For Immediate Release: January 28 2014
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(MEDFORD) – New Jersey Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Agriculture officials today presented Chairville Elementary School, Cranberry Pines School, Kirby’s Mill Elementary School, Milton H. Allen Elementary School and Taunton Forge School in Medford with the Healthier US School Challenge Award, which recognizes schools that promote good nutrition and physical activity.
All five schools attained the Bronze Level of the award, which carries a $500 prize. The schools were presented with banners and certificates for their achievements.
“The Medford Township School District has made providing students with healthy offerings in the cafeteria and stepping up opportunities for physical activity a priority,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “The Healthier US School Challenge Award recognizes their efforts and encourages the district to attain higher levels of the award.”
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the initiative encourages all schools to take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime.
“Achieving the Healthier US School Challenge recognition demonstrates the Medford School District’s deep commitment to create and maintain a healthy school environment,” said Monique Hatten, Branch Chief, School Nutrition Programs, USDA Food and Nutrition Service. “Medford’s schools can serve as models for others seeking to make improvements.”
Steve Bergonzoni of USDA, Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, Tricia Wahrenberger of Sodexo, Lucas Coesfeld of Cranberry Pines, Rich Lacovara of Chairville, Sherry Weinberg of Taunton Forge, Mark Damon of Kirby's Mill, Tom Olson, Dir. of Curriculum, Chad Fires, Business Administrator, Karen Krawczun of NJDA and Superintendent Joseph Del Rossi
To achieve the challenge, the Medford schools modified their menus to eliminate white breads and switched instead to whole wheat and whole grains. In addition, the schools have begun to use more vegetables, canned and fresh fruit, and attempted to reduce the fat content of as many of their ala cart items as possible. The prize money from the award will be used to purchase either a Promethean Board or books for their guided reading book room.
“It’s an honor to win the award because the real beneficiaries are the children,” said Rich Lacovara, principal of Chairville Elementary School. “Learning that eating healthy can mean eating foods that taste good is a lifelong lesson. Increased activity levels and better food choices mean more alert students, students that are happier, and students that are ready and eager to learn. It’s a win for children, the school and the community.”
Along with their changes in the lunchroom menu, Chairville School increased the physical fitness opportunities for its students. Along with providing the usual 60 minutes of PE per week they have a daily period of Teacher Directed Physical Activity Periods which include everything from yoga to dancing and stretching. The school also provides a program called Cheetah Runners which gives incentives to run or walk around a quarter-mile loop on Tuesdays and Fridays. This same model has been adopted in several other Medford schools as well.
The Medford schools are among 68 in the state that have earned the Healthier US School Challenge Award. Ultimately, FNS would like to see all schools receive a HUSSC award at any one of the four levels of superior performance: Schools awarded a distinction receive a monetary incentive (Bronze $500, Silver $1,000, Gold $1,500, and Gold Award of Distinction $2,000), an award plaque signed by a USDA official, a banner to display in their school, and their name listed on the Team Nutrition Web site.
To qualify for an award, a school must submit a formal application and meet basic criteria set forth by the FNS for food that should be served in schools. Healthier US Schools must also have a local school wellness policy, as mandated by Congress. Schools receiving a HUSSC award commit to meeting the criteria throughout their four -year certification period.
Schools that champion the HUSSC work hard to make changes to their school nutrition environment in order to (1) improve the quality of the foods served, (2) provide students with nutrition education, and (3) provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.
For more information on the HealthierUS School Challenge, visit www.fns.usda.gov/tn/healthierus/index.html.