School Nutrition: Healthier School Lunches
The Healthiest Schools in America
The USDA has applauded more than a thousand schools for ramping up nutrition and physical activity programs. Here, what five districts are doing to keep kids healthy
Going for Gold
They’re Leaders of the Lunchroom
They Make Healthy Eating Fun
They Go Local to Get Healthy
They Put Kids in Control
They’re Small but Mighty
Going for Gold
Image: Julie M. Tucker
Does your child’s school help kids stay fit and healthy? If it’s one of the 1,250 schools recognized by the USDA as part of the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), the answer is probably yes.
The list, which was released last month, acknowledges schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have received HUSSC certification recognizing excellence in child nutrition and physical activity. The voluntary program is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity within a single generation.
To become certified, schools must offer a different vegetable at lunch each day of the week (of these five vegetables, three must be dark green or orange), provide one serving of beans or peas per week, offer a different fruit each day of the week (fresh fruit must be an option 1 or 2 days per week), provide whole grains 3 to 5 days a week, and supply students with only low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk products. (Search: How many servings of fruits and vegetables do my kids need each day?) Schools must also demonstrate a dedication to nutrition education, provide ample opportunities for physical activity, and implement guidelines for “competitive foods,” those sold in vending machines throughout the school.
When schools meet or exceed HUSSC criteria, they may apply for four levels of certification—Bronze, Silver, Gold, and the Gold Award of Distinction, all of which include cash incentives of $500 to $2,000. To date, more than 1,250 schools (visit www.fns.usda.gov for a full list of recipients) have received HUSSC honors with representatives from all districts invited to attend a White House reception in October.
Curious about how healthier foods are faring in school cafeterias, we chatted with nutrition directors from several HUSSC-certified schools to learn more about their secrets to success. From buying local to turning nutrition into a song-and-dance routine, here’s what five districts are doing to make student wellness a top priority.