President Barack Obama’s and first lady Michelle Obama’s spring break visit to Asheville personally inspired me to eat ribs at 12 Bones Smokehouse (not that I needed an excuse). The first couple’s visit also inspired Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones to a healthier, albeit somewhat less tasty, goal.
Motivated by the first lady’s national “Let’s Move!” initiative, Jones has pulled together a group of our female elected officials to create a public awareness campaign to promote, enhance and expand programs addressing childhood obesity in Buncombe County.
Emulating Michelle Obama’s initiative, Jones calls the six-month campaign “Let’s Move, Buncombe!”
“The purpose of this campaign is to shine a light on all the amazing initiatives in our community that are working,” Jones says. “I also want to get woman policy-makers thinking about these issues collectively.”
From fresh foods in school cafeterias to kid-friendly farmers’ markets to family walking trails, these elected officials propose to get the word out to the community to help kids be more active, eat better and get healthy. Each month they’ll visit and participate in a local effort that promotes healthy living and works to reverse the childhood obesity trend.
The group launched their campaign in May with a group appearance at Emma Community Garden that emphasized both the importance of community gardens and the Local Food Guide for Kids recently published by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
The new Food Guide “is a great resource for parents,” Jones says.
On Saturday, June 5, the female politicos will meet at Asheville’s City Market to promote the Market’s summer kid program. Every Saturday until Aug. 28, the City Market Kids’ Tent will offer free activities, including cooking demonstrations and healthy eating games, from 9 a.m. until noon.
Thus, the idea is to support programs that already promote the group’s goals while jumping on Michelle Obama’s speeding train. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” Initiative has an ambitious goal: to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation.
North Carolina needs to work harder to combat childhood obesity, for sure. More than 19 percent of North Carolina’s young people are obese, compared with about 15 percent nationally. Our state ranks as the fifth most obese in the nation for kids aged 10-17.
In Buncombe County, more than 34 percent of elementary-school kids are obese or overweight, according to the local School Health Advisory Council (all numbers come from data collected in 2008).
“We certainly took a cue from Michelle Obama, who is making the nation more aware of locally grown foods and increased physical activity for the health of our children,” says Susan Fisher, N. C. Representative. “I think this group of women will try to be as effective as possible at bringing that message home to Buncombe County.”
The “Let’s Move, Buncombe!” campaign will focus on local initiatives in four arenas: helping parents make healthy choices, healthier schools, physical activity and accessing healthy affordable foods.
The initiative will continue through October. Ten elected officials have signed on so far: Along with Fisher and Jones, North Carolina State Representative Jane Whilden, Buncombe County Commissioner Carol Peterson, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Asheville City Council member Esther Manheimer, Black Mountain Vice Mayor Joan Brown, Montreat Mayor Letta Jean Taylor, Montreat Commissioner Mary McPhail Standaert and Weaverville Vice Mayor Dottie Sherrill.
“It was amazing how woman leaders immediately responded to participating in this campaign. They each know that unless we make fundamental changes in our community and support parents and children leading a more healthy life, our obesity crisis will cripple our economy and decrease the future quality of life in our children,” Jones says.
Jones hopes to set up a Web site for “Let’s Move, Buncombe!” that will funnel people to available community resources. In the meantime, the women she’s convened will continue to get out into the community to support programs that address our kids’ health and wellness.
So, let’s move it, Buncombe County kids.
For more information about the national program, visit www.letsmove.gov.