News

For Immediate Release
August 4, 2014

Illinois Leads the Midwest in the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge


Applications available for more schools to earn certification for creating healthier school environments

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois leads the Midwest region in the number of schools that have earned federal certification for programs and practices that promote healthy habits, primarily physical exercise and nutrition. From urban to rural parts of Illinois, 247 schools have earned certification through what’s called the “HealthierUS School Challenge,” and more schools have the opportunity to apply for certification. 

“These types of school programs are critical given today’s busy family lives and an abundance of cheap and convenient fast food with low nutritional value,” said State Superintendent Christopher A. Koch. “We know that students with good dietary habits are feeding their bodies as well as their brains to perform at their best.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently extended the application deadline for the HealthierUS School Challenge under the current criteria until Aug. 30. Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program can apply for the voluntary national certification program. The USDA is working on updating criteria for the HeathierUS Challenge to reflect new nutrition standards, including Smart Snacks in School.

With 247 schools that have met the challenge, Illinois ranks No. 1 in the Midwest Region for the number of certified schools. According to the USDA, Michigan is second with 140, followed by Minnesota (91), Indiana (72), Ohio (60) and Wisconsin (22). Nationwide, 6,677 schools have become HealthierUS School Challenge certified.

The 247 HealthierUS Schools in Illinois represent districts from across the state, including Belvidere Community Unit School District 100, Chicago Public Schools 299, Community Unit School District 300, Egyptian Community Unit District 5 and Elmhurst CUSD 205. 

“Illinois is leading our region in the HealthierUS Challenge, which recognizes that schools should promote physical health and wellness,” Governor Quinn said. “I applaud the Illinois schools that have gone above and beyond in providing our children with healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”

There are four levels of HealthierUS School Challenge certifications that schools can earn: Gold Award of Distinction, Gold, Silver and Bronze. In Illinois, 52 schools have earned the Gold level, 79 have received Silver status, and 104 have been named Bronze recipients. Twelve schools in Illinois have earned the highest HealthierUS School Challenge certification of Gold Award of Distinction.

HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award of Distinction Winners

Academy for Global Citizenship School

CPS 299

Chenoa Elementary School

Prairie Central CUSD 8

Golfview Elementary School

CUSD 300

Fairview South School

Fairview School District 72

Freedom Middle School

South Berwyn District 100

Heritage Middle School

South Berwyn District 100

Hiawatha Elementary School

South Berwyn District 100

Komensky Elementary School

South Berwyn District 100

Namaste Charter School

CPS 299

Pershing Elementary School

South Berwyn District 100

Piper Elementary School

South Berwyn District 100

Payson Seymour Elementary School

Payson Community Unit District 1

Schools awarded receive a monetary incentive (Bronze, $500; Silver, $1,000, Gold, $1,500; Gold Award of Distinction, $2,000), an award plaque and a banner to display in the school.

To qualify for an award, a school must submit an application and meet basic criteria set by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. The criteria reflect the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Institute of Medicine published recommendations for foods that should be served outside the organized school meals program. HealthierUS Schools also must demonstrate commitment to a healthy school environment and implement a local school wellness policy. Schools then commit to meeting the criteria throughout a four-year certification period. 

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) administers the program and more information, including an application, can be found on the ISBE website at http://www.isbe.net/nutrition/htmls/sos.htm#hussc or the USDA Food and Nutrition Service at http://www.fns.usda.gov/hussc/healthierus-school-challenge.

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