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District Elementary Schools Chosen for National Wellness and Nutrition Award

Thursday, June 7, 2012

District Elementary Schools Chosen for National Wellness and Nutrition Award

Washington, DC also selected to participate in US Department of Agriculture community eligibility option

Washington, DC – For engaging students in nutrition-based learning, promoting physical activities to support wellness and providing healthy food and beverage options to curb childhood obesity, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) today announced that three District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) have been honored among the healthiest nationwide as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) Award Program.

Selected to receive recognition and a monetary award by USDA after a rigorous application process and evaluation criteria, initial 2012 HUSSC designees are:

  • Anne Beers Elementary School (Ward 7)
  • Aiton Elementary School (Ward 7)
  • Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School (Ward 8)

“Every student in the District is entitled to a top notch education, and that includes year-round access to physical activity and nutritious meals throughout the day,” said State Superintendent Hosanna Mahaley, noting that for seven consecutive years, Washington, D.C. has ranked first nationally in childhood summer nutrition for participation, meals distributed and number of children served that qualified for free and reduced price meals through the D.C. Summer Food Service Program.

“A healthy body is essential to creating a healthy mind, so I commend these schools for their commitment to providing District children the strong start and wellness resources needed to be the most productive students possible.”

Citing the D.C. Healthy Schools Act of 2010 as one of the most ambitious health and nutrition initiatives in the country,  Mahaley also praised USDA and the OSSE Division of Wellness and Nutrition Services for leading the nation in school breakfast participation among children from low-income areas during the 2010-2011 school year, increasing school breakfast participation for District public and charter school students by 35% and allowing Washington D.C.’s national ranking to jump from 20th to 1st in one year.

"We know that healthy habits, like eating nutritious food and engaging in regular exercise can help support academic success and it is clear these schools are on the right track,” explained DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “I applaud these schools and their leadership for making health a priority for their students.”

Additional District schools are expected to qualify for future HUSSC awards.

USDA also announced that Washington, D.C. was selected as one of four states to participate in the agency’s Community Eligibility Option (CEO) for the 2012-2013 school year, allowing the opportunity for all District students to receive free school meals due to the high statewide percentage of students eligible to receive free and reduced price meals.

“Ensuring all school children have access to healthy, well-balanced meals is critical to their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and to reach their fullest potential,” said USDA  Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton.

 “Hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process,” added Mahaley, describing how Community eligibility streamlines school meal services throughout the District by eliminating household school meal applications, reducing school costs associated with application processing and guaranteeing meal reimbursements while expanding school meal options.

“Children can now awake each morning excited about going to school and knowing they will receive a healthy meal without the stress or stigma of being unable to pay.”

“This is possible because of USDA and the CEO initiative, OSSE is proud to be part of the solution and we look forward to reaching even more District children in the future.”

Note: Additional information about the USDA HealthierUS School Challenge and Community is available online via http://teamnutrition.usda.gov.