Adding local foods to school lunches, improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and stopping youth smoking are programs that could get funding under a $2.5 million health and wellness grant recently received by Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC).

Former Haines Borough mayor Jan Hill is helping administer the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant that will award SEARHC nearly $500,000 a year.

The grant theme is “transforming communities to make healthy living easier,” Hill said. She said residents of Southeast communities eventually would be able to apply for sub-grants.

According to a SEARHC news release, possible projects also might include working with grocery stores to move healthy fruit, nut and whole-grain snacks near cash registers, building and paddling traditional canoes, expanding or enhancing tribal culture camps, and hosting WISEGUYS or Girls on the Run physical activities.

“There’s a lot of focus on getting healthy meals into the schools and seeing what kind of activities our kids are doing, as far as P.E. programs, so I will be visiting the school district to see what’s going on in our school,” Hill said.

Hill, a SEARHC board member, during her final assembly meeting as Mayor on Oct. 25 appeared telephonically from Atlanta due to meetings that discussed the grant.

“Last week, I was offered and have accepted an appointment to Centers for Disease Control’s management leadership team,” she told the assembly. “SEARHC has received a large Community Transformation Grant, which will last for five years, and I am here at meetings where we’re working with CDC to put the wheels in motion.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says the grants “support community-level efforts to reduce chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes” and promote “healthy lifestyles, especially among population groups experiencing the greatest burden of chronic disease.” About $103 million was awarded to 61 grantees, including two from Alaska.

Hill said she has been working in a team of four people, and the group likely will grow.

“We’re developing the job description and will be hiring a person to be a lead employee to manage this grant,” she said. “The leadership team will assist in the grant management and we will be developing the programs that will be a result of this grant. These programs will be available regionwide.”