Local efforts to combat childhood obesity receive $400,000 grant

Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | 10:24 a.m. CST; updated 12:52 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 3, 2008

COLUMBIA — Public health efforts in Columbia to combat childhood obesity are receiving a $400,000 boost.

The grant will focus on making routine physical activity and health foods easily available to children. It is part of a $44 million initiative financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop community-based solutions to childhood obesity.


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Mayor Darwin Hindman announced the grant this morning at the YouZeum, where students from Grant and Lee elementary schools had gathered by 10 a.m. 

The students walked from their schools to the interactive health center on Cherry Street in downtown Columbia for breakfasts delivered by bicycle from the Main Squeeze restaurant that included blueberry bars, blueberry smoothies and apple slices — all made from locally-grown produce.

Ian Thomas of PedNet, the federally financed organization promoting nonmotorized transportation in Columbia, will direct the project. Other partners in the grant include the city, Columbia Public Schools and MU.

Columbia is one of nine initial communities labeled as "leading sites" to receive grants, with approximately 60 additional communities in line to receive grants within the next year. The goal is to have Columbia serve as a mentor and model for future communities attempting to combat obesity.

"One possibility is these nine communities will be assigned five or six future communities to share experiences and strategies with to try to maximize the project," Thomas said. "We don't want other communities working on a strategy that is unsuccessful."

 Thomas said Columbia was chosen because of the city's work in past projects such as Active Living by Design and Healthy Eating by Design. These projects developed programs such as the Walking School Bus, where trained volunteers help students walk to school on a daily basis.

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Ray Shapiro December 2, 2008 | 10:19 p.m.

If Columbia is not already doing a good job in addressing obesity among our youngsters, why would throwing another $400,000 at the problem suddenly change things?
Children currently have plenty of access to physical activities and healthy foods. It's up to parents to guide their kids in the right direction. This "$400,000 boost" will just provide some "grand standing" for the politicians and cash flow for the economy. Money, like this, could be better spent on parenting skills workshops, mindful eating seminars and teaching parents how to cook healthy meals at home. The schools, after-school programs and community centers should already have "phys-ed" and other physical activitis in place and school meals should already be healthy. The rest is up to the kids' parents. (Obese parents usually have obese children.) Keep drinking those corn syrup beverages, eating chips and happy meals while playing video games and watching television boys and girls. Duh! (Why is the Youzeum still open?)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 3, 2008 | 2:16 a.m.

I agree with you ray is is on the parents to stand up and teach their children to put down the fork.

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