Among the 200+ cities, towns, and counties participating in First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity, Knoxville and Knox County rank first in the nation.
Last spring, Knoxville and Knox County became participants in the "Let's Move" program, with five goals to meet:
Goal 1. Promote best practices for nutrition, physical activity, and screen time in early care and education settings;
Goal 2. Prominently display the "My Plate" nutritional information in all municipal or county venues where food is served;
Goal 3. Increase participation in school breakfast and lunch programs;
Goal 4. Implement healthy and sustainable food service guidelines that are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans;
Goal 5. Increase opportunities for physical activity.
Both Knoxville and Knox County received gold medals for all but Goal 3, for which both received a bronze medal.
Mayor Madeline Rogero was on hand this afternoon at the City-County Building lawn to talk about the efforts the city and county have made that resulted in those gold medals, and gave a few examples of the actions Knoxville has taken to promote healthy living.
"In the city, this means offering healthy food and activities in our after school and summer camps at city recreation facilities. We're also adding healthier food choices at our swimming pool concession stands.
"At Knoxville Parks and Recreation alone, we have more than 2,000 acres of green space, more than 65 miles of greenways and trails, and 16 community centers that are open to the public.
"And just last year, we launched a "Kids Can Bike" program. Through a Ronald McDonald House grant, bikes were purchased for our recreation staff to take kids on greenway field trips," she said.
County Mayor Tim Burchett was ready with a few quips before his formal remarks.
"Rogero told me before we walked up that she had a lot to say, so don't make fun of her, so I won't. And I apologize for my active eyewear. I had my pupils dilated and I really look like a hipster, so I apologize. Hey, I am a hipster!" he said before putting a pair of reading glasses over his shades.
"This national recognition is, of course, well-deserved. It's a cooperative effort between the city, county, and the schools to improve the health of our children," Burchett said.
"I'd also like to recognize the Knox County Parks and Recreation for their work on mapping local play spaces" in cooperation with the city's department, Burchett said. "We do work together. Just so y'all know that," he added.
The two mayors then signed a certificate recognizing Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre for his work in improving students' health.
Butchett wasn't the only one with the one-liners. McIntyre prefaced his remarks by saying, "I found myself wishing I was in the enviable position [Mayor Rogero] was in so that my hair would be blwoing in the wind. Unfortunately that's not going to happen this afternoon."
"The seventies are done," Burchett interjected.
McIntyre pointed out that healthy food and activity choices don't just improve kids' physical health.
"We believe strongly that kids who are able to make healthy choices, kids who really are healthy outcomes and are focused on wellness are better students, that they see better academic outcomes as well as better life outcomes. So we're really big proponents of this 'Let's Move' initiative," he said.
He also explained that in order to achieve the bronze medal for Goal 3 of the "Let's Move" program (increasing participation in school breakfast and lunch programs), KCS needed to have 60 percent participation in the school breakfast program.
"What we saw was actually about 100 percent," he said. "So we were delighted by that, by the outcomes."
He recognized School Nutrition Director Jon Dickl for providing nutritious fuel for the kiddos before classes start.
His nutrition services efforts were recently highlighted in FIrst Lady Michelle Obama's blog," McIntyre pointed out. "And because of that, she invited five of our students from Sarah Moore Greene Elementary School to visit the White House this past week and plant with her in the White House garden, which was just an extraordinary opportunity."
Mayor Rogero also announced this year's "Let's Move" event, which will take place on May 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Victor Ashe Park.
"This year our recreation staff is putting together an obstacle course that, I'm told, is not to be missed," she said.
There's no word on whether the First Lady or Beyonce will make an appearance in Knoxville to celebrate the city and county's progress with a new community vegetable garden, a recorded version of "The Star Spangled Banner," or Pepsi endorsements. But stay tuned.