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Vergennes elementary wins healthy school food challenge

VERGENNES — Vergennes Union Elementary School this month was honored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service with a HealthierUS School Challenge Bronze award, which the school received for its multi-year efforts to support and improve the health of its students.
According to the School Challenge press release, VUES earned its honor, which comes with a $500 cash prize, for featuring healthy items on its menus and emphasizing physical education and activity. A USDA representative will visit VUES to make an official presentation.
VUES became the second Addison Northwest Supervisory Union school to be so honored: This past fall, Ferrisburgh Central School was one of the first few Northeastern schools to receive a Bronze award.
According to ANwSU officials, only about 7 percent of schools nationwide had achieved the award. VUES had to apply for the honor and then demonstrate that it meets the criteria set forth by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
Those criteria reflect culinary recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine. HealthierUS Schools must meet additional criteria demonstrating commitment to a healthy school environment and must put in place a school wellness policy. Schools receiving a HealthierUS Schools award commit to meeting the criteria throughout a four-year certification period.
VUES kitchen manager Lisa Sprague led the HUSSC application process. According to the HealthierUS Schools press release, “special recognition is also due to the school nutrition staff, Tricia Comeau and Lissa Gebo, for their efforts in achieving school lunch menu changes.”
A team of school professionals and a representative of the VUES parent organization reviewed the 18-page application before submission; that team included Lynne Rapoport, Allison Vigne, Robyn Newton and Katie Birkett from VUES.
The HealthierUS School Challenge is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. It recognizes schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity.
According to the press release, the initiative encourages all schools to help students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime. It stated that schools such as VUES and FCS work hard to make changes to their school environment in order to improve the quality of the foods served, provide students with nutrition education, and provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity. 
Ultimately, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service would like to see all schools receive a HUSSC award at any one of the four levels of superior performance: Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Gold Award of Distinction. Schools also receive a monetary incentive (Bronze, $500; Silver, $1,000; Gold, $1,500; and Gold Award of Distinction, $2,000), an award plaque signed by a USDA official, a banner to display in their school, and their name listed on the Team Nutrition website. 
  TRICIA COMEAU, LEFT, Joaninha Kitoko, Lisa Sprague, Katie Birkett, Robyn Newton, Lynn Rapoport, Lissa Gebo and Alison Vigne are all part of the Vergennes Union Elementary School team that helped the school earn a national bronze award for promoting healthy living for its students.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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