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$130,000 grant intended to improve bmix of planning and public health

'The ultimate goal is to create lasting environmental and policy changes'

CEDAR RAPIDS — The American Planning Association-Iowa Chapter recently received a $130,000 grant from its parent organization to implement two projects that seek to combine city planning with public health interests in Linn County.

One project will create standards and guidelines for how city planners can improve the layout of cities to encourage more active lifestyles. The other will create a manual on how to increase healthy options in food pantries.

“For both of the projects, the ultimate goal is to create lasting environmental and policy changes,” said Katie Jones, health education specialist with Linn County Public Health.

The first project, which will use roughly $70,000 of the grant, aims to explore how incorporation of elements such as sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalks can promote active living and reduce transportation barriers.

Tom Treharne, Marion’s planning and development director, said the project will seek feedback from bikers, walkers and others to develop a set of design standards for the city to adopt.

“It makes the healthy choice the easy choice, is really what it comes down to,” he said.

Anissa Bourgeacq, director of the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program Food Reservoir, said in addition to educating food panties on better access to healthy options, the food pantry project will create a map of pantries in the county.

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“There’s a big misconception, I think, in some of the more affluent counties,” she said. “Planners and people in the community may think there’s all these food assistance programs and plenty of pantries, but having access to the pantries to get the food they need is really lacking.”

This grant was one of 18 for communities around the country aimed at addressing two contributing factors to chronic disease — lack of physical activity and access to healthy food.

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