Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s elementary and magnet schools were awarded HealthierUS Schools’ certification.  Each of the schools was approved at the Bronze level and will receive a HUSSC award plaque, a banner to display at the school, and a $500 monetary incentive to continue their efforts toward healthier lifestyle choices.  Kudos to the District 65 Food and Nutrition Services Department and to Dawes Elementary School, Dewey Elementary School, Kingsley Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, Lincolnwood Elementary School, Oakton Elementary School, Orrington Elementary School, Martin Luther King Jr. Laboratory School, Bessie Rhodes Magnet School, Walker Elementary School, Washington Elementary School, and Willard Elementary School.

The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary initiative established by the USDA to recognize schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments by promoting nutrition and physical activity. To achieve recognition, schools were required to serve a different fruit and vegetable daily, serve whole grains at least three times per week, serve low fat milk (1% or less), and follow strict criteria for fat, sugar and calories on the a la carte line. Nutrition and physical education standards must be in place along with fundraising practices that support sales of non-food items.  Approximately 45% of District 65 students participate in the school lunch program. To become eligible for the silver or gold levels, schools would need to increase average daily participation to 60% for Silver and 70% for Gold.  

District 65’s Wellness Council and local school wellness teams have done much to improve overall awareness and promote good nutrition, increased physical activity, and healthier choices.  Recent campaigns in the school lunch program include the annual student taste test to help select new school lunch menu items.  Photos of meals and informational nutrition labels for lunch items are available on the Food Service webpage http://www.district65.net/departments/foodservices/Labels.

Student lunch selections include whole grains, daily fresh fruit, fresh sandwiches and salads. These efforts, along with a new nutrition curriculum that is being prepared for implementation, are among the features that helped District 65 achieve certification.

In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced Let’s Move!, incorporating the HealthierUS School Challenge into the campaign to raise a healthier generation of kids. Since the beginning of the HealthierUS School Challenge in 2004, 1139 awards have been given to schools in 40 States. As of March 9, 2011, 578 schools are currently certified. In Illinois 14 schools were certified.  With the addition of District 65 schools, the state total is nearly doubled.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture commends the schools for the exemplary steps, leadership, and team work employed to make changes to their schools’ nutrition environment that improve the quality of the foods served and provide students with more nutritious, healthy choices.  They also recognize these schools for their enhanced physical activities program.  Also, the names of these schools will be proudly added to the HUSSC awardees list at http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/healthierus/awardwinners.html