One of the most alarming health problems facing the city of Pierre, South Dakota is childhood obesity; nearly two-thirds of children are either overweight or obese and similar trends can be observed in the city’s adult population. Identified as a food desert, the city has undertaken efforts to address the lack of access to fresh, healthy food by ensuring its availability in local markets and through encouraging a culture shift in local eating habits.
Recognized as a Playful City USA community since 2012, Pierre also values the role of play in fighting childhood obesity. To that end, the city is working to eliminate play deserts, so that children have access to the play opportunities they need to grow into healthy, happy, and productive adults.
In 2009, Pierre received a grant from the Center for Disease Control and National Recreation and Park Association’s ACHIEVE (Action Communities for Health, Innovation, and EnVironmental change) initiative, which allowed the city to concentrate on improving nutrition in schools and promoting physical activity through parks and trails.
Beginning with the idea of encouraging trail use and transportation around town for bikers and walkers, the city set out to improve existing infrastructure by installing mile markers and garbage bins along paths. The city is also seeking to advance a policy that requires new development to create walking and bike paths. Adding to these efforts, Pierre has decided to incorporate the concept of Play Trails into their efforts to improve community health and wellness.