Landmark Program Making Progress Through Local Initiatives to Reverse Childhood Obesity

In 50 communities across the country, the barriers that often keep children from eating healthy and being physically active are starting to come down.

Fifty communities* nationwide are part of a landmark $33 million program by RWJF to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic through local initiatives to improve access to affordable healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity for children.

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Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is the Foundation's single largest investment in community-based solutions to the epidemic. The sites represent more than half of the states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than a third are in the South, the region with the highest prevalence of obesity.

In every community, initiatives are focusing on neighborhoods where obesity is exacerbated by issues like acute unemployment and poverty, crime, dangerous traffic or too few grocery stores. Broad partnerships of local agencies and organizations are working to change public policies and local environments to remove the barriers that make it hard for children to eat nutritious foods and be physically active.

And there already have been successes, from revamped corner stores that now sell fresh healthy produce, to joint-use agreements that have opened playgrounds to communities after school hours, to a new ordinance in Watsonville, Calif., that’s aimed at encouraging healthier eating out. Any restaurant seeking a Watsonville building permit now will be required to earn a minimal number of points by committing to serve free water, smaller and less expensive portions, corn instead of flour tortillas and other particulars.

The program will continue through 2013.

* (HKHC) initially started with two sets of grantees, nine Leading Sites and 41 Round Two Sites. After the first year one grantee decided the grant program was not a good match for their initiative and did not continue in the second year of HKHC. HKHC currently has 49 grantees in 29 states.