Have you heard about the HealthierUS School Challenge? If you haven?t, it?s time to get in the know!
What is the HUSSC?
The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a program from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The HUSSC is all about improving the quality?of foods served in schools. It asks schools to promote a healthful lifestyle through nutritious meals and physical activity. Schools that follow the criteria laid out by the USDA and HUSSC can win monetary awards, as well?as the glow of community recognition and the knowledge that they are crafting a more healthful environment. Though the program has been around since 2004, the application criteria is changing. New rules will be going into effect starting July 1, 2012, so?now?s the time to study up!
How does the HUSSC work?
In order to win an award, the school must...
- Be a Team Nutrition School.
- Participate in the School?Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program.
- Serve foods that align with the standards from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Reduce the availability of foods that do not promote health.
- Educate students about nutrition and the importance of healthful foods.
- Offer opportunities for physical activity and education about the importance of exercise.
There are four award levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold Award of Distinction. Which will your school win?
What does the food criteria look like?
In order to win the highest award (Gold with Distinction) a school must...
- Offer at least 2 fresh fruits per week for breakfast and at least 1 fruit or vegetable for breakfast every day.
- Serve only whole-grain rich grains for breakfast -- no?refined options.
- Offer two additional servings of dark greens, beans or peas, or red and orange veggies at lunch every week.
- Give four servings of fresh fruits for lunch per week.
- Serve at least three different types of whole- grain rich foods for lunch in a week.
- Only one of these may be a grain-based dessert.
The rules also emphasize lower sodium, more fruits and veggies, a farm to school initiative, nutrition education and getting at least half of your grains as whole grains.
Pack Award-Winning Lunches!
A healthier lunch is a great idea for everyone.?When children bring lunches from home, these lunches should follow the criteria of the HUSSC and MyPlate. That way, the kids will be sure to have a healthful and nutritious meal.
Check out this handy-dandy checklist for packing healthful lunches at home...
- Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Half the lunch should be fruits and veggies!
- Choose whole grain foods. Whole grain bread, pita pockets and crackers count!
- Select small portions of nonfat or low-fat dairy. Use yogurt and skim milk.
- Include lean protein. Nut butters, turkey, chicken, lean beef, and eggs all count.
For More Information:
To find out if your school is a Team Nutrition School, visit http://teamnutrition.usda. gov/database.html. For application information, check out http://teamnutrition.usda. gov/HealthierUS/2012criteria_chart.html. For recipes, go to foodandhealth.com.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.