On Thursday, Jan. 25, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) announced Knoxville as the 2018 1st place medium-sized city winner in the Childhood Obesity Prevention Grant program, sponsored by the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America. The $120,000 grant will allow Knoxville Parks and Recreation to expand the City’s “Neighborhoods to Nature” program, which aims to promote proximity to outdoor play.


“We’re grateful for this grant from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America,” said Mayor Madeline Rogero. “Our staff will be able to take more neighborhoods to nature, introducing families to the healthy lives that await them literally out their front door.”


Mayor Rogero accepted the trophy on Thursday at the USCM 86th Winter Meeting held in Washington, D.C. Knoxville was one of six cities nationwide selected for the prestigious grant, including:


  • Large City – 1st Place: Boston; 2nd Place: Houston
  • Medium City – 1st Place: Knoxville; 2nd Place: Providence, R.I.
  • Small City – 1st Place: Perris, Calif.; 2nd Place: Port Arthur, Texas


In 2016, Mayor Rogero launched the Neighborhoods to Nature walking series. Inspired by former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, Mayor Rogero, City Council and senior City staff members led the walks to demonstrate with neighborhood residents how easy it is to reach a nearby park on foot. Upon arrival to the parks, residents and officials enjoyed recreation activities and healthy food outdoors.


The expanded Neighborhoods to Nature program, amplified with this new USCM grant, will motivate kids and their families to play together outside. The grant funds will go toward creating and staffing a mobile recreation center that brings unique games and activities to at-risk neighborhoods. Knoxville Parks and Recreation staff will collaborate with partners to reconnect families to nature, exercise and nutritious snacks.


“From a public health perspective – from a moral perspective – we have got to do everything we can to make sure our kids have the skills and tools and resources to eat healthy and stay active. Otherwise, we may be raising the first generation of young people that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” said Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and Executive Director.


The Knoxville Parks and Recreation team is making plans to implement the program later this year. For information, visit www.knoxvilletn.gov/knoxN2N. #KnoxN2N