Ridgeland is Mississippi's Healthiest Hometown in 2018
Grant Awarded: $50,000
Since being named “Mississippi’s Healthiest Hometown” in 2013 by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, the City of Ridgeland continued to make healthy living a priority and was again honored by the Foundation in 2018 as “Mississippi's Healthiest Hometown.” The Ridgeland Health and Wellness Committee established goals to promote health and wellness, and the city took steps to create and adopt ordinances and policies to support healthy living. The city strengthened its smoke-free policy to include an amendment that prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices. Other adopted ordinances and policies include an enforceable helmet ordinance for children and adults, a Complete Streets policy to promote community “walkability” and a policy allowing all city employees to exercise during business hours.
An edible community garden is in place for Ridgeland residents to grow and harvest fruits, vegetables and herbs. City garden volunteers coordinate with elementary schools in Ridgeland to make parents aware of the garden and invite them to select a garden bed for their family to cultivate. The city also developed a horticultural therapy program for senior citizens providing opportunities for participants to engage in physical activity while growing their own produce.
Through the Healthy Heroes Program funded by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, uniformed police officers visit schools located within Ridgeland’s municipality with grades K-5 and teach students the value of healthy eating and exercise. The police officers lead students in fun physical activities, teach a lesson about the importance of making healthy food choices, and lead a community walk at each school for students, faculty, parents and neighborhood residents. For the police officers’ willingness to participate in the Healthy Heroes Program, the Foundation provided grant funds to purchase health and fitness equipment and implement a school garden program at the participating schools.
The City of Ridgeland plans to use the $50,000 grant award to develop a community bike share program, enhance the multiuse trail with mile markers and maps and connect the trail to additional schools and neighborhoods.
2018 Healthy Hometown - Forest
Grant Awarded: $25,000
In its inaugural year as a Healthy Hometown contender, the City of Forest made significant progress in creating a healthy living and working environment for its residents. Members of the Forest Healthy Hometown Committee share the common goal of providing citizens with opportunities to make healthy living a priority, and their efforts earned the municipality a Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Healthy Hometown Award for 2018.
The City of Forest adopted a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that bans the use of electronic smoking devices. The ordinance also prohibits smoking in 100 percent of all hotel and motel rooms, restaurants, bars and workplaces, including tobacco and electronic smoking device retail store workplaces. The city also has in place an enforceable helmet ordinance for children and adults. A policy allowing municipal employees to exercise three times each week during business hours demonstrates the city’s commitment to health and wellness.
Many platforms are used by the City of Forest to promote health and wellness, including social media and a website dedicated to informing residents of available recreational activities and other physical fitness opportunities. The city works to keep residents motivated to exercise and eat healthy by printing health-related messages on water bills and announcing fun family fitness events on the coliseum and city park marquees.
The Forest Municipal School District is committed to creating healthy school environments and adopted health and wellness as one of its five overall strategic goals. All deep fryers were removed from school cafeterias and replaced with oven steamers and other cooking equipment used to prepare flavorsome foods. The school district is aligned with the 2007 Healthy Students Act and collaborates with parents and community members about school health initiatives.
With the $25,000 grant award, the City of Forest plans to upgrade city parks and build a playground for children with special needs.
About the Judges
The Healthy Hometown Awards applications are evaluated by a panel of distinguished health and wellness champions from Mississippi and around the country. Judges for the 2018 Healthy Hometown Awards Program were:
- Gloria J. Ross, Ph.D., chair and professor of Mississippi Valley State University’s Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department, who oversees the university’s wellness programs
- Anna Threadcraft, RDN, LD, director of employee wellness at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who has more than a decade of experience in international health education, media and networking
- Robert Z. Carr, Jr., Ed.D., provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff, who is a lifelong health and wellness advocate and serves as a role model for living a healthy lifestyle