Shape up

Shaquila Edwards talks to the City Council about childhood obesity. (Photo by Mark Thornton)


A Laurel woman wants the City Council to get involved with helping reduce the rate of childhood obesity.

Shaquila Edwards made a PowerPoint presentation at a recent council meeting and asked them to help promote and facilitate more activities for children.

“It’s an epidemic,” she said of childhood obesity, pointing to a chart that showed 26.1 percent of Mississippi children ages 10-17 are considered obese. “That’s No. 1 in the nation … it’s embarrassing being No. 1. We’ve got to get the obesity rate down.”

Edwards presented studies showing that, aside from the physical health risks, obese children also have a higher rate of anxiety and depression and they have more trouble focusing than their slimmer counterparts.

“We need to encourage our children to eat healthy and be more active,” Edwards said. “We need a gym for children and to plan more activities outdoors … we need to get the community involved with more things that benefit our children.”

She suggested that children be taught the benefits of eating healthy snacks such as bananas, which she described as “a powerhouse of nutrition.”

She also wants city officials to encourage “fundraising events, donations” to raise money for gym space and/or a program for outdoor activities.

“A healthy child leads to a healthy future for Mississippi,” she said.

One place children and adults can stay active is on the tennis courts at Daphne Park. Grant writer Whitney Pickering is working to get grants to help cover the costs of covering the courts with concrete and doing other upgrades. 

Parks and Recreation Director Elvin Ulmer said that the courts are asphalt now and are cracked. The plan calls for the number of courts to be reduced from five to four, and for a restroom and concession stand to be constructed where the fifth court was.

That would allow Laurel High School’s tennis team to practice and play there, three blocks away, instead of having to go to the SportsPlex, Ulmer said.

The total for the city would be $125,000, and the city could use a $50,000 grant from the United States Tennis Association toward the cost of the matching grant from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

“It would be great for the neighborhood and the high school, plus the city would be able to host tournaments,” Ulmer said.

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