May 3, 2019

A former pro football player tackles childhood obesity through nutrition and exercise

Here are three stories that showcase innovative ideas that are helping communities across the country.

Melvin Anderson, who played in the NFL in the 1980s, founded Youth and Families Determined To Succeed in Minneapolis. The nonprofit will open its wellness center this weekend. Photo by Peter Wendt on Unsplash

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities.This edition shows how everything from sunscreen to smart speakers are making a change in communities. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at

Tackling obesity: A former NFL player is tackling the issue of obesity and diabetes in north Minneapolis. Melvin Anderson, the founder and president of Youth and Families Determined To Succeed (YFDS), is opening a new wellness center with a mission to help fight obesity diseases. This is part of a larger effort to bring resources needed to combat health disparities in poverty communities. “We’re trying to meet people where they’re at,” Anderson told the Star Tribune.

The grand opening of the new wellness faculty is this Saturday, May 4. The center will provide special wellness services, like nutrition help, fitness, and coaching for the youth and families who struggle with diseases related to obesity.

Minnesota has the 35th highest adult obesity rate and 35th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17 in the nation. In 2017, the state was ranked 47 out of 51 for having the most diabetes cases. It is projected that in 2030, Minnesota will have 1,365,612 heart disease cases and 194,660 obesity-related cancer cases.

YFDS’s goal is to help prevent the next generation from struggling with these major health problems that their parents had to encounter. The nonprofit does this by recognizing the best practices in the areas of diet, nutrition, fitness, and life coaching. YFDS has helped over 350 youth and parents. Seventy percent of them were referred to YDS by their physicians.

Safe in the sun: With the warm weather approaching, it will be top of mind to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. A nonprofit in Evansville, Indiana, is taking measures to remind people to use sunscreen for protection against skin diseases such as Melanoma. The Wes Attebury Foundation installed free sunscreen dispensers in three different parks across Evansville in hopes that children will use them while playing outside this summer.

This nonprofit was created in 2011 to honor Wes Attebury, an Evansville resident who lost his life to Melanoma in 2007. Since then, members of the group have kept his memory alive by bringing awareness to this skin disease throughout the community.

Members of the nonprofit posted on Facebook a picture of the dispensers and said, “We would like to thank the Evansville Parks and Rec team for helping advance our mission of honoring Wes’s memory by building community awareness of skin cancer through education and prevention.”

Alexa, when’s the next garbage pick-up? An increasingly common household item now has the ability to fill you in on local community activities. Now, if you’re wondering when the next city council meeting is or when are trash pick-up hours, you can just ask Alexa. Dozens of local and state governments are taking an interest in how they might be able to use Alexa to inform their residents on local events and news.

U.S. smart speaker ownership grew 40 percent over 2018, now reaching over a quarter of the U.S. adult population. In Texas, University Park was one of the first cities to connect residents who use Alexa devices, such as an Echo, through its Community Connect, reported Route Fifty. Community Connect provides useful daily community news, road closures and emergency alerts, and basic information about municipal services. Many other cities are following suit. In New York City, residents can use Alexa to check their water usage and in Albuquerque, residents can report community problems, like abandoned vehicles, and request services, like trash pick-up.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.