The partnership between the Kane County Department of Health (KCDH) and Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) began in 2009, and it’s still going strong.

Michael Isaacson, the department’s assistant director of community health, recalls SGA’s executive director Gary Cuneen offering assistance at the formation of a coalition called the Healthy Living Council of Greater Aurora. The council, being new, was “looking at a different way we could improve the health of people in Aurora,” Isaacson says. “Gary shared some programs and the experiences he’d had.”

A few years later in 2014, SGA and the Department collaborated again, on the Green Town event in Naperville. “It was really fulfilling for us having SGA taking the lead with elected officials, health professionals and sustainability advocates,” Isaacson explains.

Isaacson values the insights SGA brings to projects and its ability to see the larger picture.

“SGA really understands how connected all of our decisions are in terms of the future health of our communities, and also the health of the environment,” he says. “Another huge way that SGA is an asset is that they’re able to share so many experiences: what’s worked or been a challenge in other communities.”

Now, the Department and SGA are working together again, under an $86,000 implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School that will better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers. The grant, covering 18 months, will impact 48,387 students total across three school districts.

Kane County will partner with schools to help SGA make the connections with food service workers and teachers, Isaacson says. The project, which started in December, focuses on higher-need schools that are racially and economically diverse.

“The time is right for this because there is so much interest in local foods right now,” Isaacson says. “People are really seeing the value.”

—Cassandra West