By Adam Becker, PhD, MPH
Executive Director, Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children
On February 22, we held our Winter Convening – the first convening of the full CLOCC network since December 2020. This convening was the launch of our celebration of 20 years working together as a consortium. Because it was virtual, we had the opportunity to invite three speakers from across the U.S. who have a long-standing connection to CLOCC in one way or another to share with us the ways their organizations center food and physical activity in the context of some of today’s front-burner issues of health equity, racial justice, climate change, and COVID-19.
Current External Advisory Board member, Kelly Brownell, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, presented on his work as Director of the World Food Policy Center (wfpc.sanford.duke.edu) and its featured research on how White supremacy is manifest in our nation’s food system. Megan Lott, Deputy Director of Healthy Eating Research, shared how this national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported recent explorations of the impact of COVID-19 on school meal programs and the critical food safety net. Healthy Eating Research funded CLOCC’s study of how voluntary improvements in physical activity and nutrition supports in licensed childcare could be adopted if they were required by the State of Illinois – a long-standing advocacy priority for our Consortium, which first came to fruition in 2014. Mary Story, Director of Healthy Eating Research is currently a member of CLOCC’s External Advisory Board as well. For more on this program’s work, see healthyeatingresearch.org. Ian Thomas, State and Local Program Director at America Walks, shared how his organization connects health inequities to present-day disparities in community walkability and mobility through national, state, and local policy around transportation, segregation, and even jaywalking. CLOCC’s relationship with Ian Thomas goes back to our involvement with the RWJF program, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, when he was with the PedNet Coalition of Columbia, MO. With support from HKHC’s national program office at Active Living by Design (led, at that time, by CLOCC EAB member Sarah Strunk), CLOCC partnered with Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Active Transportation Alliance (then, the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation), the Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Departments of Public Health and Transportation to focus attention on inequities in park access on Chicago’s west side. This early work became the foundation for some of today’s work on Complete Streets and Vision Zero that focuses on street infrastructure transportation policy around the city’s parks. We often share resources from America Walks (americawalks.org) in our bi-weekly newsletter, especially opportunities to join their Walking College activities.
Our convening didn’t only have a national perspective. Current partners, some historical and some new, shared some of the work they’ve been doing with CLOCC staff and partners to continue advancing healthy eating, physical activity, or both in community institutions. New CLOCC partner, Circle Urban Ministries described their engagement with West Side United’s Pantry Support Initiative (managed and coordinated by WSU and CLOCC staff) and CLOCC/WSU Community Food Access Manager, Jennifer Norsworthy, shared information about our emerging Fruit and Veggie Voucher Program in partnership with Bethel New Life. Both of these partner organizations are focused in the Austin neighborhood and CLOCC staff are continuing to explore ways to expand our support in Austin. Lauren Pett and Hannah Press from Chicago Public Schools presented with CLOCC’s Community and School Programs Manager, Erin Fisher, on our co-convening of the Food and Fitness Partner Network and the +Network – both of which focus on advancing health and wellness priorities in neighborhood schools. They shared information about how CLOCC partners could join these networks by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, submit an application to become a CPS Vendor, and have materials reviewed by CPS’s Materials Review Committee. I had the opportunity to co-present with Colleen Lammel Harmon from the Chicago Park District on our decades-long partnership and Colleen shared a variety of ways in which CLOCC partners could support health and wellness in neighborhood parks. Partners can run programs by becoming an official Chicago Park District Partner. They can run one-time wellness events if they apply for and receive a Permit, and they can connect with their local park staff or Park Advisory Councils (PAC) to advocate for health and wellness activities and programing in their parks.
This info-packed convening helped us kick off our year of celebration of 20 years by connecting CLOCC’s present to CLOCC’s past and sharing resources that will take CLOCC partners into our exciting future. And speaking of the future, I announced our exiting 20 Under 20 campaign in which we will recognize 20 of Chicago’s emerging leaders in nutrition, physical activity, obesity prevention, and social influencers of obesity. To learn more about the campaign and how YOU can nominate a bright future star, click here!
Finally, I announced that, in addition to our school-focused networks, we will be convening two working groups to focus with CLOCC staff on some very specific goals we have for the remainder of the calendar year. A Policy and Advocacy Working Group will meet quarterly. Participants will hear and share updates on key policy and advocacy priorities that align with CLOCC’s Policy Agenda. We will convene a Public Education and Message Dissemination Working Group to help guide the roll-out of two new curricula to support partners in sharing our 5-4-3-2-1 Go!™ and fiveSMART™ messages.
To share with us your interest in these groups, and to let us know how you would feel about returning to in-person CLOCC convenings, please complete our input form here.
We look forward to joining with you as we celebrate 20 years of work together and lay the foundation for 20 more. We look forward to seeing you at our next convening!