Jennings County gets $264,096 health grant

JENNINGS COUNTY — Jennings County has received a $264,096 grant from the Indiana Department of Health to address food insecurity and obesity.

The grant will be administered by the Purdue University Extension of Jennings County.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Jeff Walker, Purdue Extension community wellness coordinator for Jennings, Dearborn and Ripley counties. “This is a big win and shows how proactive we are in Jennings County.”

Walker said the grant money will be shared among eight different county organizations including Purdue Extension, mostly to offer new programs but also to build on existing ones.

For instance, North Vernon Parks and Recreation Department will get funding for a new program to host short courses over the next few years to encourage young people to take part in activities to keep fit. Funds also will provide for a part-time position with the Jennings County Coordinating Council to address food insecurity issues in the county.

Additionally, Jennings County Schools will get funding to extend offerings through the high school food pantry and through HOPE — Help Our Panthers Eat.

Healthy Communities, Perceptions Yoga, Mindfulness and Art and the Boys and Girls Club of Jennings County also will receive funding to initiate or expand projects.

“This is a team effort,” Walker said, noting he didn’t think the county’s grant application would have been as successful without ideas and input from multiple organizations.

He said there are further details to arrange with the Department of Health, but the funding will be available in July and must be used by the end of 2026.

The funding is part of nearly $8.5 million in grant money disbursed by the department to organizations as part of the Health Issues and Challenges program using federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act that was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021.

It’s the second round of funding from the COVID-relief legislation that the Department of Health has issued statewide. The department issued $35 million in grants statewide under the program last June. That round included multiple grants in Bartholomew and Jennings counties.

“Public health is built on a foundation of prevention and accessibility, and we are grateful to be able to use the remaining funds that our legislators allocated to support programs that will help improve Hoosiers’ health and well-being,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box. “These programs are locally delivered and reach Hoosiers where they live.”

Entities were invited to apply for funding for programs to help improve health outcomes related to one or more of the following priority areas: tobacco use, food insecurity/obesity, lead exposure, chronic disease and disease prevention programs, including community paramedicine and community health workers.

A total of 117 organizations submitted applications, and a total of 27 awards were issued. Priority was given to applicants that demonstrated high need and high impact in their grant proposals. The funding must be spent by Dec. 31, 2026.