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Spring 2024 Newsletter 

Child in a black jacket runs during the Global School Play Day

Recap: Celebrating Global School Play Day 2024

Excitement filled the air on February 7th as nearly 60 sites across the City of Rochester joined together for the international celebration of play called Global School Play Day.

Organized by Healthi Kids in collaboration with the City of Rochester’s Department of Recreation and Human Services and the Rochester City School District, this event marked a significant milestone in promoting the importance of unstructured play for children's well-being.

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Team Changes: Jesse Knoth, PlayROCs Coordinator & Mike Bulger, Food Policy Manager

Team changes: Jesse Knoth & Mike Bulger

We have two exciting staffing updates to share:

Jesse Knoth is our new PlayROCs Project Coordinator. Beyond being a longtime partner of Healthi Kids, Jesse is a nonprofit professional with more than a decade of experience working with youth, community groups and government agencies. He served as a district executive with the Seneca Waterways Council, Boy Scouts of America. In this role, he oversaw scouting programs in Rochester, Irondequoit and Brighton. As executive director of the South East Area Coalition, Knoth built partnerships with and provided technical support to neighborhood and business associations to facilitate grassroots community projects. Jesse can be reached at

Also, after 8 years, Mike Bulger, formerly our Healthy Communities Project Coordinator, moves into a new role with us as our Food Policy Manager. Mike has been an key part of the creation, planning, and execution of the Rochester Food Policy Council. He will continue this work in his new role. Mike holds a Master's degree in Food Studies from New York University and previously coordinated community food access programs and patient dietary interventions at New York Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital. Mike will collaborate with Jesse on complete streets work until transitioning into an exclusive focus on food policy.

Congratulations, Jesse and Mike!

Picture of two dark haired toddlers with text above their heads that says Did you know? From ages 0-3, babies' brains build 1 million new neural connections per second.

Common Ground Health awarded Mother Cabrini grant for infant and early childhood mental health

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation has awarded Healthi Kids a grant of $150,000 to improve infant and early childhood mental and relational health in the Finger Lakes region. 

"Nurturing and responsive early relationships, especially with primary caregivers, are essential for an infant/toddler's healthy brain development," said Stephanie David, JD, MPH, IMH-E®, Early Childhood Policy Director at Common Ground Health. "Babies' brains are wired for relationships. With this grant, we will be able to positively impact the relational health of infants and young children across our region."

Learn more »

Picture of families playing in a crowded gym with nets and balloons.

New partnership: Greece Central School District's Early Learning Center

We are so excited to announce that we have a new partnership. Our team will be partnering with Greece Central School District and their Early Learning Center expanding our work to build healthier school environments for students in Monroe County!

Throughout this coming school year (2024-25), Healthi Kids will be supporting the Early Learning Center community to build a healthier school environment, with specific focus on advancing nutrition, physical activity, and social emotional health.

As pictured above, we were on hand last month for their Healthy Family Kickoff, and we can't wait to collaborate further.

If you'd like to learn more, reach out to Candice Williams, our Healthy Schools Coordinator, at!

What we're advocating for this year in Albany 2024/25 Budget Season

What we’re advocating for this NYS budget season

It’s budget season in Albany! And that means it’s critical to continue to tell our legislators that whole child health matters. The $299 billion dollar state budget covers spending in a variety of areas including health, education, and aid to localities. In other words, it makes sure money moves to key areas.

That’s why the state budget is a key focus of our advocacy to drive policy, systems, and environmental changes that support healthier kids in our region.

Learn more about what our team is pushing for in Albany this budget season »

A series of images in black frames on a gray wall for the Photovoz exhibit at the Strong National Museum of Play

Partner Spotlight: Photovoz exhibit live at Strong National Museum of Play

Our resident leaders' "Photovoz: Picturing Play" photo exhibit has found a new home: The Strong National Museum of Play!

Through June 30, the thousands of visitors to the Strong Museum will have the opportunity to see this amazing project about how kids play in their neighborhoods. 

The project started in 2019 in collaboration with Kathryn Mariner, PhD (University of Rochester) and 12 resident leaders.

Learn more »

Play is FUNdamental: Getting Students Active During the School Day Through Playful Learning.

"Play is FUNdamental!" workshop series concludes April 30

Throughout early 2024, Healthi Kids has been holding trainings in collaboration with the Rochester City School District and PlayWorks! that helps teachers and caregivers learn more about active play in learning environments. 

Our last session of this free series will be on April 30, 4-6 pm, at School 33. This session will be on "How to Leverage Parents and Community to Support Playful Learning Practices" and will be led by Healthi Kids parent leaders.

Learn more »

Photo of a beautiful multiracial woman with natural hair and green graffiti overtop her face hiding one of her eyes.

Report shares COVID-19 pandemic’s long-lasting effects on Rochester youth’s mental health

As the world adapted to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, another issue emerged quietly – the impact on young people's mental health. Last week, Common Ground Health and our partners at Coordinated Care Services, Inc. (CCSI) shared a report called Unseen: Youth Mental Health and Wellness in the Pandemic Era. This report talks about the experiences of young people in Rochester and how they've been affected by the challenges of the pandemic.

The report includes stories from young people themselves, showing how they've dealt with tough times. It emphasizes their need for support, love, and connections to help them through these difficult times.

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Share Your Thoughts on the Healthy Indoor Bill of Rights for Children

Youth from the City of Rochester’s Youth Voice, One Vision (YVOV) are on a mission to develop a Healthy Indoor Bill of Rights (HIBR), and they need your help. A HIBR outlines what healthy indoor spaces—especially those in R Centers—should look like. The youth leaders need kids and families to share thoughts and ideas to guide city policies to create spaces supporting the well-being of our youth.

The youth are supported by the City of Rochester's Department of Recreation and Human Services staff and our teams at Healthi Kids, Common Ground Health, and the Rochester Food Policy Council. 

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