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Wellness program seeks community help to create a healthier city

Mark Parker



Healthy St. Pete offers several free fitness classes, along with food giveaways and healthy lifestyle educational programming. Photo:

A city initiative is pushing for a healthy lifestyle revolution in St. Petersburg through education, free fitness programs, food giveaways and partnerships meant to implement institutional change.

At Wednesday’s 1 Million Cups event, hosted by Thrive DTSP, a panel of local business leaders heard how Healthy St. Pete hopes to build a culture of health in the city by making healthy choices easy choices through a collaborative community effort. Christie Bruner, community engagement supervisor for the organization, told the panel she views health as a shared value, and the program focuses on providing a collective impact.

According to its website, Healthy St. Pete engaged 13,933 community members through 114 events and partnerships in 2021. As part of its Get Fit St. Pete program, volunteer trainers provided 96 hours of free fitness instruction for 2,200 residents. The Healthy Kids program taught 110 health and wellness courses to 1,607 local children, and Bruner hopes to build on the program’s success.

“We can’t do that without collaborating with all of you,” she said. “With everyone that has an impact on the City of St. Petersburg.”

Christie Bruner, supervisor of community engagement for Healthy St. Pete, asked local business leaders to spread awareness of the initiative. Screengrab.

Bruner said Healthy St. Pete, which operates under the auspices of the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department, plans to provide over 100,000 nutritious meals to local children this summer. A federal grant enables the organization to offer breakfast and lunch to anyone under the age of 18 at city community centers and libraries.

Bruner also explained that Healthy St. Pete offers 11 Fresh Rec Stops at city recreational centers. The program provides low-cost fresh produce, recipes and opportunities to address nutrition insecurity at a neighborhood level.

One of the many free fitness programs Bruner highlighted was the Fun Fitness Boot Camp, which offers cardio, core and bodyweight strength training with views of the Pier’s waterfront. The program is held on the third Saturday of each month from 9-10 a.m. at 600 2nd Ave. NE.

“It’s obviously an amazing background,” she said. “It’s really for all levels – that’s really the point of all of our classes, we have little kids all the way up to grandmas and grandpas coming out to try something new.

“Everyone is welcome.”

Bruner said Healthy St. Pete utilizes data to inform decision-making regarding what programs and classes to offer and where they will receive the most value. Instead of just “plopping something in somewhere,” organizers hold discussions throughout the city’s various neighborhoods and stakeholders to ascertain what resources and services are most needed.

A panelist asked if organizers considered hosting events in Gulfport. Bruner explained that as a city-led initiative, programs could not take place outside of St. Petersburg’s boundaries. However, she said Healthy St. Pete offers a unique and successful model to follow, and she has talked with other area communities about adopting similar programs.

Another panelist then joked that Bruner does not check IDs, and she reiterated that Healthy St. Pete’s programs are open to everyone.

While 1 Million Cups events typically feature an entrepreneur or founder pitching a startup in the hopes of receiving business advice and investment capital, Bruner said she simply wants to spread more awareness for the initiative. Healthy St. Pete offers Healthier Together certifications for program ambassadors, along with several volunteer opportunities. She also hopes the city’s business leaders will adopt the programming for their employees.

“Really being engaged with the wellness of your employees and their families,” she added. “And then again, building that culture of wellness throughout our city because we as staff members can’t be at every organization, every neighborhood meeting and every recreation center.”

For more information on Healthy St. Pete, visit the website here.



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