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By Chris Kelley
Why are some Delawareans healthier than others? One student's mission to both address this question and provide solutions related to healthy food access statewide has earned her a unique opportunity for an undergraduatea primary authorship byline in a new guide for local governments.
It all began when Marcia Scott, policy scientist in the Institute for Public Administration (IPA), wanted to add additional content to the "Healthy and Livable" section of the Delaware Complete Communities Toolbox, an online resource for local governments officials and community leaders. For Scott, the natural pick for this project was Allison Michalowski, an IPA undergraduate public administration fellow.
"As the project manager for the toolbox, I became aware that Ally was a master at producing visual tools and conducting applied research that focuses on the intersection of public policy and public health," said Scott. "Her initial assignment was to draft content and craft visual products for just one section of the toolbox. However, her extensive research on best practices for improving access to healthy resulted in several outstanding products, including the Access to Healthy Food: A Guide for Delaware Local Governments publication."
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Undergraduate student Allison Michalowskis passion for public health served as a driving force for her in compiling the downloadable guide Access to Healthy Food: A Guide for Delaware Local Governments.
Michalowski is currently double majoring in Psychology and Liberal Studies in Public Health, the latter of which is an undergraduate program she developed herself as part of the University of Delaware's Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies (BALS) major. Michalowski began working with IPA through the Summer Public Policy Fellows program, upon the encouragement of Biden School Assistant Professor Erin Knight.
"Much of my work with IPA has been focused on empowering local governments to highlight the importance of health within their communities, so the opportunity to work on this project aligned closely with my educational and professional goals," said Michalowski of the project.
Working under the direction of Scott and Sarah Pragg, Michalowski researched community resources related to healthy food access and compared best practices in the space.
When Michalowski discovered more resource opportunities and best practices than originally anticipated, she decided to write a 56-page guide recognizing the important role that Delaware local governments can play in improving access to healthy food. Not only did Michalowski research, write, and design the layout of the guide, but she also had the unique opportunity to market it through the Complete Communities Toolbox's website and social media channels.
Access to Healthy Food: A Guide for Delaware Local Governments is an in-depth, downloadable guide that provides the reader with a thorough understanding of food access problems and innovative policy and program solutions.
"IPA's Complete Communities project is small, which provides a special opportunity for students to learn new technology while conducting applied research on policy and planning topics that matter to local communities in Delaware," said Scott. "Sarah and I recognized that Ally was unique qualified to be the primary author, graphic designer, and publisher for this project. We are so proud of Ally's accomplishments while working with IPA and believe she has boundless opportunities and limitless potential in her future career endeavors."
Access to Healthy Food: A Guide for Delaware Local Governments provides readers with a thorough understanding of food access problems and innovative policy and program solutions. The guide highlights research-based best practices for improving food access and adapts them for Delaware local governments that vary in size, structure, and resources.
The guide promotes the use of comprehensive plans and community design, policies and regulatory tools, and local partnerships as key strategies Delaware local governments can implement to address food insecurity within their communities. To engage Delawareans further, Michalowski included examples of best practices partnersorganizations such as the Wilmington Green Box, Bright Spot Farms, and the Food Bank of Delawarethat work to address gaps in healthy food access across the state today as models of successful local initiatives.
While the guide's title may suggest that its primary audience is local governments, Michalowski also kept the public in mind while writing the guide and creating companion infographics to promote it. The tools within the guide are easily adaptable to community organizations and local governments in other states. "Whether the reader is a local government official or a citizen looking for resources, my goal was to create a guide for expanded access to healthy food that every Delawarean could use," said Michalowski.
Michalowski adapted the content of the guide into an Adobe Spark webpage and a brand new section of the Complete Communities Toolbox to ensure accessibility to a variety of stakeholders. To further that mission, she even created an informational video highlighting the role community gardens can play in creating healthy, sustainable communities.
For Michalowski, the opportunity to have her hand in all aspects of a multi-tiered project proved to be invaluable. "In putting together the Access to Healthy Food guide, I was able to learn how to write for and market to a variety of audiences," said Michalowski. "Since public health is a passion of mine, I'm excited to continue to put these new skills to work."
About the Delaware Complete Communities Planning Toolbox
A "complete" community promotes healthy lifestyles, economic growth, and sustainability through an integrated approach to transportation, land use, and community design. The Institute for Public Administration's online Delaware Complete Communities Planning Toolbox is a resource for community leaders and local government officials to utilize planning approaches, community-design tools, public engagement strategies, and visual tools. Toolbox content is created in partnership with Delaware state agencies, including the Delaware Department of Transportation, the Delaware State Housing Authority, and the Delaware Department of Health and Social Service's Division of Public Health.
About the Institute for Public Administration
The University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration (IPA) addresses the policy, planning, and management needs of its partners through the integration of applied research, professional development and the education of tomorrow's leaders.