Capacity Building Grants Awarded to Park and Recreation Agencies to Improve Health Outcomes

Ashburn, VA (August 16, 2022)

The Walmart Foundation has awarded a $2.5 million grant to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) to support 15 local park and recreation agencies to develop Community Wellness Hubs. Community Wellness Hubs are trusted gathering places that connect every member of the community to essential programs, services and spaces that advance health equity, improve health outcomes, and enhance quality of life.

The 15 communities that will receive a Parks as Community Wellness Hubs Grant include:   

  • Berea College, Grow Appalachia, Berea, Kentucky
  • Central Arkansas Library System (Be Mighty Little Rock Campaign), Little Rock, Arkansas
  • City of Brownsville, Brownsville, Texas
  • City of Ozark – Ozark Leisure Services, Ozark, Alabama
  • City of Richmond, Richmond, California
  • City of Shawnee Parks and Recreation, Shawnee, Kansas
  • City of Tukwila Parks and Recreation, Tukwila, Washington
  • County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation, San Diego, California
  • Derby Recreation Commission/Derby Health Collaborative, Derby, Kansas
  • Desert Recreation District, Indio, California
  • Groton Parks and Recreation, Noank, Connecticut
  • New London Recreation Department, New London, Connecticut
  • Peoria Grown, Peoria, Illinois
  • Sunset Park and Recreation Foundation, Seaside, Oregon
  • West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation and Community Services, West Allis, Wisconsin

For decades, parks and recreation has been one of the largest providers of healthy meals to children in low-income communities, working through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s child nutrition programs to address hunger, provide nutrition education, and keep youth safe and engaged during out-of-school times. Building upon this strong foundation and the existing strengths of local park and recreation agencies, NRPA seeks to expand the role and capacity of local parks and recreation to improve food access in communities that face additional barriers to healthy and affordable food.

NRPA grantees will utilize the funds to support these three primary goals:

  • Advance equitable and community-driven wellness hubs that promote sustainable, long-term access to healthy, affordable, fresh, local, and culturally relevant nutrition for historically disenfranchised and under-represented populations (including but not limited to people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ populations, and low-income and rural communities).
  • Center and advance health equity strategies in parks and recreation through systems change approaches and cross-sector partnership. Systems change approaches are whole community strategies focused on the root causes of problems that address power structures, policies, social norms, relationships, environments (physical and social) and resources.
  • Build key community coalitions and strengthen local grassroots advocacy to build long-term municipal support and ensure the sustainability of Community Wellness Hubs.

Grantees will spend the 18-month grant period building a coalition of community partners to support the program goals, participating in a dedicated planning period to ensure sustainability, as well as implementing the hub model within their communities. NRPA will support these steps through trainings, educational opportunities, peer dialogue and technical assistance.

“Park and recreation agencies are one of the best local solutions to connect people to the health and wellness services and healthy foods they need,” said Kellie May, NRPA vice president of programs and partnerships. “NRPA thanks the Walmart Foundation for its support of local park and recreation professionals who are working every day to increase access to healthy foods and fostering long-lasting healthy habits across the country.”

 “The community wellness hubs are not only increasing access to nutritious food in underserved communities, but also creating sustainable, long-term access, which is critical to the well-being of communities,” said Naomi Gunnel, director, strategic initiatives, “These programs are meeting people where and when they need food the most, and we’re thrilled about the progress these hubs have made in making the communities they are in stronger and more resilient.”

In the United States, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, are food insecure. These individuals lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. These families are further challenged by unfair policies and systems that result in socioeconomic disparities and limit access to transportation, quality education, and safe and healthy environments, which can decrease life expectancy by up to 30 years. The Parks as Community Wellness Hubs Grants will help increase access to healthy foods to those who need them the most, ensuring that children and families can access the nutritious food they need to be healthy.

Since 2010, funding from the Walmart Foundation has supported local park and recreation agencies in serving 100 million meals to over 5 million kids. More than 350 cities and thousands of meal sites across the country have benefitted from this support. Children also have benefited from programs implementing the Healthy Eating, Physical Activity (HEPA) standards, ensuring that kids have access to healthier environments. Last year, grants from the Walmart Foundation served 18 million meals to nearly 800,000 youth and adults.

To learn more about Community Wellness Hubs, visit


About the National Recreation and Park Association

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates — the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

About Philanthropy at Walmart represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By focusing where the business has unique strengths, works to tackle key social and environmental issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 24 countries, employs more than 2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. is helping people live better by supporting programs to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, advance equity, address hunger, build inclusive economic opportunity for people in supply chains, protect and restore nature, reduce waste and emissions, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit or connect on Twitter @Walmartorg.