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Collaborating for community health

A Healthy Hometown success story

Do you know any elementary-aged kids who know what a starfruit is — and like it? Thanks to a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant and the help of local grocery store Hy-Vee®, West Elementary School in Knoxville is able to provide students with an extra serving of fruit or vegetables twice each week, along with nutrition education.

The program has had a major impact on the students, who are learning about where the fruit or vegetable grows, how to grow it, and how to prepare it. “The program educates kids on the things that are good for them,” says Larissa Van Donselaar, state innovation model community care coordinator at the Marion County Public Health Department. “If they have the opportunity to make a healthy choice outside of school, I believe that they will.”

This project, among many others, helped Knoxville earn a 2019 Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Community Award. And, their work is far from done. Learn more about how Knoxville is transforming into a healthier community that helps its residents eat well, move more and feel better.

Creating safer streets

Highway 14 is one of the most-traveled roads in the entire city, so it’s important that it is safe for vehicles as well as walkers and bicyclists. To help with this, Knoxville did a walking audit with Healthy Hometown. The Knoxville Wellness Committee, which has representation from various business and community leaders, helped identify opportunities to enhance walkability and bikeability.

These opportunities included adding crosswalks, fixing and adding sidewalks, creating bike lanes that connect to existing trail systems, and planting more trees along the side of the road to beautify the area. Since the walking audit, Knoxville’s City Council has approved a “road diet” for Highway 14 — changing it from four lanes to two travel lanes and a center turn lane in 2020. This project will make the main road in Knoxville even safer for residents.

Encouraging active living

Getting outside and being active can be as simple as playing a pick-up game of tennis on a warm summer evening. But, until last summer, residents in Knoxville, weren’t able to use the community tennis courts. After more than 40 years of wear and tear, they were in such disarray that they were unsafe to play on. Now, thanks to a partnership between the City of Knoxville and Knoxville High School, community members have a brand-new sports complex with well-lit tennis and basketball courts.

In 2018, Knoxville tackled projects that enabled their residents to get outdoors and get moving. In addition to completing the new basketball and tennis courts, the city broke ground on a state-of-the-art skate park — part of a larger set of improvements to Young’s Park that includes a new splash pad, rope play area, sand volleyball courts, and a picnic shelter.

Miracle Playground at Young’s Park, which was designed to be accessible to kids with disabilities, was also completed last year. Because of its accessibility, it attracts people from all over the region and has been a great way to get kids of all ages and abilities active and moving.

These projects have created a lot of buzz and excitement among residents. “We’ve had great feedback,” says Van Donselaar. “Everyone is thankful they have more things to do, and they’re thankful they have opportunities they didn’t have a year ago.”

These projects are just the start for Knoxville. On the way home from the award ceremony in February, Van Donselaar and others were already brainstorming ideas for next year. "We don't want to say this work is 'one and done,'" says Van Donselaar. "This is for our children and grandchildren. The sky's the limit right now as far as what we can do."

Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark

Inspired by Knoxville’s success? Learn how Healthy Hometown can help your community eat well, move more and feel better. Check out Healthy Hometown Opens New Window or email Send Email for more information.