Chartwells School Dining Services, a provider of dining services for over 550 public school districts and private schools nationwide, announced that all 10 of the elementary schools in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City, N.C. schools (CHCCS) as the latest winners of the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). On April 11, Glenwood School hosted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during a special awards ceremony. Donald E. Arnette, USDA regional administrator, presented a plaque and a $500 check to the principal, assistant principal or school representative from each of the schools. Glenwood also conducted a Fruit and Vegetable Challenge Celebration, hosted by Chartwells and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Child Nutrition Department.
The HUSSC is a voluntary initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. Since the beginning of the HealthierUS School Challenge in 2004, awards have been given to schools in 45 states. As of February 10, 2012, there are 2,862 schools certified in the United States. Currently, 145 Chartwells schools nationwide are HUSSC certified.
The schools, Carrboro Elementary, Ephesus Elementary, Estes Hills Elementary, Glenwood Elementary, Frank Porter Graham Elementary, McDougle Elementary, Morris Grove Elementary, Rashkis Elementary, Mary Scroggs Elementary and Seawell Elementary, were awarded the bronze level certification in 2011 to promote the nutrition and physical activity environment in the schools. But the real bonus to Chartwells and CHCCS, said school officials, are healthier students who are ready to learn and achieve.
Application for the HUSSC certification was a true team effort. The program consists of a 4-year certification period. Chartwells worked with the District Health Coordinator, Nursing staff at each of the elementary schools, as well as Principals, Assistant Principals, teachers, and the Superintendent. In order to become certified at the bronze level, the cafeteria offered:
- Dark green or orange vegetables at least three days per week and legumes at least once per week
- A different fruit every day
- Whole grain items must be offered at least three days per week
- Only 1 percent and skim milk
- Only 100 percent fruit juice
- Competitive foods (a la carte snacks and vending machine items) were 35 percent or less total fat; 0.5 g or less trans fat; 10 percent or less saturated fat per serving; 35 percent or less sugar by weight; total portion/package did not exceed 200 calories
With regards to nutrition education, structured nutrition education lessons were provided to all students in grades K-5, and involved multiple channels of communication, including the classroom, cafeteria and home. Nutrition lessons were also reinforced by prohibiting the use of food as a reward. Physical education (PE) classes were given to students at an average of 60 minutes per week. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity were offered on days when students did not have structured PE.
The school district developed a wellness policy. As a result, feedback to the revised school menu selections has been dramatic. Participation in the school meals program steadily increased on almost a weekly basis. "The District Health Coordinator and several principals are now motivated to go for the silver and gold level certifications," said Liz Cartano, Chartwells director of dining services in a prepared statement. "Revisions to the wellness policy are currently ongoing, with goals to clarify the expectations for a healthy nutrition and physical activity environment in the schools and to strengthen the implementation of the policy."