Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Addresses the School Nutrition Association, Issues Call to Action for Child Nutrition Stakeholders
Vilsack Urges Enrollment in USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge
WASHINGTON, March 3, 2010 – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke to the School Nutrition Association and highlighted the Obama Administration’s priorities for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and issued a call to stakeholders to improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children. To highlight the nexus between nutrition and physical activity and USDA’s collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a call to action to parents, community leaders, schools and elected officials to improve the nutrition and physical activity habits of our children by working together to double the number of HealthierUS Schools across the country.
“The reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act is an important opportunity to improve the health of our children and reduce hunger in this country but the federal government cannot do it alone because it’s people who work in our schools that are on the front line of providing healthier meals, nutrition education and enabling more physical activity,” said Vilsack. “I am challenging parents, educators, nutrition experts, and community leaders to join us in doubling the number of HealthierUS Schools across the country in the next year because we all have a stake in improving the health and nutrition of our children.”
The Obama Administration has proposed a historic investment of an additional $10 billion over ten years starting in 2011 that will allow for the improvement of the quality of the School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, increase the number of kids participating, and ensure schools have the resources they need to make program changes, including training for school food service workers, upgraded kitchen equipment, and additional funding for meal reimbursements for schools that are enhancing nutrition and quality. Additionally, this investment will allow additional fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products to be served in our school cafeterias and an additional one million students to be served the healthy diets in school.
Already, the administration has announced its plans to improve school meals, a financing initiative to reduce food deserts, new research tools that detail local food environments and health outcomes, including grocery store access and disease and obesity prevalence, and a broad range of public/private partnerships to solve America’s childhood obesity epidemic.
The HealthierUS School Challenge recognizes schools that do an exceptional job promoting meal participation, meal quality, nutrition education, and physical activity. To highlight this program as the gold standard that we should expect of all our schools, last fall USDA expanded the HealthierUS School Challenge to middle and high schools. And in announcing the Let’s Move! initiative, the First Lady called on stakeholders to double the number of participating schools in the next year and to reach 3,000 within the next three years. USDA is working with administering state agencies and a range of other partners, from professional sports leagues and youth associations to promote the program and meet this goal.
“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 (NSLP) are a vital resource that help children develop healthy eating and lifestyle choices that will be with them for a lifetime. Only by working together can we improve school meals and work to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.”
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) was established to recognize schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. Four levels of superior performance are awarded: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold of Distinction. Schools can participate in this model program by going to the HealthierUS School Challenge web page to learn about the range of educational and technical assistance materials that promote key aspects of the Dietary Guidelines. The website includes a menu planner for healthy school meals, and provides tips on serving more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lower amounts of sugar, sodium, and saturated and trans fats in school menus.
Operating in more than 101,000 public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions nationwide, the NSLP works in concert with FNS’s other nutrition assistance programs to form a national safety net against hunger. It provides school children of all economic backgrounds with a well-balanced, healthy meal that is designed to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In some cases, the school lunch is the main daily meal for a needy child.
More information about USDA’s efforts to improve child nutrition can be found at www.usda.gov. Additional information on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign is at www.LetsMove.gov.