By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed and a host of Tupelo health advocates got funky with Thomas Street Elementary students to celebrate the Healthiest Hometown Award Thursday.
City council members, school leaders and Healthy City Task Force members danced to the exercise routine with kindergarten, first and second grade students before Shelia Grogan, executive director of the BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi Foundation executive director handed over a $50,000 grant.
Reed praised the Healthy City Task Force, city council, schools and private business for working together to make it easier to be healthy in Tupelo.
“We’re going to use this as a springboard,” Reed said of the $50,000 grant. “What happens in Tupelo is up to us.”
Schools and the city have partnered to teach swimming to all second graders and make more playgrounds accessible to the public. The council has passed ordinances eliminating smoking in indoor public spaces and giving cyclists a bigger zone of safety on streets.
Convenience stores across the city have joined the Health of a Shelf program developed by the Healthy City Task Force.
Task force co-chairwoman Liz Dawson said the task force plans to use the money to bolster existing efforts like Health on a Shelf, the Tupelo Park and Recreation running series and begin new initiatives with schools and the community.
“We want to lift up Tupelo,” she said.
Tupelo had to impress an expert panel of judges to come out ahead of a competitive field for the healthiest hometown award, Grogan said. As she travels the state, Grogan sees a groundswell of programs aimed at improving the health of communities.
Although Mississippi continues to lead the nation in overall obesity rates, recent studies have shown that obesity among elementary students is declining.
“I am convinced we as a state are doing more than any other state to help people live healthier lives,” Grogan said. “We are going in the right direction.”