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Making strides: Fayette group receives healthy recognition

File Photo / The Natchez Democrat — Janell Edwards, with the Fayette Community Service Organization, joins other participants in dancing during the third annual “Let’s Move Mississippi from Fat to Fit” event at the Jefferson County Multipurpose Center in July. The FCSO was named a 2013 Rural Health Champion this month.
File Photo / The Natchez Democrat — Janell Edwards, with the Fayette Community Service Organization, joins other participants in dancing during the third annual “Let’s Move Mississippi from Fat to Fit” event at the Jefferson County Multipurpose Center in July. The FCSO was named a 2013 Rural Health Champion this month.

NATCHEZ — Following a decade of ingraining the benefits of healthy living to their neighbors, the team behind Fayette Community Service Organization is being recognized statewide as a Rural Health Champion.

Operating since 2002, Executive Director Janell Edwards said FCSO’s role in the community is to foster health and wealth among young men and women through service and guidance.

“FCSO focuses on decreasing the obesity rate among residents in Jefferson County, but we do not focus on just telling people to lose weight,” she said. “We focus on promoting health consciousness and providing fun, non-traditional projects and programs to disseminate nutrition information, increase natural physical activity and increase healthier food consumption.”

The work has caught the attention of the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Office of Rural Health and Health Disparities, which will present the FCSO a 2013 Rural Health Champion award Monday.

Accepting the award will be Janell Edwards and her husband, Anthony Edwards, who is the FCSO board chairman.

Rural Health and Health Disparities spokesman Jack Mazurak said rural areas often don’t have the health-care infrastructure or access to community health resources that metropolitan areas do.

“In particular, that’s why Anthony and Janell Edwards were chosen as Rural Health Champions,” he said. “The designation recognizes the work that they are doing in their community to improve health literacy, awareness and access to care. We hope the award helps highlight the accomplishments they are making and will encourage others to get involved.”

Janell Edwards said examples of FCSO’s interactive programs include:

4October food day events such as a kindergarten through second grade coloring contest; a smoothie taste competition for third through sixth graders; and an eat real presentation followed by fresh fruit and vegetable name recognition contest.

4Increased natural physical activity effort in July through “FAT to Fit Summer Olympics.”

4Hosting 3-on-3 basketball elimination tournament, 3-point shot elimination contest, 5K added this year and plans for a “5K Bike-a-Thon in 2014.”

Janell Edwards said a citrus fruit tree orchard was planted on the Jefferson County Elementary School Campus with 85 fruit trees.

“A Lowe’s Toolbox Grant was used to convert it into a reading orchard that will allow students and staff to increase fresh healthy snacks during the regular daily activity,” she said.

Janell Edwards said the FCSO is making plans to add a leadership banquet to the FAT to Fit event, while extending invitations to state and national leaders to review the organization’s accomplishments.

“We have developed a criteria for other counties to become official members of our FAT to Fit Family to expand the Let’s Move Mississippi From FAT to Fit Initiative in the future,” she said.

2013 Rural Health Champion awards are the first given out by UMMC, and are also provided by the Healthy Linkages Initiative, the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program and the Telehealth Program.

Those who would like to contact Fayette Community Service Organization can call 601-660-3857 or 601-786-8376.

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