In an effort to encourage Baltimore residents to embrace healthy living, award winning actress and former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson teamed up with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and city health officials this week to launch the expansion of B’More for Healthy Babies—a healthy communities grant program—sponsored by Weight Watchers.

On Jan. 21, about 80 women converged on the Zeta Center in West Baltimore to hear from Hudson and Rawlings-Blake, two well-known Weight Watchers clients, as they try to help Baltimoreans conquer their weight problems.

“It’s great to see people motivated to be here and inspired to lose weight,” Hudson told the AFRO. “It’s one thing to say ‘I’m gonna do it,’ but to actually do it, live what you talk about and get into it and make it happen, I think Weight Watchers is the perfect way to go. It’s a community. It’s a family in itself.”

The new Healthy Communities Grant will help the current program serve more women in Baltimore’s Patterson Park neighborhood, an expansion Rawlings-Blake said she was very proud of.

“This program has been incredibly successful in curbing infant mortality rates across our city,” she said. “In partnership with Weight Watchers, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors—where I currently serve as second vice president—we will be expanding B’More Fit for Healthy Babies to serve more women in Baltimore…”

The program allows residents whose body mass index is 25 or higher, who are overweight, over 18 and recipients of public assistance qualify to participate in the Weight Watchers program at the rate of $1 per week, officials said.

“It’s going to take a collaboration of both public and private entities to reach our goal in reducing obesity,” said Rawlings-Blake. “And we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with Weight Watchers to offer a successful initiative to more Baltimore residents.”

Both Hudson and Rawlings-Blake have lost a significant amount of weight—and have kept it off.

“It was a struggle when I first started on my journey,” Rawlings-Blake said, adding that about 36 percent of Baltimore City residents are obese—which is higher than the national average. About 45.3 percent of African Americans in Baltimore are obese.

Her plan is to encourage healthy living in low-income neighborhoods.

“Healthy eating and good exercise are critically important to all of us. We have to encourage these good habits for our kids,” she said.

Hudson said Weight Watchers is a fresh start. “You can’t go wrong. only way you can go is forward and any progress is better than none. Take small steps. It doesn’t have to be massive. Just start somewhere.”

Blair Adams

AFRO Staff Writer