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Let's Move In Indian Country Launches

by Ron Lessard

As the Strategic Advisor for Native American Affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service, I was honored to participate in the First Lady’s launch of Let’s Move! In Indian Country, which was hosted by the Menominee Tribe in Keshena, Wisconsin.

LMIC is an initiative to support and advance the work that tribal leaders and community members are already doing to improve the health of American Indian and Alaska Native children.

As a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, LMIC brings together federal agencies, communities, nonprofits, corporate partners and tribes to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in Indian Country within a generation. LMIC has the following four goals:

  1. Create a healthy start on life for children.
  2. Create healthy learning communities.
  3. Ensure families access to healthy, affordable, traditional foods.
  4. Increase opportunities for physical activity.

CNCS is a key federal partner in the inter-agency collaboration for this initiative along with the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education.

Also in attendance was Linda Sunde, CNCS’s Wisconsin State Director, who has worked closely with the Menominee Tribe and the other federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin for many years and has built close relationships with tribal leaders and tribal communities through our Senior Corps and AmeriCorps programs.

Sam McCracken, General Manager and Chairman of the Board for Nike N7 announced that CNCS and Nike will sign a Memo of Understanding placing full-time year-long AmeriCorps VISTA members with organizations promoting physical activity and sport on Native Lands. The MOU will be signed at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service on June 6th in New Orleans.

Lisa Pino, Food and Nutrition Service Deputy Administrator for the USDA, announced the partnership between the CNCS, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services programs, the National Society for American Indian Elderly, Boys and Girls Clubs in Indian Country, and Southwest Youth Services to place 200 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates in Indian Country to support LMIC implementation, positive youth development, and healthy lifestyles in at least 15 states.

At the guest luncheon, Randal Chevalier the Menominee Tribal Chairman acknowledged the work of Senior Corps and AmeriCorps programs and emphasized how these programs have been an asset to their community

These important announcements are essential but for me the most exciting part of the event was seeing our Native youth in their beautiful turquoise Let’s Move In Indian Country / Nike N7 shirts running, jumping, laughing, and enjoying nutritious food.

Tackling a National Health Crisis

Childhood obesity in America is a national health crisis. As President Barack Obama’s Childhood Obesity Task Force has noted, American Indian/Alaska Native children are particularly susceptible to childhood obesity and related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.

A study of four year-olds found that obesity is more than two times more common among American Indian/Alaska Native children (31%) than among white (16%) or Asian (13%) children. This rate is higher than any other racial or ethnic group studied.

Throughout our country’s history, Native American communities have provided some of the best examples of healthy food and sustainable community-based practices. Many groups in Indian Country are continuing to lead by example by following traditional paths that have existed for thousands of years.

So get up, move, run, jump, play sports, join in and be a part of Let’s Move In Indian Country.

Ron Lessard is the Strategic Advisor for Native American Affairs at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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