Louisiana (NBC33) — The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation has set a Jan. 13 deadline for organizations and communities to submit letters of intent to apply for up to $10 million in matching grant funds to fight obesity.
The foundation and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, its partner in the Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant program, also are offering potential grant applicants technical assistance workshops and a web-based Meetup option to help them find each other and work together.
The Pennington Center is noted for its work to address childhood obesity and recognized as the foremost academic nutritional research center in the world. It is administering the Blue Cross Foundation grant program, which will offer matching funding to non-profit organizations for projects that promote healthy eating, active living and environmental change.
“The Blue Cross Foundation has committed $10 million to preventing obesity because it is a major public health concern that diminishes the quality of lives of Louisianians and drives up healthcare costs,” said Foundation President Peggy Scott. “We want to support and work with local non-profit organizations that have innovative ideas to promote healthy living in their communities.”
The foundation and Pennington held eight introductory workshops across Louisiana this fall to promote the challenge grant program. Nearly 275 people, representing almost 175 unique organizations, attended the workshops. A second round of technical assistance workshops will begin in January 2012 in cities most represented in the letters of intent.
“We were overwhelmed by the attendance at the introductory workshops, which represented a broad range of organizations that work with children and families in Louisiana. In many cases, there were standing-room-only crowds,” said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director for population science at the Pennington Center. “That keen interest shows there was a real need for the challenge grant program. We look forward to receiving letters of intent to see the ideas that people have come up with.”
Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana aims to improve statistics like the ones released earlier this year by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
•The percentage of adults in Louisiana who are obese is 31.6%. That’s the fifth highest rate in the country.
•Nearly 21% of children are obese—the fourth highest rate in the country.
•Since 1995, Louisiana has been the eighth fastest-growing state in terms of obesity.
Louisiana-based 501(c)(3) non-profits are eligible for the grants, but projects should have multiple collaborators. The Blue Cross Foundation encourages applicants to partner with local municipalities, school districts, universities, hospitals, research centers and/or chambers of commerce. “Reducing the obesity rate is a goal that requires cooperation from a range of private and public agencies,” said Foundation Director Christy Oliver Reeves. “It’s in the best interest of everybody in Louisiana to team up to combat this problem, because obesity affects everyone.”
The Foundation’s website at www.OurHomeLouisiana.org  offers resources for applicants, including ways to reach out to potential partners in each local area through Meetup groups. To find out about the activities of local Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana Meetups, go to www.meetup.com/challenge/ . A video introduction to the program, giving answers to frequently asked questions, is also available at www.OurHomeLouisiana.org .
The Blue Cross Foundation will award grants ranging from $250,000 to $1 million. Applicants must provide at least a one-to-one match in funding, which may come from various sources. Up to half of the matching funds may be in kind. The final applications are due April 30, 2012. Those interested can find detailed information about the grant requirements and application timeline at www.OurHomeLouisiana.org .