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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shape Up Somerville Finalist For Two National Awards

Public vote needed to win federal Health and Human Services award.

Press Release...
The City’s groundbreaking healthy living program, Shape Up Somerville, has been named one of the Top 25 Innovations in Government by Harvard’s Kennedy School. Shape Up also has been named a finalist for the Let’s Move Cities and Towns Award given out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Somerville residents now have the opportunity to vote for Shape Up on the HHS website.

Shape Up, founded in 2002, has helped to make Somerville a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community, while also spearheading a dramatic change in the school lunch menus at Somerville’s schools. The program has brought in farmers’ markets, helped to established more community gardens and identified healthy meals on the menus of local restaurants.

“Somerville has been at the forefront of a national movement when it comes to combating the obesity epidemic,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “And we hope that other people can learn from what we’re doing here and apply it in their own communities. We truly are in the midst of crisis when it comes to obesity in this nation. Our society has made the unhealthy choice the easy choice. What we’re trying to do here is make it just as easy to go with a healthy choice.”

The Harvard Kennedy School award is given through the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Somerville joined the City of Boston’s teacher residency program, the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Oregon’s Statewide Land Use Program as one of the 25 finalists. Ultimately that field will be narrowed down to five finalists and one winner.

The HHS Let’s Move award pits Somerville against Denver, CO and Brownsville, TX. An online vote is being conducted through May 31 and the winner will be announced on June 30.

To vote, you can go to http://healthylivinginnovation.challenge.gov/submissions?utf8=%E2%9C%93&filter_9=Let%E2%80%99s+Move+Cities+and+Towns and then click on the vote box next to Somerville. There is a brief registration (name and email address) required to vote.

“We’re the smallest of the three communities up for the award, but we’re hoping Somerville will prove far more enthusiastic,” said Shape Up Somerville Director Jaime Corliss. “Hopefully we can show that big things really do come in smaller packages.”

These latest awards follow on other recent accolades given to Somerville, all of which directly cited Shape Up as a significant achievement. These awards include: an All-America City award from the National Civic League, one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People by the America’s Promise Alliance and the Healthiest City Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Health Council.

“No matter where you go in the nation and no matter what side of the political aisle you sit on, our leaders and community organizations are fighting the obesity epidemic,” Mayor Curtatone said. “Everyone recognizes something must be done. And what they see in Somerville is a positive, common sense, community-based approach that is making a difference. We’re proud of the recognition we’ve received, but we’re even prouder of the way the people of Somerville have rallied around this cause. We’re a city full of people leading happier, healthier lives because of it.”

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