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Change Is Happening in Mississippi

First Lady Michelle Obama visited Clinton, Mississippi today to highlight the progress made across the state to decrease childhood obesity. From elementary schools all the way to the state capitol, people are stepping up and working together for the health of our kids. So what is Mississippi's secret to success?

The story of Mississippi's success is an important narrative, and it is one shared by other locations across the country. In September of last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showcased several cities and states that reported delines in chldhood obesity rates,incuding Philadelphia, New York City and California, as well as Mississippi. What do these places have in common? Well, their solutions started where kids spend most of their time (and get most of their calories) -- in schools.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Rachael Ray hug students at Eastside and Northside Elementary Schools after filming the “Let’s Move! Cafeteria Cook Off” kick off competition, in Clinton, Miss., Feb. 27, 2013.  The event was part of the  “Let’s Move!” initiative third anniversary tour. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Under the leadership of its former Governor and its State Legislature, Mississippi passed legislation to put more physical activity time, health education, and healthier foods and beverages into schools. The State Board of Education set new standards for food and drinks in school vending machines. Schools replaced their fryers with combination ovens steamers and started serving more fruits, vegetables, andwhole grains. Faith communities ran summer nutrition programs for children, and some even declared their congregations “no-fry zones” and started serving healthier meals. Child care providers created healthier environments for little ones. Teachers and parents joined school health councils and wellness committees, and foundations and universities stepped up to support community efforts, all without additional government funding.  

And the results came in: from 2005 to 2011, Mississippi saw a 13.3 percent decline in obesity among elementary-aged students K-5th grade. Today, Mrs. Obama reminded us that our work is not done, but that these successes give us hope because change is happening.

Now, as you probably know, there’s a reason why I wanted to come here to this state for the very first day of our Let's Move anniversary tour. And that’s because what’s happening here in Mississippi is really what Let's Move is all about. It’s the story of what you all have achieved here that we want to tell. I’s the story we want to be telling in every state all across this country.

Marissa Duswalt, RD, is the Associate Director of Policy & Events