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White House Recognizes HealthierUS School Challenge Schools

From left: Alex Roman, Walsh Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama and Becky Bounds, Lamar County Schools, Mississippi. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, Monday October 17, 2011 to honor the over 1200 winners in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge that met the First Lady’s goal to double the number of participants in the HealthierUS School Challenge in a year.

From left: Alex Roman, Walsh Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama and Becky Bounds, Lamar County Schools, Mississippi. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, Monday October 17, 2011 to honor the over 1200 winners in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge that met the First Lady’s goal to double the number of participants in the HealthierUS School Challenge in a year.

Watch a video from the White House event

Given that many children eat as many as two meals a day at school, it’s pretty clear that schools have a vital role to play if we’re going to combat the disturbing rise in childhood obesity we’ve seen in recent years. Just as clear is that schools participating in USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge honored at the White House this week demonstrate the kind of deep commitment needed to create and maintain a healthy school environment. These schools are leaders that set an example for schools across the country.

The HealthierUS School Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. In February 2010, USDA and the First Lady called on stakeholders to double the number of Challenge schools in a year  a goal reached in June  and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that.

The 1,273 challenge schools honored at the White House on Monday voluntarily agreed to provide healthy meals based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods, and fat-free or low fat milk.  Challenge schools also have to do what schools do best: They have to teach their students what it means to eat smart.  They have to ensure that kids take part in regular physical activity. To achieve that goal some schools offer creative options, such as supporting walking clubs and community-sponsored sports tournaments, or by just keeping a basket of simple items available for students to use during recess, such as jump ropes or hula hoops.

First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA believe that schools can take a leadership role in helping students learn to make healthier eating and active lifestyle choices that will result in healthier children and young adults. Knowing how and why to eat smart is important, but a good diet must be balanced with adequate physical activity to maintain good health.

Healthy eating patterns learned in childhood and adolescence promote optimal childhood health, growth, and intellectual development. Unhealthy eating patterns contribute to children being overweight, and increases in childhood obesity, and diabetes.

School-based nutrition education also helps children develop lifelong eating patterns consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. Teaching children how to make healthy food choices and the components of a balanced plate increases the likelihood that they will be receptive to the healthy options at school and also use these skills when they are off of the school campus.

Some children who participate in child nutrition programs eat more than half their calories at school.  Improving USDA’s child nutrition programs on behalf of the roughly 32 million kids who participate in the National School Lunch Program and the nearly 12 million participating in the School Breakfast Program across the nation is a top priority for the Obama Administration.

Meeting the requirements for HealthierUS School Challenge recognition demonstrates a school’s deep commitment to create and maintain a healthy school environment by promoting good nutrition and physical activity. And the schools recognized this week are a shining example of this dedication.

As President Obama in his State of the Union address:  “… if we want to win the future…then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.” And if we intend to win that race, we must ensure that no kid should have to try to learn on an empty stomach but has access to the healthiest, most nutritious food we can provide, plus physical activity they need for a healthy lifestyle and a healthy future.

3 Responses to “White House Recognizes HealthierUS School Challenge Schools”

  1. geneva mccormick says:

    As a woman of over 60 years and over half of that educating pre-school through adults and having struggled with childhood obesity well into adulthood there are all kinds of ideas to help kids eat better BUT the only one I’ve seen consistently work is when we “the teaching staff” exercised every morning by walking around the school for 20 minutes talking, listening to music, singing, marching, whatever with our kids starting at K; then we ate lunch with our kids at a family style table with platters of food like in pre-school. The daily combination of example in exercise and choices I believe made the difference. No matter what you give a kid in some plastic container where he/she goes and sits with other kids who are just waiting to get out to play they will not eat or will only eat what they are used to eating at home. They throw bananas and apples away, milk cartons away, pick the meat off the pizza and eat the bread and ketchup then run. Why sit at a table with no one to pay you any attention or smile at you or give you any encouragement when you could be out running or doing what you want? When we ate with the kids they stayed with us and we talked about good stuff, no negative talk no put downs and such, so it was a pleasant experience for them. I know teachers need time off and BOY do we deserve it but that was when the assistants or playground workers took the 45 minutes to play organized games like jump rope, tether-ball, basketball, hop scotch or whatever even organized tag. There were less issues of bullying because most felt good about what had and was happening and they were well supervised. I remember even going to school 8-4pm with an hour 20 minute lunch at K. It seems to me that if American parents are going to expect the school staff to parent their kids and research tells us that meal time together is a positive way to build kids up and family together exercise is good too, Why are we ignoring it? Thanks for listening.

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    Apparently, Wheels would also remark about how white that hat is.

  3. Lynn Brown says:

    Today’s children are the most unhealthy ever. I have a nephew who is very overweight and it is primary due to lack of exercise. Everyone want to place emphasis on diet and yes it is important; however, proper weight control also means that you must eat a balanced diet as well as exercise daily. Parents need to be proactive about getting their kids involved in sports and not just rely on the schools, who are not properly funded, to do all of the work.

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