Two N.C. State University faculty members, partners in a project to identify the root causes of youth obesity, recently heard First Lady Michelle Obama speak at a Let’s Move Faith and Communities event at the White House on March 7.
Dr. Sarah Bowen, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Dr. Annie Hardison-Moody, coordinator of the Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More program in the department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences, were invited for their work with the Voices into Action: The Families, Food, and Health Project and Faithful Families.
The visit to the White House was postponed a day due to anticipated snow in Washington that never materialized, Hardison-Moody said. But on March 6 — the original day of the White House luncheon — the agency Save the Children stepped in to host a lunch for the 75 people representing faith and community organization of Let’s Move! Save the Children is working with Let’s Move! on an initiative called the Campaign for Healthy Kids.
At Save the Children, participants had the chance to share information about their projects and learn about what other organizations are doing to help solve the problem of youth obesity in America. Hardison-Moody said that she and Bowen plan to contact some of the organizations they learned about at the meeting.
At the White House, participants heard from representatives of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. The highlight was when First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the group, Hardison-Moody said.
“She talked about how she approaches the issue of obesity as a mom, how we must treat every child as if he or she were our own, to see that every child has access to healthy food,” Hardison-Moody said. “It was so inspiring; it was from her heart.”
Michelle Obama told the group that she knows it is not easy to change the way people live and eat. But she said that faith communities can offer messages about food and healthy eating out of care for one another, not judgment, Hardison-Moody said.
Bowen is coordinator of Voices into Action, a research project funded through a $3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The project partners with communities in western Harnett and Lee counties and southeast Raleigh in Wake County to promote access to healthy foods and places to be active.
Voices into Action has nearly completed its first phase, interviewing families and conducting community workshops to learn about obstacles to and resources needed for buying and preparing healthy and affordable food. The next step will be implementing community-driven changes that improve access to healthy food and physical activity.
By partnering with the Faithful Families program, a project developed by N.C. Cooperative Extension and the N.C. Division of Public Health, Voices into Action is connected with communities that are already making positive changes.
Faithful Families congregations agree to implement a policy change and an environmental change to promote healthy lifestyles. Many congregations go further, serving healthy snacks and water at events, starting a church vegetable garden, hosting walking and exercise groups and offering nutrition workshops for members through N.C. Cooperative Extension.
Learn more about the White House visit through blog posts at Voices into Action and Faithful Families:
Voices into Action: voicesintoaction.org/voices-into-action-at-the-white-house
Faithful Families: www.ncfamilieseatingbetter.org/faithfulfamilies/blog
–Written by Natalie Hampton, firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.513.3128