At a celebratory event at the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Congress of Cities in Nashville, NLC honored cities and counties for their leadership and commitment to preventing childhood obesity and improving community health.
Clifford Johnson, executive director of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (left) congratulates Osner Charlers, acting director of recreation and cultural services for East Orange, New Jersey. Mr Charles is one of three recipients of LMCTC’s Most Dedicated City Staff Award this year. (Photo: Jason Dixson)
Local elected officials have an important role to play in ensuring children in their communities reach their full potential and live healthy lives. Through their participation in Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC), local leaders across the country can adopt policies that improve access to healthy, affordable food and opportunities for physical activity, and receive recognition for their efforts!
Nearly 80 million Americans (that’s 1 in 4) in over 500 cities, towns and counties now participate in LMCTC.
Through LMCTC, communities can earn bronze, silver and gold medals in each of the initiative’s five goals, which aim to help young people eat healthy and be physically active. Since July 2012, NLC has awarded over 2,800 medals to participating local elected officials.
At a celebratory event at NLC’s Congress of Cities in Nashville, NLC honored 36 cities and counties who have earned gold medals in all five LMCTC goal areas within the last year.
Additionally, NLC honored five city leaders for their leadership and dedication to addressing childhood obesity and improving the health of their residents. Councilmember Michael Gomez of Hawaiian Gardens, California and Commissioner Veronica Whitacre of McAllen, Texas received the Most Dedicated Official Award.
Councilmember Gomez has worked tirelessly to promote health through Activate Hawaiian Gardens. The city and its partners have been able to reduce childhood obesity rates among a largely socioeconomically disadvantaged Hispanic majority. Commissioner Whitacre has been a champion for bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities. She created the Run, Ride and Share Awareness Program and has been instrumental in increasing the miles of bike lanes and trails in McAllen.
Tina Amato, nutrition and physical activity program manager for Allentown, Pennsylvania; Osner Charles, acting director of recreation and cultural services for East Orange, New Jersey; and Kathleen Gibi, public affairs specialist for Knoxville, Tennessee, received the Most Dedicated City Staff Award.
Tina Amato leads the Allentown’s efforts on Let’s Move! and has brought a coalition of community stakeholders together to assure youth serving programs provide a healthy environment for children. Osner Charles recently oversaw the implementation of East Orange’s afterschool and summer meal program, and has also facilitated trainings for child care providers on the benefits making healthy food choices and limiting screen time for children. Ms. Gibi works to promote Knoxville’s outdoor amenities and leads planning efforts for Knoxville’s annual Let’s Move! event held each May.
These award winners are just a few of the many local elected officials and city and county staff who work to advance change in their community to create environments that support healthy eating and physical activity. City and county leaders are building new partnerships with their health and human services agencies, parks and recreation departments, planning offices, community- and faith-based organizations, and parents and early care and education providers to foster a healthy start for children.
There is a lot to celebrate in communities across the country!
For more information about the LMCTC initiative, its accomplishments, and how local elected officials can sign up, visit www.HealthyCommunitiesHealthyFuture.org.
About the Author: Elena Hoffnagle is the Senior Associate for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties at the National League of Cities. Contact Elena at Hoffnagle@nlc.org.