Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

First Lady launches "Let’s Move: Faith and Communities"

This week, I had the pleasure of joining First Lady Michelle Obama as she launched the newest effort within the Let’s Move! initiative, Let’s Move Faith and Communities. Let’s Move! is the First Lady’s initiative to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. We launched this special effort in a conference call with over 4,500 people, including faith-based and community leaders representing more than 50 organizations that have already committed to Let’s Move Faith and Communities. At the launch, the First Lady emphasized the critical role that faith-based and neighborhood leaders play in ending childhood obesity in their communities. The First Lady pointed out that these groups know “how to empower folks…how to inspire them to take charge of their lives and make positive changes for themselves and their families.” She also recognized that many faith and community organizations have been leading the way, whether through innovative health ministries or summer nutrition programs.

Let’s Move Faith and Communities is designed to support local efforts and highlight accomplishments in communities across the country. We want to work with community leaders, learn from what you’re doing in neighborhoods and help us all learn from each other through this effort.

Toward that end, we have created the Let’s Move Toolkit for Faith-based and Neighborhood Organizations. It provides creative ideas and helpful tips for congregations and communities that want to promote healthy eating and fitness, and respond to hunger.

The Toolkit also provides practical steps and resources for groups that want to take up the four challenges that I shared on today’s call. Over the next year, we invite you to consider joining Let’s Move Faith and Communities as we challenge ourselves to:

  • Walk a total of three million miles
  • Complete 500,000 President’s Active Lifestyle Awards (PALAs) or establish new exercise programs at congregations or organizations
  • Host 10,000 community gardens or farmers markets at congregations or community organizations
  • Host 1,000 new summer feeding program sites at congregations or neighborhood organizations.
  • Many of the leaders who met with the First Lady on Tuesday committed to these challenges on the call, with specific goals for their own networks and communities. Here are highlights of their commitments:

Bishop Angel Nuñez, Senior Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

  • Develop and nurture an exercise/health/wellness ministry among 30,000 Hispanic Evangelical churches over the next 20 months.
  • Host 120 Summer Feeding Programs at our churches

Denise Hunter, First Lady of First AME Church of Los Angeles and President of FAME, the First AME of Los Angeles Assistance Corporation

  • Walk 100,000 miles through our church walking clubs
  • Garner 5,000 Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards.

Dr. Walter Parrish III, General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention

  • Walk a collective one million miles by the time we conclude this year.

Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO, Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital

  • Challenge our 88,000 members in the tri state region to earn the President’s Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) patch in 2011.
  • Provide nutritious meals and daily physical activities at our summer day and resident camps that serve over 14,000 girls.

Angel Gutierrez, VP Community Development and Outreach, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago; also representing Catholic Charities USA

  • Increase by 50% the number of summer feeding programs from 155 to 233.
  • Encourage PALA participation for thousands of adults, teens, kids and staff.
  • Catholic Charities USA will encourage its  170 member agencies to support the expansion of the summer lunch program and other initiatives that ensure children have access to healthy and nutritious foods.

Patricia Cipora Harte, “Cippi”, Vice President, Program Services, Jewish Community Center Association of North America

  • Aim to have 1/3 of our 350 affiliates participating in the next three years and at least 50 of them hosting  community gardens, farmers markets, community supported agriculture programs or regular fresh food collections.

Elder Ted Wilson, President of the General Conference, Seventh Day Adventist Church

  • Promote balanced vegetarian meals for children and young people in our schools and summer Vacation Bible Schools, walking programs for young people, and possible use of periodic local produce markets on church properties.
  • Utilize our Adventist News Network to alert church members and the public to these initiatives.

Doug Swanson, National Coordinator, Professional and Volunteer Development, 4-H National Headquarters

  • Develop 2,600 school gardens in 2011 that will yield over 650,000 pounds of fresh produce, which will be provided to local families in need.
  • One million young people get involved in community gardening.
  • 100,000 young people achieve the PALA.

Rabia Akram, President, American Muslim Health Professionals

  • Walk 10,000 miles or participate in 10 exercise programs.
  • Achieve 20 Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards.

Barbara Baylor, Minister for Health Care Justice, United Church of Christ

  • Walk a total of 1.5 million miles by engaging 10% of UCC churches, including 2,000 individuals and families to walk 15 miles a week through November 30, 2011.

These commitments only represent a sample of the work of organizations and leaders joining Let’s Move Faith and Communities, but it already represents more than 2.5 million miles walked!

Join us! If you and your community partners decide to step up to any of these challenges, please email us at partnerships@hhs.gov or collaborate@usda.gov to let us know about your goals and ideas for putting Let’s Move! into action. Together, through Let’s Move Faith and Communities, we can move our nation closer to ending childhood obesity within a generation.

Joshua DuBois serves as Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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