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Harlem Children’s Zone Launches National Healthy Ways Program with First Site in Minnesota

Kids in Healthy Ways program play on playground
Above: Health Ways kids participate in Healthy Ways, a national program of Harlem Children's Zone, in Rice County, Minnesota. 

A decade ago, we launched our Healthy Harlem program to tackle childhood obesity and empower our children and families to adopt lifelong, healthy habits. 

The program has been a huge success in Harlem. But our mission has always been to scale our impact to under-resourced communities beyond our 97-block Zone.

With an eye on that goal, we launched Healthy Ways. Inspired by Healthy Harlem, the national program champions healthy habits and lifestyles for children and families by providing engaging programs focused on nutrition and physical activity.

This year, we are thrilled to partner with our friends at Northfield Promise to launch the first-ever Healthy Ways program. It is located at Greenvale Park Community School and Jefferson Elementary Community School in Rice County, Minnesota. 

Healthy Ways participants from Rice County, Minnesota

Healthy Ways ‘needed now more than ever’

Given the challenges of COVID-19, the launch of Healthy Ways couldn’t have come at a better time.

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color not just in Harlem, but also cross the country,” Hayling Price, Senior Managing Director at Harlem Children’s Zone, says. “That’s why it’s so critical that we scale the impact of this program. Programs that center health equity for young people are needed now more than ever.” 

Price noted the extent of childhood health issues:

  • Nearly 20% of U.S. youth (aged 2-19 years) have obesity.
  • 17% are affected by overweight.
  • The prevalence of childhood obesity is greater in communities of color and in communities with lower incomes. 
  • Childhood obesity increases the risk for chronic diseases such as asthma, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.

Through a whole school-community approach, Healthy Ways confronts this reality head on. 

Healthy Ways Logo


Instilling healthy habits early

Focusing on children in grades K-5, the Healthy Ways program in Rice County will focus on instilling healthy habits that endure through middle and high school. The sites will host daily physical activity and weekly nutrition lessons for children, as well as an eight-week workshop teaching new recipes and tips for healthy eating.

“Healthy Harlem has made a positive impact on the community in Central Harlem,” Diego Bravo, the coordinator of Health Ways in Rice County, says. “They’re providing us with all the resources that we need to get it started and make this program work in our system and model.”

Local funding for Healthy Ways was provided by Allina, and by Rice County Public Health through a competitive “Moving Health Equity to Action” grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. The Rice County sites were introduced to Healthy Ways by StriveTogether, a longtime partner of Harlem Children’s Zone.  


Rice County is only the beginning

Rice County is only the start of our Healthy Ways journey. Going forward, we hope to replicate the program in more communities like ours across the country.

“We’re proud to work with our partners at Northfield Promise to launch Healthy Ways in their community,” Price says. “Expanding on the foundation we built in Harlem, we believe there are many more opportunities to positively impact communities across the country.”