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Making School Days Healthier in Miami

US Kevin Concannon and Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talk with students from North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012, during lunch.  (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

US Kevin Concannon and Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talk with students from North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012, during lunch. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

I recently had the pleasure of visiting North Beach Elementary School in Miami to recognize 177 schools in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District for their efforts to promote good nutrition and physical activity to their students. All 177 schools achieved Bronze Awards in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Miami-Dade now has the honor of having the second largest number of HUSSC awards in any one school district in the entire nation.

HUSSC is a key part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation. The Challenge is a voluntary commitment to meet USDA’s rigorous standards for physical activity, nutritious meals and nutrition education. Schools such as the ones in Miami-Dade that meet the requirements should be very proud of their achievement.

While at North Beach Elementary, I had the honor of serving lunch to the students, alongside Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County Public School District Superintendent. It’s very rewarding to me to see the children enthusiastically select an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Several told me that they liked eating healthy foods. Their enthusiasm was pretty infectious.  I was also impressed with the students who formed a student wellness council to support their peers in making healthier choices.

US Kevin Concannon and Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho serve lunch to students from North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

US Kevin Concannon and Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho serve lunch to students from North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

These kinds of activities should help schools in the county quickly adjust to the new meal standards that go into effect this fall. USDA has made major improvements to school meals and those changes are already showing up in school cafeterias.  The improvements were made possible by provisions in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act 2010 which gave us the ability to bring school meals in line with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

This is an exciting time because schools play such a critical role in the lives of our children and can be instrumental in helping kids develop healthy habits. Many students eat two meals a day at school, making the quality of these meals all the more important.  It’s vital that we provide our youngsters with healthy food choices that enable them to learn, grow, and thrive.

Improvements to school meals add up to a substantial investment in the future of our children—and our nation.  That’s why I’m proud of the role USDA has in making the school day healthier. And I’m also proud of Miami-Dade County Public Schools for going the extra mile for the sake of their students.

For more information on how USDA is supporting schools in implementing the new standards—and how you can pitch in—please visit our Healthier School Day web site.

US Kevin Concannon presents a certificate of appreciation to Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

US Kevin Concannon presents a certificate of appreciation to Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

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