Recently, I had the privilege of visiting Northern Mississippi to recognize two schools for meeting USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). I stopped at Pope Elementary/Junior High School in Pope, Miss. and met with and congratulated the cafeteria and other staff for achieving a Bronze Award. I then traveled to Grenada Upper Elementary School in Grenada, Miss., for an assembly where I recognized the school for earning a Gold Award.
I was impressed with these two schools for achieving the HUSSC Awards, but was also impressed by the way the schools were innovative at educating the children about agriculture and where food comes from with the use of a garden and an on-campus green house. Grenada Upper Elementary School even raises funds for the school’s programs through selling the plants they grow in their on-campus green house instead of selling sugary snacks.
Again this benefit is two-fold – students are learning about healthy food choices and they are learning important lessons about where their food comes from and the hard work that goes in to producing a safe and reliable food supply.
Also of note was Grenada’s physical education program that gets the children moving in a fun way, twice a day, which falls in line with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. We cannot understate the importance of physical activity because our efforts to combat hunger and obesity must also include encouraging our children to get out and get some exercise.
As I have traveled around the country in promotion of the HUSSC I have seen so many unique and innovative examples of what schools can do to achieve award status. And these awards are one of the highest honors a school nutrition program can achieve and reflects a strong commitment to provide students with additional healthy food options throughout the school campus, and to emphasize nutrition education and physical activity in the school curriculum.
These two Mississippi schools have set a high standard of excellence for others to follow. I’m thankful to all who helped make these achievements possible—they are making a positive difference in the lives of our nation’s children. With the help of these Mississippi schools, we are making progress.