The West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation and Community Services Department will be able to expand access to healthy foods through its programs thanks to a new $80,000 grant.
The grant, in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association, is part of a $2.5 million grant the association received from the Walmart Foundation, according to a news release from the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District. The grant allows park and recreation agencies nationwide to set up community nutrition hubs to improve the health of community members.
The department is working with Caitlyn White, who works with the city of West Allis and oversees the West Allis Farmers Market, and Cheryl Davies, a nutritionist with the West Allis Health Department.
The grant will allow the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation and Community Service Department to create three programs, according to Shelly Strasser, the department director.
- A Mini Marketers program for children. The program gives children ages 8-12 the opportunity to learn about and use the farmers market, teaches them about the importance of buying local produce and provides money to the children to buy produce to take home with them.
- A program to enable the West Allis Farmers Market to provide delivery services to participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program. The program was established as part of a needs assessment with WIC-participating families to gauge whether the farmers market hours were appropriate, whether they had adequate transportation, as well as societal challenges.
- The third program provides a free family meal once a week to emphasize the importance and benefits of eating as a family, as well as nutrition education.
Improving good access across diverse communities
The National Recreation and Park Association seeks to expand local parks and recreation departments’ roles and capacities to improve food access across diverse communities. The organization wants to do this by increasing access to healthy foods in low-income areas through federally funded nutrition programs. It also looks to share best practices for those departments to serve as nutrition hubs. These practices include providing help with enrolling in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and WIC programs, hosting farmers markets and offering intergenerational health literacy and meal programs, as well as providing evidence-based nutrition literacy resources to reduce food insecurity and create behavior change, the district’s news release said.
The association’s vice president of programs and partnerships, Kellie May, said the Walmart Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the organization and has helped to reduce food insecurity and hunger nationwide through a variety of evidence-based strategies such as mobile meal delivery.
“They have absolutely been a supporter, also focusing on communities of color and low-income households and prioritizing those investments for those communities who need it the most,” May said.