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Release No.
0233.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

Public-Private Partnership Aims to Connect More Kids to Nutrition Programs and End Childhood Hunger in Virginia by 2015

ARLINGTON, Va., June 7, 2011—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today joined Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and No Kid Hungry National Campaign spokesperson Jeff Bridges to launch the Virginia No Kid Hungry Campaign, a public-private partnership that will work to connect Virginia's children and teens to school breakfast and child care nutrition programs, including summer meals programs. As many schools begin their summer recess, Vilsack highlighted the importance of USDA's Summer Food Service Program to help children get the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow throughout the summer months when they are out of school.

"The health and wellbeing of our nation is dependent on the health of our children, and no child should ever have to go hungry," said Vilsack. "USDA works to provide low-income kids nutritious meals during the school year and in the summer so they can learn, grow, and reach their full potential. We know that our strength comes from our partnerships, and it will take everyone—government agencies, educators, elected officials, corporations, advocates and community leaders—to ensure that our children have a healthy start in life."

The campaign is an example of the strength of public-private partnerships that will work to connect Virginia's more than 1.8 million children and teens to school breakfast and child care nutrition programs. More than 218,000 children and teens in Virginia face hunger, and studies have shown that during the summer, children are at an even higher risk for both hunger and obesity because they lose access to regular, nutritious school meals. The Virginia Summer Meals for Kids Program, funded by the USDA, provides children free summer meals at hundreds of sites across the Commonwealth. However, more than 80 percent of those eligible for free and reduced-price school meals who can get free summer meals, don't participate. 

In 2009, over 50 million individuals in the United States, or 16.6 percent of the population, lived in food insecure households. Children are most at risk. During the same time frame, over 17 million children lived in food insecure households. These homes had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources at some time during the year. The anti-hunger initiatives announced today, along with the Stakeholder Guide to Ending Childhood Hunger recently published on USDA's Food and Nutrition Service website, are all tools to help individuals and families put food on the table.

As of October 1, 2010, USDA passed administration of Virginia's SFSP to the Virginia Department of Health's (VDH) division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Food Programs (NuPAFP). SFSP provides federal funding to eligible sponsor organizations to provide meals and snacks to lower income children during the summer months when school is not in session. SFSP sponsor organizations can be a school, camp, governmental entity, private non-profit organization, or a college participating in the National Youth Sports Program. Nationally, SFSP serves 2 million children a day.

Improving child nutrition is also a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that was signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010. This legislation reauthorizes USDA'S child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, which serves nearly 32 million children each day. It will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative. To learn more, visit www.LetsMove.gov.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.

 

Release No.
0253.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

<p align="center" class="BodyTextBlack"><i>Student Chefs Compete for Grand Prize in National Cook-Off </i></p>

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the finalists in First Lady Michelle Obama's Recipes for Healthy Kids competition, a national contest to promote healthy eating among children. The first place recipes from categories of Whole Grains, Dark Green and Orange Vegetables, and Dry Beans and Peas will compete for the Grand Prize at a national cook-off event during the American Culinary Federation National Convention in Dallas, Texas, on July 25.

"Creating and consuming nutritious meals provides a foundation for healthy lives among America's children," said Vilsack. "The Obama administration supports the many innovative strategies in place that enable our schoolchildren to learn, thrive, grow – and ultimately win the future. We congratulate these teams on their hard work, creativity, and dedication to improving the health and nutrition of kids across the country."

USDA and the First Lady launched the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition last September, challenging teams of school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, and community members to develop creative, nutritious, and kid-approved recipes that schools can easily incorporate into National School Lunch Program menus. The contest is a component of the First Lady's broader Let's Move! initiative that also includes Chefs Move to Schools, which encourages chefs to work with schools in their communities.

The public also had the opportunity to vote on their favorite selection in the Popular Choice Award. The honoree for the Popular Choice Award, Tasty Tots from Bellingham Memorial Middle School Bellingham, Mass., will receive $1,500.

The first, second, and runner-up winning recipes and schools for each category are:

Dark Green and Orange Vegetables

  • First Place: Central Valley Harvest Bake, Joshua Cowell School, Manteca, Calif.
  • Second Place: Stir-Fry Fajita Chicken, Squash, and Corn, Monument Valley High School, Kayenta Unified School District, Kayenta, Ariz.
  • Runner-up: Crunchy Hawaiian Chicken Wrap, Mount Lebanon Elementary School, Pendleton, S.C.

Whole Grains

  • First Place: Porcupine Sliders, Intermediate District 287, South Education Center Alternative, Richfield, Minn.
  • Second Place: Chic' Penne, Harold S. Winograd K-8 School Mission, Greeley, Colo.
  • Runner-up: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Bellingham Memorial Middle School, Bellingham, Mass.

Dry Beans and Peas

  • First Place: Tuscan Smoked Turkey & Bean Soup, Ira B. Jones Elementary School, Asheville, N.C.
  • Second Place: Lentils of the Southwest, Sweeney Elementary School, Santa Fe Public Schools, Santa Fe, N.M.
  • Runner-up: Confetti Soup, Burke Middle and High School, Charleston County School District, Charleston, S.C.

To recognize and share the culinary creativity nationwide, the top ten recipes in each category will be published in a Recipes for Healthy Kids Cookbook to share with students and families.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs. Improving child nutrition is also a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that was signed in to law by President Obama in December 2010. This legislation authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program, which serves nearly 32 million children each day. It will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative. To learn more, visit www.LetsMove.gov.

 

Release No.
0255.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

<p align="center" class="BodyTextBlack"><i>Participation in the Universal Meal Service Option Targets Nutrition in High-Poverty Areas</i></p>

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2011 – USDA announced today that Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee were selected to participate in the initial year of an innovative universal free meal service option that makes it easier for low-income children to receive meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The "Community Eligibility Option" will allow schools in high-poverty areas to eliminate the use of applications and provide free breakfast and lunch to all students.

"Community eligibility is a great way for schools to cut through burdensome red tape for themselves and low-income families so that children in high-poverty areas have access to the nutrition they need to learn and thrive," said Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. "Schools will benefit from reduced paperwork, parents will not have to fill out duplicative forms, and children in need will get better access to healthy school meals."

Under this option, schools utilize preexisting data to determine the amount of reimbursement they can claim from USDA. The determination is primarily based on the percentage of households in that community who are already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. Schools that utilize this option agree to provide meals to all children free of charge, and USDA reimburses them for the appropriate amount based on this preexisting data. Under this option, schools will still be responsible for paying the remaining difference between the Federal reimbursement amount and the total cost to operate the program.

The Community Eligibility Option is among the early reforms enacted as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010. The Act requires the Community Eligibility Option to be phased-in over three years and authorizes USDA to select up to three states to participate in the option in School Year 2011-12. The Option will be offered to additional states in successive years, and will be available to all states beginning School Year 2014-15.

For the phase-in period, the law requires USDA to select states "with an adequate number and variety of schools and local educational agencies that could benefit from" the Community Eligibility option. USDA identified ten states as eligible to apply for consideration for participation in the initial school year and, based on a review of information submitted by these states, USDA selected Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee for School Year 2011-2012.

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The legislation authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative's goal to end childhood obesity in a generation.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.

 

Release No.
0296.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

<p align="center" class="BodyTextBlack"><i>Changes will Engage Local Communities to Promote Healthier Lifestyles for Children</i></p>

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2011 - USDA announced today improvements included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 that will enhance local wellness policies in schools in order to promote healthier lifestyles for children. Local wellness policies are an important tool for parents, local educational agencies and school districts to promote student wellness, prevent and reduce childhood obesity, and provide assurance that school meal nutrition guidelines meet the minimum federal school meal standards. Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program were required to have local wellness policies in place beginning in the 2006-2007 School Year.

"Parents understand that our commitment to teaching children healthy lifestyles requires local communities working together to make wellness a priority." said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The updated local school wellness policies will help bring more people into this process in order to ensure kids are surrounded by a healthy school environment."

Provisions set forth in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 supersede previous requirements and expand the scope of wellness policies. The law now requires that additional stakeholders be included in the development, implementation and review of the wellness policies. Schools are now required to inform and update the public (including parents, students, and others in the community) about the content and implementation of the local wellness policies. These provisions will be effective beginning in the coming 2011-2012 school year.

The Food and Nutrition Service will be updating the local wellness policy materials on the FNS website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/healthy/wellnesspolicy.html. FNS is also working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Education to provide technical assistance on local wellness policies for local educational agencies, school food authorities, and State agencies. By working with agencies and authorities vested in students' health and wellness, we are convinced that we can ensure a healthier school environment for children.

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The legislation authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative's goal to end childhood obesity in a generation.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov  for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.

Release No.
0300.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 11, 2011 — USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Janey Thornton today highlighted the importance of USDA Foods and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act during the 2011 School Nutrition Association national convention. Thornton joined thousands of school nutrition professionals at the three-day event which offers an opportunity for a dialogue on the administration's efforts to ensure healthier meals in the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs.

"The School Nutrition Association is a strong partner in the Obama Administration's effort to ensure that our nation's school children are provided the most nutritious food possible," said USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Janey Thornton. "For many children, the food they receive in school is their primary source of nutrition. By working closely with our school nutrition professionals, we are creating the healthy school environment needed to ensure our children are engaged and productive learners."

With one in every three children in America at risk for preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease due to overweight and obesity, school nutrition improvements are an investment in improving our children's future and are critical to helping them maintain optimal health. School meals currently reach nearly 32 million children each school day nationwide, and many children consume as many as half their daily calories at school.

USDA purchases between 15-20 percent of the foods served in school meals. USDA offers more than 180 nutritious foods, including more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and foods that are lower in fat, salt, and added sugars than ever before. Schools are choosing to use USDA Foods in more healthful ways. Many schools have eliminated fried foods and have opted to showcase USDA Foods as part of lower sodium menu items that appeal to children. USDA Foods are 100 percent American-grown, support American agriculture, and help schools stretch their food budgets. The 101,000 schools and institutions that participate in the National School Lunch Program are thinking more and more creatively about how to serve healthful options that kids will enjoy.

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation, which reauthorized the Child Nutrition and WIC programs, will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school meals programs improve the nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Act is the legislative centerpiece of the Let's Move! initiative.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. The programs work together to form a national safety net against hunger. The National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide nutritionally balanced, free and low-cost meals to nearly 32 million school children each school day. SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, puts healthy food in reach for more than 44 million Americans each month, half of whom are children.

Release No.
0303.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

<p align="center" class="BodyTextBlack"><i>USDA Publishes Findings on National Farm to School Effort that Provides New Economic Opportunities for Farmers</i></p>

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 12, 2011 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today highlighted the importance of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and announced the findings of USDA's first Farm to School report during the 2011 School Nutrition Association national convention. Merrigan delivered remarks to thousands of school nutrition professionals at the three-day event which provided an opportunity to discuss the Obama administration's efforts to improve the health and nutrition of meals served through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.

"By working closely with school nutrition professionals, the Obama Administration is promoting initiatives that provide kids with access to nutritious foods and information to teach them healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime" said Merrigan. "Farm to school programs are a great way to bring more fresh, local produce into school cafeterias and support local farmers as well. Many schools are also using Farm to School programs to teach students where their food comes from through nutrition education."

A USDA Farm to School Team was established late in 2009 as a result of discussions within the department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which seeks to create new economic opportunities by promoting local and regional food systems that help keep wealth in rural communities. These discussions focused on the need to develop strategies to enhance market opportunities for local farmers as well as the need to better connect farmers with consumers and thereby increase public understanding of American agriculture. Farm to School was quickly identified as a strategy that could potentially contribute to both goals.

During 2010, the team visited 15 school districts across the country that were involved in farm to school related activities in varying capacities, reviewed resource materials, participated in national and regional conferences and consulted with other organizations that worked with the farm to school community. The report published today summarizes the observations of these activities. This report also provides suggestions for further action by USDA to support schools in obtaining fresh and healthy food from their local and regional food systems. USDA's Farm to School Team found that communities are passionate about providing locally grown products to schools and work hard to overcome challenges such as the limited availability of local agricultural products and difficulties with processing and storage. For more information or to view the report, please visit the USDA Farm to School website at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/F2S/.

Merrigan also announced that USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food Nutrition Service (FNS) will conduct a pilot for acquiring fresh fruits and vegetables to build on farm-to-school programs in Florida and Michigan. The pilot will use commercial distribution models already in place and allow schools to obtain locally grown produce. Additionally, USDA's National Agricultural Library published a new resource titled 'Farm to School: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography. To view the bibliography, please visit the USDA Farm to School website at: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/srb1102.shtml

With one in every three children in America at risk for preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease due to overweight and obesity, school nutrition improvements are an investment in improving our children's future and are critical to helping them maintain optimal health, she said. School meals currently reach nearly 32 million children each school day nationwide, and many children consume as many as half their daily calories at school.

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation, which reauthorized the Child Nutrition programs, will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school meals programs improve the nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Act is the legislative centerpiece of the Let's Move! initiative.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. The programs work together to form a national safety net against hunger. The National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide nutritionally balanced, free and low-cost meals to nearly 32 million school children each school day. SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, puts healthy food in reach for more than 44 million Americans each month, half of whom are children.

Release No.
0317.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2011 –Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today joined local, state, and national partners at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference to discuss efforts to combat hunger and improve the nutritional health of Hispanics, especially children.

"USDA is committed to ensuring that all Latino families in the United States have access to nutritious foods, which will help them stay healthy, active and able to win their future," said Vilsack. "Our valued partners at La Raza and its affiliates are uniquely positioned to create and implement sustainable solutions to ending hunger and help us reach the most vulnerable members of our communities. We need to work together in setting a table for everyone to have access to healthy, affordable food."

In his remarks, Secretary Vilsack outlined a comprehensive approach to combating hunger and obesity in the Latino community. Recent studies show 17.4 million American households were at risk for hunger in 2009, including one in four Latino families. Among them, Hispanic households with children were more likely than average to face very low food security among children. At the same time, obesity remains the fastest growing public health issue in the United States. Roughly one-third of American children are overweight or obese, putting that same proportion of children at risk for diabetes, with the rate in Latino communities reaching nearly one-half.

USDA remains committed to addressing the dual challenges of childhood hunger and obesity – both fueled by a lack of proper nutrition. USDA provides nutrition assistance to 1 in 4 Americans, but there are still many people who are eligible for assistance programs and are not enrolled. SNAP, the nation's largest nutrition assistance program, provides nutrition education and helps put healthy food on the table for more than 44 million people each month, half of whom are children. However, only 56 percent of eligible Hispanics access these critical benefits.

"At a time when 40 percent of Latino children are either overweight or obese, and a third of Latino families with children are threatened by hunger, it is important that Latino families know that USDA programs can make the difference in providing good food on the table," said Lisa Pino, USDA's Deputy Director of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. "That's why it's imperative to work with partners like NCLR to reach more people in need and help them access critical nutrition benefits."

Improving child nutrition is also the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Obama on December 13, 2010. The legislation authorizes

USDA's child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to school meals and increase access to these critical programs. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is also the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit http://www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.

Release No.
0002.11

Contact:
Aaron Wiley (404) 562-1811

Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe Highlights Key Reforms in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to Improve School Meal Quality

ATLANTA, August 16, 2011—USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe today highlighted Obama administration efforts to improve school nutrition and foster healthy lifestyle choices by America’s school-age children during a visit to Sherwood Acres Elementary Magnet School in Albany, Ga.

Rowe said key reforms enacted through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 will improve the nutritional quality of school meals and strengthen the school environment for the nation’s schoolchildren. Rowe also lauded USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge, which is designed to improve school nutrition and expand opportunities for physical activity.

“By providing America’s children with the healthiest foods possible while at school,” she said, “we can reinforce the healthy lifestyles that many parents are already teaching their children at home, which will put them in a position to thrive, grow and ultimately reach their full potential.”

As children head back to school this fall USDA will work with schools on improving the nutritional quality of food sold to children through six major components supported by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act:

  • Updated nutrition standards for school meals based on expert recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.  USDA is reviewing over 132,000 comments from schools, States, parents and others on a proposed rule in order to complete a final rule.
  • Science-based standards for all foods sold in school. These first ever national standards will ensure that foods and beverages sold in vending machines and other venues on school campuses contribute to a healthy diet.
  • Increased funding for schools.  The Act made the first real increase in school meal payments in 30 years – tied to strong performance in serving improved meals.  The criteria to earn the increase will be ready when updated standards go into effect.
  • Common-sense standards for revenue provided to school food authorities from non-Federal sources, to ensure that these revenues keep pace with the Federal commitment to healthy school meals and properly align with costs.
  • Training and technical assistance to help schools achieve and monitor compliance.  We are planning new training strategies to accompany the new nutrition standards.
  • Healthy offerings through the USDA Foods program.  USDA Foods are a critical part of the National School Lunch Program, constituting approximately 15-20% of the school lunch plate.  Guided by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, USDA has made sweeping changes in the nutritional quality of these foods to further reduce fat, sodium, and added sugars.  The Act requires the Department to purchase a wide variety of USDA Foods that support healthy meals and develop model specifications for foods purchased and served in the National School Lunch Program.

These school food improvements will be supported by other changes in the school environment, such as physical activity and nutrition education reforms, and strengthened local school wellness policies.  The Act expands the scope of these policies and increases transparency and local participation. HHKFA provisions in effect this year to increase access to critical nutrition programs includes:

  • Promoting School Breakfast Programs.  Research has shown that starting the day with a nutritious breakfast helps students stay alert and perform better in school.
  • Expanding At-Risk Afterschool Meals to all states participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Administrator Rowe also recognized hundreds of schools that have already made great progress toward achieving school meals reforms – and can serve as models for others seeking to make improvements. She announced that we reached our goal with more than 1,250 schools receiving HealthierUS School Challenge honors for expanding nutrition and physical activity opportunities. Last year, the First Lady and USDA challenged the nation’s communities to double the number of HUSSC schools within  a year – reaching 1,250 schools by the end of June 2011. HUSSC is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. USDA also took the opportunity to launch the Healthy Access Locator, a web-based resource that geographically pinpoints HUSSC award-winning schools and features built-in data on diet-related diseases. 

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service oversees 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. The programs work together to form a national safety net against hunger. The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs provide nutritionally balanced, free and low-cost meals to nearly 32 million school children each school day. SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, puts healthy food in reach for more than 44 million Americans each month, half of whom are children.

 

Release No.
0450.11

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

Schools Meet First Lady's HealthierUS School Challenge Goal with Over 1250 Receiving Honors for Expanding Nutrition and Physical Activity Opportunities'

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama to honor schools taking part in USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge. The First Lady hosted a reception on the South Lawn to honor the 1,273 schools that met her goal to double the number of participants in the Challenge in a year. The Challenge recognizes schools that create healthier school environments by providing exceptional nutrition education, nutritious food and beverage choices, physical education and opportunities for physical activity.

"Educators see firsthand the impact that childhood obesity has on our children's lives -not just on their physical and emotional health, but on their academic success as well. That's why our nation's educators have been leaders in this movement to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in America," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Today, we're not just thanking these educators, but encouraging them to continue that leadership, to reach out and help other schools by sharing good ideas and best practices, and encouraging and inspiring each other. The HealthierUS Schools Competition is a competition every school in America can win. And when our schools win, our kids win and our country wins."

"Achieving the HealthierUS School Challenge recognition demonstrates a school's deep commitment to create and maintain a healthy school environment," Vilsack said. "The schools we are recognizing today have already made great progress toward meeting the school meals improvements set forth in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act - and can serve as models for others seeking to make improvements. By providing access to nutritious foods and promoting physical activity in our schools, we can reinforce the healthy habits that many parents are already teaching at home and help our children reach their full potential."

The HealthierUS School Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. In February 2010, USDA and the First Lady called on stakeholders to double the number of Challenge schools - a goal reached in June 2011 - and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that.

The Challenge schools honored at the White House voluntarily agreed to provide healthy meals based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods, and fat-free or low fat milk. Challenge schools also have to agree to provide nutrition education and to provide opportunities for physical activity. Schools participating in the Challenge are recognized with Gold Award of Distinction, Gold, Silver, or Bronze-level certification. Click here to view a full list of Challenge schools.

Improving child nutrition is also the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation reauthorized the National School Lunch Program and USDA's other child nutrition programs. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to school meals and increase access to these critical programs.

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. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.