Groups collaborate to help students be active and ready to learn

Creating opportunities for New Orleans students to be physically active around their schools was the focus of the KidsWalk Coalition’s Breakfast Roundtable in July.

The gathering – titled Active and Ready to Learn – drew more than 35 school personnel, transportation engineers and planners, physical activity advocates, youth-based organizations and education researchers.

The meeting’s focus – on transportation’s role in the health and academic readiness of students – led to discussions about how schools can tap into existing resources and create partnerships to incorporate physical activity into regular transportation trips.

“Children who walk to and from school most days of the week are more likely to have higher levels of physical activity,” said Kathryn Parker-Karst, director of KidsWalk Coalition at the Tulane Prevention Research Center. Higher levels of physical fitness are linked to better academic performance, she said.

But, as many attendees noted, students face challenges if they try to walk or bike to school. Some students have to take public transportation, running into problems when buses are delayed or law enforcement accuses them of truancy.

One of the roots of the issue is that educational reforms in the past several years have led to open enrollment. Among other effects, this has resulted in many students ending up at schools outside their neighborhoods. And that means longer commutes for students. Before Hurricane Katrina, about 50 percent of students lived within one mile of their school. After Katrina, that number dropped to about 22 percent, said Debra Vaughan, director of research at Tulane’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives. Vaughan said the Cowen Institute, which co-sponsored the Breakfast Roundtable, wants to continue looking into how long commutes impact student behavior and other issues.

One way schools can improve their students’ physical activity levels is through the Safe Routes to School grants program. Safe Routes to School provides up to $250,000 for improvements to sidewalks, crosswalks, signage, and traffic signals and other pedestrian infrastructure, and up to $50,000 for biking and walking safety education, encouragement and enforcement programs.

“Safe walking and biking are things kids don’t automatically know anymore. We need to teach them,” said Shalanda Cole, Safe Routes to School coordinator at the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

Audubon Charter School’s grant will include a “walking school bus” to take adult-supervised students to and from parks near the school, said the school’s development special Sofia Griffies. Some teachers will become certified bike-safety instructors under the grant, Griffies added. The grant will also help improve the parking and intersections around the schools.

Cyndi Nguyen, executive director of Vietnamese Initiatives for Economic Training, said her organization decided to work with Einstein Charter on a Safe Routes to School grant because she saw children weren’t able to play outside in the Michoud community and parents were afraid of their children walking to school.

The grant also links schools to transportation officials so that any work to sidewalks, streets and signs around schools is coordinated with the New Orleans Department of Public Works. The department is a resource for grantee schools, giving guidance on how to make changes to streets and sidewalks and possibly leverage grant money with other road work money, said Col. Mark Jernigan, director of Public Works.

The event was hosted at local business incubator Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation. The event was made possible thanks to generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

KidsWalk Breakfast Roundtable July 30

Active and Ready to Learn: Transportation’s Role in Creating Healthy and Academic Ready Students

Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives and KidsWalk Coalition at the Tulane Prevention Research Center are proud to co-sponsor a free breakfast roundtable discussion about the role transportation plays in the health and academic readiness of New Orleans’ school-age children. Please join us for breakfast and to contribute to an important conversation about creating social change through transportation for better health and academic readiness outcomes for our city’s youth.
When: Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM
Where: Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, 2035 Washington Avenue, Suite 105, New Orleans, LA 70125
Kathryn Parker, Ph.D., Director, KidsWalk Coalition at the Tulane Prevention Research Center
Debra Vaughan, Director of Research, Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives
Shalanda Cole, MBA, Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
Mark Jernigan, LTC. (Ret.), Director, City of New Orleans Department of Public Works
Cyndi Nguyen, Executive Director, Vietnamese Initiatives for Economic Training
Sophia Griffies, Development Specialist, Audubon Charter School
*Space is limited. RSVP required by Noon Monday, July 29, 2013 via eventbrite or phone at 504-658-8045.
Special thanks to Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation for the use of its space. This event is possible through generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living by Design, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities program.

RSVP to Breakfast Roundtable with Community Safety Advocates and Law Enforcement Officials

The KidsWalk Coalition will host its next Breakfast Roundtable on Community Safety and Enforcement on Thursday, Nov. 8.

The roundtable will be led by Jim Letten, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana; Dr. Peter Scharf, Research Professor in the Department of Global Health Systems and Development at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine; and Joe Sherman, Resident and Member of Carrollton Hollygrove CDC.

Where: Mike’s on the Avenue, 628 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. Breakfast served.

When: 8 to 9:30 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 8.

Thanks to the support of Amerigroup, this event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so please RSVP to

KidsWalk event brings advocates and NORD Commission and Foundation leadership to the table

Recreation moved indoors on a rainy spring day as the KidsWalk Coalition hosted its latest Breakfast Roundtable Series event with the New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Commission and Foundation. Building outstanding facilities, partnering with community groups to provide programs, and leveraging private investment were discussed at the event held Thursday, March 22 at Mike’s on the Avenue in downtown New Orleans.

Vic Richard speaks to Roundtable attendees

The roundtable discussion and question-and-answer event gave over 30 local community and children’s’ advocates and public health professionals the chance to directly from NORD Commission Executive Director Vic Richard and NORD Foundation Executive Director Annie LaRock. It was the first time the two new executives have spoken together to the public.

“With the new Commission and Foundation, the way New Orleans manages recreation is changing so quickly,” said Kate Parker-Karst, director of the KidsWalk Coalition. “It is critical that the Commission engages the community as it restores recreation facilities,” said Parker-Karst.

“Our goal is not to recreate what we had,” said Richard, as he laid out the Commission’s vision for both passive and active opportunities for recreation in New Orleans neighborhoods. Richard described among the Commission’s new initiatives is a NORD “teen council” modeled off an advisory group in Philadelphia, where he previously served as Commissioner of Recreation.

In response to questions from attendees, Richard and LaRock explained that permanent bathrooms won’t be installed at all NORD facilities but will be at so-called “active sites,” such as ballfields. When asked about the management of the Lafitte Greenway, a 3.1-mile stretch of public land set aside for recreational development, they said it remains to be determined by the City administration. Richard and LaRock also said communities would be offered opportunities to participate in NORD program and facility planning when projects are initiated.

The Breakfast Roundtable Series offers advocates and professionals the opportunity to connect with leaders making New Orleans a healthier, more active city. Previous speakers have included Dr. Karen DeSalvo and the City Planning Commission. Is there a local leader you would like to see at the next Roundtable? Let us know!

RSVP for March 22 Breakfast Roundtable featuring Vic Richard and Annie LaRock

18 months ago, New Orleans voters approved the transformation of the New Orleans Recreation Department into the New Orleans Recreation

Development Commission (NORD-C) and the creation of the NORD Foundation. With an increased budget, new autonomy and the ability to raise private donations, like the Audubon Commission, NORD is now positioned to restore our
neighborhood parks and playgrounds for New Orleans Youth

Please join us Thursday March 22 at Mike’s on the Avenue to hear Commission director Vic Richard and Foundation Executive Director Annie LaRock present the commission’s vision and plan for recreation in New Orleans.


What: KidsWalk Coalition Breakfast Roundtable featuring Vic Richard and Annie LaRock

Where: Mike’s on the Avenue, 628 St. Charles Ave
When: Thursday, March 22, 8am-9:30am

Thanks to the support of Amerigroup, this event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so please RSVP to

Breakfast roundtable draws dozens to advocate for a healthy zoning ordinance

Creating safe pedestrian routes, reaching out to non-English speaking communities and limiting fast-food restaurants around schools and day cares were among other suggestions discussed at the KidsWalk Coalition’s Breakfast Roundtable with the New Orleans City Planning Commission Thursday, Sept. 8, held at Mike’s on the Avenue in downtown New Orleans.
The presentation and question-and-answer event informed roughly 40 local public health professionals, planners and community advocates of how to give input on the city’s new Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance draft. Currently, the city is updating the four-decades old law, which regulates land uses and forms throughout the city.

“Feedback is necessary to give the city direction on what the community wants,” said Kate Parker-Karst, director of the KidsWalk Coalition.

“None of this is going to get any traction without more community input,” said Parker-Karst.
Groups and individuals have the chance to submit feedback to the City Planning Commission up to October 31. The first draft of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance is available for review with two more drafts expected before going to the New Orleans City Council for final adoption in late 2012, said Paul Cramer, city planning administrator.
“We want your input,” Cramer said.
Cramer said planners are focusing on encouraging sustainable communities and rebuilding and preserving neighborhoods. The law would foster walking by allowing mixed-use districts where retail shops are convenient for residents. Bicycling would be promoted by requiring developments to provide public bike racks and requiring new and renovated hospitals, universities, government offices and other facilities to offer showers for cyclists. Community gardens and urban agricultural ventures, including those that sell their produce, would also be defined and permitted under the draft ordinance.

Public comments may be emailed to the CPC office at Please type “CZO Draft” into the subject line.

RSVP for Breakfast Roundtable with the City Planning Commission

Can good zoning make us healthier? It may not be the first policy we think of when we talk about creating healthy environments, but zoning can regulate neighborhood walkability, the distance between schools and fast food restaurants and liquor stores, bicycle parking and locations of parks, farmers markets and community gardens. This year, the City Planning Commission is rewriting the City’s zoning code for the first time in 40 years, and we have a chance to make sure it encourages healthy eating and active living.

To learn more, please join us Thursday September 8 at Mike’s on the Avenue for the next KidsWalk Coalition Breakfast Roundtable, featuring Paul Cramer and Christopher Mills of the New Orleans City Planning Commission. Paul and Chris will offer a look at regulations in the draft Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance and take your questions.

What: KidsWalk Coalition Breakfast Roundtable featuring the New Orleans City Planning Commission
Where: Mike’s on the Avenue, 628 St. Charles Ave
When: Thursday, September 8, 8am-9:30am

This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so please RSVP to

Highlights from the Breakfast Roundtable event with Dr. Karen DeSalvo

Karen DeSalvo

“Facilitate, link and leverage” was the theme of the KidsWalk Coalition’s first Breakfast Roundtable, featuring City of New Orleans Health Commissioner Dr. Karen DeSalvo. Dr. DeSalvo described the City’s intent to better coordinate all of the different, yet sometimes dispersed, health resources, to bring accreditation to the City Health Department, and to establish “way-finding” strategies for encouraging physical activity. Dr. Desalvo discussed the City’s first way-finding effort, promoting employees and visitors to more frequently use City Hall’s staircase. The City will develop a case study presenting the pilot project’s challenges and successes, for use as a model throughout New Orleans. Following the presentation, attendees debated different strategies for encouraging physically activity, and in particular, how to better encourage children to walk to and from schools.

The event, held April 7th at Bourbon House, convened nearly thirty public health and transportation advocates and public officials. The Breakfast Roundtable series gave public health and transportation professionals, as well as community advocates, an opportunity to engage the commissioner on various issues centered around making New Orleans a healthier, more active city. The next Roundtable will be held over the summer, and we encourage your suggestions for future speakers.