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Elementary Schools Win Healthier US School Awards

Newtown’s four elementary schools recently earned national recognition through the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), as announced by Chartwells School Dining Services.

According to Chartwells School Dining Services Resident Dietitian Jill Patterson,  Middle Gate Elementary School, Head O’ Meadow Elementary School, Hawley Elementary School, and Sandy Hook Elementary School were recognized for working to support and improve the health of children and the community with the USDA HealthierUS School Bronze Level awards. As part of the effort, healthy items are featured on school menus and physical education and activity are emphasized. Those efforts are part of HUSSC.

The HUSSC is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. It supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign by recognizing schools that are creating healthier school environments through promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the initiative encourages that all schools take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime, according to Chartwells.

Schools, such as Newtown’s elementary schools, that champion the HUSSC work hard to make changes to their school nutrition environment in order to improve the quality of the foods served, provide students with nutrition education, and provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity, according to Chartwells.

To qualify for an award, a school must submit a formal application and meet basic criteria set forth by the FNS. The HUSSC criteria reflect the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for foods that should be served in schools, and outside of the organized school lunch meals, according to a release. Nutrient-rich foods including whole grains, dark green vegetables, deep orange-colored vegetables, legumes, and low-fat and fat-free milk are a few of the nutrition requirements for the school lunch menu. HUSSC 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. 

“I am pleased to inform and congratulate you on Newtown Public Schools being awarded the Healthier US School Challenge Bronze Award for all four of your district’s elementary schools,” said Kyle Bogaert, School Nutrition Programs for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “The HUSSC is a recognition award for schools that have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in both nutrition and physical education to promote a healthier school environment for children. It is a wonderful accomplishment for the food service department, the students, the school district, and the State of Connecticut.”

The HUSSC application process was led by Ms Patterson for Newtown Public Schools and Chartwells Foodservice Director for Newtown Public Schools Dan Shields.  A team of school professionals who are involved in delivering programs that align with the goals of the HUSSC Challenge included District Health Coordinator Judy Blanchard and physical education teachers Doug Michlovitz, Nick Drouin, Steve Dreger, Jenny Amato, Laura Cooper, Tony Sortino, Rosanne O’Neill, and Jaclyn Lloyd.

The following administrators also made this award possible: Interim Superintendent of Schools John Reed, Assistant Superintendent Linda Gejda, Hawley Principal JoAnn Peters, Middle Gate Principal Christopher Geissler, Head O’ Meadow Principal Barbara Gasparine, and Sandy Hook Principal Kathy Gombos, according to Chartwells. Special recognition is also due to the school nutrition staff, Lorna Szalay, Lorraine Van Veen, Kathleen Coffey, Suellen Braddock, Diane Fisher, Sharon Trudeau, Mary Ann Choun, Nuala Keegan and Melanie Godfrey, for their efforts in achieving school lunch menu changes leading to a HUSSC Bronze award, according to the release.

For additional information, visit: www.fns.usda.gov/tn/HealthierUS/awardwinners.html

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