Teaming Up to Address Childhood Obesity in Rural Washington State
The Washington Health Foundation funded three projects in rural areas of Washington State that addressed childhood obesity by changing policy, the environment or individual behavior. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a matching grant.
- The Washington Health Foundation and RWJF jointly funded three projects:
- Classroom in Bloom gives schoolchildren an opportunity to plant and maintain a half-acre garden.
- Healthy Teens uses peer health educators to increase physical activity and improve the nutrition of high school students.
- Healthy Nutrition and Fun Exercise supports ongoing efforts to influence health and nutrition in eight rural communities.
RWJF provided $50,000 in an unsolicited grant for this project from November 2005 to November 2006.
The epidemic of childhood obesity is especially severe in rural areas in general, and even more so in isolated, hard-to-reach rural communities, according to data from the federal Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Partnerships between regional funders, who have local knowledge about programs, leadership and challenges, and RWJF, with its more national perspective, create opportunities to leverage resources to address common concerns.
RWJF has developed three integrated strategies to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic: evidence, action and advocacy.
Investments in building the evidence base will help ensure that the most promising efforts are replicated throughout the nation.
The Foundation's major research efforts in this area — Active Living Research (also see Grant Results), Healthy Eating Research and Bridging the Gap — are contributing to the nation's collective knowledge about the changes to policies and to community and school environments that are most effective in increasing physical activity and improving nutrition of children.
RWJF also seeks to evaluate innovative approaches under way in states, schools and communities across the country, for example:
- RWJF supported an independent evaluation of efforts to implement Arkansas Act 1220, which mandated a comprehensive approach to addressing childhood obesity in public schools.
- The Foundation also funded a separate initiative to analyze body mass index (BMI) data for all Arkansas public school students. The BMI analysis already has indicated that in just three years, Arkansas has halted the progression of the epidemic in the state.
RWJF's action strategy for communities and schools focuses on engaging partners at the local level, building coalitions and promoting the most promising approaches.
RWJF is working with The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based advocacy organization whose mission is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food. The Food Trust has been bringing supermarkets back to underserved communities in Pennsylvania and is working with RWJF to replicate those results nationwide.
RWJF also is working closely with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (a partnership of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation) to support its efforts to improve nutrition, physical activity and staff wellness in schools nationwide.
As staff learns from the evidence and action strategies, RWJF shares results by educating leaders and investing in advocacy, building a broad national constituency for childhood obesity prevention.
RWJF supported the National Governors Association when Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee designated wellness in schools, homes and workplaces as his Chairman's Initiative for 2005–06.
Through Leadership for Healthy Communities, RWJF works closely with national organizations that represent elected and appointed officials — such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. Conference of Mayors — to educate their members about successful approaches to increasing physical activity and healthy eating among children. The goal is to support leaders and decision-makers in their efforts to create healthier states, counties and cities.
This grant provided matching funds to the Washington Health Foundation to support three rural nonprofit organizations to continue or to launch programs designed to prevent childhood obesity. The Washington Health Foundation is dedicated to improving the health of residents of Washington State.
According to Washington Health Foundation staff:
- With matching funds from RWJF, the Washington Health Foundation made grants to three projects:
- Classroom in Bloom, a project of the Winthrop School District, located in the Methow Valley of the North Cascades. Launched in 2003 and modeled after the Edible School Yard program in Berkeley, Calif., Classroom in Bloom gives schoolchildren an opportunity to plant and maintain a half-acre garden, growing foods that are cooked and served in the school cafeteria.
- Healthy Teens, a project of the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, is a collaboration with schools in rural Yakima County that uses peer health educators to increase physical activity and to improve nutrition of high school students, building on a model used for tobacco cessation. Grant funds originally had been allocated to Columbia Valley Community Health for a partnership with a local school district, but the school's leadership was unable to dedicate adequate time to the initiative.
- Healthy Nutrition and Fun Exercise, a project of the Enterprise for Progress in the Community (EPIC). EPIC is a nonprofit organization that sponsors Head Start and other early childhood education programs in central Washington. Funds supported ongoing efforts to influence the behavior of client families and the health and nutrition policies and systems of eight rural communities.
- Staff members from two of the funded projects formed partnerships within their communities and attracted local publicity:
- Classroom in Bloom involved volunteers from Kiwanis Clubs, developed ties to local service and community development partners and attracted regular coverage in the local newspapers.
- The Healthy Nutrition and Fun Exercise project secured a commitment from a Spanish-language radio station to broadcast regular programs about nutrition, physical activity and childhood obesity.
- Washington Health Foundation shared information about the three projects among its grantees and with RWJF. The project director organized a group site visit to Classroom in Bloom for three grantees of the Washington Health Foundation that were interested in childhood obesity. Staff also created a PowerPoint® presentation describing the partnership with RWJF (see the Bibliography) and presented it at a joint meeting with representatives of both foundations.
- A partnership between a local and a national foundation can have advantages for both. Local involvement ensures that a project is consistent with community values and practices, while the involvement of a national funder brings a broader perspective and the benefit of additional expertise. (Project Director)
- Flexibility and close relationships are crucial to effective grantmaking in rural communities. The capacity to align foundation and community priorities is greatly enhanced by strong connections with community leaders. (Project Director)
AFTER THE GRANT
The Washington Health Foundation and RWJF are exploring opportunities for exchanging information about ways to reduce childhood obesity and to fund jointly community-based health initiatives in rural parts of the state. RWJF's newest action-oriented investment — Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities — may be an opportunity for the two organizations to partner again in supporting policy and environmental change strategies for improving food and activity environments for children living in rural America.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Partnership with a Local Foundation to Address Childhood Obesity in Rural Washington State
Washington Health Foundation (Seattle, WA)
Dates: November 2005 to November 2006
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Audio-Visuals and Computer Software
Partnership to Address Childhood Obesity in Rural Washington, a PowerPoint® presentation by Lorna Stone. Seattle: Washington Health Foundation, July 28, 2006.
Report prepared by: Peter Meyer
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Jamie B. Bussel