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Bringing Gold to the Red Poppy Capitol of Texas

Children listen attentively to the award ceremony.

Children listen attentively to the award ceremony.

Did you know that Georgetown is the Red Poppy Capital of Texas? I was surprised to find out that the city is known for the red poppy wildflowers that bloom throughout the city each spring. They hold the Red Poppy Festival each year in April and attract approximately 30,000 visitors.

But red isn’t the only color blooming in Georgetown. Ten of the city’s elementary schools are now sporting gold, silver and bronze. On Jan. 12, I had the honor of visiting Georgetown, Texas, to recognize Pickett Elementary School for meeting the gold level status in the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge. I presented the award to the school at an assembly with the students, Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, the district superintendent and the school board president. I had the pleasure to meet and congratulate the cafeteria staff, teachers, students and other staff on their achievement. Before the ceremony began, I sat down with the children during breakfast and I asked them about the food that is served at the cafeteria. The students were excited to tell me, “We really like the food at breakfast and lunch because it is so yummy.”  I observed that the majority of the children had eaten their breakfast and were ready to begin their day of learning.

Cecilia Henson, nutritionist presents HealthierUS School Challenge award to Karen  Kovach, food service director (left) and Cheryl Hester, principal (right).

Cecilia Henson, nutritionist presents HealthierUS School Challenge award to Karen Kovach, food service director (left) and Cheryl Hester, principal (right).

The school’s dedication in providing healthy lunches for the children and incorporating exercise in their daily routine is remarkable. Karen Kovach, food service director, said “Making healthy choices and adding exercise to their daily lives is good for children but also reduces childhood obesity and aids student achievement.”  The school district’s total enrollment is 10,394, and they served 498,556 breakfasts and 1,103,610 lunches in 2011. Kovach said that the students are offered fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis and their favorite is fruit salad with cheese. On any given day, the children are offered salad and wraps in addition to their regular items such as lasagna roll-up, chicken enchiladas, wheat roll, corn salad mix, baby carrots, cucumbers and pears.

Georgetown Independent School District received eight gold, one silver, and one bronze HealthierUS School Challenge award. The physical education emphasis at the school is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity. The school has set a high standard of excellence for other schools in Texas to follow.

USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge helps accomplish these objectives by recognizing schools that create and maintain healthy school environments by promoting good nutrition and physical activity.


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