Having been at the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation since 2009 as the founding staff member, I have a unique perspective on where we started, how we have changed and what has been learned along the way. However, the past seven months have brought new challenges and opportunities as I took on the Executive Director role, and became ultimately accountable for leading the team toward accomplishing our goals. Thankfully, I have an excellent team.
In April, the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) recognized HWCF’s founding companies for removing 6.4 trillion calories from the nation’s food supply as part of the industry’s effort to fight childhood obesity. Receiving the Healthier Future Award from PHA was particularly rewarding as it acknowledged changes that occurred in the marketplace and the years of work within the companies and HWCF to make the reduction possible.
This spring, I enjoyed visiting Memphis, Tennessee to award our Smart from the Start Grand Prize winner with $20,000 that will go toward a playground where there was once just patches of grass. I also enjoyed announcing at a school assembly in Timberville, Virginia that the new playground equipment they desperately needed, was coming because they were one of our Grand Prize Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes winners. These prizes are available again this year and a school near you could be next! In fact, this fall marks our 7th year of kicking off our back to school campaign with the Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes and we’ve added a third grand prize which makes it extra exciting. We are giving away a grand prize worth more than $60,000 to an active duty military community. These families serve and make sacrifices for our country in ways many of us will never understand and we are thrilled to add this prize to this year’s sweepstakes.
In these past seven months, the refresh of our Together Counts™ curriculum was completed and our new Healthy Decisions. Healthy Habits. wellness materials are available – always for free - to schools all over the country and anyone who can type www.togethercounts.com into an internet address bar. In addition to teaching those students about the importance of nutrition and physical activity, these materials incorporate resiliency, goal setting and self-esteem – all areas that are important to overall health and wellness.
Despite what most people believe about summers in DC, at HWCF we didn’t take the summer off. A program that was two years in the making came to reality in June at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Medellín, Colombia, where I was joined with our partners in announcing the Latin American Commitment to a Healthy Future. This initiative makes our resources available to Latin America with country-specific portals for Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. Now, school children across the region will have access to customized Healthy Decisions. Healthy Habits. resources that will help them make positive and permanent lifestyle decisions. I look forward to continuing to work on this initiative as it grows over the coming years.
The past seven months have exceeded my expectations, but that has been the story of HWCF from the beginning. Seven years ago, we started out as an initiative spearheaded by leaders in the food and beverage industry who wanted to make a positive impact in fighting childhood obesity through a marketplace commitment, but have evolved into something diverse and even more impactful. Those industry leaders exceeded their marketplace commitment - three years early by the way - and are still engaged, but they have been joined by over 260 not-for-profit organizations and associations that wanted to be a part of the solution as well. These groups bring their own sets of expertise, resources and networks and along the way we have seen how important it is to tackle this problem together. So, while over the coming months the team and I will continue to work toward our goals, I look forward to working on the unexpected challenges and opportunities that arise and reporting on what we have accomplished.
I have learned a lot in the last seven months and with a great team and exceptional HWCF partners we have accomplished a lot, but there is still more to do. As you settle into another school year, I encourage you to take an inventory of the past few months, looking at the challenges, opportunities and valuable lessons you have learned from your friends and family, and appreciate what has led you to this point. I know I do.
Seven Months by the Numbers:
217 Days on the job!
16 Grants delivered to at-risk schools this past spring
3 Latin American countries launching the Together Counts™ platform in 2016
9 Brand new lesson plans in our Healthy Decisions. Healthy Habits. Curriculum.
99 Free downloadable pages included in our curriculum for grades 3-5