What’s the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge?

United Way of Central Indiana partner Jump IN for Healthy Kids is on a mission to create healthy places, neighborhoods and communities. Communities where families have real opportunities to make healthy choices that promote their health, vitality and well-being. This includes expanding access to affordable, healthy food and meaningful opportunities to play and be active. For nearly two years, Jump IN for Healthy Kids has focused on bringing this mission to life in Greater Lawrence and the Far Eastside.


What is the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge?

Our work in Greater Lawrence and the Far Eastside is a comprehensive, multi-sector campaign to target childhood obesity in a defined geographic area. In 2016, Jump IN’s community demonstration project in Greater Lawrence and the Far Eastside (GLFE) was selected to compete in the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, a project competition running from October 1, 2016 – September 30, 2018.

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 and empowers small to mid-size U.S. cities and counties to create strategies that improve measurable health outcomes and promote health and wellness, equity and social interaction. Jump IN is one of 50 communities participating, and if deemed the winner will use the $250,000 prize to expand work in the GLFE area.



The GLFE 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. Jump IN is leading the charge in helping change some of these startling health statistics.


Reducing childhood obesity is a years-long process; one that we won’t be able to measure accurately for some time. However, our process has been modeled after proven best practices, focusing on improving healthy food access, schools, child care centers, employers and the build environment. Here’s a look at our work over the last two years as part of the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge.



Expanding Healthy Food Access


Community Gardens 
Planted community gardens that are serving both food pantries with donated food and neighborhood individuals through mobile delivery and retail sales at affordable pricing.


Fruits and vegetables at the Sharing Place
The Sharing Place food pantry offers healthier options now, thanks to help from Jump IN.

A Healthier Pantry
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. Some changes include increasing labeling of healthy food options and incorporating cooking education workshops. Read the full story here.


A Solution to the Food Desert
Jump IN received a $50,000 grant from the Glick Fund to pilot the Food Trust’s approach to healthy corner stores. The pilot focuses on increasing affordable, healthy options and improving the quality of food at corner stores in GLFE, which is 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.



Improving Schools


District Wellness Policy
Jump IN worked with all Lawrence Township Schools to create a District Wellness Committee and implemented a District Wellness Policy, focusing on nutrition and physical activity. They adopted a Healthy Celebration policy, restricting celebratory (and unhealthy) food to once a month and favoring incorporating healthy snacks into celebrations. They also began including 30 minutes of physical activity in the elementary school day, which includes P.E. courses and using GoNoodle technology throughout the school day.


Utilizing Community Data
More than 7,000 students in 15 Lawrence schools took the Student Health Assessment Questionnaire in 2017 and 2018 to determine family eating and physical activity habits. The data collected creates a representative sample of community behaviors, providing a snapshot of what areas of health are improving and which need further help.



A Holistic Approach


Promiseland Child Care began a school garden as part of the Taking Steps to Healthy Success program.

Child Care Centers
In partnership with Early Learning Indiana, Jump IN has enrolled and supported 15 child care providers as they’ve participated in and completed the Taking Steps to Healthy Success training program to promote nutrition and physical activity best practices in early education environments. Read Promiseland’s healthy success story to learn more.


Employee Wellness
With assistance from the Indianapolis Chamber and the Lawrence Chamber, Jump IN has identified one employer to implement employee wellness programs around good nutrition and physical activity based on each unique employer’s needs. We are working to engage additional employers before the end of the year.


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 approving a new bike and pedestrian plan and construction will begin in 2019 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.


Learn more about the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge here. To see the full range of programs and initiatives Jump IN supports, visit jumpINforHealthyKids.org.


This article is part of Jump INside, a blog series featuring stories from Jump IN for Healthy Kids, a United Way of Central Indiana partner that focuses on reducing and preventing childhood obesity in Central Indiana. See all of the stories here