The city of Portland’s definitely been on a health kick in recent years. It distributed grant money to restaurants willing to post calorie numbers on their menus, funded new public playgrounds, built a series of themed “StoryWalks,” helped develop kids’ fitness videos starring local athletes and promoted local produce in its school cafeterias, among many other proactive “healthy living” initiatives.
Both Men’s Health and Women’s Health have lauded the city as one of the healthiest places in America over the years.
But I get the sense that the city is proudest of the accolade it announced Wednesday, when it comes to healthy living.
Portland received its fifth gold medal in a National League of Cities challenge to curb childhood obesity, giving Maine’s largest city the highest level of achievement in the program to date and placing Portland No. 1 among more than 500 cities participating countrywide.
Two years ago at this time, the city was in eighth place among about 400 participating places.
The league’s “Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties” (LMCTC) program is a major component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to inspire healthy living in children.
“It’s an honor for Portland to receive this national recognition, and to receive a letter from the First Lady saying how inspired she is by the work that we are doing here in Portland to help build a brighter and healthier tomorrow for the next generation,” said Mayor Ethan Strimling in a statement. “I … want to thank Mayor Brennan for signing the city onto this initiative, and our ‘Healthy Portland’ public health staff who are committed to making sure that kids in Portland grow up with the tools they need to lead healthy lives.”
As the city’s news release explains, all participating places have the opportunity to earn up to five gold medals, one for each actionable goal to which they commit as part of the initiative.
The five goal areas are listed as such:
- Goal I: “Start Early, Start Smart” — Promoting best practices for nutrition, physical activity, and screen time in early care and education settings.
- Goal II: “My Plate, Your Place” — Prominently displaying the MyPlate food portion diagram in all municipal or county venues where food is served.
- Goal III: “Smart Servings for Students” — Expanding access to meal programs before, during and after the school day, and/or over summer months.
- Goal IV: “Model Food Service” — Implementing healthy and sustainable food service guidelines that are aligned with the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
- Goal V: “Active Kids at Play” — Increasing opportunities for physical activity.
Portland, which had gathered medals previously in the other categories, recently was granted gold status in areas promoting access to healthy foods (read more about that here) and physical play activities (more on that here and here).
“LMCTC has provided the city with a great platform to highlight and build off of the Healthy Maine Partnership work that we have been doing for several years,” said Amanda Hutchins, community health promotion specialist for Healthy Portland, part of the City’s Public Health Department, in a statement. “We’re very excited to have received these additional honors from the National League of Cities and First Lady Obama, and we’re thrilled to be ranked No. 1.”