For many years, Mississippi has topped the list of states with the highest rates of adult and childhood obesity. But leaders across Mississippi are working together to create a new culture that fosters regular physical activity and healthy eating. In an effort to create healthier schools, the state:
- set nutrition standards in 2006 for food sold in school vending machines;
- passed the Healthy Students Act in 2007, which set specific requirements for physical education, health education, wellness policies, and school meals, snacks, and drinks;
- began participating in 2010 in the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s State Network Project, which helps secure funding to make streets safer for walking and bicycling; and
- implemented Move to Learn in 2012, an initiative that encourages teachers across Mississippi to lead students in short physical activity breaks.
Strong collaboration has been a key factor in creating and sustaining successful statewide initiatives.
- In 2012 the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, the National Grocers Association, and The Food Trust convened the Mississippi Grocery Access Task Force to address the lack of supermarkets and other retailers that offer healthy, affordable foods in underserved areas throughout the state.
- Led by the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, the Just Have a Ball program engages elementary school students in a playful, interactive assembly about the importance of eating healthy and being active. To date, more than 20,000 children across the state have participated and received a playground ball of their own to take home. With funding from the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Mississippi and Subway® Restaurants, the program will reach another 6,000 children in 2014-2015.
- Mississippi has a growing movement within its faith-based communities that encourages congregations and families to prepare healthy meals and integrate physical activity into everyday life.
There also has been progress in reducing obesity among Mississippi preschoolers enrolled in federal health and nutrition programs. A 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families dropped 4.8 percent, from 14.6 percent in 2008 to 13.9 percent in 2011.