ALBANY – Dougherty County has been selected to receive a grant as part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, a program funded by the Aetna Foundation, together with the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, supporting communities that are changing the way they work together across sectors to reduce disparities in chronic disease outcomes.

“Access to health care and healthy food, as well as other social determinants of health, can significantly impact rates of chronic disease and other health outcomes, with average life spans varying by up to 20 to 30 years in communities that ae just a few miles apart,” Eileen Howard Boone, president of the Aetna Foundation, said. “We are proud to partner with APHA and NACo to support the work of Dougherty County to drive change and address these social determinants of health – work that is now more important than ever, given the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dougherty County is leading one of the 20 teams chosen to participate in the challenge. The team will receive $100,000 to take action to change the food access system in Albany and Dougherty County and engage community residents as leaders in their work. In addition to the funding, Dougherty County, Flint River Fresh, UGA Extension Service and their partners will participate in one-on-one technical assistance provided by APHA/NACo and a supportive peer-learning network led by Healthy Places by Design over the course of the two years.

The Dougherty County team is proposing an initiative entitled “Dougherty Fresh,” with a goal to create food access and nutritional awareness in underserved communities in the county.

Dougherty Fresh will work to support the initiative in several ways, including developing a strategic vision for urban agriculture conversation within the community; working with local government and area businesses to ensure continued success and sustainability of this program beyond inception; coordinating an urban agriculture program to complement and expand current community initiatives; building partnerships with local government, businesses, farmers, and others; increasing access to healthy, local foods in low-income areas; developing a plan to address food deserts; creating opportunities to merge existing initiatives into one large-scale, long-term coordinated effort; developing financial opportunities to support long-term viability of the initiative; and securing funds in partnership with this initiative to ensure longevity and impact.

“The proposed project is an excellent opportunity to enhance our community’s health, sustainability, and connection to the food system,” Dougherty County Extension Coordinator/Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent James Morgan, said. “UGA Extension is pleased to partner with the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District toward this important effort to support urban agriculture and conversation in our local community and we look forward to working with Dougherty County, Flint River Fresh, and other partners in collaboration toward this project.”

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