The Newton Community School District was recently recognized for its efforts to improve the health of its students. That recognition comes with a small financial award, as well.
Last week, the NCSD Nutrition Department was informed that each of the four schools had been recognized as meeting the HealthierUS School Challenge, a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Each of the four — Aurora Heights, Berg, Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson elementary schools — was identified as a “Silver Award School.”
The HealthierUS School Challenge was adopted as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2010 “Let’s Move” campaign. It recognizes schools that are promoting good nutrition and physical activity, according to Team Nutrition Co-Director Patti Delger of the Iowa Department of Education.
“We appreciate all of the hard work your schools are doing to be some of the healthiest schools in the nation,” Delger said in her announcement notice to the school district. “I am happy to assist with helping you plan ceremonies at each of your schools to celebrate this prestigious award of nutrition and physical activity excellence.”
To qualify for an award, a school must submit a formal application, have a local school wellness policy and meet basic criteria set forth by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. The program’s criteria reflect the recommendations of the “2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” and the Institute of Medicine’s April 2007 recommendations for foods that should be served in schools, outside of the organized school lunch meals.
Officials with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service said the initiative encourages all schools take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices.
To qualify for a HealthierUS School Challenge award, a school must make changes to its “nutrition environment” in order to:
• improve the quality of the foods served,
• provide students with nutrition education, and
• provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.
USDA Food and Nutrition Service officials grade each school building on these efforts. Those who qualify for the four highest levels — from Bronze up to Gold Award of Distinction — receive a monetary incentive, an award plaque, and a banner to display.
The Silver Award is the third-highest level of distinction. NCSD will receive $1,000 on behalf of each of the schools, which are qualified for the program through April 2017. Each school must now commit to meeting all of the qualifying criteria throughout its four-year certification period.