The Let's Move! initiative, headed by First Lady Michelle Obama, has reached another milestone in its quest to raise a healthier generation of American children. On July 16, 2012, it was announced that 3,717 schools are now certified in the HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary initiative to improve childhood health by providing more nutritious foods and promoting physical exercise in US schools. This feat is impressive given that the USDA surpassed its June 2012 certification goal of 2,250 schools by over 65%. The certification goal for June 2013 (3,250 schools) has also been achieved, a clear sign that the USDA and Let's Move! are steamrolling down the pathway to helping our children live healthier lives.
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) began in 2004 as a voluntary certification initiative to recognize National School Lunch Program-participating schools for making strides towards improving food nutrition and levels of physical activity. When Let's Move! was launched in February 2010, First Lady Obama adopted The HealthierUS School Challenge as a part of the campaign to help achieve its goal. Since then, the certification is now linked to monetary incentive awards (Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold Award of Distinction), ranging from $500 - $2,000.
School employees and students are excited about winning HUSSC awards. "We enjoyed the HealthierUS Schools Challenge and would encourage any other school to participate because it brought awareness and helped us to focus on healthier alternatives. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and this challenges you to try new things," Jackie Pierce, Food Service Manager, Sublette Elementary, Sublette, KS, Silver Award Recipient
"We really enjoyed the awards ceremony. USDA representatives from the state and region came, there were activities for the kids, and we enjoyed having lunch together. We appreciated the recognition."
- Lynne Duda, Nutrition Services Director, Willamina Elementary School, Willamina, OR, Silver Award Recipient
Personally, when I was in elementary school, I remember the pride my friends and I felt when we were recognized for a nationally-administered award, such as the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. We stared at the award in awe as we looked at President Clinton's signature, knowing that our achievement must have been important if the President was congratulating us for it. I can only imagine the exhilaration current students feel when USDA dignitaries make personal visits to recognize their achievements. That is what HUSSC and Let's Move! is about; daring to set the bar high, and rewarding students and schools in meaningful ways when they meet the standards. Hopefully moments like those recounted by Lynne Duda will remain imprinted in the children's minds and inspire them to keep having fun and keep being healthy.