Two top food-focused administration officials visited a D.C. elementary school yesterday to kick off the Second Annual D.C. Farm to School Week, part of a wider initiative to improve school food nutrition and help children learn about where their food comes from.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and White House Assistant Chef–and Senior Policy Adviser for Health Food Initiatives–Sam Kass kicked off the celebration at Savoy Elementary School in Southeast Washington, D.C. The event highlighted USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge, a campaign that recognizes schools for excellence in nutrition and physical education programs.

“As schools across the country celebrate National School Lunch Week, we recognize how important it is that our children be healthy and active, that they not go hungry, and that they have access to nutritious meals,” said Merrigan. “Schools like Savoy Elementary are making great strides to improve the nutrition and health of their kids and we applaud their efforts to make the next generation the healthiest and best educated in our history.”

The HealthierUS School Challenge is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ambitious Let’s Move! campaign, which aims to defeat the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Schools participating in the campaign voluntarily adopt USDA standards for all food they serve at their schools, unlike schools that allow unregulated snacks and sodas to be sold.

Schools also agree to provide some sort of nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity, a feat at a time when many schools are cutting PE programs due to tightening school budgets.  As a reward for meeting the challenge, schools are offered prizes ranging from $500 to $2,000.

“This week schools in Washington D.C. will serve healthy, locally grown foods in school meals, and coordinate farm field trips and chef demonstrations to help kids connect with where their food comes from,” said Kass, emphasizing the Farm to Schools element of the First Lady’s national campaign.

The event yesterday is one of several planned this week to celebrate National School Lunch Week.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, which failed to pass before Congress adjourned to campaign for the midterm elections, is said to be a possible priority for the lame duck session.  The bill would, for the first time, set nutritional standards for all food served in schools, outline a modest boost in the reimbursement rate for school meals, and call for increased funding of Farm to School programs, encouraging schools to source locally.