As the 2019-2020 school year gets underway, many students in grades K-5 will be learning important health lessons thanks to police officers and firefighters from across Mississippi. It’s part of the Healthy Heroes program, funded by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, and it’s working to develop lasting healthy behaviors in our school children.
“Healthy Heroes” make monthly visits to K-5 schools teaching healthy nutrition lessons, leading physical fitness activities and holding community walks for students, parents, school personnel and neighborhood residents. Over the past six years, the Foundation has partnered with 28 cities across the state to provide more than $2 million to support community health and wellness and train 39 police officers and firefighters to teach children about healthy eating and exercise while increasing health literacy among 25,369 students.
On July 24, police officers and firefighters from Booneville, Greenwood, Lexington, Quitman, Saltillo and Tupelo attended the Healthy Heroes Training Conference at the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi campus in Flowood. The cities represented at the conference are implementing the Healthy Heroes program during the 2019-2020 school year. Training was provided by the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools and health and wellness experts at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.
Also, as part of the Healthy Heroes Training Conference, police officers Virginia Rich and John Cotter, “Healthy Heroes” from West Point and Hernando, respectively, and “Healthy Hero” Leon Kelley, a firefighter from West Point, shared their experiences and successes with the program.
“When children have role models who engage in regular physical activity and eat healthy nutritious foods, it encourages them to follow suit,” said Officer Rich. “A healthful future for Mississippi begins by building lasting positive relationships with our children one ‘Healthy Hero’ at a time.”
“I think the Healthy Heroes program is a wonderful way to teach children about healthy living, said Firefighter Kelley. “This program is also a great tool for building long-term community relationships.”
Cotter said, “The program lessons are invaluable to the students and their families.” He recalled being approached by a parent in a local grocery store who said, thanks to the Hernando “Healthy Heroes,” his child now insists on the family eating a healthy breakfast of oatmeal and fruit instead of sugary pastries and cereals.
“This [Healthy Heroes program] training conference has renewed my awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle for our young people,” said Tremaine Frison, a police officer from Tupelo. “It has also motivated me to adopt a healthier lifestyle so that I’m leading by example.”
“We are delighted to have been awarded the Healthy Heroes grant to improve the education and quality of life through health and fitness to our elementary students,” said Lexington Mayor Robin McCrory. “We are forever grateful to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation and their programs that are making a huge footprint across our state to bring health and physical activity to the forefront.”
“We appreciate the continued support from municipal leaders, law enforcement and firefighters who are taking an active role in developing a healthy future generation of Mississippians,” said Sheila Grogan, president of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. “Police officers and firefighters encouraging students to make healthy food choices and exercise while building positive relationships creates an ongoing and lasting benefit to the community at large.”