James l. Moore III recognized as a grantee in cultivating healthy communities program

wire basket of tomatoes and other vegetables on a table

Program to address youth engagement and workforce readiness through the Aetna Foundation


Dr. James L. Moore III, Executive Director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male and EHE Distinguished Professor of Urban Education at The Ohio State University, along with Dr. Deanna Wilkinson, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Sciences, have been selected as grantees in the Cultivating Healthy Communities program and were awarded a $100,000 community grant to fund Urban GEMS (Gardening Entrepreneurs Motivating Sustainability). Their project focuses on career training and nutrition education for African American male students and other educationally-vulnerable youth interested in food sustainability careers through a two-semester, academic and hands-on project-based learning curriculum.

The Cultivating Healthy Communities initiate awarded more than $2 million in grants to 23 nonprofit organizations across 12 states that plan to address health indicators, such as growing access to healthy foods, increasing physical activity, reducing incidences of bullying, adding more spaces for walking and biking safely, and more. The grantees were chosen based on strategies to improve the health of their communities in at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors, and environmental exposures.

Specific goals for Urban GEMS participants include increasing consumption of healthy and nutritious foods and obtaining competencies in leadership, collaboration, project and product development, financial asset management, microbusiness operations, professionalism, event planning and multi-media marketing, plant science and engineering solutions, food preparation and safety, and assessment and data analysis. The Bell National Resource Center will work to expose food security issues to students and the campus community and engage the Columbus community on these same issues. The project comes at a critical time in targeted neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio. The Black youth labor force participation is below 50%, and hunger and economic insecurity, chronic joblessness, and violence are common experiences.

“This project builds on existing federal funding that Dr. Deanna Wilkinson has obtained. I am really excited that Dr. Wilkinson and I are working together on this project. We have a long history of working on different community-based grant projects in Columbus,” says Moore.

“At the Aetna Foundation, we know that where you live has a profound impact on how you live,” said Garth Graham, MD, MPH, president of the Aetna Foundation. “Our partners have a track record of positively impacting what happens in schools, child care centers, parks, corner stores and kitchen tables by giving youth and adults the skills and information to make good choices. What’s most exciting is that these grants put the power to stay healthy in the hands of community residents—creating sustainable change that can improve health outcomes nationwide.”

This funding addresses the need to improve opportunities for all Americans—regardless of income, education or ethnic background—to take an active role in living healthier lives.

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $465 million in grants and sponsorships. As a national health foundation, it promotes wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. For more information on the Cultivating Healthy Communities program visit, visit www.aetna-foundation.org/.