The Seventh-day Adventist Church joined some 50 other faith and community organizations yesterday in supporting a national initiative of United States first lady Michelle Obama to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity.
The initiative, Let's Move! Faith and Communities, seeks pledges from organizations to promote exercise, the planting of community gardens to provide fresh food, and other activities contributing to healthful living.
About one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, Obama told faith and community leaders gathered at the White House.
"It's clear that when it comes to ensuring our children's health and well-being, when it comes to tackling childhood obesity, our faith-based and community organizations have a very critical role to play," Obama said.
She said this new phase of the previously established Let's Move initiative would work to support existing programs. "Many of you have been leading the way on this issue for so long..." Obama said, referring to faith-based health ministries, exercise clubs and education in "Saturday and Sunday schools."
The new initiative is comprised of four goals for next year:
-Community and faith-based members walking a total of three million miles.
-Complete 500,000 Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards or establish exercise programs.
-Host 10,000 community gardens or farmer's markets nationally.
-1,000 new summer feeding sites nationally.
Several leaders of prominent faith groups expressed support for the goals, including Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, who said he "resonate[d] with the issue personally." He holds a master's degree in public health from the church's Loma Linda University.
"The 'Let's Move' initiative is consistent with our church's approach to ministering to people physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually," Wilson said. "It has been shown that Seventh-day Adventists live longer because of their healthy lifestyle.
"Seventh-day Adventists have extensive educational and health systems in which we promote better health through practical, healthy lifestyles such as balanced nutrition, exercise, drinking enough water, adequate sunlight, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, fresh air, appropriate rest and trust in divine power.
"We will promote balanced and healthful vegetarian meals for children and young people in our schools and summer Vacation Bible Schools, walking programs for young people, and possible use of periodic local produce markets on church properties.
"The Seventh-day Adventist Church will do its part to fulfill God's wish found in 3 John [chapter] 2 which indicates that God wants us to be in physical and spiritual health," Wilson said.
Katia Reinert, Health Ministries director for the church in North America, said members will be encouraged to:
-Walk 1 million miles through InStep for Life and other exercise initiatives. Health Ministries will aim to motivate 100 churches walking 10,000 miles a year and at least 10 people per church walking 2.5 miles a day.
-Engaging youth at churches and schools to establish vegetable gardens in the community, with the goal of one garden in each local conference.
-Encourage youth to receive the Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards; at least one award per Adventist school in North America.
-Establish summer feeding programs through Vacation Bible School, summer camps, and community service outreach initiatives.
"I think more than ever the time has come for God's message of healing and restoration to be heard," Reinert later said in a statement. "This is a wonderful opportunity to engage our churches and schools to make a positive impact for Christ in our communities on a national level."
For more information, resources and an initiative tool kit, visit www.letsmove.gov.