Shape Up gets grant, coaching

Published 10:48 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shape Up Mississippi has received a grant and coaching from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help make Vicksburg a healthier place.

In May 2014, Shape Up Mississippi applied for a Culture of Health prize from the foundation, but did not receive the award, the organization’s director, Linda Fondren told Port City Kiwanis last week.

Instead, Shape Up Mississippi received a Roadmaps to Health Award that included a year of professional coaching and a $10,000 grant to continue to enhance programs that promote healthy living.

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“It helps us look at where we are right now, look at the things we do well and the things we have not done well and how we can improve. It teaches us to think beyond our own individual organizations to see what we can accomplish together,” Fondren said.

Money from the grant is going to four projects — Leader In Me, FoodCorps, the United Way’s True Color Run and to get residents to eat better and exercise — Fondren said.

“We are going to strive very hard to bring our community more together and bring community partners to the table so we’re not duplicating services,” Fondren said.



Each year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranks each county in the country on a health index. In 2014, Warren County ranked 32nd out of the state’s 82 counties. In 2015, it ranked 22nd. The increase was great, but Warren County needs to do a few things better, the foundation told Fondren.

“What they said was not so strongly reflected in our community was committing to sustainable systems of changes, policy-oriented and long-term solutions. They also said we did not reflect securing and making the most of resources in our community,” Fondren said. “They also said we were not measuring and sharing our progress and results.”

Leader in Me is a Chamber of Commerce sponsored program that aims to teach elementary school students leadership skills. Members of Shape Up Mississippi hope the discipline translates to a healthier lifestyle.

“When you bring people together and work united and together, we’re going to make great strides in our community,” Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce director Jane Flowers said.

FoodCorps is a program developed by AmeriCorps and helps link kids to healthy foods in school. A FoodCorps member will be working in the Vicksburg community garden and with the school district, Fondren said.

“We’re very excited to get that person,” Fondren said.

Nutritional programs have been underway for about a year in a partnership with Alcorn State University.

“They did a series of lessons on the importance of eating breakfast, eating more fruits and vegetables and healthy beverage choices,” said Joshua Coleman with the Alcorn extension service.