Live Well Greater Toledo is a diverse collaboration of community leaders and organizations working together to promote policy, systems and environmental change for a healthier community. Coordinated locally by the YMCA, Live Well works with the Northwest Ohio Food Bank, Lucas County Health Department and local school districts to improve safe routes to school for students, to increase access to healthy foods and to promote active transportation (i.e. biking and walking to get to a destination).
Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School started with Toledo Public Schools in 2014 and was established with Washington Local Schools in 2018. The purpose of creating safe routes is to eliminate barriers that may otherwise deter students from being able to travel safely to and from school. Before routes were established, the Live Well team walked routes themselves to determine barriers or potential issues for school aged children including infrastructure concerns — such as striping on the roads, adequate lighting and designated crosswalks.
Parents can access maps and routes for each of the 40 TPS elementary schools and 8 WLS elementary schools in addition to Washington and Jefferson Jr. High Schools. Each map suggests the safest route for students to walk and bike to school. Maps can be found to TPS and Washington Local Schools at livewelltoledo.org.
Since 2012, the YMCA has been collaborating with local organizations to increase the safety and well being of children in the community. Beth Deakins, Executive Director of Healthy Living at the YMCA, says, “Walking or biking to school helps get [children’s] brains ready to learn before school begins. It helps them get some of their energy out.”
The YMCA also partners with Toledo Bikes in the fall and spring to offer free bike repair and helmets. Operation Lifesaver, Inc. teaches students about safety concerning trains and train tracks. To get to school, students in North and East Toledo must cross more tracks than students in other areas of the city.
Don’t have a bike? ‘Walking buses’ are an option. Instead of getting on the school bus, two adult volunteers walk routes as students join them along the way. Parents know their children are getting to school safely and under the care of an adult. All volunteers undergo background checks and receive training.
To encourage more people to use active transportation, walking and biking, Live Well works to make roads safer in Toledo for everyone, working with local jurisdictions to allow everyone to share the road.
In 2022, a completed Lucas County Transportation Plan was adopted by Toledo City Council, the Lucas County Commissioners, the City of Sylvania and the City of Maumee. The plan is designed to increase the number of bike lanes and off-road trails. Sharing the road with vehicles in close proximity is often a hindrance to those who would like to use their bikes as a mode of transportation. Live Well is working to create more space between riders and cars to make it easier for Toledoans to use active transportation to improve their health.
Eating good in the neighborhood
Another initiative of Living Well is to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables. While some neighborhoods do not have close access to grocery stores or supermarkets, Live Well partners with convenience stores so neighboring customers have the opportunity to buy healthy foods. Community surveys determine residents’ preferences and also to see which foods are actually being purchased. This helps to eliminate food waste while also assuring that the cultural variations of residents are represented in the available selections.
In collaboration with the Toledo Farmers’ Market and Lucas County Health Department, pop-up markets are held in the neighborhoods to increase access to fresh produce. Families are able to use their SNAP/EBT, WIC benefits and senior coupons. Corner store locations offering healthy foods can be found at livewelltoledo.org/school-gardens.
Live Well Greater Toledo. 419-725-7892. email@example.com. livewelltoledo.org.