DALLAS, Texas (USDA) — First Lady Michelle Obama joined students, Top Chef chef'testants and the Dallas Cowboys at the Kleberg-Rylie Recreation Center today to highlight the Dallas Independent School Districts efforts to foster healthy, nutritious school environments as part of her three-day nationwide tour celebrating the second anniversary of Let's Move!
"The First Lady's visit showcases the leadership role schools and school nutrition professionals play in shaping healthier eating and active lifestyle choices," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The schools honored today for their HealthierUS School Challenge achievements are at the core of the nation's efforts to combat childhood obesity."
In February 2010, USDA and the First Lady called on stakeholders to double the number of Challenge schools - a milestone reached in June 2011 – and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that. The First Lady announced today that 2,862 schools have now met the HealthierUS School Challenge, surpassing the goals of this key component of her Let's Move! initiative.
Participating schools voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve and agree to provide nutrition education while offering greater opportunities for physical activity. Schools can earn bronze, silver, gold and gold with distinction awards in the HealthierUS School Challenge. The Dallas Independent School District has the most gold schools of any district in the country.
The First Lady joined chef'testants from past seasons of the Bravo cable channel hit series "Top Chef" and Dallas Cowboy players to highlight the work being done in school cafeterias across the country. Chefs have played a vital role in the Let's Move! initiative, teaming up with schools all across the country to work with school chefs on healthy school meals and teach kids about the importance of a nutritious diet. Approximately 3,400 chefs and 3,350 schools have signed up for Chefs Move to Schools, and the First Lady will announce a coalition that is working together to expand the program.
Since launching Let's Move! on February 9, 2010, significant progress has been made to solve the problem of childhood obesity. Parents, businesses, educators, elected officials, members of the military, chefs, physicians, athletes, childcare providers, community and faith-based leaders and kids themselves have made substantial commitments to improve the health of our nation's children. Working with the Let's Move! initiative, these groups have provided children with healthier foods and greater opportunities for physical activity in schools and communities, helped families get the information they need to make healthier decisions, supported a healthy start in early childhood, and worked to ensure that more people have access to healthy, affordable food.
The legislative centerpiece of the Let's Move! initiative, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 marked a great win for the nearly 32 million school children that participate in the National School Lunch Program and the 12 million school children that participate in the School Breakfast Program each school day. Key accomplishments from the Act in the first year include:
- Nutrition Standards for School Meals: USDA proposed new meal patterns and nutrition standards that align school meals with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, analyzed over 130,000 public comments, and used them in drafting a final regulation for publication.
- Common Sense Standards for Revenue: USDA issued new rules to ensure that all revenues from school food sales keep pace with the Federal commitment to healthy school meals and properly align with costs, providing local schools as much as $7.5 billion over 5 years to invest in healthier meals for children.
- Nationwide Expansion of At-Risk Afterschool Meals: USDA worked closely with states to expand the availability of afterschool meals across the nation through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. USDA estimates this expansion could provide supper to an additional 140,000 kids in low-income areas.
- Categorical Eligibility for Foster Children: USDA issued guidance and provided technical assistance to states to ensure that more than 400,000 children in foster care are certified to receive free meals in all USDA child nutrition programs.
- Strengthening Direct Certification: USDA provided guidance, technical assistance and grant funding to states to improve their direct certification systems to help more children already receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).
- Implementing Community Eligibility: USDA is working with three states – Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan – to implement a "community eligibility" approach to reimburse schools for meals without the need for paper applications.
- Simplified Area Eligibility for Family Day Care Homes: USDA provided guidance to states to simplify the kinds of information that family day care home providers can use to qualify for participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
- Improved School Wellness Promotion: USDA provided guidance to enhance local wellness policies in schools in order to promote healthier lifestyles for children.
- Bolster Farm to School Connections: New USDA policy ensures that children have access to fresh produce and other agricultural products and give a much-needed boost to local farmers and agricultural producers.
FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that, in addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and National School Lunch Program, also include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Summer Food Service Program. Taken together, these programs comprise America's nutrition safety net. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.