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Healthier schools challenge exceeds goals

The Agriculture Department announced this week that 3,717 schools are now certified in the HealthierUS School Challenge, exceeding the goal for an initiative that boosts the health and nutrition of the nation's schoolchildren.

The school challenge is one of the key parts of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation.

Janey Thornton
Janey Thornton
“USDA committed to working with schools across the nation to reach the goal of having 2,250 HealthierUS School Challenge-certified schools by the end of June 2012,” said Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.

“USDA and its partners not only succeeded in meeting that milestone, but have also surpassed the goal set for June 2013, a year ahead of schedule,” she said.

Participating schools are recognized with gold, silver or bronze certification for adopting USDA standards for food and beverage offerings,for teaching the importance of nutritious food and physical activity,for providing opportunities for physical activity, and for having supportive school wellness policies.

The International Dairy Foods Association, which represents dairy processors, congratulated the administration on exceeding the goal for the number of schools.

“We are encouraged by the success of the program because milk and dairy play an important role in providing essential nutrition to school-age children," IDFA noted in a news release.

IDFA also noted that the HealthierUS Schools Challenge program criteria requires that schools serve only healthy beverage choices, which USDA has defined as low-fat and fat-fat milk, 100 percent fruit juice, and non-sweetened, non-carbonated water. These recommendations also include an increase in low-fat dairy products among the updated nutrition standards for school meals.