Metcalfe Elementary School and Rawlings Elementary School, two Gainesville schools, were recently awarded the Gold Award of Distinction through Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! collaboration with the HealthierUS School Challenge.
Schools in the National School Lunch Program are recognized for strides made in creating healthier school environments, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. There are bronze, silver, gold, and gold award of distinction levels.
Maria Eunice, food and nutrition director for Alachua County schools, said the first lady has made strides toward making people more conscious about obesity with her support of healthier school food programs.
Eunice said she hoped the first lady would present the awards when she came to speak at the University of Florida on Sept. 17 during a campaign stop for her husband though her only stop besides the Stephen C. O’Connell Center was to the Girls Place Inc.
Alachua County schools began implementing healthy changes in 2006, ahead of many programs nationwide. Many of the guidelines from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 went into effect this September, which has resulted in changes in cafeterias nationally.
“One big change this year is offering dark green leafy vegetables at least once a week, as well as more red and orange vegetables,” Eunice said.
In addition, the guidelines now require students at all levels to take a fruit or vegetable with their meal for it to be considered a lunch. Eunice said this change caused some confusion at the start of the year, but it has been a smooth transition overall.
Still, articles in various publications, including the Great Falls Tribune (Mont.), show that many students are left feeling hungry.
A recent YouTube video called “We Are Hungry,” a parody on the new changes required by The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, has received more than 60,000 views.
The video is set to the song “We Are Young” by Fun, and it contains some lyric variations, such as “Give me some seconds, I need to get some food today.”
While healthy school food programs will likely have detractors, Eunice said she thinks school meals are a healthy and cost-effective option.
It may be difficult for parents and students to be aware of how healthy the lunches are, she said. For example, the pizza is prepared on whole grain crust with turkey pepperoni.
“We really try to put options out for students to help them eat right,” Eunice said. “Think about it, and give us a try.”