Progress in Greater Lawrence

By Megan McKinney Cooper posted 02-09-2018 15:48

Hi there, I'm delighted to report on our progress in Greater Lawrence.  The format for the blog comes from the survey questions for the Community Spotlight, but I also wanted to share photos of the work Jump IN for Healthy Kids is doing.  Enjoy! 

*1. City/County:  City of Lawrence and the far eastside of Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana

*2. Name of Project: Greater Lawrence Healthy Families Healthy Children Initiative

*3. What are some of the greatest health challenges that the members in your community face?

Jump IN for Healthy Kids’ HCCC project focuses on a four-zip code area that straddles the far eastside of Indianapolis and Lawrence Township.  For our purposes, we’ll call the area Greater Lawrence.  More than 106,000 people (including 33,000 children) live in Greater Lawrence. Profound economic and health disparities exist within the community, including a high prevalence of overweight and obesity among children, greater than 40%. The area also presents serious economic and health disparities between the residents in the northern and southern parts of the community; for example, the poverty and pediatric asthma rates for children in the southern half of Lawrence Township are five times higher than for children who live just a few miles north. Greater Lawrence is home to the largest food desert in the country.

Greater Lawrence covers four zip codes: 46226 and 46235 to the south, and 46216 and 46236 to the north. As the chart below indicates, significant disparities exist between the southern and northern portions of the community.




Southern area

Northern area











Children age 0-19[2]





% children in poverty[3]





% households w/ no vehicle





% single parent households





Hospitalization Rate per 10,000 due to diabetes 18+





Pediatric asthma hospitalization rate per 10,000 <18 years





Elementary schools - free & reduced lunch %[4] [5]





Early Learning Centers – free & reduced lunch %[6]





*4. What are some of the health initiatives, specifically related to the Challenge’s work, that are taking place in your community?

Jump IN for Healthy Kids’ Challenge project is a program to pilot numerous strategies and interventions simultaneously to address childhood obesity in Greater Lawrence.  Greater Lawrence boasts strong partnerships between its schools, health care providers, local government, and community organizations.  The sectors Jump IN has focused on in Greater Lawrence are food access, schools, child cares, employers, and the built environment. Several important efforts began or continued in 2017:

  • Healthy Food Access:
    • New community gardens have been created that are serving both food pantries with donated food and neighborhood individuals through mobile delivery and retail sales at affordable pricing.
    • Three food pantries in partnership with Purdue Extension began adding “healthy nudges;” to make the pantries healthier and increase consumption of healthier, less processed food: increasing labeling of healthy food options, incorporating cooking education workshops, and providing other resources to pantry and retail consumers that help them make good food choices.
    • In December, 2017, Jump IN received a $50,000 grant from the Glick Fund to pilot the Food Trust’s approach to healthy corner stores, training community partners (Marion Co. Health and Marion Co. Purdue Extension wellness staff) to identify corner stores in Greater Lawrence to increase offering healthy options at affordable pricing. The Food Trust is a national organization based in Philadelphia that has established a proven system of improving the quality of food offered in convenience stores, gas stations, dollar stores and other corner stores – at affordable prices.  Greater Lawrence is rated as a severe food dessert; this project offers a solution relatively quickly. Rather than waiting years hoping for a full-service grocery to arrive, this initiative will create access to healthier food within a matter of months.  This pilot will be fully implemented in 2018.                                                                                         
  • Schools: Jump IN worked with Lawrence Township Schools to create a District Wellness Committee in 2016, with all Lawrence Township Schools participating. Jump IN, pushing the Healthiest Cities projects, joined with Stephanie Thornberry of the Marion County Department of Health to get approved a District Wellness Policy in 2017, after difficulty getting it approved during the previous three years.  More than 2,300 Lawrence students in grades 4-12 completed FitnessGram assessments.  The District Wellness Committee established two goals.  The first was nutrition-focused:  they adopted a Healthy Celebration policy, restricting celebratory (and unhealthy) food to once a month and favoring incorporating healthy snacks celebrations.  The second goal was to include 30 minutes of physical activity in the elementary school day. Some of that activity takes the form of P.E. and recess while a different type of activity occurs with GoNoodle. Jump IN cultivated support from the Indianapolis Colts to install GoNoodle in Lawrence elementary classrooms. GoNoodle is an interactive screen tool that takes children through a physical activity during intervals of schoolwork.  For example, for every hour of classwork, GoNoodle will display an activity and lead children through 10 minutes of a physical exercise activity.

More than 6,000 students in 15 Lawrence schools (as well as three IPS schools and one charter school in Lawrence Township) took the Student Health Assessment Questionnaire in 2017 to determine family eating and physical activity habits (the $10,000 seed money from the Challenge supported the Student Health Assessment Questionnaire).  The questionnaire collects data on family meals, tracks fruit and vegetable consumption, exercise habits, and family interactions over making choices about eating and activity.  The data collected creates a representative sample of a community behaviors.  What families are doing = what communities are doing.  The questionnaires are repeated each May to compare habits from year to year.

  • Child Cares: Twelve Greater Lawrence child care providers participated in and completed the evidence-based training program used around the country, Taking Steps to Healthy Success (TSHS) developed by Nemours and the CDC. Five more have just begun the program. Under the supervision of Jump IN’s partner Early Learning Indiana, trainers work with these child care centers to improve the nutrition of the meals and snacks served to the children; incorporate age-appropriate education on healthy habits into the curriculum; create additional opportunities for the children to play and be active; and engage with the parents to reinforce these healthy behaviors at home.ECE
  • Employee Wellness: With assistance from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Jump IN has identified two employers to implement employee wellness programs around good nutrition and physical activity based on each unique employer’s needs.  Our goal is to engage an additional eight employers in 2018.
  • Built Environment: Jump IN has met with the City of Lawrence to prioritize their built environment plans to include aspects that facilitate physical activity with bike lanes and sidewalks, trails, and parks. Jump IN has created a work group to look assess existing programing in the area for physical activity.  The group is analyzing the inventory of programs and spaces for programs to determine whether there are gaps in programming and opportunities for encouraging greater engagement.  Solutions could be in shared use agreements (neighborhood resources sharing their buildings or environments) or increasing programming opportunities.  If the group finds that existing programming is sufficient, encouraging more participation may be an issue of community communications, safety, or transportation (or something else entirely) for the group to address. 
  • Public Awareness: To promote the public conversation about healthy habits, Jump IN has adopted the public awareness campaign of 5-2-1-0 (with resources in both English and Spanish).  This campaign encourages children and families to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, limit screen time to two hours or less, be active for at least an hour, and drink zero sugary beverages, opting for water instead. In addition to reinforcing healthy choices, the campaign promotes tangible community resources such as cooking classes, nutrition education programs, farmers’ markets and community gardens. Jump IN has shared 5-2-1-0 messages and materials with three organizations that have broad reach in Greater Lawrence: the Lawrence YMCA, Community Health Network, and Lawrence Township Schools. Those organizations have pushed the messaging and materials out through their email lists and social media, resulting in tens of thousands of impressions.



*5. Can you share either a personal story or an observation that might help illustrate the impact this initiative and/or the Challenge has had on you/your community?

While Jump IN’s Challenge project is across several sectors, our work in child cares, schools, and food access have had the deepest impact so far and have resulted in several permanent, structural changes to programs in Greater Lawrence.  Moore’s Montessori is a perfect example.

To date, Jump IN has helped secure funding to provide comprehensive training to 17 child care providers in Greater Lawrence, using the evidence-based training program used around the country, Taking Steps to Healthy Success (TSHS) developed by Nemours and the CDC.  One of those providers is Moore’s Montessori Academy, a registered, licensed ministry child care provider and a Paths to QUALITY Level 3 (the highest a child care provider can reach without national accreditation on Indiana’s child care quality rating scale).  Moore’s serves 55 - 65 children, ages six weeks through five years-old and 99% of the children attending use the Child Care Development Fund vouchers (CCDF), the federally-funded voucher program for low-income families accessing child care.  In the TSHS program, under the supervision of Jump IN’s partner Early Learning Indiana, ECEtrainers work with child care centers to improve the nutrition of the meals and snacks served to the children; incorporate age-appropriate education on healthy habits into the curriculum; create additional opportunities for the children to play and be active; and engage with the parents to reinforce these healthy behaviors at home. The director of Moore’s, Marlene Beatty, took the TSHS training to heart and continued her learning by attending the Purdue Extension Child Care Garden 101 training in June, 2017.  She met with Purdue Extension community wellness coordinator Emma Crayner to plan a garden at her center.  Emma planted starts to ensure harvest for the 2017 season while the Marlene Beatty secured additional funds and approval.  She then purchased, built, and installed garden beds on the grounds of Moore’s Montessori Academy.  Emma delivered starts to Moore’s in July and the staff and children planted cucumber and pumpkin plants.  In August, Moore’s Montessori had their first cucumber harvest.  Once there was a harvest, Purdue Extension provided resources and ideas on how to incorporate the cucumbers in the classroom for educational purposes as well as several simple, kid-friendly recipes.  Marlene purchased some children’s books about vegetables for the classrooms and the kids were able to taste the cucumbers.   The gardens will continue this summer and are now a permanent part of Moore’s Montessori.  The experience of gardening and learning about vegetables has become embedded in the landscape and curriculum of the child care provider.  Moore’s now has a permanent source of fresh produce and the tools to continue fostering a culture of good health.


*6. Have you experienced any major successes or challenges so far with this initiative? If so, can you elaborate?

Jump IN’s work in food access, schools, and child cares have had so far had the deepest impact.  In particular, Jump IN’s work on access to healthy foods has made great strides, due in part to two programs:  the healthy pantry work in partnership with Purdue Extension, and the healthy corner stores work in partnership with the Food Trust.   Greater Lawrence is the largest food desert in the country, with limited grocery stores and limited public transportation options.  Last year, Jump IN began working with three large food pantries, the Cupboard, Carriage House East Apartments, and the Sharing Place to improve the quality of food being offered.  The community wellness coordinator from Purdue Extension worked with the pantries one on one, helping them with healthy “nudges.”  These nudges include adjusting the placement of healthy pantry staples and fresh produce to encourage people to take more healthy food, better labeling of food nutrition, posting signage about 5-2-1-0, and sharing healthy recipes that can be made with the food items offered in the pantry, and offering cooking demonstrations to help people learn how to prepare healthy meals.  Three Greater Lawrence pantries have adopted these healthy nudges and Jump IN is in talks to expand that work to an additional ten large pantries.   In March, Indianapolis will host a Small Pantry Summit, food banks and the food repurposing organization Second Helpings will share resources to help the pantries improve many aspects of their work, including healthy pantry approaches. Pantry

Additionally, Jump IN has created a resource guide for employers interested in community engagement.  This guide includes a section on healthy food donations:

Our challenges have been in the sectors of workplace wellness and built environment (and an extension of built environment, shared use).  Our goal for the Challenge project has been to engage 10 workplaces to begin implementing wellness programs.  After reaching out to lists of employers provided by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, our response was tepid; only two employers expressed interested.  We are reaching out again with an additional letter by mail and will be following up with recommendations by our project steering committee to engage eight additional workplaces.  Further, our work with built environments has not progressed as quickly as the schools, food access, or child care work.  We have formed a work group to address built environment and have begun by assessing shared use opportunities in the area.  Our group meets next week to review our assessment and to determine whether the area has gaps in programming, transportation challenges, or a different issue entirely, such as a lack of good communication channels to share information about programming opportunities.Pantry

*7. Can you describe the progress of your project? What has been accomplished?

In my answer to question 3, I’ve discussed nearly all of the work we have been doing so far, but I’ll tell you a little about some of the early steps we had to take to get all of these pieces of the project up and running. In the very beginning, Jump IN convened a steering committee to oversee the project.  The committee includes local government, health care, education, private sector, state and local health departments, youth organizations, community development, faith organizations, philanthropy and not-for-profits.  Because Jump IN for Healthy Kids isn’t the direct program provider, but instead the pilot project managing body and funder, we needed to enlist partners to ensure we could get the work done. The Marion County Health Department and the Purdue Extension each directed staff members to focus on the work being done on this project.   We recruited Stephanie Thornberry from the Marion County Health Department to focus our schools and Purdue Extension’s community wellness coordinator Emma Crayner to focus on our food access work.  Coaches and teachers from Early Learning Indiana lead our work in early childhood.  Our work with built environments and workplace wellness is currently being managed by Jump IN and we’re looking for community leaders who will take on those sectors and own that work.  

The last year has been one of implementation across all the sectors, all at once, under the project management of Jump IN. 


*8. What does it mean to be part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge?

 It is inspiring to see the incredible work being done in Challenge communities throughout the country.  Being recognized as one of the 50 groups participating in the Challenge is a great source of pride for Jump IN for Healthy Kids, an initiative that has only been up and running for a couple of years.  Having the support and endorsement of the Challenge has added heft to the work we are doing, and has raised the stakes for our outcomes.  Our Greater Lawrence community has many challenges and this work is beginning to address them in real, tangible ways. We’re grateful to the HCCC and very happy to be a part of it. 

[1] American Community Survey 5-year estimates,

[2] Id.

[3] Data from Community Health Network Community Dashboard

[4] Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, 2015-16 Free/Reduced Enrollment (10/1/15)

[5] Indianapolis Public Schools, Free/Reduced Lunch enrollment 2015-16

[6] Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, 2015-16 Free/Reduced Enrollment (10/1/15)





02-15-2018 15:30

David, thank you for your note!   We are very proud of the work that we're getting done in Greater Lawrence - we know that we need to address all of the environments children exist in to move the needle on childhood obesity.  Thankfully, we do have great partners.  A large part of of what helped us establish the partnerships we have is because of the individuals who created Jump IN.   We were formed by a group made up of leaders of the major central Indiana hospital systems, as well as business, education, and community leaders.  Leaders from many of those same organizations now serve on our Leadership Council and Executive Committee.  Additionally, our first CEO, Ron Gifford, has an exceptionally large and strong network of relationships with community leaders.  Having the support of so many prominent community members had enabled us to form these significant partnerships.  Those relationships are so important to opening doors and beginning conversations.  We have been lucky to have been formed by and now led by key people in our community who can make these partnerships possible.

02-14-2018 09:46

Megan - Thank you for sharing! Jump IN's progress in food access, schools and child care is inspiring! Your project has strong partnerships that is reflected throughout the blog post. What advice would you give to other projects about how to establish and strengthen those partnerships? Great work!