​Mayor Benjamin to Accept Award for $120,000 Childhood Obesity Prevention Grant

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin will accept the 2017 United States Conference of Mayors’ Childhood Obesity Prevention Award at 1 p.m. on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
“We are ecstatic to have won this award,” said Mayor Benjamin. “Our city has done tremendous work in implementing programs that combat obesity in children, so I’m thrilled we were selected by USCM to win this award and continue these efforts. The health of our children is of utmost importance.”

The grant was awarded not only for the City of Columbia’s recognition as a “Let's Move! City” but also for the expansion of the current three tiers of the city’s GNF program. The program, which stands for gardening, nutrition and fitness, is led by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The fourth tier expansion of the GNF program will include a REAL food box for children that will include recipes and ways in which they can incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily lives. The food box not only benefits the child but also the rest of the child’s family.
Also included in the fourth tier are:

• The purchasing of trees to establish an orchard in partnership with educational partners

• Advancement of a food security and food system development agenda at the City and County level so residents have better access to fresh healthy food;

• Creation of a forum that brings people together from all aspects of the food system to generate new relationships and cross learning;

• Removal of barriers to new market opportunities for local food businesses to facilitate economic development and entrepreneurship;

• Initiation of research-based decision making that assesses the local and regional food system to guide policies and programs

• Partnerships with educational organizations to not only improve students' access to fruits and vegetables but also to increase the amount of locally-grown produce served in the targeted areas.
The funding awarded in the USCM grant will be used to fund:

• Supplies for the educational gardens to increase the size of the raised beds and to build new beds

• Seeds, fruit, herbs and vegetable plants

• Fees for the fitness and nutrition instructors

• Healthy cookbooks

• Fitness equipment—jump ropes, exercise balls, agility ladders, etc.

Incentives for participants
“Childhood obesity has increased dramatically the past three decades, but in being awarded this grant, our children will have the resources to choose healthier lifestyles,” said Jacqueline Williams, community coordinator with Columbia Parks and Recreation. “By working with great partners like the Clemson Cooperative Extension, the University of South Carolina and Sustainable Midlands, our city and our children will be ‘famously healthy.’”
According to the 2012 South Carolina Children's Health Report, overweight and obesity issues continue to plague the state. The majority of South Carolina youth do not meet the recommendations for eating fruits, vegetables or whole grains daily. In addition, almost 40 percent of all children ages 5-11 were overweight or obese and nearly 39 percent of all children ages 12-13 were overweight or obese in the state.
Last year, Columbia was awarded second place for the medium city category (population of 75,000 – 250,000). This year, Columbia was awarded first place for the same category.
The City of Columbia is the only city to have won the award more than once and in back-to-back years.
For more information about the GNF program (tiers one, two and three) and the repercussions of the USCM grant, contact Jacqueline Williams at jjwilliams@columbiasc.net or 803-545-3957.