CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Twenty Tennessee middle schools have been awarded Shape the State grants to improve their physical education programs. The grants, valued at $10,000 each, are funded by the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation.

The grant provides the nationally acclaimed SPARK physical education curriculum, teacher training and equipment for each recipient school. In addition each school will receive $1,000 to spend on PE, nutrition and wellness efforts. This is the second year of the grant program.

“We are happy to welcome these new Shape the State schools, and we’re impressed by their commitment to improving their students’ health,” said Calvin Anderson, BlueCross senior vice president of corporate affairs, and executive director of BlueCross’ Tennessee Health Foundation.

According to the state Department of Health, about 40 percent of Tennessee children are overweight or obese. Obesity dramatically increases a person’s risk for dangerous health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The Shape the State grants continue a longstanding practice of BlueCross’ Tennessee Health Foundation’s supporting efforts to fight childhood obesity in the state.

This fall, faculty and staff from the Shape the State schools will gather for training from SPARK professionals on using the program with their students. In addition, they will receive complete SPARK curriculum materials, as well as accompanying exercise equipment.

SPARK was launched in 1989 after being developed by researchers at San Diego State University. Since then, its evidence-based curriculum has been used in public schools, YMCAs and other settings across the nation.

The 2012 Shape the State grant winners are:

 American Way Middle School, Memphis

 Bachman Academy, McDonald

 Bledsoe County Middle School, Pikeville

 Cummings Middle School, Memphis

 Greeneville Middle School, Greeneville

 Heavenly Host Lutheran School, Cookeville

 Houston County Christian Academy, Erin

 H.Y. Livesay Middle School, Harrogate

 Lamplighter Montessori School, Cordova

 Lenoir City Middle School, Lenoir City

 Milan Middle School, Milan

 Mount Juliet Christian Academy, Mount Juliet

 Oneida Middle School, Oneida

 Powell Valley School, Speedwell

 Rock Springs Middle School, Smyrna

 Sharon School, Sharon

 Soldiers Memorial Middle School, New Tazewell

 Southeast Success School, Memphis

 Van Buren County Middle School, Spencer

 West Middle School, Denmark

About BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation, Inc.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation, Inc. (THF) was established in December, 2003 as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation organized to promote the philanthropic mission of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. THF awards grants focused on high-impact initiatives across the state, which promote healthy lifestyle choices and help control health care costs for all Tennessee residents. Working with civic and economic partners, THF is dedicated to the support of research, innovative programs and creative approaches to improve the health and quality of life of Tennesseans for generations to come.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.