SAD 72 earns national health award

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Three School Administrative District 72 schools have won bronze awards in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's HealthierUS Challenge — the Brownfield-Denmark Elementary School in Denmark, New Suncook School in Lovell and the Charles A. Snow School in Fryeburg!

The schools join the ranks of an elite group recognized for health, nutrition and fitness excellence, as only three percent of 101,000 schools in the nation have achieved HealthierUS status at the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Gold Distinction levels.

School-wide assemblies were held in all three winning SAD 72 schools on Friday, to accept the bronze awards and celebrate these tremendous accomplishments, as HealthierUS awards are one of the nation’s highest school nutrition awards.

The Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. Schools participating in the Challenge voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, agree to provide nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity. Challenge certification also includes monetary incentives for use by school food services, including $500 at the Bronze level.

Robert Deegan, the Northeast Region Deputy Child Nutrition Director for the Food and Nutrition Service presented the awards, at celebrations in each of the three SAD 72 schools. Deegan applauded the students, food service staff and school officials for earning Bronze awards in the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge.

SAD 72 Food Service Director Mary Emerson, Denmark-Brownfield Elementary School Kitchen Manager Donna McGonagle and Assistant Kitchen Manager Dawn Wentworth each received certificates of accomplishment from Deegan, as did New Suncook School's Kitchen Manager Christine Gillespie and Assistant Carol Davis, and Charles A. Snow School Kitchen Assistants Janet Lathrop and Jane Joubert. The principals of each of the three schools also accepted a certificate of accomplishment from the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge.

"Through our HealthierUS School Challenge, USDA recognizes schools that have accepted the challenge of revamping school lunch with meals that look good, taste good and are good for you. These schools have moved away from processed foods to ones that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and reduced levels of fat, salt and sugar,” said Deegan.

Reducing childhood obesity and improving the nutrition of all Americans are vital to achieve a healthy future for America. That’s why the Obama administration and USDA are committed to promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles and to ensuring that all Americans have access to safe, nutritious, and balanced meals. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! initiative and signed by President Barack Obama, marked a great win for the nearly 32 million school children who participate in the National School Lunch and the 12 million school children who participate in the School Breakfast programs each school day.

USDA is working to implement historic reforms mandated by the act that will mark the most comprehensive change to food in schools in more than a generation. These reforms include updated nutrition standards for school meals to increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; science-based standards for all foods and beverages sold on the school campus; performance-based funding increases for schools — the first real increase in 30 years; and training and technical assistance to help schools meet improved standards.

Mrs. Emerson told the young students at Brownfield-Denmark Elementary School Friday morning, "I am the food service director. I am the person who plans what you eat. A dietician teaches students about how food works in the body, and I want you guys to be healthy and learn to do well in school. Nutritious food helps to give you energy, helps your body grow and also helps you learn. The reason we're receiving this award is to honor the work that Mrs. McGonagle and Mrs. Wentworth do every day."

Deegan told the youngsters, "Being healthy is not only about food but also how active you are  — you need to move and have fun things to do, and you need to eat well — so, we work together."

When Deegan pointed out that there is an obesity epidemic in the United States, and a high percentage of adults are obese or overweight, one young boy spoke up, saying, "My Mom just eats and sleeps."

"You should take her outside to play with you," Deegan replied. "She needs to run around!"

Asked why the USDA came up with the HealthierUS Challenge Award, a young girl replied, "To keep you healthy and energize you with a lot of energy so you don't fall asleep in the middle of the day."

State Representative Helen Rankin, who was food service director in SAD 55 for many years, praised the students and staff at Brownfield-Denmark Elementary School on Friday, telling the students they helped earn the award, "Because you boys and girls have cooperated and tried new things (to eat)."

A representative from Maine's 5-2-1-0 Let's Go program explained what the 5-2-1-0 campaign aims are in promoting health in kids, every day: Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables; spend no more than 2 hours watching TV, playing video games or surfing the net; get at least 1 hour of active play; and drink 0 sugar-sweetened beverages.

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