Over the last few months, a great deal of momentum and synergy has been built around schools and communities initiating joint use (or shared use) agreements, which allow for the sharing of property between two entities to increase physical activity and improve nutrition among their residents. Although these efforts are good and collaborations such as these have served as a stimulating platform here in the state of Mississippi, it still takes a unified effort to alter and engage healthier lifestyles.
It’s no secret that Mississippi has a major obesity epidemic and the state is fighting back — starting with children. Fayette Community Service Organization (FCSO) is one of those organizations that not only care about reversing trends of obesity but are passionate about creating a generational shift in the mind sets of youths. This organization encourages shared use agreements in surrounding communities, implementing community gardens and encouraging children of surrounding communities to participate in the cultivating and harvesting of the produce. This produces a hands-on approach in helping children develop healthier lifestyles.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting reports that educators are hopeful that improved child nutrition programs will lead to continued health gains. Schools are now required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to serve at least a half cup of fruits and vegetables on every plate served to children.
Julie Hamilton works in Child Nutrition with Lamar County Schools, and she doesn't see it as a hard sell to the students. In fact, many school districts have already adopted a similar policy.
We have noted slow, but steady progress from efforts such as these around the state as the state's childhood obesity rate dropped 13 percent from 2005 to 2011 among elementary school students, according to the Mississippi Center for Health Policy.
Scott Clements, director of child nutrition for the Mississippi Department of Education, said healthier meals at school are partially responsible for some of the positive health outcomes recently reported among Mississippi's children.
I feel that the success of producing a healthier Mississippi hinges on developing better diets and producing healthier, more active lifestyles in schools and communities. When children learn these healthier behaviors in schools and communities, it’s at that point that it’s not so foreign for a child to come home and ask mom for a kiwi and bicycle instead of a candy bar and video game.
I encourage others in the state to join the efforts of those committed to reducing trends of obesity in the state of Mississippi. We will accomplish our goals by each one reaching and teaching one another.