Friday, July 26, 2013

City to Highlight Economic Development & Housing Revolving Loan Fund Program

The City’s Department of Economic and Community Development invites developers to learn more about the $20 million Economic Development and Housing Revolving Loan Fund Program in the city of Richmond on Tuesday, July 30 at 8 a.m. on the 2nd floor of Main Street Station, 1500 East Main Street.

Funding for this loan program is being provided as gap financing for eligible projects, through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Section 108, to assist with economic and community development activities in the city of Richmond. The funds have been used to create a business loan pool targeted to special projects to include affordable housing that will have positive economic and community development benefits within targeted neighborhoods. Target neighborhoods include the Arts & Cultural District, Shockoe Bottom, Manchester, Jeff Davis corridor, Brookland Park Boulevard, and the 25th Street - Nine Mile Road corridor. However, the City will be willing to provide business loans to eligible borrowers outside of these targeted areas.

“The revitalization of our city’s neighborhoods is a critical objective of my administration as we work to create jobs, stimulate economic development, develop affordable housing, and mitigate poverty in the city,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “Richmond’s long-term economic viability depends on public and private investment in both the built environment and the development of private enterprise, especially in the most distressed areas.”

The Economic Development & Housing Revolving Loan Fund Program is one of several new programs developed by Mayor Jones’ Administration, following the reorganization and creation of the City’s Department of Economic and Community Development in 2010.

Lee Downey, Director of the City’s Department of Economic and Community Development noted that, “The City will continue its efforts to retain and attract economic enterprises that provide a diverse employment base, improve per capita income for its residents, expand the City’s tax base and fiscal strength, and support a comprehensive approach to economic and community development initiatives.”

Event attendees are asked to RSVP by calling (804) 646-5633. Free parking will be available in the lot to the west side of Main Street Station.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Richmond’s Big Latch On set for Saturday, August 3

To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, which begins August 1, Richmond’s Big Latch On is set for Saturday, August 3 at 10:30 a.m. at the Bell Tower on Capitol Square. The Richmond Healthy Start Initiative is partnering with Bon Secours Richmond Health System, HCA Healthcare and VCU Medical Center to host this year’s event. The Richmond event is part of a worldwide gathering of thousands of breastfeeding women and their babies and/or children who will assemble in their communities to take part in synchronized breastfeeding events. Registration for the Richmond event begins at 9:30 a.m. and all nursing mothers and their babies in the metro-Richmond area are invited to participate in the Big Latch On. In the event of inclement weather, the Big Latch On will move to Virginia State Capitol House Room 3, which is accessible through the Bank Street visitor’s entrance. 

“This year's Big Latch On is sponsored by the Richmond Health Action Alliance, a Healthy Communities Action Team funded by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth through the Richmond Healthy Start Initiative. Having the full support of the Mayor Dwight Jones Breastfeeding Commission helps make this a truly wonderful educational event,” said Rose Stith-Singleton, Richmond Healthy Start Initiative Project Director. "Babies and children who are not breastfed are at increased risk of diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as well as an increased risk of obesity and diabetes later in life. Even when mothers are able to get off to a good start, there is often a sharp decline in breastfeeding rates in the weeks and months after birth. Because breastfeeding is such an important public health measure, it is important that our community actively supports its breastfeeding mothers."

“VCU Medical Center is delighted to support the Big Latch On with our health care colleagues in the community. We all want what is best for our infants and mothers, and breastfeeding is the most effective prevention, boosting baby with antibodies that will fight infection and promote health from the earliest days and beyond,” said Dr. Gauri Gulati, a pediatrician and board certified lactation consultant who provides comprehensive breastfeeding support through the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. “With breastfeeding, the return on investment is enormous for families, the community, and employers. For every 1,000 babies not breastfed, there is an excess of 2,033 physician visits, 212 days in the hospital and 609 prescriptions."

Last year, VCU Medical Center was selected in a highly competitive process as one of 90 hospitals in the United States to participate in a collaborative, Best Fed Beginnings, to improve outcomes for mothers and infants by increasing the initiation and duration rates of breastfeeding. It is actively pursuing the Baby Friendly Hospital designation.

“The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to support breastfeeding has provided additional opportunities for HCA Virginia, to collaborate with our colleagues, community partners and families to remove some of the barriers faced by breastfeeding mothers. We are in support of the promotion of  activities such as The Big Latch On to increase the awareness of how the documented benefits of breastfeeding impacts mothers, babies and their communities,” noted HCA, Virginia Health System’s Lactation Services Coordinator Denise DiCicco.

"Bon Secours is committed to supporting nursing mothers," said Blake Slusser, Manager of Women's and Children's Education and Outreach, Bon Secours Virginia Health System. "The Bon Secours Magic Hour provides undisturbed time for mothers and babies to have skin-to-skin contact during the first moments of life and Quiet Time gives parents and families a quiet and comforting setting to help baby further transition into their new environment; this has also been proven to increase breastfeeding success! In addition, we encourage parents to keep their baby with them in the patient rooms to help them recognize early feeding cues and better establish the bond between mother and baby.” Inpatient lactation services are offered to every patient and outpatient services are available from A Woman's Place Lactation Center and Boutique, with lactation consultants available by phone or for in person consultations. Bon Secours not only supports its patients, but also employees with pumping locations at every facility and steeply discounted breast pumps for purchase.

Richmond’s Big Latch On will take place on Saturday, August 3, at the Bell Tower, Capitol Square, intersection of Franklin & 9th Streets. Last year’s event included 100 attendees and nearly 50 breastfeeding mothers. Free parking to the 2013 Richmond Big Latch On is available in the gravel lot on the Southwest corner of Broad and 9th Streets and 900 East Marshall Street under the City’s Department of Social Services building.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mayor Receives Final Report From Breastfeeding Commission

Mayor Dwight C. Jones received the final report of the Breastfeeding Commission today from the commission he created in July of 2011. The Breastfeeding Commission was created to provide recommendations on ways to increase the number of women breastfeeding, particularly among underserved and fragile women in Richmond, where participation is well below the state average. Over the course of the Commission’s work, state officials recognized the city as the first locality in Virginia to establish a breastfeeding commission and for bringing together businesses, government and healthcare advocates to encourage women - especially low-income mothers - to breastfeed.

“I would like to thank Dr. Stephanie Ferguson and the other members of this diverse group of individuals for their diligence in creating recommendations to aid my administration in increasing the number of breastfeeding mothers in the city of Richmond,” said Mayor Jones. “The Commission has recommended a comprehensive, coordinated, collaborative, sustainable breastfeeding program for Richmond families. Their recommendations are impactful and sound, and will be of great benefit to all families, particularly our most vulnerable. At the level of city government, we have already taken action in establishing two lactation rooms to support our employees and I believe the work of this commission will help many others find ways to support this effort.”

The Breastfeeding Commission’s report not only highlights barriers to breastfeeding, it provides information regarding the commission’s structure and activities, relevant research related to federal and state initiatives, benefits of breastfeeding and a detailed review of breastfeeding among minority women. It also examines the current state of breastfeeding in Richmond.

The Breast Feeding Commission’s final report includes the following recommendations:

  • Encourage Health Systems to adopt the 10 Steps of the Baby Friendly Hospital  
  • Support and encourage Richmond city businesses to develop and implement comprehensive lactation support programs for their employees and patrons.
  • Promote partnerships and education among care providers who come into contact with mothers, fathers, partners, and families before, during, and after childbirth, and during the infant’s first year of life. 
  • Develop an Education/Marketing Strategy.

Mayor Jones expressed his gratitude for the work of the Commission and also noted that progress has already begun in several areas related to breastfeeding:

  • In April 2012, the Richmond City Department of Social Services’ Richmond Healthy Start Initiative (RHSI) in partnership with the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine received an award for their proposed community engagement project entitled, Barriers and Facilitators to Breastfeeding among Low-Income African-American Women in Richmond, Virginia. Funding will be used to conduct breastfeeding community forums to hear directly from mothers about their experiences and expectations feeding their babies. The potential research findings from the community forums could position the city to be the beneficiary of long-term breastfeeding funding from major organizations including the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control.
  • In May 2012, RHSI and the Faces of Hope, a local non-profit dedicated to fighting childhood obesity, received a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to establish The Richmond Health Action Alliance. The Alliance will develop a comprehensive plan to prevent and control childhood obesity by promoting breastfeeding among new mothers and increasing physical activity among youngsters.
  • RHSI and Breastfeeding Commission members participated in the world wide Big Latch-On campaign on August 4, 2012. The event, designed to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding, was a tremendous success. RHSI, which works with low-income pregnant women along with representatives from the three hospital systems in Richmond, HCA, Bon Secours, and VCU Health System, joined forces to coordinate the Richmond Big Latch On at the state capitol. More than 100 people attended the event in which almost 50 Mothers breastfed.
Click here to view the Breastfeeding Commission’s presentation to the Mayor.

Mayor Receives Final Report From Food Policy Task Force

~Addressing food deserts in the city a major focus of groups work~

Mayor Dwight C. Jones today received the final report of the Food Policy Task Force; a task force charged with providing the Administration advice on food policy and land use planning issues in the City of Richmond to include urban agriculture, development of markets for locally-grown food, food education, child nutrition, and the development of inner-city supermarkets.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones established the Task Force in July of 2011 as part of his multi-pronged approach to finding ways to address concentrated poverty in the city of Richmond and advance the quality of life. A number of “food deserts” exist (areas where low-income residents have no access to grocery stores) in the city’s lower income neighborhoods, which can contribute to a continuing cycle of poor health and poor outcomes for segments of the city’s population.

“I want to express my thanks to the many individuals who devoted their time and energies into researching the food system issues that exist in Richmond,” said Mayor Jones. “This document will help us chart a course to augment many of the efforts that we have already seen get underway, like the new Get Fresh East End corner story healthy food initiative that was launched last week or the food shuttle service that the city has been providing.”

The Mayor’s Food Policy Task Force was comprised of community food advocates representing local government, non-profits, community advocates, urban planners, urban farmers, community gardeners, chefs, public health officials, and others with interests and expertise in the local food system. Focus area work groups were organized around the following topics:

  • Food Security – examining the  availability and access to of nutritious food
  • Education and Awareness – promoting healthy eating and its impact on individual and community health and well-being
  • Health and Nutrition – examining the relationships between diet, health and disease
  • School and Community Gardens –reviewing existing initiatives that support the  City’s food system
  • Quality of School Food – assessing the quality and nutritious value of school breakfast and lunch
  • Community Assessment-  developing an assessment of the City’s food system

A series of community meetings were held and citizen priorities were documented. Top recommendations coming out of the Task Force where there has already been some movement include:

  • Create a Food Policy Coordinator Position – As a first step, the City is in the final stages of signing an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission for part-time staff support in the role of a Food Policy Coordinator who will be responsible for coordinating food related initiatives in the City and pursuing grant funds to implement other recommendations from the Task Force.
  • Revise zoning laws for raising fowl – The City has already acted on revisions to the zoning laws to permit the raising of chickens in the City.
  • Establish mobile farmers markets/bus routes to markets – The City has been working to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables through the RVA Shoppers’ Shuttle which provides transportation from food deserts to local shopping destinations.
  • Create edible landscapes on city owned properties - Over 300 edible trees have been planted in Chimborazo Park.
The total of 17 recommendations follows:

Proposed Recommendation                                                           Priority           Time to Implement
1.    Create Food Policy Coordinator position                                            1                      Short Term
2.    Revise zoning laws to facilitate urban agriculture                                 2                      Short Term
3.    Revise zoning laws for raising fowl                                                         1                      Short Term
4.    Reduce/eliminate irrigation fees for community gardens                     2                      Mid Term
5.    Create edible landscapes on city owned properties                            3                      Mid Term
6.    Establish policy regarding use of pesticides, herbicides, etc.            2                      Mid Term
7.    Establish grant program for food-related businesses                          3                      Mid Term
8.    Create “green” career development program                                       3                      Long Term     
9.    Use of vacant properties for food-oriented projects                             2                      Mid Term
10.  Establish community kitchens/food hubs w/ educational                     1                      Long Term
11.  Establish mobile farmers markets/bus routes to markets                    3                      Mid Term
12.  Expand use of SNAP benefits at Farmers Markets                              2                      Short Term
13.  Implement moratorium on establishment of fast food restaurants        2                      Long Term
14.  Implement city-wide marketing campaign promoting healthy eating    3                      Mid Term
15.  Provide funds to upgrade kitchens in RPS to meet new standards      2                      Long Term
16.  Expand use of local fresh foods in RPS to minimum of 10 percent      1                      Long Term
17.  Increase nutrition education with Healthier School Food Groups          1                      Mid Term

“I look forward to drilling down into all of the recommendations the Task Force has provided,” continued Mayor Jones.  “All of our efforts are ultimately going to empower Richmond City residents and that is how we are going to be able to Build the Best Richmond.”

Click here to view the entire report.