WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–Oct. 21, 2009 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the Obama Administration is expanding the HealthierUS School Challenge. Originally established to recognize elementary schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity, the Challenge will now be expanded to include middle and high schools.
“With one in three children in this country being overweight or obese, we must take steps to ensure that all kids have access to nutritious meals, nutrition education and physical education so that they can lead healthy, productive lives,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “By expanding the HealthierUS Schools program more children will have access to a brighter future.”
In addition to expanding the HealthierUS School Challenge, USDA is also creating an ‘Adopt-a-School’ program, so that schools that have obtained the designation to assist neighboring schools with their health and nutrition programs. A tool kit on how to become a Healthier U.S. School can be found at www.fns.usda.gov.
“Improving the nutrition, health, and well being of our children is a priority for the Obama Administration and I am proud to support the First Lady on this important initiative,” said Vilsack. “The Obama Administration is making a historic investment in improving our child nutrition programs and we look forward to our continued work with Congress to continue strengthening USDA programs that impact the health and nutrition of our children.”
Congress is currently considering the Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization legislation, which impacts the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. Vilsack cited the importance of proposals to eliminate barriers that keep children from participating in school nutrition programs, improve the quality of school meals and the health of the school environment, and enhance program performance.
This week, the Institute of Medicine released a study which noted that children are eating far less dark green and dark orange vegetables and fruits than they need, far more refined grains and far too few whole grains, and too few low fat or non-fat dairy products. This trend unfortunately puts children at increased risk for a variety of obesity-related conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.
The HealthierUS School Challenge was established in 2004, and 632 have been able to achieve one of four levels of superior performance: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold of Distinction. To qualify for the awards, a school must submit a formal application and meet basic criteria set forth by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Schools can now complete the application online at www.fns.usda.gov.