By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi 4-H celebrated a $45,000 youth health and fitness grant from UnitedHealthcare in a big way Friday.
To launch the Youth Voice: Youth Choice partnership, 1,200 4-H’ers attending the annual state congress exercised together. But the real magic will happen back in their communities.
“They’ll go home and talk to their parents and friends – this is why we should eat right, this is why we should exercise,” said Bob Williams, compliance officer for UnitedHealthcare Community in Mississippi. “There’s so much energy in this group.”
Mississippi 4-H is one of three state organizations to receive the grants for the pilot project that focuses on improving health and well-being through exercise, proper nutrition and attention to personal safety.
“We have to give kids positive alternatives,” said Susan Holder, Mississippi State 4-H leader.
The Mississippi State and Alcorn State university extension services will use the money to fund 4-H programs like Kids in the Kitchen, where kids will learn how to make healthy snacks on their own, and the Whatever It Takes 4K program, where kids in Jackson will prepare for and run a 4K race. The grant also will help with demonstration programs like the pizza garden at the experiment station in Verona and milk cow at the 4-H museum in Jackson that aim to connect kids with where healthy food comes from.
In Mississippi, more than 109,000 children participate in 4-H programs, but the partnership has the capacity to reach even farther, Holder said. In addition to the public programs, the lesson plans for workshops will be available online.
“It’s open to Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and other youth groups,” Holder said.
UnitedHealthcare considers the money well spent, Williams said.
“Our mission is to help people live healthier lives,” Williams said. “What better place to start than Mississippi, where we know we have challenges and we know we can make a difference.”