PORTLAND, Maine — Local officials on Monday celebrated the opening of four schoolyard fitness courses, a project representing the end of two years and $1.8 million in federal grant investments in healthy living initiatives in the city.

The news conference at Ocean Avenue Elementary School on Monday afternoon was the latest and likely final event in a two-year series of public celebrations for projects such as local exercise videos featuring professional athletes and children’s book-themed StoryWalks. The common thread through all of these projects is that they were funded in part by a $1.8 million federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant secured by the Portland Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Division.

“We spend a lot of time in this state talking about epidemics,” Mayor Michael Brennan, backed by about 40 of the school’s students, said during the news conference. “Every time we pick up a paper or turn on the television, you hear about an epidemic worse than before. The simple fact is, we have a problem — in this city, in this county and in this state — with obesity.”

Brennan also used the occasion to reiterate his disappointment with cuts to the Fund for a Healthy Maine included in the recently passed state budget which will result in $250,000 less in state funding for healthy living programs in Portland.

In Maine’s largest city, officials made their $1.8 million in topical grant money count, rolling out one high-profile initiative after another over the two-year grant period. Among the efforts tied to the grant were: an opening of the city’s farmers’ markets to food stamps; the installation of more than 500 signs directing people to the city’s publicly accessible trails; the introduction of calorie information on the menus of participating restaurants; the purchase of locally grown foods and new salad bars for public schools; the production of 10,000 maps of the city’s free and low-cost play areas; and an initiative to require healthful food and physical activity at after-school and child care programs.

In addition to the fitness course at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, similar courses were installed at Peaks Island, Reiche and Riverton elementary schools, as well as an adult course at the Back Cove Trail.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.

3 replies on “Portland tackles childhood obesity with four school fitness courses”

    1. Not while the rich food companies are paying out to congress members. If they can pay more than the health advocates, and insurance companies.

      Health insurance profits are capped in Maine so premiums don’t go too high. People will still pay for their fixes, including bad food, allowing their profits to have a higher potential, thus more money to pay for policies that benefit their industry.

      Even hospitals want quick fixes, many through drugs and call it good, and then they wonder why people turn to drugs at younger and younger ages

  1. Studies show that dieting, even that considered “naturalistic”, among young people lead to weight cycling [Naturalistic weight reduction efforts predicted weight gain and onset of obesity in adolescent girls; http://ebn.bmj.com/content/3/3/88.full%5D

    There is an evidence-based compassionate alternative to conventional dieting: Health At Every Size®. Please consider this alternative prior to making a decision that may result in weight cycling.
    I would also like to recommend the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK) and other written guidelines/resources. The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses the bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large
    children. Additionally, the CATK lists resources available to parents and educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at:

    For more information on Health At Every Size, you can find a general explanation on Wikipedia
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_at_Every_Size) or find in-depth research-based information in the book Health At Every Size – The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon (http://www.lindabacon.org/HAESbook/).

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