Childhood Obesity Initiative Kicks Off Healthy New Year


This year residents in a variety of counties throughout Missouri will get some extra help starting 2015 off healthy at home, in school and throughout their communities. As part of Healthy Schools Healthy Communities (HSHC), an initiative of Missouri Foundation for Health, schools and community members are working together to increase access to healthy food. Strategies include making fresh and attractive salad bars available in school cafeterias, working to bring farmers markets to town and offering all students daily breakfast at school. Participating communities can expect even more in 2015, with more farmers markets accepting EBT food stamp cards, in-school gardening classes and fruit and veggie taste tests at local supermarkets. There are currently 12 HSHC community collaborations to address childhood obesity statewide.

“Twenty-five percent of Missourians have limited access to healthy foods, and more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese. It’s essential for young people to build good eating habits early, which will protect them from the many debilitating effects of obesity, including type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer,” said Foundation Program Officer Deidre Griffith.

“We know that up to 50 percent of a child’s total calories are consumed at school, which makes it an important environment in which to provide healthy food choices,” said Amy Stringer Hessel, HSHC program director. “We also want to be sure our kids have healthy options outside of school, and there is much that can be done with the help of the community to make healthy food more accessible and to support families in making healthier choices.”

Up to 50 percent of a child’s total calories are consumed at school.

Healthy eating is just one component of HSHC, which also promotes increased physical activity. The region is already beginning to see the benefits. Policy and environmental changes have been implemented at various schools, with increased frequency of P.E. classes, updated playground areas as well as new water bottle filling stations. To-date, nearly 40,000 adults and children have participated in events and programs promoting healthier lifestyles and habits. HSHC activities like nighttime glow runs, walk and bike to school days and Taste Test Tuesdays, where at least one new fruit or vegetable is tasted at school every month, are continuing to bring healthy fun to communities.

Stringer Hessel has high hopes for the initiative moving forward, stating her belief that “all children deserve a healthy start and we are committed to supporting local efforts that can make that possible.”

Participating School Districts:

Central Missouri

  • Eldon
    Green Forest R-IV
    North Wood R-IV
    Salem R-80

Northeast Missouri

  • Milan C-2
    Westran R-I

Southeast Missouri

  • Ava R-I
    Cabool R-IV
    Cooter R-4
    Hayti R-2
    Kennett #39
    Malden R-I
    Plainview R-VIII
    Skyline R-II

Southwest Missouri

  • Hermitage R-IV
    Monett R-I
    Pierce City
    Wheatland R-II

St. Louis Metro Area

  • Normandy
    St. Louis City Schools


Healthy Schools Healthy Communities empowers communities to build a healthier future for children and families across Missouri. An initiative of Missouri Foundation for Health, HSHC brings together schools, community organizations, businesses, parents and residents to identify and push for changes that increase access to healthy food and physical activity where our kids live, learn, and play.