Mayor Brennan, Portland earn kudos for battling childhood obesity

Mayor Michael Brennan and the city of Portland have been recognized by the National League of Cities (which sort of sounds like a team of metropolitan super heroes) for their efforts in the fight against childhood obesity.

The slap on the back comes as the mayor has led the city toward completion of a number of health and wellness milestones outlined in Cities, Towns and Counties portion of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative.

Taja Wilkins, 9, a fourth-grader at the Ocean Avenue School in Portland leapfrogs over a post in a new fitness course at the school Monday May 21, 2012. (Bangor Daily News file photo by Troy R. Bennett)

Taja Wilkins, 9, a fourth-grader at the Ocean Avenue School in Portland leapfrogs over a post in a new fitness course at the school Monday May 21, 2012. (Bangor Daily News file photo by Troy R. Bennett)

According to a city announcement, Portland ranks 8th out of 400 participating municipalities in the good-natured health competition.

About a year ago, Portland was named one of the best places in the country in terms of healthy living by Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines alike, and about seven months before that, Parenting magazine called the city the third best in the nation for raising a family, among other plaudits in recent years.

Said Brennan in a statement Monday:

I’m thrilled to see Portland being recognized nationally as a city that is committed to combating the childhood obesity epidemic. Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Countieshas provided a framework for viewing our accomplishments thus far and reconfirms the importance of healthy, active youth in the community. I’m excited to continue working with Healthy Portland, our local Healthy Maine Partnership, to achieve success in all five goals, and to the ongoing promotion of Portland as the beautiful, vibrant community that it is.

To help explain the mayor’s comment a bit, the first lady’s program lines up five places in which communities can seek to excel. The following lists the five goal areas and how Portland fared pursuing each one, according to Monday’s announcement:

  1. Goal I: Start Early, Start Smart — “Promoting best practices for nutrition, physical activity, and screen time in early care and education settings.” In this category, Portland earned a gold medal.
  2. Goal II: My Plate, Your Plate — “Prominently displaying MyPlate in all municipal or county venues where food is served.” The city earned another gold for its work in this area.
  3. Goal III: Smart Servings for Students — “Increasing participation in school breakfast and lunch programs.” Portland received a modest bronze medal here, but Brennan reiterated in last week’s State of the City address he wants to increase the amount of local food served in city schools from 30 percent currently — including milk — to 50 percent, and to increase the percentage of students taking part in the meals programs to 15 percent.
  4. Goal IV: Model Food Service — “Implementing healthy and sustainable food service guidelines that are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. No medal awarded to Portland here. Monday’s announcement by the city called Portland’s pursuit of these goals “a work in progress.”
  5. Goal V: Active Kids At Play — “Increasing opportunities for physical activity.” Another gold medal in this category.

Utilizing in part a $1.8 million federal grant awarded in 2010, Portland’s Public Health Division over the last couple of years has spearheaded a number of initiatives in the city, including the promotion of fitness trails, the development of a plan to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists in the city, the introduction of new school fitness courses and many other things.

Here is what National League of Cities President Marie Lopez Rogers, of Avondale, Ariz., said in a statement about the recent round of plaudits:

Local elected officials play a critical role in addressing childhood obesity in our country and communities, and we commend those leaders being recognized for their achievements in taking action to improve healthy eating and physical activity in their communities.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.