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.

View transit lines and stops near Hillsborough County’s community gardens

View trails, sidepaths and preferred bike lanes near Hillsborough County’s community gardens

What we’re doing

Health Atlas

The staff of Plan Hillsborough have premiered the first phase of the Hillsborough County Health Atlas. This tool contains over 60 indicators from categories like environmental, emergency preparedness, and chronic disease to help communities assess health conditions within their neighborhoods.

Site Selection

The Garden Steps team and its partners are in the process of setting up the first two community garden sites for the 2018 planting season. Located in East Tampa, the Garden Steps team has worked to determine site accessibility for pedestrians and other non-motorized users. Check back soon for event announcements and updates!

“Chalk and Wayfinding” Event

The Garden Steps team is working on producing community garden wayfinding signs, which will be installed along major pedestrian and bicycle routes. In Spring 2018, the team will host community events to install these signs and produce “chalk signs” showing the location of important community amenities. Stay tuned to this page for updates about the event.


What we’ve done

Community Indicators Consortium

Members of the Garden Steps team attended the Community Indicators Consortium in November 2017 to talk about the city’s progress in implementing community gardens, as well as the importance of these gardens to the neighborhoods where they are located.

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.

(click to enlarge)

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