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Tennessee Faith Leaders Unite Against Childhood Obesity

October 23, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. — Today, representatives of the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, United Methodist Men, and the United Methodist Association of Preschools Tennessee joined with the Campaign for Healthy Kids' Faith United to End Childhood Obesity and the First Lady's Let's Move Faith and Communities in an effort to help children develop healthful habits and lifestyles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The Campaign for Healthy Kids is working to support and expand grassroots participation in the First Lady's Let's Move Faith and Communities initiative. Faith United is an initiative of CHK that recruits and trains faith leaders to promote healthier lifestyles in their congregations and communities through improved practices and policies.

"All faith leaders, regardless of denomination, care equally about the welfare of children and Let's Move Faith and Communities organizes around that common concern," said Andrew Hysell, Project Director for the Campaign for Healthy Kids. "Today, we are highlighting Tennessee as a success story where faith leaders work in their own community and with businesses, school officials, and nonprofits to make real change happen in the fight against childhood obesity."

The Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church is encouraging churches and preschools to commit to the cause by signing a "covenant for a healthy faith community" which indicates their agreement to implement programs and policies that will create a healthier start for children.

Gayle Callis, Board President of The United Methodist Association of Preschools, said the association is an advocate for healthy eating and physical fitness in the early childhood years. "The first years of life are the foundation of development," said Callis. The habits we set for them in their spiritual life and in their physical life stay with them as they grow. Since children of working mothers spend on average 35 hours per week in child care settings, it is important that we are good stewards of that time."

The Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is encouraging their churches to sponsor a Let's Move Day for the community with a variety of kid-friendly activities. "We take a very strong educational stance about health, nutrition and exercise in our churches and the community," said E. W. Dempsey, Health Ministries Director. "We believe in total health which includes the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. God created us to be at an optimum level of health and has given us promises of strength and help to carry out those goals."

"The General Commission on United Methodist Men has a strong interest in this area for several reasons," said Gilbert Hanke, the agency's chief executive. "Part of our ministry is the link between this denomination and several youth serving organizations, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, Campfire USA, 4H, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. We also have a strong link with the Society of St. Andrew, which redirects fresh healthy food to the poor."

Members of community partner organizations attended today's announcement held on the playground at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, including the Tennessee Obesity Task Force and the American Heart Association, as well as other faith leaders and representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Metropolitan Public Health Department of Nashville and Davidson County, and the Tennessee Department of Health.

In the afternoon following the event, the United Methodist Association of Preschools is hosting a childcare training workshop focused on best practices for helping children get a healthy start through physical activity and good nutrition.

Faith United to End Childhood Obesity is seeking to identify and organize faith leaders from a number of diverse faith congregations to equip and empower them to implement the five pillars of Let's Move: creating a healthy start for children; empowering parents and caregivers; providing healthy food in schools; improving access to healthy, affordable foods; and increasing physical activity. Faith leaders can sign on to the Let's Move Faith and Communities website to join the effort or download a free toolkit for faith-based and neighborhood organizations.


Media contact:
Diane Degnan
615-742-5406 (office)
615-483-1765 (cell)

Faith United to End Childhood Obesity and Let's Move Faith and Communities Collaboration
African Methodist Episcopal Church
American Baptist Churches of the South
American Muslim Health Professionals
Catholic Charities
Catholic Health Association
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church Women United
Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
General Commission on United Methodist Men
Health Ministries Association
International Parish Nurse Resource Center
Islamic Society of North America
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
National Coalition of Ministries to Men
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventists
Presbyterian Church USA
Progressive National Baptist Convention
United Church of Christ
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism