NLC Honors Communities and Local Officials for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties Achievements

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.

2015 LMCTC AwardsClifford 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.

Elena Hoffnagle
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.

Celebrating at the White House: Let’s Move! Brings Communities Together

This is a guest post by Christi Branscom and Kathleen Gibi.

Kids Can BikeChildren in Knoxville participate in the city’s Kids Can Bike! program. (City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department)

As we got into the back of a taxi on a warm September morning in Washington, we had the following conversation:

Christi to the driver: “We need to get to the security check point to get into the White House.”

Kathleen: “That’s not something you say every day.”

Christi: “I was thinking the same thing!”

Knoxville's Deputy Mayor Christi Branscom greets NLC's CEO Clarence Anthony at an event celebrating LMCTC at the White House.

Knoxville’s Deputy Mayor Christi Branscom greets NLC’s CEO Clarence Anthony at an event celebrating LMCTC at the White House. (Jason Dixson)

We had been invited to an all-day Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) event organized by the National League of Cities at the White House to celebrate the 500 cities, towns and counties that have committed to building healthier communities by participating in LMCTC and working to achieve the initiative’s five goals.

The best thing about Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties is that it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Rather, it reinforces, encourages, galvanizes and acknowledges what city leaders and community partners in many cases are already doing.

Celebrating Healthy Communities
Our morning at the White House began with breakout sessions for city leaders, staff and partners to share success stories and lessons learned. We also discussed the newly launched Let’s Move! All-Stars, a new set of advanced strategies for cities and counties that have achieved gold medals in all five LMCTC goals.

We enjoyed speaking to leaders from all parts of the country during lunch before having the honor of hearing First Lady Michelle Obama speak. We were thrilled when she mentioned Knoxville’s Kids Can Bike! and Walking School Bus programs as models for addressing childhood obesity.

This was the second time the First Lady has mentioned Knoxville and Knox County’s projects in a ceremony at the White House. The previous time was in 2013, when city of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero spoke on a panel during the First Lady’s LMCTC celebration ceremony.

Both then and now, we returned home to excited, proud partners in our local programs. The First Lady’s accolades certainly gave us a few bragging rights, but more than that they provided an acknowledgement that our efforts actually play a concrete role in the national movement to turn around the childhood obesity epidemic.

Working Together to Achieve Goals
Knoxville and Knox County worked together to achieve the five goals of LMCTC, and the recognition of their shared achievements showed local leaders (who already excel at working together) that there is an exponentially greater impact on the health of Knoxville’s residents when we work in partnership.

Since we became involved in LMCTC, the energy of working together to achieve new goals only seems to grow. The Knoxville Childhood Obesity Coalition (which started the Kids Can Bike! program with Knoxville Parks and Recreation to offer free pedestrian bike safety courses and greenway rides) is now strategizing how to expand their efforts to the region beyond city of Knoxville and Knox County limits.

Knoxville Parks and Recreation released its new edition of its greenways map with the theme “Healthy Communities, Healthy Economy,” listing figures that substantiate greenways and parks as contributors to tourism, rising real estate values and healthcare cost reduction. For example, Knoxville’s recently conserved 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness, with 45-miles of trails and the developing river walk in South Knoxville, is credited with a significant increase in nearby housing sales in just a 30-month period.

The network of public advocates and community partners working to make Knoxville more pedestrian-friendly is rapidly growing. Mayor Rogero and the city council have recently set aside $2 million to build new greenways in addition to significant investment for sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalk improvements.

As the First Lady said during her speech, this is “a movement on behalf of our kids’ health.” It’s our goal to keep Knoxville in the momentum of this movement, which, as it turns out, makes for a healthier overall community!

Knoxville partners are excited to take on the new All-Star Strategies. We’re fortunate to have Mayor Rogero encouraging and empowering us to pursue new goals to ensure an even healthier Knoxville.

About the Authors:

Christi Branscom
Christi Branscom is the deputy mayor and chief operating officer for the city of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Kathleen Gibi


Kathleen Gibi is a public affairs specialist for the city of Knoxville, Tennessee. 

Let’s Move! From Fort Collins, Colo., to Washington, D.C.

This is a guest post by Gino Campana, councilmember, Fort Collins, Colo.

Open Streets Fort Collins

A family participates in Open Streets 2015 in Fort Collins, Colo. (photo: City of Fort Collins)

It was an honor to participate in a daylong celebratory event at the White House for the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) movement. Together with First Lady Michelle Obama, we celebrated the milestone of 500 communities joining LMCTC, as well as the 52 communities that have received gold medals in each of the five LMCTC goals.

I was struck by the diversity of approaches represented among participants in achieving a common goal to ensure all children grow up healthy and have the ability to reach their full potential. To me, this event spoke to the importance of the first lady’s vision to eliminate childhood obesity.

I took on the Let’s MoveI Cities Towns and Counties program in Fort Collins because I believe in a healthy community. It is important that community leaders model good nutrition and physical activity for our youth. Based on all the people I met in Washington, local leaders are affecting positive change in communities throughout the nation, and working to make the healthy choice the easy choice for their residents.

Another takeaway from the White House meeting occurred in my morning breakout session when a participant touched on a theme I had not fully considered in the context of LMCTC. He said that healthy communities are safer communities, and directly correlated the availability of healthy foods, enough of the right things to eat and access to exercise with a reduction in crime.

Simply put, people who are not hungry make better decisions. This highlighted how widespread the impacts of Let’s Move! can be; when we make the healthy choice and encourage our constituents to do the same, we are also making the safer and more budget-friendly choice.

I left Washington with a renewed drive to become an LMCTC All-Star community. This movement is achieving measurable results in lowering childhood obesity rates by fostering alignment and cooperation among local agencies. The best part of the celebratory event at the White House was the affirmation I received from the First Lady and my peers in other cities that we’re on the right track and that we’re on this journey together.

In the spirit of collaboration, Fort Collins offered several elements of our program to the participants in our small group session. I would love to hear from communities either interested in the work we are doing or who can suggest ways we can improve our results. NLC staff work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services staff on a peer sharing network where communities can identify areas of interest and share ideas and solutions to succeed in sustaining their efforts. This collaboration is critical to the next five years of LMCTC and to the health of our communities.

Bike Fort Collins

(photo: City of Fort Collins)

For Fort Collins to become an LMCTC All-Star community, we are moving forward on:

  • Bicycle friendly community programs, multi-modal infrastructure and slow zones
  • Urban farming, demonstration gardens and community garden programs
  • Meeting policies that incentivize not only healthy food but locally-produced foods
  • Integrating food production into economic strategies
  • Wellness program development
  • Business recognition programs

To learn more about Fort Collins’ efforts, visit our LMCTC profile page. To see if your city, town or county is involved in LMCTC, visit HealthyCommunitiesHealthyFuture.org.

Gino CampanaAbout the Author: Gino Campana is a councilmember representing District 3 in Fort Collins, Colo.

First Lady Announces 500 Communities Have Joined Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties

The National League of Cities recently joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to announce that 500 cities, towns and counties are now participating in the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties (LMCTC) initiative.

First Lady Michelle Obama

A key part of the first lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, LMCTC helps local elected officials, their staff and communities in their efforts to ensure all children grow up healthy and have the ability to reach their full potential. (Jason Dixson)

The 500 cities, towns and counties honored at the White House come from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. To date, approximately 80 million Americans live in a city, town or county participating in LMCTC. That’s one in four Americans!

Let's Move city

(Jason Dixson)

More than 100 mayors, councilmembers and city/county staff participated in an exciting day of activities at the White House. In the morning, attendees networked with their peers, discussed their achievements to date, brainstormed solutions to current challenges and planned next steps with assistance from staff from NLC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal and national nonprofit partners.

Following a networking lunch, the afternoon session consisted of a plenary Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health; Deb Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition; and Jerry Abramson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and a panel of city leaders. And of course, First Lady Michelle Obama, who led the crowd in celebration of this historic milestone:

“Together, over the past five years, we have built what we call a movement on behalf of our kids’ health. We have changed the culture in this country in the way we live and eat,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This is about giving our children a fair shot in life. It’s about ensuring that they have everything they need… to help them fulfill their boundless potential.”

LMCTC calls upon local elected officials to adopt long-term, sustainable and holistic approaches to addressing childhood obesity. Local elected officials and their communities can receive bronze, silver and gold medals from NLC for their implementation of the five goal areas of LMCTC.

The goals include providing access to healthy meals through school and summer meal programs, expanding opportunities for physical activity during and outside of school, promoting healthier early care and education programs, and encouraging healthy snack and beverage choices using local government purchasing policies and practices.

Across the nation, 52 communities have achieved gold medals in each of the five goal areas. Local leaders have met all five goal areas by engaging in a variety of systems and policy changes locally. For example:

  • In Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael B. Coleman has taken great strides to increase opportunities for physical activity and promote healthy eating. New parks and recreation centers, parklets, an Open Streets initiative, new bike paths, outdoor fitness equipment and numerous natural play spaces help city departments make the healthy choice the easy choice for residents.
  • In response to being named the most obese metropolitan area in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, McAllen, Texas, has intensified its strategies to build a healthier city. Spearheaded in part by Mayor James Darling, their work involves numerous community partnerships and has earned the city national accolades. The city of McAllen has transferred vending machines in city facilities to a vending company that offers healthier options, and has placed MyPlate as well as the Let’s Move McAllen! logo in all city-owned facilities. The city has been named a Playful City USA by KaBOOM! five years in a row, and has been a regional leader in promoting bicycle-friendly communities.
  • In Missoula County, Mont., Let’s Move! Missoula uses education, policy development, advocacy and environmental change to build and enhance healthy environments for all residents. Their efforts, heavily supported by County Commissioner Jean Curtiss, include the creation of additional trails and parks, Let’s Move! Child Care trainings for child care providers, in-classroom physical activity training for teachers and increased access to healthy food through the development and implementation of a healthy vending policy for all county-owned and operated facilities.

Learn more about Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties and find out if your community is signed up at www.HealthyCommunitiesHealthyFuture.org.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides generous support to NLC to provide technical assistance to local elected officials working to create healthier communities and prevent childhood obesity, including those participating in LMCTC.

About the Authors:
Elena Hoffnagle
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.

Izzy Jorgensen

Izzy Jorgensen was a 2015 summer intern with NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.