Meet Our 8 New Bright Cities

July 7, 2021
Laughing Baby

The HBBF Bright Cities program provides grant funding in two ways: both on a rolling basis and through unique RFPs designed to strategically reduce exposures to toxins that harm babies’ brain development.

Early this summer, eight new cities joined our 20 Bright Cities across the nation in amplifying the urgency to reduce these often everyday exposures. The eight cities are:

  • Flint, MI will prioritize lead-paint mitigation of homes and provide educational outreach to expectant families and/or families with young children on strategies to reduce neurotoxic exposure and to cope with the effects of stress and trauma. Participating families will provide input into Flint’s inaugural resilience plan.
  • Ann Arbor, MI will continue investing in green infrastructure to remove air toxics among the many other co-benefits of planting trees by building on their 10,000 Trees Initiative to provide targeted tree plantings and distributions to underserved communities in Ann Arbor. 
  • Providence, RI will launch a pilot residential composting plan that identifies short and long-term steps to eliminate food waste from the residential waste stream and amplifies the role of compost in reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides.
  • Duluth, MN will examine purchasing policies and practices in City operations, identify opportunities for more environmentally preferred purchases, and implement changes to create healthier public spaces for residents and visitors.
  • Grand Rapids, MI will implement a rental property lead hazard inspection program in response to a concerning increase in childhood lead poisoning since 2014. Funding will support community engagement, stakeholder education, and the development of an amendment to the current city housing code, all preparing for the launch of a new ordinance and code enforcement.
  • Madison, WI will augment an existing city program designed to promote energy efficiency in multi-family housing by adding a lead testing and mitigation program designed to identify and reduce the presence of lead and mold in multifamily housing.
  • Pine Bluff, AR’s Parks and Recreation Department will help make parks safer for children and families by testing water in public drinking fountains for lead, tree planting, community education about lead-safe soils, and community garden efforts.
  • San Rafael, CA will scale production of a Production Farm operated by Community Action Marin, providing a resource for fresh, nutritious and organic produce to families of low income while running daily preschool classes and serving as a space for children and families to play as they learn about gardening and nutrition.

Awards to cities totaled $70,000.

The Michigan cities of Flint and Ann Arbor and Providence, RI, articulated clear strategies that demonstrate how neurotoxic exposure reductions should be integrated into climate, resilience, and sustainability planning.

The latter five projects were co-funded by HBBF and the Mayors Innovation Project to empower city leaders to improve children’s health and reduce health disparities in their communities by scaling programs that decrease regular exposures to chemicals that harm babies’ brain development. 

“Cities nationwide are struggling with issues around food insecurity, lead hazards, and poor air quality,” said MIP Co-Managing Director Katya Spear. “The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues, as well as the racial and economic inequity that accompany them. We hope these projects, and the peer learning they will inspire, will serve as a model for cities around the country.” 

These diverse grant recipients are helping to weave a net of resilience for the children in their communities. Their actions — including the integration of strategies to reduce neurotoxic exposures into energy efficiency programs and local ordinances — provide scalable models ready for uptake by other US cities. But the ultimate winners are the babies in our lives whose health — and opportunity for a fairer start in life — is dramatically improved.