The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation announced that Hernando has been named the “Healthiest Hometown in Mississippi” for demonstrating exemplary leadership and commitment to the health of its citizens. The City of Hernando will receive a $50,000 grant from the Foundation to support its ongoing health and wellness efforts. Also, the City of Tupelo was named a Healthy Hometown and received a $25,000 award to further their wellness initiatives.
The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation announced the Healthy Hometown Award last fall, which was created to recognize communities working to create healthier places to live and work. Some of the guidelines for applying include community leadership and involvement, promotion of exercise within the community, tobacco-free ordinance, encouraging healthy community nutrition and ensuring healthy students. The winning hometowns were those who demonstrated the most progress toward creating a healthy community.
Here is a look at a few things these towns are doing to make progress toward a healthier community:
Hernando – Healthiest Hometown
Mayor Chip Johnson is leading the city’s health initiatives and has initiated several health-minded ordinances during his tenure, including a smoking ban ordinance, a Complete Streets policy and youth helmet ordinance. He is a national spokesperson for local obesity prevention initiatives and was one of two mayors in the country invited to address the kick off of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” anti-obesity campaign. When the mayor first took office, he removed the snack vending machine from City Hall and has required other city building machines to offer healthy options. City leaders have even reached out to local restaurants and fast food chains to indicate healthier selections as part of the Healthy Hernando Options program.
Schools have taken a proactive approach with wellness, including a district-wide wellness policy promoting healthy lifestyles. The "Eat Right, Play More" program encourages better nutrition and physical education for students through healthier food options, extra recess time, vending machine makeovers, Safe Routes to School and more. The school district is also home to twelve Project Fit America playgrounds.
The City of Hernando boasts five major parks and other outdoor and indoor recreation areas for residents to be active, including a morning-led walk by the Mayor at a local track. At the DeSoto County School District, the city’s largest employer, a "Biggest Loser" campaign encourages teachers and staff to exercise and make better eating choices. Teachers and staff members pay $5 to participate. Weekly body mass index measurements are taken to keep up with the percent of body fat lost. City employees are encouraged to use their breaks to enjoy a brisk walk on the streets and sidewalks around City Hall and have the opportunity to participate in the Healthy Eating and Active Living in Hernando (H.E.A.L.) program. The city hosts a website to keep residents up-to-date on events and wellness information and has utilized social networking by creating a Facebook page for Healthy Hometown news, the Farmers’ Market, Parks and Recreation programs and more.
The Hernando Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. beginning the first Saturday in May and ending the last Saturday in October. The Market has grown considerably since it began three years ago and features fresh, local fruits and vegetables, nursery plants, canned goods, baked goods and a variety of other local, healthy items.
The city’s Complete Streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. A recently-passed helmet ordinance requires all children ages 1-17 to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.