YMCAs across North Carolina strenghten communities by advocating for and creating healthier communities. As part of this work, the NC Alliance of YMCAs and the YMCA associations statewide focus on access to healthy foods and physical activity through policy, systems and environmental changes.
Creating Active Communities for All with Bike/Ped Infrastructure
What does the landscape look like in North Carolina for safe walking and biking? There’s plenty of work to be done. This new infographic, created by the NC Alliance of YMCAs in collaboration with the Safe Routes Partnership, highlights the need across our state.
Two-thirds of North Carolinians feel unsafe walking along a road without sidewalks, according to an Elon University poll released in June 2019. Only half of those polled feel safe walking on a sidewalk next to a road. (See “How Safe Are Our Streets for Pedestrians in Car-Centric North Carolina?” June 6, 2019, News & Observer).
According UNC Highway Safety Research Center and the NC Division of Motor Vehicles, 197 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 in North Carolina, and another 2,596 were injured. The death rate by bike is 2 times as high in Tier 1 (high need/least thriving) communities and 1.5 times higher in high-need communities for walking.
Safe streets are also fundamentally important for healthier communities. More than one-third of children in North Carolina don’t get enough of the recommended physical activity each day and are also overweight or obese. Nearly $10 million in hospital charges were associated with diseases related to physical inactivity in 2017 in North Carolina.
Advocacy and Partnerships
The NC Alliance of YMCAs continues its public policy work to create healthier communities across the state through increased pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Currently, in North Carolina, most communities are unable to allocate funding to such projects. While the federal government provides Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding each year, it allows states to transfer up to half of their TAP to other projects.
As a result, states that transfer TAP funding are prioritizing roads and bridges above the safety of people walking and bicycling. Because North Carolina requires a 20% local match to the federal funding, low-wealth communities are largely unable to find the dollars for walk/bike projects.
This year, the NC Alliance has focused on improving bike/ped infrastructure with the support of YUSA grant funding via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The grant includes an emphasis on working state partners to advance at least one of the four core areas in the Safe Routes Partnership’s State Report Card for North Carolina.
Through the grant, the Alliance has also partnered with AARP North Carolina to fund the purchase of tactical urbanism (TU) project equipment. TU projects such as pop-up bike lanes, parklets and pedestrian plazas provide opportunities for community activism designed to support long-term infrastructure changes. In August, the YMCA of Western North Carolina will partner with AARP on a TU project in Ashville, and the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina will partner with AARP on a project in Southport.
Educate and Invest
YMCAs, partners and advocates across the state can educate lawmakers about the need for safer streets, particularly in our higher-need, smaller communities. It’s time for North Carolina to invest in infrastructure for safe walkable and bikeable communities.
Healthier Communities: Youth Sports
The Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities Network Coalition convened 21 stakeholder organizations from across North Carolina to agree upon a position statement that all organizations could endorse to make healthy food and drinks available at all youth sports functions – at practices and games, in concession stands and for fundraising. To add your organization’s name to the list of endorsers, contact us to get a MS Word version of the Position Statement that you can edit to add your organization’s name and logo. Once your governing body has endorsed the statement, send us an email, and we will add your organization to the list of endorsers.
This statement has been endorsed by the following organizations in North Carolina:
Healthy Sports Snack Toolkit
The NC Alliance of YMCAs created this toolkit to assist YMCAs, and other organizations, in implementing healthy snacking practices in youth sports programs. The goal is to provide resources that will develop positive and sustainable culture change throughout organizations across the state. The resources included in this toolkit may be modified, edited, or adapted to fit the needs of the organization, as long as they fall within the suggested guidelines set forth by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Using this toolkit is simple and easy:
Stand. Take a stance on healthy sports snacking. Select. Choose and use the resources that are most helpful for you. Adapt if needed. Score. Help your athletes score more by encouraging healthy sports snacking!
Generic Healthy Sports Snack Toolkit (for organizations other than the YMCA)
YMCA Healthy Sports Snack Toolkit (entire document)
Artwork for Social Media
Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities
In 2013, the NC Alliance of YMCAs received Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funding through the YMCA of the USA to launch North Carolina’s Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (NCSPHC) project. This two-year project sought to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity through statewide policy, systems and environmental change, and supported the state’s Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina movement.
The Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities Action Plan focused on these four priorities:
- Healthy food financing and corner store intitiaves in underserved and/or food desert communities
- Funding for independent bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects and Complete Streets
- Full implementation of the Y’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards for early childhood, afterschool and youth sports programs
- Encourage youth sports leagues and schools to adopt policies that support healthy food for pre- and post-game meals, snacks, fundraising and concessions.
We are proud to report that in partnership with many of our team members, we successfully advocated for:
- $250,000 allocated in the 2016 state budget for a healthy corner store initiative. This work continues as we seek to obtain $1 million for this important effort.
- The Healthy-Out-of-School Time Recognition Program, a voluntary recognition program for any out-of-school-time provider who meets the NIOST HEPA Standards.
- Amended state statute to allow School Playgrounds to be available to the Public. We proudly purchased signage for the Alamance-Burlington School District when they passed their school board policy opening their elementary schools to public use in the summer of 2016.