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Corporate Support for “Let’s Move” Opportunity for Parks

Last week, the Childhood Obesity Task Force released  the action plan for the  First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. The plan contains 70 recommendations, including greater availability of healthy food, clearer nutritional information, and increased recreational opportunities for children, including improved access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that a coalition of the largest food manufacturers in the country, including Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, and Campbell’s Soup, have aligned themselves with the “Let’s Move” goals. As part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation , these companies have pledged to cut a collective 1.5 trillion calories from their products by 2015.

What would it take to attract that degree of corporate support for parks and playgrounds? At a local level, businesses and foundations already play a substantial role in city parks. Just this month it was announced that Northwestern Mutual helped bring an “adult playground” to a Milwaukee park. Likewise, in Los Angeles Kaiser Permanente and others have helped outdoor aerobic and strength training equipment to 30 parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods through the Fitness Zones program with The Trust for Public Land. In Chicago’s Millennium Park, the McDonald’s Cycle Center houses bike parking, a repair shop and locker rooms that support and encourage bicycle commuting. In New York, Bryant Park Corporation, the private organization which manages the famed Bryant Park, mobilizes funds from corporate events to support free recreational activities like yoga in the park. And in Denver, the Park Department partners with United Healthcare to distribute its park activity guides.

These local precedents could provide for a national, public-private coalition to implement the parks and playgrounds portion of the “Let’s Move” campaign. Industries that benefit directly from increased park use, including healthcare providers and segments of the fitness industry, as well as those that share in the benefits of parks, such as real estate, education and event planning, are a natural fit for pro-park collaboration. We hope these organizations and others will seize the opportunity to improve the fitness and health of a nation of children and will look for their involvement as the initiative evolves.

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