More and more Florida schools are meeting the challenge to make lunchrooms and kids smarter about health and nutrition.
As of fall 2017, 315 Florida schools met requirements for the HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms, a voluntary certification program recognizing schools that improve food and beverage options for students, offer nutrition education, and promote exercise. Schools must meet a minimum level of defined criteria that encompasses everything from offering smarter snack choices to meeting standards for physical activity.
Together, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) promote and manage the certification. They recognize deserving schools at various levels within the program, including Bronze, Silver, Gold or Gold Award of Distinction, depending on the number of criteria met.
“The HealthierUS Challenge: Smarter Lunchroom initiatives motivated us to make the necessary changes to apply for this award,” says Deborah Brintley, registered dietitian for the School District of Osceola County. “As a district, we met most of the requirements anyway, so it helped us focus more on the things we were not doing.”
Every day, Osceola County elementary schools offer at least four to five vegetable options, three to six fruit options, and a variety of whole-grain or whole-wheat products. Most meats contain less than 10 percent saturated fat. Meanwhile, the district’s physical education department meets the program’s requirements to keep kids moving.
By the end of the 2017 school year, Brintley expects all of the district’s 28 elementary schools to achieve certification with HealthierUS Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms program.
Florida’s growth in this health and nutrition program has increased significantly in the last five years. Now at more than 300 schools, Florida started out with just 27 certified schools in 2012, when FDACS assumed responsibility of the state’s school nutrition programs.
For more information and a list of award-winning schools, go to fns.usda.gov and search “HUSSC.”