Zane Renfro, Sehven Trujillo, Aurora Trujillo, Logan Renfro and Danule Trujillo pick up free produce during Park & Play, a free summer lunch program in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Zane Renfro, Sehven Trujillo, Aurora Trujillo, Logan Renfro and Danule Trujillo pick up free produce during Park & Play, a free summer lunch program in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Public health officials from Klamath County got a national public health prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at its headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday.

Klamath County has been near the bottom of health assessment rankings, which look at things like access to healthy food, medical care, levels of exercise and tobacco use.

The community was one of only four winners of the Culture of Health prize. Jennifer Little, co-chair of Healthy Klamath, credits the success to coalitions.

“For example, we have a child hunger coalition and they teamed up with our local university to do student or childhood enrichment programming at the park and they then partnered with the Klamath Food Bank who was doing produce connection, so they are giving out free fruits and vegetables at the park,” she said.

Klamath County is poor, Little admits. It doesn’t have many resources, but, she said, “Our human resources are really rich and so we capitalize on that.”

The Robert Wood Johnson prize comes with a $25,000 award, but county leaders are hoping to get something even more valuable —  the attention of state and federal officials to fund programs that have demonstrated success. The public health coalition is also focused on high school graduation rates, housing, and safe policing.

The three other Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Heath awards went to communities in Illinois, Texas and Florida.