In April of 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama visited a small school located in the Anacostia section of the District of Columbia, and challenged that school to meet the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC).
Friday, I had the honor of visiting the same school, River Terrace Elementary, to recognize their hard work and achievement in rising to that challenge. The River Terrace Elementary School is the first in the District of Columbia to achieve Gold award status in the challenge, and their efforts have resulted in students consuming more fruits and vegetables at lunch, as well as increasing their daily physical activity.
Principal Shannon Foster is passionate about ensuring that the children in her school receive an excellent level of not only educational, but also personal services, working diligently to make sure that those students who need access to healthy meals have it. Principal Foster’s motto is “Children Deserve Our Best” and she searches for grants and other programs to provide additional experiences in education, nutrition and physical education beyond the scope of the funding possible for the school through the public school budgets. And Friday her school was awarded $1,500 as recognition for achieving Gold status in the HUSSC.
River Terrace adopted a “Jammin’ Minute” every morning at 10 AM, which provides students with an exciting and enjoyable way to fulfill the short burst of physical activity needed to keep students focused on education. The school also has a structured program each day for all children to fit in more fun and social physical activity where they walk 10 minutes on a track set up by the physical education teacher. Another fun after-school activity enjoyed by between 90 and 160 students is the “Mighty Milers” club, encouraging boys and girls to walk a mile each week.
The students use the school’s nutritious menu to research information on a food of the day and present this to the school as a part of the morning announcements. In addition to the “Healthy Tip of the Day,” nutrition education is provided for children across every grade. In order to bring the healthy lifestyles practiced in the school into each and every student’s home, Ms. Foster has been working with a food bank to provide classes for parents on cooking and how to choose healthy foods in the grocery store or at the food bank.
We want to congratulate Ms. Foster and the River Terrace Elementary School for their outstanding achievement. It was a great day for the students, and a great day for the District of Columbia, as we honored the hard work that they have put into improving the health and nutrition of their students. The First Lady inspired River Terrace to meet the HealthierUS School Challenge months ago, and they answered that challenge. By making a commitment to serving the most nutritious foods to students, making sure they have opportunities for physical activity, and supplying them with the knowledge necessary for optimal health, not only will these children lead lifestyles now, but also as they grow.