CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) and the Mayors Innovation Project announced the winners of their joint grant program and have named the City of Champaign Township as a $10,000.00 winner. The program aims to empower municipal leaders to improve children’s health and reduce health disparities in communities, in particular by supporting efforts that de-crease neurotoxic exposures. 

Municipalities submitted proposals to leverage this grant with local funding to support systematic change, responding specifically to needs heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. From a strong pool of cities ranging from 7,000 to 1.7 million in population, 10 winners were selected to receive not only grants, but also technical assistance and an opportunity to present at a future Mayors Innovation Project meeting.

“The City of Champaign Township is proud to participate and support these initiatives in partnership with so many other great agencies. These funds will go directly to ensuring those in need in our community have the opportunity to get fresh food and health care readily and in their neighborhood” notes City of Champaign Township Supervisor Andy Quarnstrom.

“Response to COVID-19 required significant behavioral changes and adaptations and many will continue to have an influence in the future,” said Kyra Naumoff Shields, HBBF’s Bright Cities Program Director. “It helps us see that — particularly in a time of crisis — people can change their behavior for a positive community impact. The City of Champaign Township and our part-ner’s planned work will dramatically improve the health of the babies in their city.”

The City of Champaign Township and the City of Champaign are partnering with an innovative, visionary, and community-wide initiative, Champaign-Urbana City Farms (CU City Farms), to increase access to organic and nutritious food among our community’s most vulnerable populations, with a special emphasis on families and children, while working to create systemic and long-term change through the development of a strong, local urban food system. Beginning this summer, the initiative plans to deploy a Mobile Market, alongside the Carle Mobile Health Clinic and its Healthy Beginnings Program, to deliver fresh, locally grown organic produce, medical care, and prenatal/postnatal resources to the area’s underserved and economically challenged communities. The City of Champaign Township’s Prosperity Gardens will provide fresh produce for the Mobile Market.

Other partners in the CU City Farms community-wide initiative are the University of Illinois College of ACES, Carle Health, Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, CU Public Health District, Champaign and Urbana Park Districts, and Sola Gratia Farm, among others. The grant will be used to offset costs related to the retrofit of the interior of the bus.”

One in six children in America has a developmental disability, and one in 45 have been diag-nosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Research indicates that early life exposures to neu-rotoxic chemicals from drinking water, food, air, soil and consumer products — can contribute to autism, IQ loss, learning or behavioral problems, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and speech or cognitive delays.

“City leaders can dramatically impact children’s health, in particular children of color, who are most adversely impacted by these environmental harms. By addressing the social and physical determinants of health through access to healthy foods, lead abatement, and more, city leaders can play a major role in addressing children’s health disparities,” said Katya Spear, Co-Managing Director of the Mayors Innovation Project. “We are excited to support these projects and the opportunity to promote them as best practices for cities across the country.”