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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The HealthierUS School Challenge

The First Lady U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke to education stakeholders via a conference call to discuss advancing the Let’s Move! initiative goal of doubling the number of schools participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) HealthierUS School Challenge Program.

Education stakeholders from across the country were invited to participate, including representatives from the American Association of School Administrators, National School Boards Association, National Association of State Boards of Education, Council of the Great City Schools, National Parent Teacher Association, the School Nutrition Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of School Nurses, the National Association for Educating Young Children, and the Association for School Business Officials International.

During the call, education stakeholders were urged to help generate additional participation in the challenge and support the Let’s Move! initiative by promoting the application guidance provided in USDA’s online toolkit. Every year, schools participating in the National School Lunch Program are encouraged to submit an application to the HealthierUS School Challenge Program, organized by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. The challenge is a voluntary initiative that recognizes and rewards schools that promote healthy environments for students through nutrition and physical activity programs. In addition, the challenge aims to improve the quality of food served in schools, provide students with nutrition education, physical education and opportunities for physical activity.

“The HealthierUS School Challenge is a great way for schools to create healthier environments for kids,” First Lady Michelle Obama said. “It sets concrete goals for providing more nutritious school food, regular physical activity and sound nutrition education to help kids make better choices. And right now, we’re working to double the number of schools in the HealthierUS School Challenge. We’re not going to stop until we’ve solved the problem of childhood obesity once and for all. We’re not going to stop until we know that our schools and our educators have everything they need to give our kids the healthy futures they deserve.”

The HealthierUS School Challenge Program helps advance the goals of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative by encouraging, supporting and pursuing solutions to combat childhood obesity. Many children consume as many as half of their daily calories at school. With more than 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 11 million participating in the National School Breakfast Program, good nutrition at school is more important than ever. Over the course of the current school year, USDA has worked with partners in the private sector and education community to double the number of schools that meet the HealthierUS School Challenge and add 1,000 schools per year over the next two years.

To learn more about the HealthierUS School Challenge Program and to access the online application, click here.

Access the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s application kit here.

--- Related ---

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off National Nutrition Month by announcing the availability of Team Nutrition Training Grants for Healthy Meals to states to help children develop healthy eating and physical activity habits for healthier lifestyles. USDA's nutrition assistance programs touched the lives of 1 in 4 Americans last year, including the nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day.

"We know that to win the future, we have to win the race to educate our children and that means that our kids must have access to nutritious meals and healthy lifestyles," said Vilsack. "These grants provide states important new resources, technical assistance and flexibility to help schools and daycare settings raise the bar for our kids so that they can reach their full potential."

USDA will be investing $5.5 million in grants with approximately $2.5 million set aside to provide non-competitive grants (up to $50,000) to each State Agency that commits to specific strategies to increase the number of HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) applications submitted for approval. Up to $350,000 may be requested to include both competitive and non-competitive grants.

Team Nutrition is a key component in USDA's efforts to improve the nutrition, health and well being of children. This funding provides training and technical assistance to school nutrition professionals to help them prepare and serve nutritious and appealing meals, provide fun and interactive nutrition education for children, teachers, parents and caregivers in childcare settings and build school and community support for creating healthy school environments.

Team Nutrition Training Grants are one of the anchor delivery systems for supporting the implementation of USDA's nutrition requirements and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in meals served in schools and child care institutions. The grants offer funding to State agencies to establish or enhance sustainable infrastructures for implementing Team Nutrition's goal of improving children's lifelong eating and physical activity habits.

News:   Follow The First Lady Let's Move! initiative on Twitter at @letsmove.

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