City of Salem, Mass., receives grant for healthy babies

The $5,000 award from a nationwide program will help the city improve children’s health and reduce disparities


Research indicates that early life exposures to neurotoxic chemicals can contribute to autism, IQ loss, learning or behavioral problems, ADHD and speech or cognitive delays. Image: Unsplash

SALEM, Mass. — Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) and the Mayors Innovation Project have announced that the City of Salem is one of ten winners of their joint grant program and will receive $5,000 to operate a free weekly mobile farmers’ market this summer at three affordable housing sites where hundreds of Salem children reside.

The market will distribute produce grown at the Mack Park Food Farm, a new municipal farm in one of Salem’s City parks. Using organic farming methods, the Mack Park Food Farm has the potential to grow up to 10,000 pounds of produce each season. The Salem YMCA will partner with the City of Salem and assist with the mobile distribution.

The Healthy Babies grant program aims to empower city leaders to improve children’s health and reduce health disparities in communities, in particular by supporting efforts that decrease neurotoxic exposures. Cities submitted proposals to leverage this grant with local funding to support systematic change, responding specifically to needs heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. From a strong pool of cities ranging from 7,000 to 1.7 million in population, 10 winners were selected to receive grants, as well as technical assistance and an opportunity to present at a future Mayors Innovation Project meeting.

The need for a resilient local food system has become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem.

“The City of Salem recognized the value of using vacant municipal land to grow food before the pandemic, but this funding will allow us to make locally grown produce even more accessible to families and children who live in areas with low-access to healthy foods. We believe this program will help to improve the health and well-being of Salem children and their families. I’m very grateful to our partners at the Salem YMCA, to the many volunteers who made the Mack Park Food Farm possible, and to our City staff who have worked on these initiatives.”

“Response to COVID-19 required significant behavioral changes and adaptations and many will continue to have an influence in the future,” said Kyra Naumoff Shields, HBBF’s Bright Cities Program Director. “It helps us see that — particularly in a time of crisis — people can change their behavior for a positive community impact. Salem’s planned work will dramatically improve the health of the babies in their city.”

One in six children in America has a developmental disability, and one in 45 have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Research indicates that early life exposures to neurotoxic chemicals from drinking water, food, air, soil and consumer products — can contribute to autism, IQ loss, learning or behavioral problems, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and speech or cognitive delays.

“City leaders can dramatically impact children’s health, in particular children of color, who are most adversely impacted by these environmental harms. By addressing the social and physical determinants of health through access to healthy foods, lead abatement, and more, city leaders can play a major role in addressing children’s health disparities,” said Katya Spear, Co-Managing Director of the Mayors Innovation Project. “We are excited to support these projects and the opportunity to promote them as best practices for cities across the country.”

About the Mayors Innovation Project

The Mayors Innovation Project is a national learning network for mayors committed to shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. Around the country, mayors are taking the lead on pressing issues. The Mayors Innovation Project supports mayors by providing cutting-edge thinking and concrete examples that mayors can implement. We provide clear, useful information on policies and programs for mayors and create high-quality peer learning experiences for local leaders.

About Healthy Babies Bright Futures

Healthy Babies Bright Futures is an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors working to create and support initiatives that measurably reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals in the first one thousand days of development. Our efforts are inspired and supported by science and data, and designed to help restore the chance for a full life to children who would otherwise face brain-diminishing exposures to toxic chemicals beginning in utero.