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National School Lunch Week: A Time to Celebrate

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon takes a photo of his lunch mates last month at Arcola Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.  Concannon presented all 132 Montgomery County Elementary Schools with Healthier US Schools Challenge Bronze awards.

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon takes a photo of his lunch mates last month at Arcola Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md. Concannon presented all 132 Montgomery County Elementary Schools with Healthier US Schools Challenge Bronze awards.

Every child deserves to have the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. That’s reason enough to recognize the nutritional accomplishments of our school meals programs during National School Lunch Week, Oct. 10-14. But there is more to celebrate…

Over 65 years ago, America made an important commitment to the health of our young people by establishing the National School Lunch Program. The NSLP is a Federal nutrition program that has consistently worked to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent hunger to scores of children every school day.

Last December, thanks to the actions of Congress and President Obama, this cherished American institution got even healthier. The passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 enhances meal quality by establishing science-based nutrition standards for school meals. As a result, lunch trays will feature more healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk, and less of the fat, sodium, calories, and trans fats that are linked to obesity-related chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

The HealthierUS School Challenge has also been instrumental in shaping good nutrition and strong physical activity options for our nation’s kids. The “Challenge” as it is often referred to, is an integral part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative to combat childhood obesity, Participating schools adopt heightened nutrition standards, while offering greater opportunities for exercise…So kids will take these behaviors and embrace them throughout their lifetimes.

The theme of this year’s National School Lunch Week is “School Lunch – Let’s Grow Healthy” and places special emphasis on Farm to School efforts. The Farm to School Initiative connects schools with regional or local farms to serve healthy meals using locally sourced foods. And by bringing in fresh, locally-produced food into our school meals, we aid small farmers with new marketing avenues and school children with opportunities to learn about how food is produced and harvested.

As children now eat as many as two meals a day at school, it’s increasingly evident that the school food environment plays a more vital role in their welfare. And working with the school food service community to improve USDA’s child nutrition programs on behalf of 32 million kids across the nation is a top priority of the Obama Administration. If we want to win the future…then we also have to win the race to educate our kids. And that means that we must make sure that all kids are fueled by the healthiest, most nutritious food we can provide.

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