WASHINGTON, July 16 (UPI) -- More than 3,700 U.S. schools are certified in the HealthierUS School Challenge, part of first lady Michelle Obama's children's health and nutrition initiative.
Janey Thornton, a deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the HealthierUS School Challenge -- part of the first lady's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation -- implements reforms mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The reforms include updated nutrition standards for school meals to increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; performance-based funding increases for school lunches -- the first increase in 30 years; and training and technical assistance to help schools meet improved standards.
"USDA committed to working with schools across the nation to reach the goal of having 2,250 HealthierUS School Challenge-certified schools by the end of June 2012," Thornton said in a statement. "USDA and its partners not only succeeded in meeting that milestone, but have also surpassed the goal set for last June -- a year ahead of schedule."
In February 2010, the first lady and USDA challenged stakeholders to double the number of HealthierUS School Challenge schools within a year and then add 1,000 schools per year for each of the following two years.
Schools participating in the challenge voluntarily adopted USDA standards to improve food and beverage offerings, to teach kids about nutritious food choices and being physically active, to provide opportunities for physical activity and to have supportive school wellness policies.