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Empire Health Foundation receives HUD award for helping fight obesity


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Front row left to right: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Empire Health Foundation President Anthony Chiang, Empire Health Foundation senior program associate Strategic Grant Programs Sarah Lyman, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations Vikki Spruill, Cheney School District Superintendent Dr. Debra Clemens. Back row left to right: Cheney School Board President Suzanne Dolle and Cheney Parks and Recreation Department Director Paul Simmons.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Council and Foundation announced Sept. 25 that Empire Health Foundation of Spokane is one of 10 foundations across the country to win a 2013 HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships.

The Empire Health Foundation was cited by HUD and the Council for its Eastern Washington Obesity Prevention Initiative that recently achieved reductions in obesity rates among three target school districts. Launched in 2011 by the Foundation, the Initiative is a collaboration that includes the city of Cheney, Cheney School District, Washington State University, Spokane Regional Health District, Davenport School District, East Valley School District, Newport School District, Othello School District, Spokane Public Schools, and Wellpinit School District.

The initiative’s goal is to implement systems and environmental changes to reduce and prevent childhood obesity. A key investment has been to help school districts convert their breakfast and lunch programs from “unhealthy processed foods to healthy scratch cooked meals; from chicken nuggets to herb-baked chicken; from french fries to roasted red potatoes; from syrupy canned peaches to fresh fruits and vegetables.” Last year, the Foundation reports, 1.6 million meals were positively impacted in the seven participating school districts.

The award announcement was made by Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Council on Foundations’ Community Foundations Conference in San Diego. In addition to the Empire Health Foundation, other winners of the 2013 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships included the Rasmuson Foundation of Anchorage, the Fairfield County Community Foundation of Connecticut, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, the Raymond John Wean Foundation of Youngstown, the Rhode Island Foundation, the St. Paul Foundation, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation serving New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.

“These organizations are doing the heavy lifting to improve neighborhoods, often without much thanks. Today, we say ‘thank you!’” Donovan said. “These foundations are teaming up with public and private partners to bring about positive change and lasting solutions that are making a real difference in their communities.”

“These awards provide us all a moment to reflect on the good work that foundations are doing to advance communities across the country,” Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, said. “I am grateful to HUD and Secretary Donovan for recognizing the many different ways that foundations are thoughtfully responding to the needs of those around them.”

“As a result of a public-private partnership with the Cheney School District, city of Cheney and other key community partners, we are seeing measurable declines in childhood obesity rates, which is a significant achievement,” Anthony Chiang, President of the Empire Health Foundation said. “We have a lot of work to do, but these are exciting and positive early results.”

HUD Secretary Awards are given to place-based funders for completed or ongoing initiatives that are executed in partnership with a local, regional, or federal government agency.

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