Elementary schools in Piedmont and Lincoln will soon receive up to $10,000 each to help address childhood obesity.
The money comes from from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, and is intended to help implement school health and wellness programs. As a part of its Be Healthy School Grant Program, the insurance company is awarding $324,200 to 33 schools statewide.
“I found out on Friday that we got the grant, and we are so excited,” said April Mogge, the Lincoln Elementary physical education teacher who wrote the school’s request for the grant.
“Our goal for our P.E. class is to create lifelong movers and build a positive image of exercise, and we think this will help,” Mogge said.
According to the 2016-17 National Survey of Children’s Health, 18.2 percent of Alabama children are considered obese, the ninth-highest rate in the United States.
Jewelya Lewis, who helps design childhood wellness programs in eastern Alabama schools in her job at Quality of Life Health Services, said that helping instill healthy habits in children while they are in school is vital.
“There is a great need for fighting childhood obesity early,” Lewis said. “If healthy eating and exercise are established in kids while they are young, it can help put students on a healthy path.”
Lewis said that childhood obesity can have harmful effects not only in the present, but also can cause problems as children get older.
Piedmont Elementary Principal Brigett Stewart said the school wants to help children build healthy habits by using the grant to implement programs in exercise, nutrition and parental involvement.
“We want to balance our use of technology with a healthy lifestyle,” Stewart said. “Hopefully it will encourage healthy habits in and out of the classroom.”
Stewart said the school will get a new rock climbing wall, begin a nutrition education program and plan an event that allows parents to participate in exercises and activities with their children.
Stewart also expressed her gratitude that Piedmont was chosen to receive the grant.
“We are very grateful to have these funds,” Stewart said. “We are in an area that doesn’t receive a lot of funding, so we are definitely grateful to have it.”
Mogge said that Lincoln’s plan for the grant involves buying new swing sets for the school’s playground.
“Our school has a great playground, but we don’t have any swings,” she said.
Mogge said Lincoln would be getting four to six new swing bays that hold eight swings each and two adapted swing bays that are equipped for children with special needs.
Mogge said she discovered several benefits of swing sets for elementary students in the process of writing the grant application.
“Research shows the rocking effect of swinging helps kids deal with anxiety and have a better mood,” Mogge said.
In addition to the swing sets, she said, grant money would be used to buy supplies for the school’s Healthy Eating Active Living program.