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Healthy school initiative tops goal

Healthier US School Challenge
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on the "HealthierUS School Challenge" program at the White House on Monday. With her, from left, are 12-year-old Alex Roman from Walsh Elementary School in Chicago, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Becke Bounds, child nutrition director at Lamar County School District in Mississippi. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The Obama administration has exceeded its goal in convincing schools to take part in the Agriculture Department’s Healthier U.S. School Challenge, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week.

At a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, Vilsack announced that 1,631 schools are participating in the challenge, more than the 1,250 that the administration had tried to recruit by this time.

While the first lady thanked the educators, who came from areas as varied as Mississippi and North Dakota, and praised the children present for participating, Vilsack took a serious tone, noting that one third of American children are overweight or obese and that it is important to reduce childhood obesity because it has implications for performance in school, for the nation’s health costs and the country’s health costs and military preparedness.

The challenge schools honored at the White House voluntarily agreed to provide healthy meals based on USDA’s dietary guidelines, including a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods, and fat-free or low fat milk. Challenge schools also have to agree to provide nutrition education and to provide opportunities for physical activity. The challenge is a part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” program.