How This Mississippi Funder Is Helping College Students Get Active and Fit

The state of Mississippi consistently ranks at the very bottom of national rankings of health and the very top for obesity rates. But there are some local health-focused funders here, such as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, that are committed to helping the state's residents live healthier lives. This foundation directs grants to a variety of organizations—schools, colleges, and universities have been at the top of its priority list.

Today, we’re looking at a recent grant that BCBSMF made to the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus. This grant money funds a program to help students stick to their New Year’s resolutions and set fitness goals throughout their time at the school. A total of $290,953 went to a new health initiative called Health is Golden, which aims to help students, faculty and staff live a healthier lifestyle. The Gulf Park campus received the money after the Hattiesburg campus saw success with it over the last couple years.

BCBSMF wants to fund on-campus recreational activities, health education services, and wellness programs, and to collaborate with regional community leaders to promote fitness. More specifically, the funder’s grant pays for fitness center improvements like new cardio and strength training equipment, new fitness classes, and fitness-focused challenges and events. Meanwhile, 100 faculty and staff members will receive a free one-year membership to the fitness center. By taking a well-rounded approach to fitness funding, BCBSMF hopes not only to get people on campus to the gym, but also to establish a community culture of wellness.

Sheila Grogan, executive director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation said, “The University of Southern Mississippi is continuing to set a positive example for universities throughout the state with its dedication and commitment to providing valuable health and wellness resources to students, staff, faculty and the surrounding community.”

Mississippi’s universities and colleges have been getting a significant amount of fitness-related support from BCBSMF lately, and health eating programs are also catching this funder’s attention. But another interesting grant opportunity that’s available right now is the Healthy Hometown Award. The purpose of this program is to reward local communities and help municipal leaders continue to make those communities healthy places to live.

The funder will award up to four grants of $25,000 each to municipalities that have a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in place. One grant will go to a large town of over 15,000 residents, one to a medium town with a population between 5,001 and 14,999, and one to a small town with 5,000 or fewer people. Ultimately, one municipality of any size will be named the "healthiest hometown in Mississippi" and receive a $50,000 grant.

Access the award application here and submit it to Shelia Grogan at the foundation by March 30. You can also learn about past award winners and what they did to earn BCBSMF’s support on the Healthy Hometown page.