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Dutchess County Recognized as HealthyCommunity50 Member in Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

Published: 9/15/2016

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Colleen Pillus

POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced today Dutchess County has been selected as one of 50 members nationwide of the HealthyCommunity50 in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to receive a $10,000 community seed award to launch a new health program to introduce nutrient-dense microgreens into the diets of vulnerable populations. By participating in the Challenge, Dutchess County is in the running to receive a $500,000 prize that will support its local program.

County Executive Molinaro said, "One of Dutchess County’s bold goals over the next decade is to become the healthiest county in New York, and our participation in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge is a great step in fulfilling that ambition. National partners, who are experts in the field of health, have evaluated our innovative project and awarded Dutchess County this $10,000 seed award based on the merits of our proposal. Over the next two years we’ll implement our program, and we foresee positive health outcomes for our target audiences: inner-city children, students in the Hudson Valley Community Center’s after-school program and our seniors. Based on that success, we’ll look to expand our program and its benefits throughout Dutchess County."

The Challenge, a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, launched in April during National Public Health Week. The Challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to small and mid-sized cities, counties and federally recognized tribes that are able to show measurable change over the course of several years working with cross-sector partnerships to implement health innovations and data-driven solutions. Hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other public/private entities applied to be a part of the Challenge.

The HealthyCommunity50 were chosen based on plans to improve the health of their communities in at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures.

Partnering with Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County and the City of Poughkeepsie will be the lead agencies in a program to distribute nutrient-dense microgreens to three local groups: fifth-grade students in the Poughkeepsie City School District’s Krieger Elementary School, City of Poughkeepsie students who take part in an after-school program run by the Hudson Valley Community Center, and seniors who receive Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA) home-delivered meals or congregate meals served at an OFA Senior Friendship Center.

County Executive Molinaro with community partners

“We are proud to collaborate with Dutchess County on its innovative program, one we believe will greatly affect the health of residents throughout our city and our county,” said Brud Hodgkins, owner of Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie. “Research has proven the tremendous nutritional value of microgreens, and this plan will bring them directly to our neighbors who can best benefit from them: our children and our seniors. We’re confident this project will not only be successful here in Dutchess County, but can be successful elsewhere, and we look forward to sharing our nutritional findings through the national Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge.”

A baseline for health will be established for each of the three aforementioned populations. Upon implementation, microgreens will be distributed to each group, their intake of the microgreens will be monitored, and their yet-to-be-determined health outcomes will be measured moving forward.

Dutchess County’s achievable goal is to establish a program that delivers a high volume of nutrients in an easily consumed manner – microgreens can be blended into smoothies or added to salads, for example – and promotes the prevention of certain undesirable health outcomes, as well as overall well-being for the populations involved. This is a program that can be replicated throughout New York State and throughout the nation and which will leverage local capital to sustain itself after the “Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Prize” has been awarded and exhausted.

More than 85 percent of City of Poughkeepsie students live in poverty, resulting in both children and their families suffering from a wide range of medical, dental and social-emotional challenges. The Poughkeepsie City School District serves up to 6,000 meals a day, serving healthy, appealing foods that promote student awareness of good nutrition and help prepare students for a lifetime of healthy food choices.

“The Poughkeepsie City School District is honored to partner with Dutchess County in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge,” said Dr. Nicole Williams, Poughkeepsie City School District Superintendent of Schools. “Our core mission is to ensure that every scholar, every day receives a high-quality, world-class education in every classroom. Research shows that there is a strong correlation between academic achievement and health. While we maintain a laser-like focus on the academic success of each of our scholars, we also prioritize the emotional, social and physical health of Poughkeepsie students. We are fully committed to the success of Dutchess County’s project. We are excited about the potential this project has to build a powerful collaboration between public agencies, our school district and small businesses, in support of a stronger, healthier community for our students, families and residents of Poughkeepsie.”

The project has the support of numerous local organizations, including the Dyson Foundation, Health Quest and Rose & Kiernan Insurance, who have agreed to partner with Dutchess County, providing financial backing for the program.

The program will also benefit both the City of Poughkeepsie, and Dutchess County as a whole, by providing employment for ex-offenders who will learn about growing microgreens; building their confidence, ability to be productive and self-sufficient working alongside others, thus easing their transition back into the community. Ex-offenders will be employed at Indoor Organic Gardens of Poughkeepsie as part of its Re-Entry Stabilization Transition And Reintegration Track (RESTART) program, an evidence-based program designed to provide treatment and re-entry services, reduce recidivism and assist inmates as they transition back into the community. (RESTART is a voluntary program available to male and female inmates housed in the Dutchess County Jail who are at the highest risk to commit new offenses.)

All selected HealthyCommunity50 members will be visited by an expert judge panel to answer questions, understand the community’s approach to the project first-hand and speak with the members of the cross-sector team and key stakeholders. At the conclusion of the Challenge, the programs which can best show measurable change will be eligible for prize awards from $25,000 to $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other. For more information, visit