First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke to education stakeholders on a conference call today 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.”
“Students do better in schools when they have a balanced diet and regular exercise,” Secretary Duncan said. “To make sure we’re preparing students in every way possible to be successful in school, we need to teach them how a healthy lifestyle can effectively impact their ability to learn now, in college and throughout their careers. The HealthierUS School Challenge is a great opportunity for administrators, school leaders, teachers and student to share their hard work toward promoting nutrition and physical education, and encourage other schools to take on the challenge.”
“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,” Secretary Vilsack said. “Over the past year, individuals and organizations around the country have come together to improve school meals and get kids active, helping us make progress toward certifying 1,250 schools in the HealthierUS School Challenge. It is critical that we continue to work together to encourage schools to become part of this initiative so we can reward schools that do an exceptional job promoting meal participation, meal quality, nutrition education and physical activity.”
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, visit: http://www.letsmove.gov/chefs-step-2.php. To access the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s application kit, visit http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/healthierchallengeapplicationkit.html.