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Pastor joins Johnson in D.C. to talk about health

Community Editor
Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 1:05 AM CDT
First Lady Michelle Obama hosted Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson at the White House Wednesday, celebrating the outstanding efforts of Hernando and other communities to complete health and wellness goals during the past year for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties).

The organization, known as LMCTC, calls upon local elected officials to adopt sustainable and holistic strategies that improve access to healthy, affordable food and opportunities for physical activity.

Since joining LMCTC, Hernando’s Let’s Move! Efforts in meeting the five stated goals include helping get kids (and their families) ready for school, including in the area of health and safety, via the Excel by 5 program and providing patrons of the weekly farmers market with My Plate information so they can shop with those nutrition goals in mind. 

In addition, the DeSoto County School District has been a very active partner with the city in promoting student health. The school district already has made adjustments to its food service program that facilitates healthy eating and has worked with Project Fit America to promote more activity among students.  Many of the schools have vegetable gardens.  

Johnson serves on the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi’s regional health council which instituted a Community Health Partner Award for restaurants who provide healthy options for diners, and is co-sponsoring the Fit and Fresh active living program at the Hernando Farmers Market every Saturday through the DeSoto County Health Council.

Hernando Parks and Recreation actively solicits input from local residents as to how spaces should be used and how they can be more accessible.  The action plan also determines what activities are most needed and how they can be accomplished. The department sponsored the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) program for Hernando residents where participants learned how to eat right and exercise, with prizes given to those with the most significant changes in numbers (weight loss, blood pressure, etc.

The city has striped bike lanes and erected bicycle safety signage, initiated a community garden,  adopted a complete streets policy, and requires helmet use for youth bicyclists.  The city also participates in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Healthy Workplace program and sponsors an annual 10K footrace. The city’s planning policies encourage a culture of walking and biking for transportation and recreation. Hernando’s weekly farmers market provides fresh, local, nutritious food to customers from the city and the Mid-South. 

“I am so honored to have been asked to be here today with representatives from other states who are seeing their efforts make a positive difference in the fight against childhood obesity,” Johnson said.  “It is heartening to know that the policy and program work being done is starting to show up in the numbers.” 

Mississippi saw a 13.3 percent decline in obesity rates in children in grades K-5 from 2005-2011.

Johnson was accompanied, in part, on his mission to spread the news of Mississippi’s anti-obesity efforts by the Rev. Michael O. Minor, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Hernando. Minor gained fame as the preacher who banned “Southern fried chicken” from the Sunday church menu. Minor has served on the Healthy Congregations nutrition and fitness effort begun by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi through its Get a Life! program.

Johnson and Minor spoke at the Capitol YMCA in Washington.

“The thing that was unique about what the mayor and I talked about is that he gave the community side and I gave the church side,” Minor said. “Churches are making a difference in the lives and health of their congregations. I think what surpassed them at the conference is that we were able to make sustainable changes, not just diets or fads.”

It appears those in the nation’s capital were impressed.

“The League of Cities appreciates the support and energy of the First Lady for her tireless efforts to reduce the obesity epidemic facing our communities,” said National League of Cities’ Executive Director, Clarence Anthony. “We congratulate all the local elected officials who participated in the event and are playing an instrumental role in providing our nation’s children with a healthier future. When children grow up in cities, towns and counties that promote healthy development, they become productive and healthy adults, contributing to the prosperity of our communities.”

Panel Photo

Moderator: David Agnew, Deputy Assistant to the President and   Director of Intergovernmental Affairs

County Commissioner Jean Curtiss, Missoula County, MT

Mayor Chip Johnson, Hernando, MS

Mayor John Linder, Chester, PA

Mayor Madeline Rogero, Knoxville, TN