Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

See Aetna Foundation’s short video featuring the Garden Steps project and a few other national finalists!

Hillsborough MPO’s Garden Steps project is one of fifty finalists for the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, a two-year competition to “support communities in their collaborative efforts to become healthier places to live, work, learn, play and pray.”

Garden Steps focuses on the built environment, with our goal to improve community health by supporting active transportation through a system of community gardens and the growth of three new gardens in areas with low access to healthy food. The success of this project relies on making a measurable impact here in our community, and identifying collaborative models that can be sustained and recreated in other parts of the United States.

Garden Steps is a collaboration between the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, City-County Planning Commission, FL Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, and the Community Garden Coalition. By increasing pedestrian, bicycle and transit access between a network of community gardens, we believe that we will see a measurable improvement in health and social outcomes such as improved nutrition, reduced hunger, chronic disease prevention, and improved behavior in school among youth.


What we’re doing

Health Atlas

The Garden Steps team will soon premier a Health Atlas for Hillsborough County. The first phase of this map-based tool will allow users to view health-, social-, and transportation-focused indicators in and around their communities. Users will be able to overlay layers such as crash locations, air pollution, and health metrics to gain a sense of the impacts on their neighborhoods. Look for a link in the coming months on this page.

Site Selection

The Garden Steps team and its partners are in the process of setting up the first two community garden sites for the fall and winter planting seasons. Located in Sulphur Springs and East Tampa, the Garden Steps team will soon be performing ground-level analysis to determine accessibility for pedestrians and other non-motorized users. Check back soon for event announcements and updates!

Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge Institute Panel

On Thursday, July 20th, the Garden Steps project sent a community volunteer to Columbus, OH to participate in a panel for Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge finalists. The panel discussed how we can approach sustainable change in thinking about health in our communities, and how important community leadership and engagement is to implementing this change. Stay tuned for event materials and a post-panel write-up.

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Learn more about the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge and Hillsborough County’s entry by visiting