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Over the past year, faith-based and community organizations have been on the move ramping up their efforts to make their communities healthier through First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Faith and Communities challenges issued in November 2010. Over the year they hosted an additional 1,100 summer food service sites, where they served meals to low-income kids who otherwise wouldn’t have received those meals once school let out. Their communities collectively walked 2.85 million miles. They brought produce close to home, contributing to more than 8,500 gardens, farmers markets, and food pantries, where folks could access fresh fruits and vegetables. And they joined communities across the country in earning 1.7 million Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards (PALA) through the PALA Challenge.
To celebrate the year’s accomplishments and look ahead to 2012, the Office of the First Lady and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted a group of faith and community leaders for a Let’s Move Faith and Communities consultation in December. We wanted to learn from each other’s experiences and brainstorm how we can work together in the coming year to build wellness into communities for the long term.
And learn we did! Elder Ted Wilson of the Seventh Day Adventists told us how his denomination is integrating nutrition and physical activity into everyday life through Adventists InStep for Life. He said, “We need to make physical activity a basic part of a healthy lifestyle. Physical and spiritual health are tied together in a very dynamic way.” Steve Becker from the Jewish Community Centers Association shared his organization’s plan to use the CATCH curriculum in their early childhood education to ensure children build a holistic foundation for a healthy life. Denise Hunter, First Lady of First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles and President of FAME’s corporate ministries, shared the success of Let’s Move LA in inspiring her community: “One of the hallmarks of a good leader is that you build good leaders from the people around you. Collectively we can do so much together. We don’t need to be superman; we need to empower people.”
Jocelyn Frye, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy and Special Projects for the First Lady, shared in the enthusiasm in the room: “A lot of what we need is to stretch beyond the walls of our organizations and get into the hearts of our communities.” As Let’s Move Faith and Communities starts its second year in 2012, that’s exactly what we’ll be working to do with our partners across the country.
Alexia Kelley serves as Deputy Director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.