This project aimed to improve the rates of active commuting among school children in the suburban town of Amherst, New York. With support from the UB Food Lab team and collaborating faculty, the town of Amherst deployed four strategies to promote active commuting in the Sweet Home Central School District in the town. These strategies included providing education on active commuting (e.g. by distributing lesson plans and conducting assemblies), encouraging active commuting (e.g. by providing Walk to School route maps, and organizing Walk/Bike to School Day), enforcing laws to create a safer walking environment (e.g. enforcing traffic rules to create a safe walking/biking environment), and engineering the built environment to make it walkable (eg. through modifications to the built environment).
The Food Lab team also conducted a pre-post evaluation to document the impact of these efforts. Evaluation methods included use of parent surveys, classroom tallies of student commuters, and open-ended interviews with parents to determine how the active commuting patterns of the students changed as a result of the effort. Results are available through academic publications and a practitioner-friendly report that provides recommendations for promoting active commuting in the Sweet Home Central School District. Recommendations including creating and celebrating a culture of active commuting within the school district, developing a ‘Healthy Living’ zone within a ¼ mile of the elementary school to promote walking and biking and reducing busing within the healthy living zone, and developing culturally relevant educational materials for children and their families.