SECRETARY VILSACK LAUNCHES NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH WEEK; RECOGNIZES SCHOOLS FOR EXCELLENCE IN NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
KNOXVILLE, Iowa, October 12, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today launched the start of National School Lunch Week by highlighting efforts to improve school nutrition, combat childhood obesity, and encourage healthy lifestyles through USDA's Healthier US School Challenge. During a visit to West Elementary School in Knoxville, Iowa, Secretary Vilsack congratulated the school on achieving 'Gold" status in USDA's Healthier US School Challenge. To receive this designation, West Elementary School exceeded existing standards by providing healthier food choices, nutrition education, and physical activity to its students.
"USDA is committed to promoting nutrition standards and providing our children well-balanced, healthy meals during their school day," said Vilsack. "Lunches provided by the National School Lunch Program are a vital resource that help children develop healthy eating and lifestyle choices that will be with them for a lifetime."
Nearly 600 elementary schools have excelled in the HealthierUS School Challenge, since it began in 2004. Schools recognized in the challenge voluntarily exceed existing standards by providing healthier food choices, nutrition education, and physical activity. USDA awards these schools Gold of Distinction, Gold, Silver and Bronze status for creating healthier school environments.
"USDA's National School Lunch Program meals are a great value and good for you," said Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. "These lunches bring our country one step closer to meeting President Obama's goal to end childhood hunger by 2015 and improve the nutrition and health of all Americans."
USDA provides nutritious foods to schools through its USDA Foods program. These foods represent 15-20 percent of products served in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. USDA has worked to reduce levels of fat, sodium, and sugar in USDA Foods made available to schools to ensure more healthful diets.
The National School Lunch Program serves nutritionally balanced meals to more than 31 million children in 101,000 schools and residential childcare institutions each school day. National School Lunch Week was established in 1963 by Presidential Proclamation to raise awareness and support the National School Lunch Program and the critical service it provides.
For more information about the National School Lunch Program and the HealthierUS School Challenge visit www.fns.usda.gov.
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