Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Lady Recognizes Idaho School at National Conference

The Gooding School District in Gooding, Idaho has received national attention this week – from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The First Lady was the keynote at the School Nutrition Association Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 1st.  In her remarks, she highlighted some of the great work the Gooding School District and community has done to improve health and nutrition for its students.

Here’s the excerpt from the First Lady’s remarks:

“Anji Baumann, the Child Nutrition Director for Gooding, Idaho, she has local farmers grow fresh fruits and vegetables specifically for her school district.  And I hear her staff makes many foods from scratch –- including spaghetti and baked goods.  In fact, they even came up with a recipe that uses pureed beans as a substitute for some of the oil in chocolate cake –- and it was so tasty that none of the students even noticed.”

The Gooding School District is no stranger to the national spotlight.  Last year, Gooding Elementary School became the first school in the nation to receive the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s prestigious Gold of Distinction Award for improving student health, nutrition and physical fitness.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton traveled to Gooding for the award announcement.

The Gold of Distinction Award is the highest achievement in the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge program, recognizing schools that have demonstrated excellence in promoting nutrition and physical activity.

The HealthierUS School Challenge has four levels of awards: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold of Distinction. In 2006, Gooding Elementary became the first school in the western United States to achieve the Gold-level Award.  Now, it is the first school in the nation to receive the Gold of Distinction.

To earn this award, Gooding Elementary had to meet rigorous standards for nutrition and physical activity. The school had to serve nutritious meals every day that included a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and low-fat and fat-free milk. Foods sold outside the cafeteria in vending machines, school stores and school fundraisers also had to meet strict health standards.

The school ensures students get at least 90 minutes of physical education each week and provides daily unstructured activities to provide additional opportunities for physical activity. To reinforce these standards, Gooding Elementary provides nutrition education to all students.

“We are honored the First Lady has recognized Gooding nationally for our great achievements,” said Dr. Heather Williams, superintendent of the Gooding School District. “We could not have done it without the support of our staff, the staff at the State Department of Education and the agricultural community here in Gooding and across Idaho. As a fourth-generation Idaho farm kid who is now raising and educating the next generation of Idaho kids, I believe it is critical to promote health and nutrition in school by working with community partners. That is why the Gooding School District has been so successful – our dedicated staff, community partnerships, and above all our amazing kids!”

Read the full text of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech.

If your school is interested in applying for the HealthierUS Challenge, please contact the State Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Programs office. We are here to offer one-on-one technical assistance to any Idaho school interested in meeting the requirements.

~ Melissa M.

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