Officials Honor Two Middlesex County Schools For Nutrition, Physical Activity Initiatives

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Highland Park left to right:  Dawn Jabush, Food Service Director; Mark Vidovich, Pres. Pomptonian Food Service; Tim Capone, Highland Park Schools Superintendent; Israel Soto, Asst. Superintendent; Lauren Fraser, Bartle Principal; Jason Baumbach, Pomptonian; Karen Krawczun, NJDA; Steve Bergonzoni, USDA FNS; Cindy Sue Schaller, Pomptonian. (Photo courtesy of the NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

Highland Park left to right: Dawn Jabush, Food Service Director; Mark Vidovich, Pres. Pomptonian Food Service; Tim Capone, Highland Park Schools Superintendent; Israel Soto, Asst. Superintendent; Lauren Fraser, Bartle Principal; Jason Baumbach, Pomptonian; Karen Krawczun, NJDA; Steve Bergonzoni, USDA FNS; Cindy Sue Schaller, Pomptonian. (Photo courtesy of the NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

MIDDLESEX COUNTY – United States Department of Agriculture and New Jersey Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition officials presented Bartle Elementary School in Highland Park and Campbell Elementary School in Metuchen with Healthier US School Challenge Awards last week, recognizing the schools for promoting good nutrition and physical activity. The two schools attained the Bronze Level of the award, which carries a $500 prize for each school. 

“Bartle and Campbell Elementary Schools have made a commitment to offering healthy, appealing foods to their students and have stressed the importance of eating right and being physically active,” said Rose Tricario, New Jersey Department of Agriculture Division of Food and Nutrition Director. “They are truly deserving of the prestigious Healthier US School Challenge Award. We encourage them to continue to build upon their successes and reach higher levels of the award.”

Principal Florence Carter at center with NJDA’s Karen Krawczun, PTA members, BOE members, Freeholder Charles Kenny, Pomptonian representatives and School Superintendent Vincent Caputo. (Photo courtesy of the NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

Principal Florence Carter at center with NJDA’s Karen Krawczun, PTA members, BOE members, Freeholder Charles Kenny, Pomptonian representatives and School Superintendent Vincent Caputo. (Photo courtesy of the NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

The Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the initiative encourages all schools to take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime.

“Achieving the Healthier US School Challenge recognition demonstrates the two schools’ deep commitment to create and maintain a healthy school environment,” said Monique Hatten, Branch Chief, School Nutrition Programs, USDA Food and Nutrition Service. “They can serve as models for others seeking to make improvements.”

Both schools, through Pomptonian Food Service implemented the Farm Stand, which provides students with a variety of daily fresh fruits and vegetables, including Jersey Fresh, when available. They offer only whole grain bread, rice and pasta as well as fat-free milk.

Both schools offer enhanced physical education programs. In addition, Campbell has a “gym club” twice a week for third and fourth grade students after school. Teachers also set aside 10-15 minutes a day for yoga, stretches and exercises or a walk around the outside of the building.

“This award serves as an acknowledgement for our efforts to help guide our children with healthy eating habits and physical fitness,” said Lauren Fraser, Bartle School Principal. “It tells us we are on the right track.”

Each school has its own garden. At Bartle, the garden is maintained with the help of the local community. Some of the items that are grown are donated to the local food bank. At Campbell, the Metuchen Garden Club worked with parents and community volunteers in the summer of 2010 to organize the school’s courtyards into their Edible Garden. Annual upkeep is done by parent volunteers working with student groups. Herbs from the garden are used in the preparation of student meals.

Bartle will use the prize money toward purchasing new fitness equipment for their playground or learning materials for the physical education class. At Campbell, the money will be used toward the purchase of rain barrels, signage for the gardens or brightly colored plants.

“This award will help the parents and staff to continue their work toward beautifying the grounds, provide more produce and herbs for Pomptonian use, adding to an improving the food experiences provided to the students,” said Florence T. Carter, Campbell School Principal. “The award will help us continue to provide the children with a more varied and expansive gardening experience.”

The two schools are among 68 in the state that have earned the Healthier US School Challenge Award. Schools awarded a distinction 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 Web site.

To qualify for an award, a school must submit a formal application and meet basic criteria set forth by the FNS for food that should be served in schools. Healthier US Schools must also have a local school wellness policy, as mandated by Congress. Schools receiving a HUSSC award commit to meeting the criteria throughout their four -year certification period.

Schools that champion the HUSSC work hard to make changes to their school nutrition environment in order to (1) improve the quality of the foods served, (2) provide students with nutrition education, and (3) provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.


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