AUGUSTA – Seventeen Maine schools are joining a small group of schools from across the nation that have raised the bar when it comes to fostering an environment of wholesome nutrition and frequent physical activity.
The schools — from five districts in the Portland area — have received awards under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s HealthierUS School Challenge, a nationwide initiative that recognizes schools for creating healthy learning environments.
The 17 schools – all of which qualified for bronze-level awards – receive plaques, banners and $500 each to deposit into their food-service accounts. They are certified as HealthierUS Schools for a four-year period, until July 2015.
To qualify, food service staff members from many of the Maine schools worked together to set goals for improving nutrition, to plan out nutritious menu options and to assure that foods available to students at school, but outside of the school lunch program, met strict nutrition guidelines.
The Portland-area schools also worked through their purchasing cooperative to secure high-quality whole grains for their kitchens at a discounted price.
“Students need nutritious foods and ample physical activity if they are to succeed in their learning,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen. “These 17 schools voluntarily chose to raise the bar in those areas so their students could attend school in an environment focused on good decision-making and lifelong health and wellness.”
School staff members completed 12-page applications and included, in some cases, hundreds of pages of supporting documentation. Those applications underwent extensive review at both the state and federal levels.
The schools worked with Child Nutrition Services staff at the Maine Department of Education and with Let’s Go — a community-based initiative in the Portland area that focuses on promoting healthy living among children — to prepare their HealthierUS School Challenge applications. A 2010 Team Nutrition grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided funding for technical assistance from the Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Services staff.
The following schools received HealthierUS School Challenge awards:
MSAD 51 (Cumberland)
- Mabel I. Wilson School, Cumberland
- North Yarmouth Memorial School
Scarborough School Department
- Benjamin Wentworth Intermediate School
- Blue Point Primary School
- Eight Corners Primary School
- Pleasant Hill Primary School
South Portland School Department
- Dora L. Small Elementary School
- Frank I. Brown Elementary School
- Helena Dyer Elementary School
- James Otis Kaler Elementary School
- Waldo T. Skillin Elementary Schools
Westbrook School Department
- Canal Elementary School
- Congin Elementary School
- Prides Corner Elementary School
- Saccarappa Elementary School
Yarmouth School Department
- William H. Rowe School
- Yarmouth Elementary School
The 17 award recipients join 22 Maine schools that have previously won HealthierUS School Challenge awards.
A complete list of Maine award winners is available online at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/healthierus/Maine.html. Nationally, 1,541 schools have qualified for HealthierUS School Challenge awards, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Plans for local ceremonies to celebrate the awards are in the works. Thirty-three additional Maine schools have HealthierUS School Challenge applications pending.