The Plan4Health program kicked off its site visit season by spending time with the Healthy Savannah coalition in Savannah, Georgia. Founded in 2007, Healthy Savannah “is dedicated to making Savannah a healthier place to live.” With more than 100 organizations involved in the coalition, it’s easy to see why Healthy Savannah is a local leader and the go-to resource for community members and local decision makers alike.
This comprehensive approach, this commitment to building a social movement, keeps the coalition busy — and meant that we were in for an action-packed couple of days!
The Healthy Savannah logo above is also the coalition’s vision, and Connect, Inspire, Grow is exactly what we saw when we stopped by the Healthy Savannah office. Sharing space with the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, including a bicycle workshop and mobile bicycle repair cart, the office itself captured the spirit of collaboration fostered through both formal and informal partnerships.
Healthy Savannah coalition members have leveraged these partnerships to lead local initiatives to ban smoking in public spaces; to inspire community members to join the Lean Challenge; and to tackle childhood obesity in local schools across the city. The coalition also includes Forsyth Farmers’ Market, a weekly market which doubles SNAP dollars to help families make healthier choices.
And, that’s not all! Partnering with Gulfstream, a local employer and philanthropic leader, the coalition will be launching its first mobile market. By bringing produce to target communities across the city, Healthy Savannah is removing barriers — making the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone.
The momentum of this established coalition makes Healthy Savannah a key member of the first Plan4Health cohort. Building on the strength of previous projects, the Plan4Health initiative continues to increase access to health food for residents in Savannah and the surrounding areas of Chatham County.
During the initial months of the Plan4Health, Healthy Savannah made it a priority to connect with community members and key stakeholders. Despite all of the exciting progress in Savannah, 84 percent of survey respondents were still not meeting USDA recommendations for a balanced meal. Seventy-five percent of adults were not eating five fruits and vegetables a day, with a 30 percent obesity rate in the city.
Combining the experiences of residents with comprehensive research of best practices, the coalition worked to identify gaps in the local food system and critical policy levers to create change.
Moving forward, the Plan4Health initiative in Savannah will continue to partner with the local school district and the largest local hospital to improve the policies, systems, and environments of these institutions. By offering healthier options at the cafeteria, patients, doctors, nurses, lab techs — everyone coming through the hospital doors — will be able to grab a more balanced meal on the go. Working with local farmers to bring fresh produce to the school system or to expand school gardens for students, makes it easier for kids to get the nutrients they need to stay focused in the classroom and to play tag during recess.
We finished our site visit at Sustainable Fellwood, a community in an area of town that is often overlooked. Joining a community meeting with representatives from the YMCA, the housing authority, Savannah’s farmers market, and the Fellwood facility itself, the conversation ranged from making it easier for seniors to get prescriptions to the community garden just outside the window to making it safer to cross the busy intersection in front of Fellwood.
The energy and commitment of coalition members, community members, APA and American Public Health Association (APHA) members inspired our team — and reminded us why healthier places are so important: we are not just talking about places. We are talking about homes.
Images from Healthy Savannah and APA’s Planning and Community Health Center.