MSU Extension gets $4.4 million grant to continue obesity work
RAYMOND, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service recently received a second cycle of funding for a project that has worked to combat obesity by helping people eat healthier and participate in physical activity.
The AIM for CHangE program was awarded a five-year, $4.4 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help continue efforts to combat obesity in 10 target counties. AIM for CHangE is short for “Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health through Extension.” A coalition of numerous local, state and federal partners leverage their expertise to provide needed resources and information in targeted counties.
“This second round of funding will enable us to continue our efforts to create sustainable changes in communities that have helped people make measurable changes in their health and well-being,” said David Buys, Extension health specialist and associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion. “Everything we are doing is focused on getting people active in their communities and helping people access nutritious food choices.”
Identified by the CDC, target counties have populations with obesity rates over 40%. Additional target counties for the second round of funding are Bolivar, Claiborne, Kemper and Yazoo.
The project will continue to follow its proven plan of building community coalitions to focus on local needs within three key areas: nutrition, physical activity and family healthy weight.
AIM for CHangE completed its first funding cycle in September 2023. Through the program’s funding and partnerships, Mississippi communities opened new food pantries, expanded existing food pantries, began ride-sharing programs, improved community parks and buildings, and installed community and school gardens.
These projects helped make more fresh fruits and vegetables available and make physical activity easier and safer for local residents in Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Washington and Noxubee counties.
Several initiatives helped increase the availability of fruits and vegetables based on the needs in each community. New food pantries were opened. Others expanded or enhanced their facilities by adding refrigerators, freezers and shelving to offer fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. Others partnered with farmers markets to get fresh produce to more people. One community garden partnered with a senior living apartment complex.
Members of the coalition worked with schools, restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores to make more nutritious choices available.
Churches, schools and communities installed gardens that provide fresh produce to residents.
Ride-sharing services helped residents in Rome, Drew, Ruleville, Arcola and Hollandale get to grocery stores and food pantries in Greenville and Cleveland.
Some communities chose to use resources available through AIM for CHangE to enhance existing places for physical activity by adding lighting and benches in existing parks, creating a fitness center inside an existing building and organizing walking or jogging activities for groups of people who pick up litter on their route. Seven StoryWalks were installed to encourage walking and family engagement. StoryWalks connect a path with individual pages of a book to draw people through the path. Some parks were renovated with themes, including music.
“Because the coalition worked closely with city and county leaders, they have a vested interest in the upkeep of the projects,” Buys said. “Our AIM for CHangE project team, will also continue to work closely with the coalitions in each community.”
AIM for CHangE partnered with the Mississippi Public Health Institute to form a coalition to work on the local level to ensure projects fit the needs of the community. Other state-level partner organizations were the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Mississippi Farm to School, MSU Extension Service 4-H, Community Counseling Services, Mississippi Department of Transportation and multiple community organizations.
See how AIM for CHangE worked with Belzoni community leaders to help increase opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy foods in the YouTube video “Fostering Healthier Cultures” at https://tinyurl.com/2awtsyzt.