WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted positive changes in the school meals programs to promote children's health during National School Lunch Week, Oct. 10-14. USDA, along with its partners, celebrate the program's accomplishments, including the achievements of HealthierUS School Challenge honorees and the enactment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
"Historic reforms in USDA's school meals programs have helped strengthen the nutritional habits of millions of American children," said Vilsack. "USDA's commitment to improving the quality and standards of food in our schools, coupled with efforts to increase physical activity, will enable more children to lead healthier lifestyles and put them on a path to a brighter future."
Since President Obama signed the HHFKA into law last December, USDA has worked to implement the Act's reforms, including provisions to simplify program administration, expand access and improve nutrition in school meals. And over 1,500 schools across the country have made improvements as part of the Healthier US School Challenge, a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. Participating schools voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, agree to provide nutrition education, and offer greater opportunities for physical activity.
The theme of this year's National School Lunch Week is "School Lunch – Let's Grow Healthy" and places special emphasis on Farm to School efforts. The initiative connects schools with regional or local farms to serve healthy meals using locally produced foods.
USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said, "Farm to school activities not only inject fresh, locally-produced food into school meals programs, but also provide small farmers with new marketing opportunities and school children with the chance to learn about how food is produced and harvested for consumption."
This week, USDA will visit many schools across the nation to celebrate NSLW. Schools include:
- Highland Gardens Elementary School in Montgomery, Ala.
- Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington, Va.
- Hiawatha Elementary School and Taylor Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
- George Washington Elementary School in Baltimore, Md.
- Knoxville Middle School in Knoxville, Iowa.
- Hort Elementary School, (Bakersfield), Calif.
- West Salem Elementary School, West Salem, Wis.
The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 has brought historic reform to school meal programs. The law takes new steps to address childhood obesity by setting nutritional standards for foods sold in schools, updating requirements for school wellness policies, and providing more nutritional information to parents. It also works to eliminate hunger during the school day by increasing the number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs and removing barriers to school meals for children most in need.
First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative has worked with schools nationwide to create healthy opportunities for children. This year, we exceeded our goal of doubling the number of schools that meet the HealthierUS School Challenge. We have also engaged child care providers in adopting healthier practices, and this year 1.7 million Americans achieved the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.
To advance our goals even further, Let's Move! has collaborated with individuals and organizations across our Nation to bring over 800 salad bars to schools, providing thousands of children with greater access to fruits and vegetables. School nutrition professionals, chefs, students, parents, and communities have also used their talents to develop nutritious foods for schools through the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition and the Chefs Move to Schools initiative.