MSHA gives grants to help trim fat on childhood obesity

Sue Guinn Legg • May 9, 2014 at 9:49 PM

Mountain States Health Alliance has awarded $50,000 in HEAL Appalachia grants to 19 nonprofit programs working to reduce childhood obesity across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The grants include $5,000 to expand programming at St. Mary’s School put in place last year with an initial $5,210 grant from MSHA’s HEAL Appalachia grant program to advance the daily 5-2-1-0 childhood-obesity-prevention message: five or more servings of fruits or veggies, two hours or less of recreational Internet, TV or video game time; one hour or more of exercise and zero sugary drinks.

Dr. Heather Champney, a physician, parent and volunteer chairwoman of St. Mary’s School’s Health Committee, said this year’s grant will be used to create a looping, quarter-mile fitness trail around the St. Mary’s campus that will enhance a very active running program launched at the school last year with funding from HEAL Appalachia.

The grant will also allow St. Mary’s to purchase age-specific classroom activity resources to help students to be more active in the classroom, including balance-ball chairs that allow students to move while in their seats and read- and sing-along programs with lyrics and activities to build better bodies and brains through physical learning activities such as jumping jack multiplication.

Champney said other 5-2-1-0 initiatives launched at the school last year include a yearlong marathon that culminates with a 3K Family Fun Run at the end of the school year, a large on-campus vegetable and herb garden, a healthy kids’ cookbook created by students and teachers, a school-wide emphasis on activity rather than food rewards for student accomplishment and removal of sodas from the school.

This year’s second annual 3K Family Fun Run at St. Mary’s will be held May 17 in conjunction with a new family health fair with a blood drive, martial arts and yoga demonstrations and other healthy activities and exhibits sponsored by numerous community partners.

This year’s awards also include $2,000 grants for:

• The Johnson City Community Health Center’s My Food Our Food community garden project that integrates health and well care with gardening and provides fresh fruits and vegetablestopatients at the center with limited income.

• The Carter County Coordinated School Health program’s third annual Family Fun Fitness Day, an event that incorporates physical and family activities and nutrition education into a fun-filled day at state parks.

• The Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County’s Triple Play project that improves club members’ health by increasing their daily physical activity, educating them about good nutrition and helping them develop healthy relationships.

• The Kids in Motion academic and physical enrichment program for students in preschool through fifth grade at Harold McCormick Elementary School in Elizabethton.

• The Erwin YMCA Kids Community Garden, designed to improve children’s attitudes and preference for fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods and to promote healthy food choices over the course of their lifetimes.

• The Northeast Tennessee Cooperative’s Switch It, Swap It, Choose Health project, through which students from 14 area school districts participate in a six-week, interactive learning and habit-building sessions that include a pledge to switch from sweetened drinks to water and low-fat milk.

More information about the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Appalachia grant program is available at www.healappalachia.com.

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