The Greater Wichita YMCA, on behalf of the Health and Wellness Coalition of Wichita, was recently awarded a $2.4 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The grant was one of 40 Community Transformation Grants distributed nationwide. In total, the U.S. federal agency handed out $70 million in grants.
“We’re elated,” said Mim McKenzie, executive director of community development for the Greater Wichita YMCA. “We hope this creates more opportunities for us.”
In its grant application, the coalition addressed four areas it will target with funds: nutrition, physical activity, obesity and tobacco use.
McKenzie said the grant money will go toward several initiatives in town over the next two years, including:• Advancing plans for the city’s master bike plan for bike paths through the city as well as the pedestrian master plan to encourage physical activity.
• Community health awareness events.
• Continuing and expanding the breastfeeding in the work place initiative with the Sedgwick County Health Department to continue to provide equipment for moms.
• Creating mini-grants through the coalition for food pantries and soup kitchens to apply for money to purchase refrigerators for fresh fruit storage. Mini-grants will also be available for farmers markets, which will be able to apply for funds for to buy EBT machines that also run debit cards to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible for low-income families.
• Working with the Parks and Recreation Department to provide funding for signage in local parks to indicate where people can and cannot smoke and with the city housing department to improve non-smoking area signage in public housing.
• Assessing food systems in town to determine where more fruits and vegetables might be needed, like in the downtown area or in schools.
Lavonta Williams, a city council member who is involved in the coalition, said it will require cooperation and coordination among a variety of groups to bring the plans to fruition.
“This will take everything we do to the next level in building a healthy community,” said Williams, who has been involved in the coalition for several years.
The coalition, under the umbrella of the YMCA, was established in 2004 through a $20,000 grant by the Kansas Health Foundation. It is made up of more than 80 area health and service businesses and individuals that focus on promoting physical activity and good nutrition in the community.