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St. Pete leaders celebrate locally based healthy initiatives with the First Lady at the White House

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St. Pete Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Healthy St. Pete Director Kim Brasher met First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Wednesday to celebrate a milestone in the Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative that St. Pete is a part of.

“This groundbreaking milestone of reaching 500 communities brings us closer to the goal of providing every American with the opportunity to live in a community that prioritizes the health and well-being of their residents,” said National League of Cities President Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City, Utah. “These local policymakers, representing small and large communities from across the country, are transforming their communities into healthier places.”

During the celebration, Michelle Obama announced the initiative had earned commitments from 500 cities, towns and counties to follow the LMCTC’s five goals. Those goals aimed at thwarting childhood obesity and promoting healthy living include, “Start Early, Start Smart,” “My Plate, Your Place,” “Smart Servings for Students,” “Model Food Service” and “Active Kids at Play.”

The First Lady launched the healthy cities initiative in 2010. Since then leaders of the effort have partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide help to local leaders committed to ensuring every child grows up healthy.

Some of the benefits offered to participating localities include national recognition, access to experts, opportunities to learn best practices and partnering with other local leaders to explore continued opportunities for healthy communities.

LMCTC is a response to the quadrupling of childhood obesity rates over the past four decades. According to the initiative’s website, more than 23.5 million children and youth in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. That works about to be about one out of every three kids.

The problem is the most widespread among Hispanic and Black youth, which make up nearly 40 percent of the obesity rate. About 28 percent of white children are overweight or obese. Not only has obesity been linked to heart disease, stroke and asthma, a study found that a third of boys and two out of every five girls born after 2000 will suffer from type 2 diabetes at some point in their life.

Michelle Obama also recognized 52 communities that have achieved gold medals in each of the five goal areas, which include providing healthy school meals, opportunities for physical activity during and outside of school, and healthier early care and education programs. St. Pete was not one of those 52, but officials say they are working to get there. The Healthy St. Pete initiative recently launched by Tomalin is aimed at improving St. Pete’s health outcomes.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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