First Lady Michelle Obama urged the nation’s governors to act against childhood obesity in an address to the National Governor’s Association this past weekend, mentioning parks and playgrounds as one area where leaders can make a difference. Obama recently announced the Let’s Move initiative and a new presidential task force to come up with policy ideas.
The First Lady:
But we have to be honest with ourselves: Our kids didn’t do this to themselves. Our kids didn’t decide whether there’s time for recess or gym class, or our kids don’t decide what’s served to them in the school cafeteria. Our kids don’t decide whether to build playgrounds and parks in their neighborhoods or whether to bring supermarkets and farmer’s markets to their communities. We set those priorities. We make those decisions. And even if it doesn’t feel like we’re in charge, we are.
Obama urged action, saying “Let’s stop wringing our hands and talking about it and citing statistics. Let’s act. Let’s move. Let’s give our kids the future they deserve.”
We can think of a few ways states can increase the presence or quality of parks in communities. In California, the Housing Related Parks Program rewards communities that build affordable housing with funding for community parks. In Massachusetts, the state enabled local communities to dedicate funds for parks and other things like housing through the Community Preservation Act. In Colorado, the state dedicates lottery proceeds to its Great Outdoors Colorado program that helps build parks and trails in cities. And in Minnesota, legislators placed a constitutional amendment on the ballot (that passed comfortably) to increase the sales tax for parks and the arts, and the state-run Metropolitan Council also funds regional parks in the Twin Cities metro area.
These are just a few programs that come to mind and there are many others, not to mention state efforts to encourage smart growth and an urban form that doesn’t deplete physical activity. States can play a major role in fighting childhood obesity, and as a part of this, a role in creating excellent park systems in their cities.
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