Press release: Bloomington Parks & Recreation Joins Biden-Harris Administration in Recognizing Parks Role in Impacting Public Health

The following press release was published Tuesday by the City of Bloomington: 

“September 27, 2022

For more information, please contact

Paula McDevitt, Administrator, Parks and Recreation [email protected] or 812-349-3700

Bloomington Parks & Recreation Joins Biden-Harris Administration in Recognizing Parks Role in Impacting Public Health

Bloomington, Ind.-For the first time since  1969, the White House on Sept. 28 hosts the Conference on Hunger,  Nutrition, and Health, where the Biden-Harris Administration will  announce strategies to meet the goals of ending hunger and reducing  diet-related disease by increasing healthy eating and physical activity  in the U.S. by 2030.

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), on behalf of its  members including Bloomington Parks and Recreation, contributed  recommendations on how park and recreation agencies can contribute to  the ambitious goal by increasing access to healthy, local, nutritious  food and by providing access to opportunities for physical activity.

According to the United Way of Monroe County, Indiana’s Service  Community Assessment of Needs (SCAN) data for 2020, access to an  adequate food supply is a problem for some individuals and families.  Indiana ranks 45th in the country for its child food insecurity rate;  28% of K-12 students in Monroe County receive free lunch at public  schools, while an additional 6% receive reduced-fee lunches. More than  3,500 households in Monroe County—and more than 7,000  individuals—receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)  benefits.

In addition, the SCAN report revealed the adult obesity rate in  Monroe County is 23%, and 17% of adults reported themselves to be in  poor or fair health. According to the Bloomington Health Foundation, the  most recent Monroe County Health Department Community Health Needs  Assessment identifies chronic disease management as one of our  community’s most pressing health needs.

Bloomington Parks and Recreation is an ongoing stakeholder and  service provider in the public health arena. The department in 2002 was  selected as an NRPA “Hearts N’ Parks” magnet center, and was one of the  first parks departments in the country to use its existing facilities  and programs to encourage heart-healthy lifestyles with the goal of  reducing the growing trend of obesity and risk of coronary heart  disease.

Get Onboard Active Living (G.O.A.L.), launched in 2010 with community  partners including IU Health, Monroe County Community Schools, and the  YMCA, continues to provide families education and support on nutrition,  fitness and behavioral habits to help the entire family unit make  positive, lifelong changes for active lifestyles. Thirty-two cohorts  have participated in the GOAL program since its inception.

The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market began accepting what was  then known as “food stamps” in 2007, and was the first farmers’ market  in Indiana to do so. The name of the federal “food stamps” program  changed to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in 2008.  In 2013 the Market began Double Market Bucks, a grant through the  Bloomington Parks Foundation that allows SNAP participants to double the  value of their SNAP dollars to buy fresh food from local farmers at the  Market. Since it was enacted, the Double Market Bucks program has  increased food security in Bloomington, strengthened the local food  economy, promoted healthy lifestyles among SNAP customers, and increased  access to nutritious foods available at the Farmers’ Market even as  decreased unemployment and changing policies have decreased the number  of individuals eligible for SNAP benefits in Indiana.

The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market furthered its mission to  support access to nutrition for vulnerable populations by using a grant  awarded in 2020 from the Bloomington Health Foundation to triple  Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program benefits for Women, Infants and  Children (WIC) participants, and for seniors via the Senior Farmers’  Market Nutrition Program vouchers offered through the Area 10 Agency on  Aging.

In addition to improving access to healthy food, the Farmers’ Market  is committed to educating residents about what “local food” truly means.  The Market hosted public tours that visited Market vendors’ farms,  allowing people a firsthand look at where meat, eggs, produce and even  products like maple syrup and honey comes from and how each is made or  produced. Free “tasting” events at the Market give all visitors the  opportunity to try dozens of heirloom varieties of apples and tomatoes  grown in south-central Indiana, expanding the palates and food knowledge  of everyone who partakes.

Grants and financial support to the Banneker Community Center created  opportunities for Parks and Recreation to provide food and nutrition  education resources to Bloomington families. A “Parks as Community  Nutrition Hubs: Expanding Access to Healthy Food” grant from the NRPA  and the Walmart Foundation gave Banneker $80,000 to expand nutrition  services, provide access to affordable, healthy food, and reduce food  insecurity. Banneker has served as an Indiana Summer Food Service  Program site for more than 15 years.

The Community Nutrition Hubs grant award came on the heels of a  $199,600 Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. grant that allowed  Banneker to completely renovate its kitchen space into a commercial  kitchen.

Parks and Recreation takes its commitment to access to healthy food  to the next level by offering resources that help people grow their own  food. The Community Gardening program takes place in three different  sites around the city, where rental plots are available to grow herbs,  berries, flowers and vegetables. Renters are provided with communal  tools and basic supplies like water and compost to be used in direct  food production. Classes offer additional training in seed starting and  food preservation, while a scholarship program offers financial aid for  plot rental assistance.

Nutritious food is just one part of a healthy lifestyle; physical  activity has been the hallmark of Parks and Recreation facilities and  programs since the first city park was dedicated in 1924. Places to walk  and bike, or play on a playground or recline in the shade of a tree are  all available for free at 33 different park properties and over the  city’s 35 miles of paved and natural surface trails. The city continues  to invest in tools for healthy lifestyles by adding outdoor fitness  stations along the B-Line Trail, and in Butler Park, Bryan Park, Winslow  Sports Complex, and Switchyard Park. Fitness equipment is designed to  be used by people of all abilities, and is free to use during each  park’s hours of operation.

“This national conference and conversation is critical to the health  and well-being of individuals in every community, said Parks and  Recreation Administrator Paula McDevitt. “Bloomington Parks and  Recreation has the infrastructure, community health partners, programs,  and services to positively impact public health through physical  activity and access to healthy food.”

Parks and Recreation places an emphasis on group movement, offering a  large variety of affordable fitness programs. Since 2020, drop-in  fitness classes at Switchyard Park have provided outdoor experiences for  ZUMBA, Run Club, Yoga, and more. The Bloomington Walking Club began in  2013 as a free program in partnership with IU Health Bloomington  Community Health, the YMCA, and, in later years, Purdue Extension-Monroe  County. The Twin Lakes Recreation Center, a full-service sports,  fitness, and recreation facility purchased by the city in 2009,  continues to offer group fitness classes, including classes specifically  designed for the physical activity needs of people over age 65.

A virtual physical activity program, dubbed “Winter Wander”, was  first offered in 2020. Winter Wander encouraged traditional physical  activity while highlighting everyday, functional activities such as  shoveling snow or walking the dog as to count toward physical activity  goals.

Beginning healthy habits at a young age gives children greater  chances for developing lifelong healthy habits. Banneker Community  Center’s Banneker Camp, and the department’s Kid City summer camps,  offer health and wellness activities that include movement and  nutrition. Banneker Community Center received a Youth Adolescent  Physical Activity (YAPA) grant from the Indiana State Department of  Health for three consecutive years (2017-2019). The YAPA grants funded  the “Passport to Play” program that incentivized young community members  to explore parks and activities, and to expand Yoga Club and Fit Club  from summer camp programs to year-round offerings at the department’s  after-school program. The most recent YAPA grant is being used to run  the “All Kids Swim” program in partnership with the Indiana University  Outdoor Pool in 2022 and again in 2023. “All Kids Swim” provides summer  Banneker Camp participants free swimming lessons, swimsuits, towels,  backpacks, and goggles.

Bloomington residents can take actions to lead healthy, active lifestyles:

  • Stop smoking. IU Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation  Coalition has resources available to help tobacco users reduce or  eliminate smoking.
  • Volunteer at local food banks, and donate nutritious foods.
  • Purchase food from local vendors to support local farmers.
  • Grow a garden, either on private property or at a community garden. Set aside time for family meals and physical activities.
  • “Eat the rainbow” – or, a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Schedule regular visits with your primary care physician.
  • Participate in the Community Health Improvement Plan through the Monroe County Health Department.

To learn more and join in taking bold action to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases and disparities, visit


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