HEAL SPotlight: Charlottesville, Virginia
In September 2016, the City of Charlottesville earned the HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign’s Platinum recognition, the highest achievement award, for the City’s efforts promoting healthy eating and active living through policies, practices, and environmental design changes. As a Platinum City, Charlottesville has worked hard to promote healthy culture change through cohesive strategies that impact community, environmental, and economic health.
City Councilmember Kristin Szakos sees the interrelation of community health, environmental health, and the economy as key to the City’s HEAL initiative. For example, as part of the City’s new streetscape program, that covers an area between the University of Virginia campus and a central downtown area, the City is investing in new sidewalks, crosswalks, road signs, and city infrastructure to promote productive density and centrally located community spaces. While this can lead to healthier eating and active living options for residents, it also contributes to achieving broader sustainability goals to reduce vehicles usage and promote pedestrian traffic in central business areas.
The City’s farmer’s market development initiative illustrates this interrelation as the market increases food access which in turn supports sustainable, local food production and new business opportunities. The weekly market provides fresh and healthy food options to residents and allows SNAP/EBT users to participate in a farmer’s market reward program that doubles SNAP dollars spent at the market. The City also partners with the International Rescue Committee to help run a Thursday market where refugee farmers can sell produce they’ve grown in the City’s community garden. In addition, the farmers’ market is bringing new downtown development and business opportunities through the construction of a new multi-use building in an empty lot in a centrally located area. While the farmers market had occupied this lot once a week, lack of regular use was both inefficient and costly. The new building will continue to house the weekly market as well as open permanent businesses on the ground floor and apartment housing on the floors above.
Charlottesville’s HEAL initiative is a collaborative effort that includes community groups, schools, nonprofits, and several city departments. The City’s HEAL work has been incorporated into the culture, design, and environment of the City. Councilmember Szakos and other city leaders see the HEAL agenda as a means to reinforce the energy and enthusiasm occurring throughout the City around creating a healthy and livable community.