more conducive to walking and biking, and help redesign 3 parks, playgrounds, and open spaces to support physical activity for children and adults.

“New York has made great strides in making communities healthier. But we need to ensure that health improvements spread to all neighborhoods—especially those with high rates of poverty and poor health,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “These grants will help us address some of the inequities that have led to poor health outcomes in low-income neighborhoods and ensure all New Yorkers have the opportunity to live healthy lives.”

The funded projects will involve collaborations among various government agencies, local businesses, food retailers, schools, community-based organizations, and community residents to develop neighborhood-wide solutions that will lead to healthy and active neighborhoods.

“An equitable city requires healthy residents in all of its neighborhoods. This initiative brings together diverse partners from health departments, parks and recreation, city planning, and others and complements our holistic and collaborative planning work with communities. We all have a role to play in addressing the many factors that facilitate healthy lifestyles,” said Carl Weisbrod, Director, New York City Department of City Planning. “It is also important to give residents the chance to be engaged and supported in the process of transforming their neighborhoods into healthier, stronger communities.”

“The Healthy Neighborhoods Fund offers our rural county the ability to expand on some of our preliminary efforts to engage communities in establishing healthy places for area residents,” said Jerie Reid, Director of Public Health, Clinton County Health Department. “These funds will help us coordinate efforts with our colleagues at the County Planning Office, along with Town Recreation Departments, and allow us to increase the opportunities for people to live active and healthy lives. It will help advance our plans to enhance our local Saranac River Trail, optimize bus routes to increase access to supermarkets for residents with transportation barriers, and connect farmers’ markets with food banks and pantries to improve the quality and nutritional value of the food that is currently offered in these places.”

New York Community Trust also has partnered with NYSHealth in a complementary initiative, South Bronx Healthy and Livable Neighborhoods, to invest in three neighborhoods in the South Bronx and help them plan comprehensive health improvement programs: Mott Haven, Morrisania, and Hunts Point. 

NYSHealth selected the six Healthy Neighborhoods Fund communities through a competitive request for proposals. Through this initiative, NYSHealth will award its 100 millionth grant dollar since its inception in 2006.


NYSHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund Grant Recipients

Clinton County Health Department ($250,000) will work in the city of Plattsburgh and the 14 towns and associated villages located within the county to implement Complete Streets policies; certify local food retailers as healthy food vendors; redesign and promote 3 parks, playgrounds, or other open spaces to support the increase of physical activity for adults and children; advance the development of a walking trail through both the city and town of Plattsburgh; optimize bus routes to connect residents to supermarkets and healthy food options; and work with schools and food pantries to improve the quality and nutritional value of food served at these locations. 

Community Solutions ($350,000) will work in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn to increase access to fresh produce in local bodegas; add 18 miles of new bike lanes; and repurpose 5 vacant or underused spaces for afterschool programming and public arts projects. The funding will also hasten efforts to establish a new community center where residents can be connected to services for a range of issues, from job-seeking assistance to finding diabetes prevention classes.

Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative ($250,000) will focus on improving access to healthy food in the Highland Avenue and Hyde Park neighborhoods of Niagara Falls by expanding pop-up farmers’ markets and farm shares of fresh produce for residents. Resident leaders will receive nutrition, food access, and advocacy skills training so they can respond to community issues, act as peer educators, and prioritize the needs of the community in the implementation of food access and built environment projects.

Fund for Public Health in New York ($600,000) will partner with the New York Academy of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, and the New York City Department of City Planning to work in East Harlem. Through a process that will engage all community stakeholders including residents, leaders, and City agencies the partners will work to increase access to healthy foods and decrease the availability and promotion of sugar-sweetened beverages; and to improve the safety of and access to open spaces.

Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion ($250,000) will work in the Near Westside neighborhood of Syracuse, collaborating with a local supermarket to increase residents’ knowledge of, access to, and purchase of healthier foods. Lerner Center will work with the supermarket on the implementation of a food-rating system, a new loyalty card program, and the transfer of grocery-shopping data to electronic medical records. Projects to improve the built environment include the renovation of an underused field house and soccer court. 

Two Bridges Neighborhood Council ($300,000) will work on the Lower East Side in New York City to expand GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box program, which provides subsidized, fresh, locally grown produce to residents; partner with a local health care facility to launch the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, which subsidizes the purchase of fruits and vegetables for people in low-income neighborhoods; and implement design recommendations for the South Street corridor that will increase access for residents to the walking trail along the East River and other public spaces.

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The New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) is a private, statewide foundation dedicated to improving the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. Today, NYSHealth concentrates its work in three strategic priority areas: expanding health care coverage, building healthy communities, and advancing primary care. The Foundation is committed to making grants, informing health care policy and practice, spreading effective programs to improve the health system, serving as a neutral convener of health leaders across the State, and providing technical assistance to its grantees and partners.