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City of Kerman (California) Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department staff asked: How can we improve our engagement efforts with the community, particularly our Hispanic community members who call Kerman home? This agriculture-based community, located 15 miles west of Fresno in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, is home to 16,955 community members, of which more than 75 percent are Hispanic. Collaborating with community-based organizations that already provided services to this group was an important first step in the establishment of the Kerman Wellness Hub (KWH).
In 2020, the City of Kerman received the Parks as Community Nutrition Hubs grant after successfully establishing the Kerman Farmers Market with funds received through the Increasing Access to Healthy Foods Through Innovation grant. With the support of these grants, Kerman has been able to provide community members with access to resources that strengthen healthy food decisions to improve health outcomes. To do this work, the city established the KWH with representatives from social services, the local Valley Health Team — which is a Federally Qualified Health Center — and community organizations like Centro La Familia Advocacy Services.
The KWH began facilitating monthly partner meetings where local organizations could share resources and opportunities that benefited Kerman’s community members. During one of the earlier meetings, Centro La Familia Advocacy Services shared that it had an overstock of diapers while Kerman Care Center, a pregnancy care center, had an overstock of formula. During the meeting, these two organizations agreed to share their overstocks with each other to better serve their clients. This was a perfect example of what collaborating within our own community would look like as we continued to develop the KWH.
To facilitate and implement the KWH, the City of Kerman hired a community health worker (CHW) to serve as the liaison between the partner organizations and the community. In addition to facilitating the partner meeting, the CHW also was responsible for developing a health and wellness screening tool in the three languages spoken in Kerman: English, Spanish and Punjabi. With the help of the KWH partners, the CHW identified services for each response on the screening tool.
As we continued to focus on equity and serving the unrepresented members of our community, staff and partners worked together to complete NRPA’s Elevating Health Equity Through Parks and Recreation: A Framework for Action assessments to identify areas for additional staff training, access to programs offered and methods of service delivery. Through this process, we drafted the Kerman Farmers Market Engagement Plan and Equity Action Plan. During the completion of the Agency Assessment, Part 2, staff and partners identified the following priorities:
- Additional staff training when it comes to serving populations with diverse backgrounds
- Assumption that all community members have access to programs and services
- Educating community members on programs and services offered through the park and recreation department
- Educating the community on the decision-making processes for bringing about change
To increase vendor engagement, staff and partners established the goal of increasing the number of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligible food vendors through the following objectives:
- Have at least three new vendors participate in at least two markets by the end of the 2023 farmers market season
- Have at least 25 percent of new vendors recruited during 2023 farmers markets attend the 2024 market season
- Host three vendor meetings by the end of the 2023 market season to build vendor relationships
Both plans are used to expand on the service delivery and engagement with our unrepresented and underserved populations in Kerman.
To gain a better perspective from the community, a forum was held on September 24, 2022, in Kerckhoff Park. The park is in a central part of Kerman and is home to the annual Harvest Festival — or “carnival” as it’s more commonly known among the Spanish-speaking community. The goal of the forum was to meet with community members and discuss ideas on how to improve access to parks, increase community awareness of resources available and improve access to physical activity programs. With the feedback received, staff and partners moved forward with the implementation of a Park Rx Program. With a goal of improving awareness of city parks and resources, Park Rx events are taking place at different parks each month. On April 29, 2023, the first Park Rx Day was held at Trini’s Park, a neighborhood park located on the east side of Kerman. Partners provided free health education and screenings, community resources, fitness demos and a community art project where community members painted their favorite outdoor scenes on a canvas. Park Rx programming has continued to expand with weekly water aerobics classes, mindfulness mornings in Soroptimist Park and a weekly Art in the Park program at Lions Park. This free art program is open to all community members and all art supplies are provided, so there are no limitations on participation.
The City of Kerman has taken great strides to improve equity by engaging with community organizations and key stakeholders. We continue to meet monthly and support each other’s events and programs, knowing that we are all here to serve Kerman. Staff will keep implementing the community engagement plan by creating marketing materials in multiple languages and participating in cultural events to connect with people of various backgrounds. As the KWH continues to grow, staff has completed the initial application process to make the Kerman Farmers Market a SNAP-authorized market. This step will make the market more equitable for people of all socioeconomic groups and offer an additional resource to the community.
Theresa Johnson, CPRP, is Community Services Director at City of Kerman (California) Parks, Recreation and Community Services. Shannon Barrett is Recreation Coordinator at City of Kerman Parks, Recreation and Community Services.