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Keeping the Focus on HealthierUS Schools

First-grader Cassidy Stone clears her tray of soy nuts, whole wheat pizza stick, broccoli and jello, saying “the food tastes good.”

First-grader Cassidy Stone clears her tray of soy nuts, whole wheat pizza stick, broccoli and jello, saying “the food tastes good.”

As Child Nutrition Director for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, one of my top priorities is to improve the nutrition and health of our nation’s children. With the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, we have an opportunity to pass legislation that will combat childhood hunger and obesity among schoolchildren by providing schools with the tools and resources needed to help children develop healthier eating habits.

Last month, I celebrated National School Lunch Week in Turner, Maine at a special ceremony for the State’s first HealthierUS Challenge Schools.   Turner Elementary, Turner Primary, Leeds Central and Greene Central join the ranks of an elite group recognized nationally for health, nutrition and fitness excellence.  These trailblazers are setting the highest standards for creating and maintaining healthy school environments by promoting good nutrition and physical activity. They will serve as a model for schools throughout Maine. I traveled to each school after the official award ceremony to hand out the HealthierUS Silver banners. I had a chance to sit down and eat school lunch with the students. The four schools provide meals low in fat with plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. We ate whole grain pizza twists, fresh broccoli, peaches and low fat milk. The school food service staff work hard to make meals that are not only nutritious, but delicious. That’s a huge accomplishment! My hat is off to the food service staff!  They take the time to get to know each child by name—which is no easy feat with hundreds coming through the lunch line each day. By forging that personal relationship with each child, they are willing to try new foods.

For its accomplishment, each Silver school receives $1,000, which already has been earmarked toward sourcing more locally grown and starting a school garden. This is what Farm to School and Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food is all about.

The HealthierUS School Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. Schools participating in the Challenge voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, agree to provide nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity.  Schools, let’s keep up the good work!

Cindy Long drops in on Turner Primary School students’ lunch.

Cindy Long drops in on Turner Primary School students’ lunch.

Leeds Central School Food Service Staff serve healthy lunches to 187 students daily.

Leeds Central School Food Service Staff serve healthy lunches to 187 students daily.

One Response to “Keeping the Focus on HealthierUS Schools”

  1. Andrea Aldridge says:

    Hi, I found out today that my kindergaten grandson was $4.50 short on his lunch money. I pay biweekly and keep good track of this. But I found out that the school was selling cookies and chips to mmy child as well as others at a Paulding County Ga. Elementary school and they were letting him buy these items just on him wanting them and they the staff was taking it out of his lunch money. I spoke to the director at Paulding county School district and specifcally asked her if parents were made aware of this by letter or email? She would not answer, she said she had someone in her office and she would have to call me back, I told her I wanted a answer and a call back that I would not rest and she hung up on me. I want to know if desserts were removed from the school menus and if so are they required to replace it. Are the guidelines still meat, veggies and bread, how many items are the schools required to serve on the school lunch tray. Thank you.

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