East Mississippi Community College (EMCC) is implementing a tobacco-free policy at all of its campuses that will go into effect Jan. 1.
“We are excited about offering our students a tobacco-free environment that will be accompanied with new, healthy lifestyle initiatives,” EMCC President Dr. Thomas Huebner said. “This is a big step in the right direction in meeting one of our primary objectives and that is to ensure the well-being of our students.”
The tobacco-free policy is part of a larger health and wellness initiative to be implemented at the college through a partnership between EMCC and the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.
In May, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Board of Directors approved a $211,086 grant to EMCC to update exercise equipment at the Scooba Wellness Center and provide health and wellness programs to benefit students, faculty and staff at the college, as well as Kemper County students and residents.
“The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is committed to supporting our state’s colleges and universities in their efforts to develop innovative health initiatives,” Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Executive Director Sheila Grogan said. “We are proud to support EMCC in its efforts to provide wellness opportunities for the students, staff and community. This grant will help to build a culture of wellness on the EMCC campus, which will extend into the surrounding community and schools.”
Of the 15 community and junior colleges in Mississippi, EMCC was among a few without a tobacco-free policy in place. While the tobacco-free policy will be implemented at all campuses, many of the new health and wellness initiatives will be limited to the Scooba campus for now.
Kate McCarty, EMCC director of wellness and intramurals, is the project director for the grant. McCarty and EMCC Instructional Design Coordinator Sharon Frey co-wrote the grant.
McCarty said one of the requirements of the grant is that EMCC offer health and wellness events for schools and residents in Kemper County.
The college will host family fun days, fun runs and other events at the college that will include exercise and nutrition components.
“We are implementing a kids’ camp next summer for 30 elementary kids in Kemper County,” McCarty said. “It will be a three-day camp where we will offer them a healthy breakfast, a healthy lunch and a healthy snack. We will show them inexpensive, fun ways to exercise and get the proper nutrition.”
Plans are also in the works to purchase two stationary bicycles with blenders mounted on the front. Pedal power will be required to blend smoothie ingredients.
“We will use these at health fairs and other events so we can show people how many calories it takes to blend their smoothies and how many calories are in the drink,” McCarty said.
All-new exercise equipment will be purchased for the EMCC Wellness Center at the Scooba campus, which will include a virtual stationary bicycle and two handicapped-friendly cardio machines for those who cannot stand or use their legs.
A focus on nutrition is also planned. EMCC’s food vendor, Sodexo, is offering an expanded salad bar and will provide nutrition information for menu items. McCarty said the company that provides vending machine services has agreed to supplement the chips and candy bars with healthier alternatives, such as nuts and granola bars.
Plans also call for educational seminars on exercise and nutrition, classes such as yoga and dance, and fitness challenges for faculty and staff.
“We have a program called Strides for Prides for faculty, staff and students where we will award certificates to those who accomplish a health and wellness goal,” McCarty said. “It could be for completing a 5K walk, dropping 20 pounds, lowering their blood pressure or climbing Mount Everest. We want them to know we are proud of them for serving as role models for others on campus.”
Huebner said the health and wellness initiatives align with the college’s mission.
“At our core, EMCC is in the business of improving lives,” Huebner said. “Similarly, helping our students develop healthy habits has the potential of improving the quality of their lives now and in the future. “