Organization invites communities to compete in statewide health challenge

It's Time Texas, a statewide grassroots cause promoting healthy lifestyles, is encouraging communities across the state of Texas to join in a friendly competition to see who is the most dedicated to healthy living.

The Healthy at H-E-B Community Challenge, which runs Sept. 1–Oct. 31, seeks to unite and motivate both individuals and organizations to make healthy living the norm in Texas.

"The intent is to spotlight communities already doing cool stuff and to incentivize people to make healthy living a priority," said John Waterman, marketing and communications director with Active Life, the Austin-based non-profit behind It's Time Texas.

Communities compete against each other by earning points for a variety of activities. In order for a community to be eligible to win, the mayor must first sign a pledge to support healthy living in his or her community.

This will be the second year of the challenge. In its first year, 40 mayors signed up, including those in Pflugerville, Austin, Round Rock, Dallas, Fort Worth, Missouri City and Sugar Land. Waterman said he is hopeful Houston will join the fray this year.

"The competition part is meant to be light and fun," Waterman said. "We did find some mayors got really into it last year."

Mayors can earn points by making a video to challenge another mayor, or by implementing health initiatives for their own community. Schools principals, board members, superintendents and PTA members can all earn points by signing the pledge. Teachers can upload photos and videos of students participating in healthy activities, or organize community projects, such as playground cleanups or group walks. Businesses and organization leaders—including faith-based and community organizations—sign pledges to support the health of their employees and can also take on community projects.

"We intentionally leave that pretty broad," Waterman said. "We try to make it so people don't necessarily need to do things they're not already doing. The idea is to spotlight health and reward [healthy behavior]."

Individuals can earn points by uploading photos and videos of exercising or eating healthy, by hosting a healthy house party—where people come together and eat healthy—or by hosting neighborhood events focused on physical activity. While individuals are capable of earning points for their communities on their own, a community cannot win unless its mayor signs on. Nearly 25,000 individuals made submissions last year.

"The intent is to touch on all main aspects of a community," Waterman said.

The competition breaks communities down into five size categories: metro, large, medium, small and extra-small. Every city in Texas has already been preregistered by the event's organizers into the appropriate category. A winner will be selected for each size group by the end of the competition.

Participants are invited to a private event in San Antonio at the end of the event, where winners are awarded trophies and a $1,000 grant to support school communities. Last year's competition, which featured only three size categories, was won by San Antonio, Brownsville and Pflugerville for large, medium and small groups, respectively.

View more details about the competition—including a full list of eligible communities for each size category, as well as how individuals can get involved—by visiting www.hebcommunitychallenge.com.

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.