Spartanburg County, South Carolina

2014

Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

The departure of a key champion in the City of Woodruff (Spartanburg County) and subsequent dynamics made it difficult to gain agreements from all property owners along a proposed and popular greenway project, forcing the return of an important grant. Some partners regrouped and found two other sources of funds to advance a nearly mile-long section of the greenway, connecting a park and school with trailheads and parking at each end. They are also introducing health issues and supports into the city’s new priority, a Main Street program.

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July 2014

By 2008, when Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) started, prior decades of deindustrialization and subsequent job losses had taken a significant toll on the financial health of Spartanburg County, once a booming textile center and transportation hub in northwest South Carolina. The economic downturn also affected the physical health of Spartanburg residents, 70 percent of whom were obese or overweight. Many suffered from multiple problems associated with unhealthy weight.

Yet there were advocates trying to improve Spartanburg’s well-being. Two decade-old nonprofit groups were working on more nutritious eating and active living for residents. The City of Spartanburg and the County of Spartanburg unanimously passed Complete Streets resolutions. In addition, the County Council had approved a hospitality tax to support parks and recreation, all of which paved the way for additional biking and walking trails, improved sidewalks and bicycle racks, and future policy and environmental changes.

Building on this momentum, Partners for Active Living (PAL), the Hub City Farmers’ Market (HCFM) and  the Childhood Obesity Task Force began implementing programs and policies to improve the health of current and future generations. HKHC funding was used to build on this work and to advocate for “connectivity” to parks and healthy food outlets in four at-risk communities: the city’s predominantly African-American northwest neighborhoods, where nearly all students qualified for free or reduced-price school lunch programs, and the majority-White rural communities of Boiling Springs, Pacolet and Woodruff.

During the four-year grant period, some of their key accomplishments and ongoing initiatives include:

  • A food hub was developed in the Northside community, which will house an urban farm, greenhouses, a full-time produce market and a bike-sharing station to increase transportation options.
  • A mobile market was expanded to reach low-income senior residences and public housing complexes in Boiling Springs, Pacolet, Woodruff and the Northside community.
  • A joint-use agreement was established between Spartanburg School Districts 6 and 7 and the city to open school facilities to the public.
  • All four target areas of the Spartanburg HKHC project adopted the county-wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan in 2009. The plan outlined where sidewalks and bike lanes were recommended for the county.
  • “Good For You Spartanburg” website serves as a clearinghouse for all things healthy in Spartanburg. It further develops partnerships to include businesses, faith organizations and others, as well as to disseminate best practices.
  • Construction of Woodruff’s greenway trail has begun. The trail will create connections between a county park, a middle school and the downtown area. A joint use agreement was developed between the City of Woodruff, the County Parks Department, and the school district as a way to establish a maintenance plan for the trail.
  • PAL will develop a county-wide Healthy Schools initiative, aimed at improving the health of students, staff, faculty and families. The initiative is being piloted. Best practices will be developed and disseminated throughout the seven county school districts.

According to Project Director Laura Ringo, “Our greatest strength is the power of our partnerships. We’ve seen a number of different groups, with different agendas and across different disciplines, come together around the issue of childhood obesity. The result is a cohesive approach in which everyone feels he or she has a role to play.”