Hiawatha CARE Project

By robb, February 10, 2011 8:03 am

Updated January 17, 2014

What is the Hiawatha CARE Project?
Hennepin County started the Hiawatha CARE Project in early 2011.  The project is working in East Phillips and western Longfellow to tackle environmental health risks in the area.  The project aims to bring together community members to identify and prioritize ways to make a healthier local environment.

Who Is Doing It?
Hennepin County is working with the Longfellow Community Council (LCC) and Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI) to involve those living, working, visiting, and worshipping in the community. In addition, a partnership of community groups, businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies (known as the Community Environmental Workgroup or CEW) is guiding efforts to identify and prioritize risks.

Where is It Happening?
Project Area Map
Project Area Demographics

What is Being Done?
The Hiawatha CARE Project includes several phases in working with the community to identify and address environmental and health risks:

Phase 1.  Community Assessment – Identifying Assets and Concerns/Issues
During summer 2011, the CARE team talked to over 700 people in the area to learn the “assets” and “concerns” people saw in their community.  The following links provide more information on what people said:

Community members identified a wide range of environmental and health issues as important – from the air they breathe to the water they drink to the food they eat.  Twenty environmental and health concerns stood out as important to them.

  • Access to healthy, affordable food
  • Air pollution
  • Asthma
  • Bugs and pests
  • Economic instability
  • Energy
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Health disparities
  • Lack of green space
  • Lead
  • Mold
  • Nutrition and obesity
  • Pollution from vehicles
  • Radon
  • Second hand smoke
  • Soil contamination
  • Toxics in the home
  • Trash
  • Unsafe ped/bike environment
  • Water quality

More information on these concerns is available in these Fact Sheets.

Phase 2:  Ranking Risks
Throughout 2012, the CARE project team talked to hundreds of community members about these risks.  Each person rated 20 issues on the impact those issues had on environment and health in the community.

Five issues stood out as high priorities:

  • Air pollution and vehicle emissions
  • Asthma
  • Clean water
  • Economic instability
  • Poor nutrition and obesity

In addition, health disparities and environmental sustainability rated highly as guiding principles for this work.  A summary of the process for coming up with these risks can be found in the Risk Ranking Report.

Phase 3:  Prioritizing Actions
Based on its work with the community, the CARE project team has identified 14 strategies or actions that we could take as a community to deal with these 5 issues:

Throughout summer 2013, the CARE project team talked with community members to figure out what we can do together to reduce the impacts of these risks.  The project team talked to people at several community events over the summer about strategies that could be implemented to address these risks.  People picked their “top” strategies and let us know why they thought those actions were important.

In our conversations with over 100 community members, they rated five strategies as their highest priorities (click for a list of all priorities):

  • Make it safer and easier to walk and bike to places in the neighborhood.
  • Support partnerships to improve jobs skills, train workers, and create learning opportunities for all.
  • Reduce children’s exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Improve access to healthy, affordable food through gardens, farmers markets, and urban farms.
  • Work with business and industry to reduce local air pollutants.

In addition, we have developed the CARE Project Community Action Plan – which identifies potential actions that can be taken to implement priority strategies.  In the project’s next phase, the project team will look at existing resources and explore other approaches to work on the community’s priority strategies.

What is CARE?
CARE stands for Community Action for a Renewed Environment. It is a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deal with toxic pollutants in the environment. The EPA awarded Hennepin County $100,000 for the Hiawatha CARE project in December 2010.

Project Information

CARE Project Update Flyer – April 2012
CARE Project Update Flyer – February 2013
CARE Project Update Flyer – August 2013
The CARE Roadmap provides a process to identify a community’s environmental risk.
EPA CARE website provides more information on the CARE program.

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