LMCTC's First All-Star Community -- McAllen, Texas
The City of McAllen, Texas, home to 136,639 residents living along the U.S‐ Mexico border, is the first city to have achieved the (LMCTC) All-Star designation, the highest recognition for participants in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. McAllen, Texas in partnership with residents, governmental organizations, non-profits, and small businesses, has made physical activity and healthy eating an integral part of the city’s fabric through the creation of a bike-share program, the adoption of city design guidelines that encourage walking and other forms of physical activity, the expansion of farmers’ markets, and the launch of a Kids Marathon.
Developed and launched in response to the demand for more advanced and challenging activities, the All-Stars program invites LMCTC sites that have reached gold medal status in all five to participate in advancing key strategies. All-Star candidates pursue four out of eight possible evidence-based policy strategies and each strategy must be new work for the participating city, town or county. All-Stars who achieve successful completion of their four healthy eating and active living goals are then recognized as LMCTC All-Stars; McAllen, Texas is the first ever LMCTC site to accomplish this feat.
Recognizing the Problem
A 2010 Census Brief named McAllen, Texas the poorest metro area in the entire nation. Only 7 miles from the Mexican border, approximately 27% of citizens live at or below the federal poverty level (FPL), twice the national average. Also, with adult obesity close to 40%, the City of McAllen was named the most obese metropolitan area in the U.S. in 2011 & 2012 by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and placed second on the list in 2014. As a result of these alarming statistics, the Let’s Move! Committee, a cross-sector collaboration between the City of McAllen, McAllen Independent School District (ISD), The Monitor (McAllen local newspaper), and other health-based community organizations, was created in .
Key Elements of Success
Becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community: The McAllen Bike Share Program
Seeing the success of bike share programs in large metro areas around the world, city officials launched the McAllen bike program in October 2015 and it includes 80 bikes and 8 stations throughout the community.
- Over 6,000 riders have used the city’s bike share program as a means of transportation, physical activity or leisure, for a total of more than 43,000 miles.
- Responsible for improving environmental health, offsetting carbon emissions by an estimated 41,000 lbs.
- Ridership numbers continue to increase and the diversity of the stakeholders engaged in the effort continues to expand.
Promoting Physical Activity: The McAllen Marathon/Kids Marathon
To raise awareness about the importance of active living, the City created the annual McAllen Marathon in 2013 which includes a “Kids Marathon,” as well. Children run (or walk) their first of 26.2 miles over 11 weeks at home and in PE class. The “Final Mile” event, which is held the day before the McAllen Marathon, includes a medal ceremony to acknowledge the kid’s accomplishments.
- The inaugural event in 2014 was met with overwhelming excitement, with over 5,500 children and parents attending and now continues annually.
Increasing Healthy Food Access for All
The City of McAllen adopted policy and programmatic changes to expand access to healthy, affordable foods. For example, the City of McAllen has expanded access to farmers’ markets, to encourage the sustainable production and economic benefits of locally grown agricultural products. The McAllen Farmers Market ensures access to fresh fruits and vegetables and is also a venue to educate the public on the benefits of eating healthy.
- McAllen has been successful in creating a culture of health through engagement of a diverse group of stakeholders including government, non-profit, and private organizations unifying behind the mission of healthy eating and active living for their residents.
- Through its completion the LMCTC All-Stars program, McAllen, Texas has proved that it is a community ready for change. A healthier environment has been established and fostered greater buy in across the city.