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Signs of Progress: Spotlight on Cherokee County, South Carolina

From our friends at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Last month, Inside Track let you know about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s updated collection of stories and reports from a growing number of states, cities and counties that have measured declines in their childhood obesity rates.  As part of our 7-part series, we’re excited to spotlight Cherokee County, South Carolina this week, which has seen significant declines in obesity and overweight among first and third-graders:

“Eat Smart Move More”—it’s good advice for anyone trying to achieve a healthy weight, and it’s the name of the statewide movement working to promote active living, healthy eating and tobacco-free lifestyles all across South Carolina.

The local Eat Smart Move More coalition in Cherokee County, S.C., has been taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to creating healthy environments for kids. It is part of a community-based movement called KNOW(2), and its partners include city and county governments, the local school district, hospitals and other healthcare providers, faith-based partners and more.

Some highlights of their work include:

  • Super Saturdays: These community field-day events celebrate and promote healthy lifestyles, and are led by Gaffney High School physiology students. Elementary and middle school students and their families are invited to participate in activities like Ultimate Frisbee, relays, jump rope and hula hoop games, nutrition education games and dancing led by the “Fresh Five”: high-schoolers dressed as fruits and vegetables.
  • Cooking Matters classes: A six-week course teaches local families how to shop for healthy, affordable food and use it to prepare delicious meals. Participants receive free groceries each week and the entire course is free for families eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • School Garden initiative: Raised-bed gardens have been built at several schools to incorporate lessons around healthy eating into elementary education.  

Cherokee County is also developing a Pedestrian Master Plan, facilitating discussions about Open Community Use policies within schools, and is home to other youth serving organizations that are committed to improving kids’ health and wellness.

  • Afterschool providers: The Cherokee County Family YMCA—and all YMCA’s in South Carolina—have adopted Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in their afterschool programs to help kids have healthy snacks and drinks (like apple slices, baby carrots, string cheese, water or low-fat milk) and at least 30 minutes of physical activity. Participating providers also have eliminated screen time from their programs. The South Carolina Afterschool Alliance is working with the YMCA, the University of South Carolina, the Department of Health and Human Services, SC Parks and Recreation and other partners to expand these HEPA standards to more than 1,200 afterschool and summer camps statewide.

Collaboration among many leaders in Cherokee County is helping to create an environment where healthy choices are accessible, affordable and becoming the norm for many families and kids.

View the story, photos and more on the Robert Wood Johnson website.