Sunday, October 16, 2011

First Lady Hosts White House Party For HealthierUS School Challenge Winners

1,250 out of more than 94,000 eligible schools are Challenge participants...
UPDATE: Click here for the post about the event
First Lady Michelle Obama will keep a Let's Move! campaign promise when she hosts a reception on the South Lawn this afternoon to honor schools that have met her goal of doubling the number of participants in the HealthierUS School Challenge in a year. Mrs. Obama promised the party last March, and as of August 2011, there are 1,250 schools certified in the program, a cornerstone of her childhood obesity campaign. School cafeteria professionals, nutrition directors, and principals from across the nation will join Mrs. Obama.

The USDA-run HealthierUS Schools Challenge (HUSC) rewards schools participating in the National School Lunch Program for voluntarily adopting USDA standards for foods served in cafeterias, and for providing students with nutrition education and opportunities for physical activity. Schools are recognized with cash grants and plaques in a four-tiered system: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold of Distinction. In September of 2010, Mrs. Obama set a goal of doubling the number of schools that qualified for Challenge award status in just one year, and by February of 2011, there were 552 schools with HUSC certification. She met her doubling goal in August.

Just about 1.3% of eligible US schools have qualified...
But while Mrs. Obama managed to double the number of schools participating in the Challenge, there's a long way to go: The current number of schools that are certified represent just a little more than 1% of schools that could be certified. More than 32 million children are fed through the federally funded National School Lunch Program, with "nearly" 95,000 schools and residential child care institutions participating, according to USDA. Today's party is designed to call attention to the HUSC, and encourage more schools to get involved, in addition to honoring those who have created best-practice child health environments. Click here for a link to award winning schools.

In March of 2011, Mrs. Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and White House Domestic Policy Chair Melody Barnes spoke on a White House conference call to encourage participation in the Challenge, and it was then that the First Lady sweetened the deal with the promise of a White House party. Vilsack also announced $5.5 million in Team Nutrition Training Grants for Healthy Meals to help schools meet Challenge requirements.

The White House shindig was originally scheduled for this summer, but was postponed until today.

*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama

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