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16 North Carolina Park and Recreation Departments Receive Grants from the BCBSNC Foundation  to Increase Access to Healthy, Local Foods

May 12th, 2014  

The North Carolina Recreation and Park Association (NCRPA) has partnered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation to provide almost $70,000 in Healthy Eating Equipment grants to sixteen city and county park and recreation departments across the state.  These equipment grants will be used to increase access to healthy, local foods – for example, by adding healthier food items on park concession menus, developing teaching community gardens for local families, providing a healthier summer feeding program and healthy cooking and eating classes and many more.

 

“The North Carolina Recreation and Park Association is already an important partner in creating healthier places to play and now they are stepping up to provide healthy local foods,” said Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. “The Healthy Eating Equipment grants are helping these parks and recreation departments change policies and start new programs to bring access to healthy foods to communities across North Carolina.”

 

Park and Recreation Departments  who are member agencies of NCRPA were eligible to apply for this equipment grant.  These healthy eating grants align with NCRPA’s Wellness Initiative, which seeks  to empower   park and recreation agencies in North Carolina to create healthy communities through the development of programs, policies, and infrastructure that support healthy eating and physical activity.

 

“Partnering with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation has enabled NCRPA to assist local park and recreation agencies with financial and technical resources to promote healthy eating and consumption of local foods,” stated Michelle Wells, NCRPA Executive Director.  “Providing healthier food choices is a natural component to physical activity opportunities provided by parks and recreation as we move towards the goal of healthier communities.”

 

With over 225 park and recreation departments in North Carolina, providing space and programing opportunities for physical activity. Departments also provide the opportunity for communities to access food in various situations (concessions, camps, afterschool, senior programs, and classes).  While park and recreation providers know they do physical activity well, they also understand the need to offer healthy local foods.  In a survey administered in January 2012 to Park and Recreation Directors; 98.7% stated they want to promote healthy eating and physical activity in their agencies, but most would like to be more effective. This survey also indicated three main barriers to adopting healthy eating and physical activity: funding or budget constraints, lack of staff time or ability to find qualified staff and lack of appropriate facilities.

 

Health and wellness is an important part of every community. It is recognized on both a state and national level that recreation and park departments play an important role in the health of the community they serve.  NCRPA strives to be a leader across the state by helping parks and recreation agencies be a catalyst to create healthy communities through the development of programs, policies, and infrastructure that support healthy eating and physical activity

NCRPA through its wellness initiative will provide support for grantees through a series of Healthy Eating Workshops and its Monthly Wellness Webinars. These workshops will cover nutrition guidelines, food safety considerations in sourcing and preparing produce, working with donated food, and provides an opportunity for attendees to learn more about produce suppliers in their area. An online toolkit (http://www.ncrpa.net/wellness ) along with NCRPA’s staff will provide ideas and support for grantees and any other park and recreation department interested in in promoting wellness in their community.

A few ways the grants are being used:

  • The City of Graham Recreation and Parks Department is increasing access to healthy food and beverages by changing their policy to provide healthy food, beverages and snacks in all concession areas.

  • The City of Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department is starting a Farmer’s Market Bus to connect out of school program youth to a weekly dose of healthy, fresh local fruits and vegetables.

  • The Town of Indian Trail Parks and Recreation Department is creating new parks in Union County with healthy food, snacks and vending policies.

  • Madison County Parks and Recreation is partnering with the county health department and cooperative extension office to provide healthy meals for Madison County youth during the summer season.

The 16 city and county parks and recreation grantees are:

  • Recreation Division of Buncombe County Library, Recreation and Culture – Buncombe County

  • Cabarrus County Active Living and Parks Department – Cabarrus County

  • Town of Clayton Parks and Recreation Department - Johnston County

  • Gaston County Parks and Recreation – Gaston County

  • City of Graham Recreation and Parks Department – Alamance County

  • City of Greensboro Parks and Recreation – Guilford County

  • City of Greenville Recreation and Parks Department – Pitt County

  • The Town of Indian Trail Parks and Recreation Department - Union County

  • City of Kannapolis Parks and Recreation Department – Cabarrus County

  • Madison County Parks and Recreation – Madison County

  • Town of Mooresville Parks and Recreation Department – Iredell County

  • City of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Department - Surry County

  • City of New Bern Parks and Recreation Department – Craven County

  • Town of Selma Parks and Recreation Department – Johnston County

  • City of Thomasville Parks and Recreation Department - Davidson County

  • City of Wilmington Recreation and Downtown Services Department– New Hanover County


 

About BCBSNC Foundation:

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a separate, independent, nonprofit Foundation dedicated to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The Foundation's focus areas include: Health of Vulnerable Populations - improving health outcomes of populations served by safety net organizations; Healthy Active Communities - increasing physical activity and access to healthy local foods; and Community Impact through Nonprofit Excellence - increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations and their leaders.  BCBSNC Foundation invests in programs and services in response to grant requests and proactively creates initiatives or partners with organizations to address specific needs. It also coordinates several Signature Programs, among them, Be Active Kids® and Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit Excellence. More information is available at www.bcbsncfoundation.org. Since its founding in 2000, the BCBSNC Foundation has invested nearly $90 million into North Carolina communities through more than 720 grants.

 

About the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association:

Founded in 1944, the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association (NCRPA) is the premier nonprofit education and advocacy organization, dedicated to the advancement of the park, recreation and leisure professions in our state. NCRPA empowers park and recreation professionals and citizen board members through educational opportunities that enhance their ability to change lives and impact communities on a daily basis for the citizens of North Carolina. For an overview of the programs and services offered by the organization, visit www.ncrpa.net .


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