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USDA Encourages Schools to Take the HealthierUS School Challenge to Help Improve the Nutrition of School Children Nationwide
New Steps Taken To Make Challenge Easier and More Successful
POTEET, Texas, Aug. 23, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today encouraged schools throughout the country to participate in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), an initiative that helps improve the health and nutrition of children. USDA created the HUSSC to recognize schools that maintain healthy school environments by improving the quality of meals and increasing physical activity and nutrition education. The HUSSC is also a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation.
"Even as Congress considers legislation to make historic improvements to school meals, there are also steps that moms and dads and others in the community can take to improve the health and nutrition of the meals their kids eat each day," said Vilsack. "While many schools have made healthful changes to school meals, more can be accomplished. The Challenge encourages schools to take voluntary extra steps toward improving the nutrition of all foods offered in schools, enhancing the opportunity for children to be physically active during the school day and providing nutrition education to help them learn how to make healthy lifestyle decisions."
In February 2010, USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama called on stakeholders to double the number of HUSSC schools in a year and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that. Currently 794 HUSSC awards have been made to schools. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is making it easier and more appealing for schools to take the HUSSC including:
- Providing schools monetary incentives for earning HUSSC certification. FNS certifies schools as Gold of Distinction, Gold, Silver or Bronze status. HUSSC schools receive $2,000 for Gold Award of Distinction, $1,500 for Gold, $1,000 for Silver and $500 for Bronze;
- Offering an online HUSSC toolkit to provide schools a step by step guide on how to navigate the application process; and
- Providing schools with a range of educational and technical assistance materials that promote consumption of fruits and vegetables and other key aspects of the Dietary Guidelines – including a Menu Planner for Healthy School Meals.
According to an Institute of Medicine Report released in October 2009, school-age children eat too many discretionary calories, too few fruits and vegetables, particularly dark green and dark orange fruits and vegetables, too few whole grains and low-fat dairy products and too many solid fats and sugars. Over the past two decades, USDA has worked to eliminate or reduce levels of fat, sodium and sugar in foods it makes available to schools and other outlets.
"If you look at the health and nutrition of our nation's children, you can see we need immediate action," said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "Obesity is growing faster than any other public health issue in the United States. The HUSSC raises the bar and helps schools improve the quality of school meals and increase the participation in school meal programs. We can accomplish a number of these goals through rapid passage of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization now before Congress."
Improving USDA's child nutrition programs are a top priority of the Obama Administration. Congress is currently considering legislation to bolster the Child Nutrition Act, which authorizes the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs. These programs serve nearly 32 million children each school day and work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Improving the Child Nutrition Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign and highlighted in the White House report Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation released Tuesday, May 11. By passing strong reauthorization legislation, the Administration hopes to reduce hunger, promote access, and improve the overall health and nutrition of children throughout the country.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs, which touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. More information about FNS and its nutrition assistance programs is available at www.fns.usda.gov.
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