Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:
Facilitated by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) partnership in Northwest Mississippi developed leadership and capacity in Desoto, Marshall and Tate counties. It established diverse partnerships in each county, and provided timely and customized seminars, trainings and technical assistance for various types of constituencies as part of a regional learning network. HKHC also supported community members’ participation in local and regional health councils, the Mississippi Food Policy Council and in national initiatives such as Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties. Established leaders have become champions and won new policies and facilities.
For more information, read the full story.
In the Delta region of northwestern Mississippi, a river and its watershed unite three counties of divergent geography, population and economics. DeSoto County has the most people (166,234); Marshall County has the lowest per capita income ($17,656 with 24.3 percent below the poverty level and 30 percent of adults lacking a high school diploma); and Tate County has the highest rate of adult overweight and obesity (72.7 percent). DeSoto is a suburban county within range of Memphis, while Marshall and Tate are rural counties separated only by an interstate highway.
The shared upper Coldwater River Watershed became the symbolic driving force behind the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi applying for a Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) grant. In 2009, HKHC of DeSoto, Marshall and Tate Counties was launched, taking aim at Mississippi’s very unwanted distinction as the heaviest of all 50 states for both adults and children.
Fortunately, the initiative did not have to start from scratch thanks to work begun several years before by county and municipal governments, local health councils, park associations and the YMCA in DeSoto. With HKHC funding, efforts were expanded to include neighboring Marshall and Tate in order to educate citizens about the need for environmental and policy changes that support healthy eating and active living in the tri-county area.
“The best part about this project is the diverse group of partners we have brought together. They are locally focused but also have an interest in improving life across the whole watershed,” said Project Director, and appointed DeSoto County Parks Commissioner, Peggy Linton. Much has changed since 2009.
Key accomplishments include:
- A $238,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant was awarded to the City of Senatobia (Tate County) to build new sidewalks and reconstruct several existing sidewalks. The city provided a $50,000 match to support this work.
- A Comprehensive Plan was passed in Holly Springs (Tate County), articulating the development of transportation modes. This includes a Complete Streets policy, which will ensure the rehabilitation of existing sidewalks at a rate of 2,000 feet of sidewalks per year, and standards for bike racks in private and public developments as the city begins to designate bike lanes. The plan also includes language related to the development of six new parks within the city, development of a greenway system, and expanded efforts to enhance recreation and environmental amenities that support community health.
- The Marshall County Mobile Food Distribution Program distributed over 100,000 pounds of food to over 2,000 low-income households. The construction of a new bike tunnel, reached in agreement with the City of Hernando (DeSoto County), allows walkers and bikers to safely cross Interstate 55.
- 4 Rivers Fresh Foods, a food hub serving northwest Mississippi, was established to aggregate, distribute and market locally grown produce to households, schools, and institutions (hospitals, restaurants and stores).
- Complete Streets Ordinances were passed in Senatobia (Tate County), Byhalia (Marshall County) and Hernando (DeSoto County).