It’s always a treat when we get to announce major progress toward making the school day healthier. Today, I am happy to say that over 3717 schools are recognized through the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). This voluntary initiative acknowledges schools that go the extra mile to increase nutritious food offerings, teach kids about healthy eating, and promote physical activity. Award winning schools have met the rigorous criteria for meals and other foods, participation in meal programs, physical activity, physical education, and nutrition education. The First Lady included HUSSC as a key component of her Let’s Move! initiative in 2009. In February 2010, the First Lady and USDA challenged stakeholders to double the number of HUSSC schools within a year and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that. We exceeded our first goal last June and this year we’ve again exceeded expectations. Not only have we surpassed our second year goal we’ve more than met our goal for June 2013 a year ahead of schedule!
At USDA, we are keenly aware of just how influential the school environment can be when it comes to getting kids moving and encouraging them to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Each day 32 million children eat a school lunch and 12 million eat a school breakfast. Children spend the bulk of their days during the school year at school—a perfect time to foster healthy eating and physical activity habits.
I can give so many reasons why schools should join up and meet the HUSSC standards. But the bottom line is this: in order to raise a healthier generation of kids it’ll take all of us working together. USDA has been busy at work improving meal standards, and supporting healthy initiatives including farm to school programs, and developing nutrition education resources featuring MyPlate. Participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge is one of the many great things schools and parents can work together onto help make the school day even healthier.