Monthly Archives: May 2013

Farming and Community Health

How does the protection of farmland correlate to the health of a community? Kane County, Illinois is working to find out.

Over the past ten years, their farmland protection program has preserved over 5500 acres of farmland in the county and they are currently considering a new amendment to broaden investments in local food production. New investments would include small farms and organic farmers producing fruits, vegetables and meats, intended to increase availability of fresh produce in schools, farmers markets, corner stores, and other sites in the community.

Enter the Health Impact Project. HIP is a project funded by the Pew Charitable Trust and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that will be used to inform policies at any level of government. Kane County won funding from this project and is expected to produce their HIA next month with measurements from their community. The HIA will assess the ways in which their new amendment could affect the health of local residents through, for example, changes in availability and price of fresh fruits and vegetables, food safety, and economic changes resulting from increased food production in the region.

HIAs are conducted by a panel of stakeholders in the community to ensure that they are engaged in considering health and health disparities with any given policy. The assessment is completed in six steps:
A Health Impact Assessment has six steps:

  1. Screening: Determines the need and value of a HIA;
  2. Scoping: Determines which health impacts to evaluate, the methods for analysis, and the work plan for completing the assessment;
  3. Assessment: Provides: a) profile of existing health conditions, and b) evaluation of health impacts;
  4. Recommendations: Provides strategies to manage identified adverse health impacts;
  5. Reporting: Includes development of the HIA report and communication of findings and recommendations; and
  6. Monitoring: Tracks impacts of the HIA on decision making processes and the decision, as well as impacts of the decision on health determinants.

Kane County hopes to use this assessment to inform the debate surrounding their new amendment, hoping that they will find it could lead to improved health.

The Health Care Council of the Lehigh Valley is doing similar work much closer to home. They created a forum process where they engaged stakeholder organizations from the Valley to discuss their input on community health, and held two series of meetings. In the second set of meetings, they were able to bring back results and analysis from the first round. Participants in the forums were asked what they thought the biggest health concerns in the region were, what would help their community become healthier and what leads to health problems in their area. They were asked follow up questions to these in the second round of meetings.

In these public meetings held last fall, they found that the health care system and services are fragmented, that there is a lack of communication and connection between the community and care providers as well as poverty, lack of jobs and language differences being barriers of access to medical resources. There were also positive findings, the community responded that the local health care providers care about the community and were willing to listen to their needs as well as looking for short and long term solutions to improve community health. Their Community Health Profile breaks down their findings and the particular issues in each city, and can be found here.

Consolidation in Action: Princeton, NJ

For a long time, there was Princeton, NJ the borough and Princeton, NJ the township – not anymore. In 2011, residents voted to consolidate the neighboring municipalities and their merger took effect on January 1, 2013.

To coordinate the process, the new municipality created a task force. The Transition Task Force is comprised of twelve members: Five voting members each from the Borough and Township, and one alternate each. The Task Force also includes both the Borough and Township administrators. The Task Force is being assisted by the State Department of Community Affairs and other outside experts. This consolidation represents the joining of a relatively developed and economically stable borough, and a much more rural township. Despite their cultural differences, the merge was seen as having huge potential in cost-saving for both municipalities.

The two municipalities are in the process of overcoming budgeting differences, as they had previously allocated funds through different channels and were not able to merely combine their revenues and cut out the redundant departments. In order to make sure that the service and fiscal planning would aptly serve the new municipality, subcommittees were formed from the Transition Task Force and included Facilities, Finance, Infrastructure, Personnel and Public Safety. The state of New Jersey was also helpful in the transitional phases, offering 20 percent of cost reimbursement and funding an upgrade in the police information system. Special consideration went into ensuring that consolidation would not yield a decline in the services provided by either municipality. These services consist of trash collection, financial reporting, police staffing and relocating public facilities, among others.

In Pennsylvania, it’s been difficult to undertake such huge projects, but Renew Lehigh Valley has been advocating for consolidation since its inception and there has been some success. Right here in the Lehigh Valley, we have seen consolidation of police departments with the Colonial Regional Police Department that provides law enforcement services to Bath Borough, Hanover Township, and Lower Nazareth Township all in Northampton County.

Courage to Connect in New Jersey is holding a public meeting on June 5 to examine the case of Princeton, below is their information on the event:

This has been a remarkable year in NJ with the implementation of the Princeton Consolidation.
You are invited to:
Be Inspired by the success of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough becoming ONE town.
Learn from elected officials from around the state about their experience with school, police, fire and municipal consolidation.
Connect with innovative leaders in NJ, making a difference!
When: Wednesday June 5, 2013 from 8:00 AM to 12:30PM
Where: Princeton University
Robertson Hall, Dodds Auditorium
Prospect Ave at Washington Rd
Princeton, NJ

Seminar Schedule
8:00 – 8:45 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:45 a.m. Welcome and Introduction
Gina Genovese, Executive Director, Courage to Connect NJ
8:50 – 10:00 a.m. Princeton: A Road Map to Follow
Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert
Princeton Councilwoman Heather Howard
Princeton Administrator Robert W. Bruschi
CGR President and CEO Joseph Stefko
10:00 – 10:15 a.m. A Path to Success
Former Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner
10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Elected Officials Discuss their Experiences with Consolidation
Senator Bob Gordon – NJ District 38
Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli – NJ District 16
Freeholder Rob Walton – Hunterdon County
Mayor Paul Fernicola – Loch Arbour
11:30am – 12:30pm Benefits of Police and Fire Consolidation
President and CEO of Public Safety Solutions, Les Adams
Princeton Police Captain Nicholas Sutter
Princeton Police Lieutenant Christopher Morgan

Envision Lehigh Valley’s Virtual Town Hall Review

Did you catch Envision Lehigh Valley’s virtual town hall meeting this week? If so, you were one of 99 viewers who tuned in to hear planners for Bethlehem, Easton, Allentown and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission discuss growth projections and planning in the cities.

Particpants learned about the timeline for the catalytic projects in each of the three cities and how each city went about choosing the specific project that they undertook as part of the Envision Lehigh Valley grant. In addition to working on the rewrite of their city’s comprehensive plan, Becky Bradley a planner for Easton, discussed the 13th Street Corridor project that will begin soon in Easton. Darlene Heller, a planner for Bethlehem, discussed the planning and progress being made on the Eastern Gateway project in Bethlehem and Mike Hefele talked about all of the exciting development happening in Allentown as well as the Little Lehigh Industrial Corridor that he is working on as a planner for Allentown. Mike Kaiser, retiring executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, shared information and maps showing the expected growth in population for the next thirty years in the Lehigh Valley. He broke it down by municipality and demographics, as well as discussing the implications for employment and transit.

After briefly presenting their projects, the panel took questions from participants in the live chat and from those e-mailed prior to the live feed. Planners were asked about transportation and fresh food access and explained the process of comprehensive planning as a city and as a region.

Despite a brief blip with the audio in the beginning of the meeting, viewers tweeted and chatted excitedly about the discussion the planners were having, as well as the idea of a virtual town hall to discuss other Envision initiatives. It was especially convenient for those who couldn’t make it to a public meeting in person this past fall; anyone who was interested could watch the meeting right from home and still participate!

If you’re kicking yourself for missing the meeting, or want to catch the audio from the introduction that we missed – don’t fret! The full video, with the full 60 minutes of audio is going up on Envision Lehigh Valley’s YouTube channel and you can watch the whole thing, advertisement free!

Based on all of the positive feedback that we got for this meeting, we hope to hold another one soon! Stay tuned!

Contribute to Easton’s Urban Recycle Garden!

Nurture Nature Center’s Urban Recycle Garden: A Demonstration Garden for Urban Communities

Nurture Nature Center in Easton, PA, is a dynamic center for community learning that uses science, art and dialogue programs to get the community talking and thinking critically about local environmental risks. Since its opening in 2011, NNC has hosted thousands of visitors for its programs, including shows on its noted Science on a Sphere exhibit. NNC’s newest project, the Urban Recycle Garden, is a chance to bring the community together to create a new exhibit that will help local residents to grow food and transform their own urban spaces.

What it is: NNC’s demonstration garden will use recycled and found materials to demonstrate growing techniques for urban areas (walls, balconies, small paved spaces), so that people can learn how to grow their food and/or beautify their urban space. The techniques demonstrated will be low cost and easy to replicate. This garden will be an exhibit at the center in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania.

Funds from this Kickstarter campaign will be used to create the Urban Recycle Garden in the rear of their building along the Pine Street Alley. Specifically, funds will be used 1) to purchase any plants, tools, and materials needed for the garden, 2) to buy art materials, such as mosaic tiles, to create beautiful recycled growing containers, 3) to purchase a Rainwater Hog (water collection tank), and 4) to develop and print educational signage for the garden and to produce how-to sheets that can be handed out and posted on the website . Any funds raised beyond $8,000 will be used to expand the project to the unused rooftop (pictured below).

Rachel Hogan Carr and Kate Brandes on the unused rooftop in the rear of our building.
Rachel Hogan Carr and Kate Brandes on the unused rooftop in the rear of our building.

What they hope to accomplish: Urban Recycle Garden will not be a typical green roof or urban garden. Instead, it will demonstrate growing techniques that people can implement in their own living space, no matter how small. This project will help urban residents and local business create a greener and more beautiful community, one container or trellis at a time!

Our Urban Recycle Garden will use found and recycled objects, like bathtubs and tires, as growing containers.
Urban Recycle Garden will use found and recycled objects, like bathtubs and tires, as growing containers.
Our garden will demonstrate how to grow vegetables and herbs in small urban spaces, like balconies and window boxes.
Garden will demonstrate how to grow vegetables and herbs in small urban spaces, like balconies and window boxes.

Who they are: NNC has grown and developed in response to the needs of the community and was designed by and for community participation. Nurture Nature Center is located in Easton, Pennsylvania, a small urban community of about 25,000 people. Nurture Nature Center has a small staff, but is committed to sharing what they learn in Easton. Through partnerships with other organizations, programming, educational materials and approaches to community engagement on environmental risk, topics have been shared with museums and communities throughout the country. The Urban Recycle Garden is NNC’s most recent effort to create intelligently designed, community-driven programming and exhibits that can help the community respond to critical environmental needs such as access to fresh food.

NCC is also acting as a sub-awardee under the Sustainable Communities Grant to develop a Fresh Food Access Plan (FFAP) for the Lehigh Valley.  The FFAP will include both an Assessment Report of the current state of the Lehigh Valley food economy and a strategies plan to improve this economy in the future.

Risks and challenges: Gardens are hard work, and managing a successful garden requires a lot of time and effort. NCC hopes to have plants growing throughout the year so that residents will have a green space to visit in the city.

Small urban spaces are not often considered places for growing things. With this project NNC hopes to change this mentality by introducing techniques that require little space and are also less intensive and therefore many times more practical for everyday people than larger scale gardening. By creating this Urban Recycle Garden, NNC is making a commitment to maintain it year-round and has already set aside staff time to make sure they can meet this challenge. NCC also plans to incorporate it into current programming for school and community groups as one of the primary exhibits.

Follow this link to make a donation to their Kickstarter account – only a few days left to contribute!