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ArCOP’s GHC Foundation (2009 – 2010)

Growing Healthy Communities (GHC) is a project developed by the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP) in 2009 to build capacity within local communities to reduce obesity by increasing physical activity, increasing access to healthy foods, and implementing environmental and policy changes that support healthy living.

In 2009-2010, ArCOP collaborated with partners such as the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Health’s CDC Cooperative Agreement, UAMS Partners for Inclusive Communities, UAMS College of Public Health, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute to launch its Growing Healthy Communities project.  

Through a grant process, communities were selected to participate in an immersion training event, with required attendance by the Mayor and other decision leaders.  During the training, participants networked with and learned from national, state and local leaders about policy and environmental changes that promote healthy lifestyles. Each community delegation was then assisted in creating a plan to address specific areas of need in their community and provided with funding to help them implement their plans.

The 2010 Growing Healthy Communities included Arkansas Baptist College neighborhood of Little Rock, Batesville, HarrisonHelena/West Helena, and Magnolia. Three additional communities participated in the training and received technical assistance from ArCOP, but were not selected for funding: Conway, Dallas County, and Mississippi County. 

2011 Communities

The 2011 Growing Healthy Communities training took place March 2 – 5 at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute at Petite Jean .  Dan Burden, Executive Director of Walkable and Liveable Communities, provided the keynote address. The 2011 Growing Healthy Community project sites selected for funding were: The Jones Center, City of Nashville, Van Buren County TEA,  UALR Department of Health Sciences, Desha Hometown Health Initiative. Five other communities submitted applications and while not selected for funding, did receive technical assistance from ArCOP: Siloam Springs Regional Health Cooperative, Monroe County TEA, Scott County Health and Education Coalition, Dallas County Alliance Supporting Health (DASH), and Faulkner County Healthy Weight Coalition.

2013 Communities & Project Grants

Five new GHC sites were selected in 2013– ARcare Woodruff County, Arkansas County Partners in Health, Arkansas People First/American Cerebral Palsy, City of Hot Springs, and Marion County Hometown Health – and serve a combined population of 94,873 Arkansans.

These new communities attended ArCOP’s fourth annual Immersion Training hosted in March and attended by 36 community leaders. Over the two and a half days, guests heard presentations on 14 topics and developed strategic plans.  Optional programming included an opportunity to exercise with a “Biggest Loser” contestant, participate in a Social Marketing Lab, enjoy nature walks, and network with other participants.

During planning sessions, trained facilitators took participants from acquaintances to teammates by uniting them in their community’s fight against obesity. By utilizing the facilitated Community Planning Time, each new GHC site left the training with a strategic plan that mapped goals, identified feasibility of potential projects, identified key stakeholders to bring in, and began to organize strategies. These workplans continue to serve as “living documents” – locations for each team to record its history, orientation tools for new stakeholders, and as a benefit to teams in the application of grant funds.  Before leaving the training, the new GHC teams set dates for a “15 Day Challenge” meeting to which they would invite in new stakeholders.

Running concurrent to the Immersion Training, members of the Built Environment team hosted a “Train the Trainer” session on Walkability Audits for 13 participants representing 9 communities: Batesville, Bryant, Cherokee Village, CHPS-ADH, Jefferson County, three sites in North Little Rock, and Woodruff County/ADH NE Region.  The session culminated in a participant-led walkability assessment that focused on safe routes around two schools and a community center in Arkadelphia, for which the city later received a technical memo from ArCOP’s Built Environment Workgroup Team.

To offer further training opportunities for both the Growing Healthy Communities and reach a larger number of Arkansans, ArCOP hosted the 2013 Growing Healthy Communities Regional Summits and awarded Regional Project Grants to participating communities.

All 139 communities represented at the Regional Summits were eligible to apply for funding for up to three projects 1) that would immediately put their new training to work and 2) could be completed within six months. Of the communities eligible, 49 (73% new to ArCOP) submitted applications requesting $241,994.37 for 79 projects. Of those, 37 communities (59% new) were awarded funding for 46 projects.

Nine of the awarded project grants utilized Cooking Matters programming, 24 utilized Access to Healthy Foods projects (12 focused on farmers’ markets, 14 for community gardens), six utilized the Early Childhood and Schools toolkit, and four each address Built Environment (walkability) and Worksite Wellness.


$16,994.03 of the $17,600 awarded was utilized by nine Northwest Arkansas communities for nine projects. In addition to a significant reference to unspecified local funding and inkind support, communities reported $3,092.54 in matched funds.

Baxter County received $1,500 ($3,014.36 requested) to implement worksite wellness training. Through use of the CDC Worksite Health ScoreCard at Baxter Regional Medical Center (BRMC), the team identified the need to increase physical activity opportunities for 1,409 employees, 650 volunteers, and 89,000 residents through making the stairs more visible and attractive. The “StairWellness” project identified 11 stairwells for increased visibility, beautification, and interactive visual tools. The hospital contributed $2957.64 to assist in purchasing signs, paint, posters, and frames. While installation of the signage was postponed due to inclement weather, staffing and budget cuts, the project has been widely publicized (including a poster contest for local students) and embraced by BRMC employees who view it as an exciting opportunity to make the facility healthier, more fun, safer, and more attractive. More marketing is planned after installation and the team will be submitting a follow-up report with usage statistics.

Bentonville spent $3,488 of the $3,700 awarded ($11,000 requested) to implement training that will increase access to healthy foods through the construction of a school garden at Bright Field Middle School, benefiting at least 700 students and 75 faculty members. The team used grant funds to build a solid foundation for the garden that will last for many years, and has already been used for teaching healthy eating habits, environment awareness, basic gardening and My Plate. This spring students will put into practice what they have learned by planting vegetables and strawberries. A group of parents and volunteers will maintain the garden in the summer months.

Boone County received $2,500 ($6,578 requested) to implement Joint Use Agreement training in support of its “Community Fitness Area: Middle School EAST Lab Attacks Obesity” program in Harrison. Harrison Middle School East Lab Students (5th & 6th grade) identified the potential to increase access to physical activity through the installation of additional outdoor fitness equipment on the Lake Harrison Trail between three schools, three low-income neighborhoods, and the downtown business district – reaching a potential 3,250 individuals. Two students presented their proposal to the City Council, resultin in Resolution 1125 that defined a partnership between North Arkansas Partners for Health Education (NAPHE), Harrison Middle School East Lab, and the City of Harrison. Three pieces of outdoor fitness equipment were purchased – a pull up and dip station, lat pull down station, and dual leg extension station. Installation has been postponed by late shipment (the equipment did not arrive until January 6) and inclement weather, but will be completed by Harrison Public Works.

Flippin spent $2,982.57 of the awarded $3,000 ($10,328 requested) to implement community gardening training intended to increase access to healthy foods for a potential 1,355 community members. The community-school garden built on the Flippin School District campus has already involved students in the planting of vegetables and been integrated into academic hands-on project-based learning. An Open House/Ribbon Cutting ceremony is planned for the spring. Community support has been seen through the donation of materials, time, and expertise.

Huntsville received $1,500 ($2,000 requested) to implement community garden training in order to increase access to healthy foods through the “The Good Food, Good Friends Gardens” at the Madison County Senior Activity & Wellness Center. The team built two raised beds and volunteers planted turnips, radishes, carrots, and Romaine lettuce in one covered bed and one uncovered bed, though wind damage and cold temperatures have halted the harvest of crops. Participants are eager to continue their work in the gardens this spring and have been gathering to learn more about gardening. The team’s long-term goal is for the center’s 261 residents to benefit from fresh produce and improved physical and mental health from the garden.

Marion County spent $1,692.16 of the awarded $2,000 ($2,100 requested) to increase healthy eating habits and exercise through implementing Cooking Matters and community garden training, and utilizing resources from the Early Childhood & Schools Toolkit.  Marion County Hometown Health’s “Healthy Choices – Healthy Foods” project trained facilitators and purchases supplies for Cooking Matters at the Store trainings (delayed due to weather), promoted 5-2-1-0 in the classroom, conducting a billboard contest, integrating Farm to You Curriculum and expanding Walking School Bus events. So far, efforts have reached more than 600 students with the potential of all 16,000 county residents.

Searcy County received $1,000 ($2,524.99 requested) to implement training used to identify built environment needs and utilize the Early Childhood & Schools Toolkit. The Searcy County Community Center purchased and installed handicap accessible swings for the county park and refurbished the volley ball court, increasing access to physical activity for the 8,195 county residents.

Tri Cycle Farms Community utilized $1,334.88 of the awarded $1,400 ($1,600 requested) to increase access to healthy foods by implementing Cooking Matters training. Of the 29 participants, 18 graduated from the six week course. A portion of the budget was spent on kitchen tools that will allow for continued programming in the future.

Western Grove spent $996.42 out of the $1,000 awarded ($1,115.89 requested) to implement farmers’ market training to increase access to healthy foods. North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education’s “Farmers’ Market Sustainability Project” provided the display tools needed to remove barriers for the farmers to participate in the market. Over the course of the project, the market grew from three to more than six vendors and was visited by approximately 150 shoppers.


$16,521.61 of the $16,824.68 awarded was utilized by five Northeast Arkansas communities for the same number of projects. In addition to a significant reference to unspecified local funding and inkind support, communities reported $903.40 in matched funds.

Independence County utilized $2,913.20 of the awarded $3,000 ($9,000 requested) to implement its “Eat Well, Play Hard & Make it Balance” project, utilizing the Early Childhood & Schools toolkit. Independence County developed joint use agreements with the Floral Campus of Midland School District and Cord-Charlotte Campus of the Cedar Ridge School District to provide aerobics to the community twice a week. Funds were spent on fitness equipment for the program, which has served approximately 32 community members and 8 students of the 34,646 county residents to date.

Lawrence County spent $4,001.30 of the awarded $4,024.69 to utilize community garden training that has already begun to increase access to healthy foods for the 2,019 students through “Essential Tools for Lawrence County School Gardening”. Grant funds paid for gardening tools for three gardens while seeds and plants were contributed by another source. Students have already raised mustard, collards, turnips, spinach, radishes, and canola at Sloan-Hendrix, which were distributed to the community. Black Rock students raised and sold pumpkins and gourds to the community. Hoxie students grew lettuce for community distribution and school cafeteria use.

Spring River Area utilized $6,979.43 of the awarded $7,000 ($13,000 requested) to utilize farmers’ market and gardening training in the establishment of the “Spring River Farmers’ Market Junior Sprouts Club”. Funds were used for a nutritional library, seeds, banners, and promotional items for the anticipated 1,000 participants when the program launches this spring. The community has already engaged 270 students through a school garden component of the club with the construction of 10 raised beds, an indoor growing station, and mobile demonstration cart.

West Memphis received $1,257.50 ($2,000 requested) to utilize worksite wellness training through the installation of bike racks for its “Cycling to Work” program – building upon their involvement in the Greenprint initiative, the Great River Road bike trail, and Main2Main project. Additional support from Crittenden Regional Hospital ($23.30) and the City of West Memphis ($880.10) made it possible for the community to purchase three

Woodruff County utilized $1,370.38 of the awarded $1,600 ($2,500 requested) to implement Cooking Matters training. ARcare and the Woodruff County GHC team conducted two six-week Cooking Matters for Families courses resulting in 13 graduates. A member of the team created a supplemental two-week Holiday Challenge course, which was offered twice with 24 graduates. Highlights of the Holiday Challenge included an in-store scavenger hunt, food safety, nutritious side items, and goodies for each participant including a $15 grocery card and recyclable shopping bag with kitchen items.


$15,939.90 of the awarded $18,782.57 was utilized by 10 Central Arkansas communities for 11 projects. In addition to a significant reference to unspecified local funding and inkind support, communities reported $21,705.28 in matched funds.

Bryant was awarded $1,378.57 to implement Early Childhood & Schools toolkit training. Bryant Parks used funds to purchase athletic equipment for adaptive sports classes. Of the expected population of 200 Central Arkansas children, 12 youth were served in the first month of the pilot program.

Greenbrier utilized $1,500 to implement worksite wellness training. Funding, along with $1,220.64 in matching funds, was used obtain personal trainer certification for four city Event Center staff members who will provide free consultations to the public and free fitness classes through its “Greenbrier Gets Fit! Personal Training” program.

Hot Springs utilized $2,492.71 of the awarded $2,500 to implement community garden and walkability trainings. Utilizing land contributed by the Methodist Church and a commitment from the City of Hot Springs to pay for water usage and supply compost, community gardens funds were spent on a water meter, fencing, raised-bed materials. The construction will happen this spring and is expected to benefit 70 neighborhood residents. The 35,193 Hot Springs residents are expected to benefit from a plethora of walkability events that included community outreach meetings, pop-up workshops and events, walking audits, and a municipal code and ordinance review. Walkability funds, along with $1,409.64 in inkind contributions, were used for meeting and event expenses.

Little Rock’s 36th Street Community utilized $867.77 of the awarded $900 to implement community gardens training. The Arkansas People First team established a Community Garden Club of 16 residents from The Cottages and used funds for a raised-bed community garden and orchard. Harvests are expected to benefit 152 residents.

Little Rock’s South Main Street Community utilized $1,031.23 of the awarded $1,225 to implement farmers’ market training. Funds were used to acquire the necessary card reader equipment, market tokens that operate as cash, and signage to increase visibility for the acceptance of SNAP benefits from an estimated population of 3,800 neighborhood residents at the Bernice Garden Farmers’ Market. $75 in processing fees were donated during the grant period.

Maumelle received $1,668 ($2,873 requested) to implement community garden training. With the grant funds, 44 raised-beds were constructed in First Fruits Community Garden. 37 of the projected 3,000 families are currently benefiting from the garden.

North Little Rock received $4,600 to implement farmers’ market training. Through the use of grant funds and more than $19,000 in additional support, a trailer, walk-in refrigerator, and technology to process debit/EBT/credit cards as well as other enhanced data collection were secured for a Mobile Market Stand with a potential to serve 27,303 North Little Rock residents.

Perry County was awarded $1,450 ($2,500 requested) to utilize community garden training. No grant funds were utilized during the project cycle as all services for progress made in the development of a community garden at the Perryville Farmers’ Market were either donated or volunteer-based (value was not provided). The gardens are expected to serve 250 families.

Saline County was unable to utilize the awarded $1,100 ($1,500 requested) to implement Cooking Matters training within the project cycle.

UALR’s University District Community utilized $416.35 of the awarded $425 to implement Cooking Matters training. 40 individuals aged 55 or older participated in Cooking Matters at the Store Smart Shopping for Seniors grocery store tour. Each participant received $10 grocery cards; other grant funds were spent on promotional materials.

Wooster utilized $1,979.27 of the awarded $2,000 to implement farmers’ market training. Grant funds provided promotional materials, advertising, and supplies for the new Wooster Farmers’ Market and associated educational outreach classes. The market was open for 11 Saturdays in 2013 for the benefit of the 1,000 Wooster residents as well as individuals from neighboring areas.


$17,612.99 of the awarded $18,541.63 was utilized by six Southwest Arkansas communities for 10 projects. In addition to a significant reference to unspecified local funding and inkind support, communities reported $1,700 in matched funds.

Bismarck utilized $2,766.83 of the awarded $3,800 to utilize Cooking Matters training in Bismarck Public Schools. Grant funds provided kitchen supplies and equipment as well as food for 48 students from three classes participated in the Cooking Matters curriculum learning about nutrition, participating in food labs and activities, and learning essential cooking skills.

Camden utilized $5,353.67 to implement community garden, walkability, and Cooking Matters training. Community garden funds were used to purchase gardening materials, raised bed materials, signage, shed and message board with an additional $500 contribution from community members as well as discounts and donations on supplies. The supplies will be used to construct a 5,000 square foot garden this spring that is expected to benefit the 21,167 Ouachita County residents. Walkability funds (with an additional $1,200 of community contributions) were spent in the development, assessment, signage, and promotions for a walkable downtown route leading to the River Walk. World-renowned expert Dan Burden led the walkability assessment and a Turkey Trott 5K with 46 participants served as a public kick-off event. Thirty individuals participated in Cooking Matters at the Store tours and received $10 grocery cards as well as calculators.

DeQueen utilized $2,850.94 of awarded $3,340.64 to implement farmers’ market and walkability training. Farmers’ market funds were spent on signage, a refrigerator, fans, and reusable shopping bags. Creative marketing approaches supported through social media and local radio and television stations increased publicity of the market to Sevier’s population of 17,293. DeQueen Public Schools host a population of 2,200 students and faculty. Members of ArCOP’s Built Environment team visited DeQueen with a purpose to observe traffic patterns around school dismissal and lead a public forum. The team’s findings were provided through a “Livable Communities” report with a suggested action items to that will allow increased opportunities for students to safely walk to school. Walkability funds covered travel and forum expenses.

El Dorado School District received $2,670 to implement lessons from the Early Childhood & Schools toolkit. Three pieces of playground equipment suitable for students with mental and physical disabilities were purchased for and installed at Northwest Elementary School. The equipment is used by 456 students, with a primary target population of the 56 students with mental and/or physical disabilities. Teachers and support staff assist the children in the use of equipment as necessary.

Fordyce utilized $1,685.32 of the awarded $1,931 to implement Cooking Matters and community gardens training. Of the 15 Cooking Matters participants, 12 graduated from the two 6-week courses offered. Funds were spend on food for the class and $30 grocery cards for graduating participants. Community garden funds were spent on materials to install 15 raised back-yard gardens for community members on a fixed income, most of whom are grandparents intending to engage their grandchildren.

New Addition Neighborhood Development Center in Nashville utilized $2,286.23 to implement Cooking Matters training. Funds were spent on food and kitchen materials in multiple courses: 12 participants graduated from the Adults with Diabetes course; 13 families graduated from the Families course; and 33 youth completed the Kids course.


$17,767.08 of the $18,653.62 awarded was utilized by six Southeast Arkansas communities for 10 projects. In addition to a significant reference to unspecified local funding and inkind support, communities reported $88,189.04 in other funds.

Arkansas County utilized $1,641.20 of the awarded $2,206.28 to implement school gardens training at St. John’s Lutheran School in Stuttgart. Grant funds were used in the purchase of gardening supplies, but were not utilized in full due to the generous support of the community. Materials for the garden have been purchased and the garden will be constructed this spring, with 100 students and teachers expected to benefit. Additionally, Stuttgart and DeWitt community leaders have been inspired by the project to begin planning for the addition of community gardens in city parks.

Jefferson County utilized $820.88 of the awarded $822.34 to implement community garden training and $300 for Cooking Matters training. Community garden funds were used for the materials needed to build raised beds, all but two of which have been built; the final two will be completed this spring and are projected to benefit the 84 Sherrill residents. Four grocery stores in the 77,435 resident county agreed to display signage encouraging healthy food choices and 30 low-income families participated in Cooking Matters at the Store programming.

Lake Village received $6,800 to utilize farmers’ market training. The grant funds were spent on promotions, infrastructure and Healthy Eating/Active Learning (HEAL) programming at the Village Farmers’ Market. To date, approximately 500 of the potential 11,800 Chicot County residents have visited the new market.

Monticello received $1,375 to utilize community garden training through their Feed the Kids project. With an additional $189.04 from community support, grant funds were spent on supplies for two raised beds at Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Home (VLPH), four at Drew Central Elementary School, and 16 at Monticello Middle School (MMS). To date, 177 individuals have benefited from the community gardens: 85 students and more than 30 parents participated in a Garden Day event, 20 Drew Central third graders, 10 VLPH residents and 2 house parents, 10 senior citizens and 20 MMS volunteers.

Rison utilized $2,500 to implement farmer’s market training and $2,150 for community garden training.  Rison Shine Downtown Development and the City of Rison used grant funds for the development of a new “pocket park” farmers’ market and establishment of a 20-bed community garden. Funds supporting the farmers’ market (also with the support of a $1,500 Arkansas General Improvement Fund grant) paid for signage, benches that convert to display tables, and electricity installation that will be used to process EBT/SNAP benefits. By the close of the fall 2013 season, the market had been visited by an estimated 1,400 individuals of the potential 8,700 Cleveland county residents it is designed to benefit. Community garden funding was spent on raised bed materials. Ten beds have been constructed, planted, and are serving the 1250 Rison citizens through the production of produce and education. An additional ten beds will be constructed with remaining materials this spring.

The Greater Delta Alliance for Health (GDAH) utilized $2,260 of the awarded $2,500 ($6,490 requested) to implement Phase I of a worksite wellness project that will eventually impact 2,880 residents within the Southeast Arkansas region. In this phase, the GDAH purchased two blood pressure monitors, developed a list of potential partners, extended invitations for participation, and had 20 local businesses sign on. GDAH received an additional $86,500 from the Blue and You Foundation to implement Phase II of the project in 2014.

A New Era in GHC

In 2014, ArCOP’s executive team has opted to pilot three Growing Healthy Communities recognition levels that will allow the Coalition to work with an even larger number of Arkansas communities and recognize them for their efforts annually. Regionally hosted Immersion Trainings and Summits were held across the spring. Five month project grants were awarded in July. A celebration event will be held in December.