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Projects underway for Building Healthy Communities

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Residential communities in Oak Park and South Sacramento are in good hands under the umbrella of the Sacramento Building Healthy Communities coalition for funding programs and collectives geared towards making Sacramento safer and healthier.

Several projects funded by the BHC are underway to create healthier food access for low-income families, better transportation, and safer neighborhoods by engaging youth in community service and leadership training.

Projects already initiated include an EBT dollar-for-dollar match incentive at the local Oak Park farmer’s market, assistance in building a home or community garden, and teaching youth the basics of news writing and reporting on issues in their community.

The coalition met Wednesday night for its quarterly Hub meeting—formed to create a network between all members of the community in an act to discuss and implement solutions. The meeting addressed several of the social, economic and health inequities facing teens and communities in South Sacramento and Oak Park. Some of these issues included childhood obesity, high-risk youth and gang-related violence, healthier food access and more available health care coverage for low-income families.

Sacramento Building Healthy Communities is an initiative funded by the California Endowment that strives to promote healthier choices in specified low-income neighborhoods. This is achieved through collaboration with stakeholders—those who hold the highest interest in the success of the community— including schools, businesses, community-oriented organizations, residents, law enforcement agencies and others.

Seventy-two members of the community attended the meeting, including City Councilman Jay Schenirer, to learn of some of the new developments in the community that are being implemented by several grantees of the coalition. Of the presentations, youth leadership development and engagement was a main theme for the night.

“We are working on creating a youth steering committee,” said Alberto Mercado, project coordinator for Building Healthy Communities and staff member of Asian Resources. “They’re the ones who are going to be here in 10 years,” he said.

The youth would be “kind of advisers to us,” said Francisco Gutierrez, community relations intern for BHC, stressing the matter that the youth know what’s happening in their communities, and the BHC merely assisting them in their solutions.

The coalition is already funding several organizations and programs which serve to engage more youth in the targeted area in leadership programs such as La Familia and People Reaching Out.

Grantees of the BHC include People Reaching Out, Legal Services of Northern California, Sacramento City Unified School District, Community Service Planning Council, and Panacea Services, Inc.

Bobby Powell with the Boys and Girls Club and Nina Harris from Will. C. Wood Middle School were two youth leaders present at the meeting and already set to join more leadership groups. Powell writes for a blog for the California Endowment called “Bobby’s Blog” through which he shares his experiences in his youth leadership with the rest of the community.

Harris presented with People Reaching Out, a nonprofit organization that addresses youth substance abuse and violence, and talked about an activity the organization has where the youth involved take pictures around their community, documenting what they believe needs to be changed.

“It helps students see what’s wrong with the community,” Harris said.

The Regional Transit Authority was present, accepting suggestions from community members on how to improve the transit system.

Other presentations of the night included groups that received local discretionary grants from the BHC which allow quarterly grants “available to groups that can’t find funding anywhere else,” Gutierrez said.

Hub discretionary grants are small-amount grants up to $2000 that are available to any nonprofit organization, local collective, or public school that uses volunteer efforts and community service to improve the health of its community. This funding is also available for art and cultural projects which seek to engage youth in positive service in their communities.

The new grant deadline for discretionary grants is set for Sept.17. Prospective applicants can find more information on the website (link at the bottom).

Recipients of the discretionary grants included the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, The Gardens, Tahoe Colonial Collaborative, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, Alchemist Community Development, Oak Park Neighborhood Association, Language Academy of Sacramento, Prevention Works and Mien Club.

“Those programs are always left behind,” Mercado said, further commenting that some groups are small and don’t have as much outreach as larger organizations to be recognized by larger grant programs.

Alchemist, a subcontractor of Soil Born Farms, provides interactive and engaging activities for youth to convene on food access projects around the community. Alchemist was only one of the many groups present at the meeting that provide engaging services for youth to act as leaders in their own communities.

“If we can give them the tools and the space, they will become the leaders of tomorrow,” Mercado said.

Building Healthy Communities meetings are open to the public and there are numerous volunteer opportunities to get involved with the programs in the coalition. For more information visit:


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