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Photo of plaque awarded to Osage by USDA - Click to enlarge
Federal, State, Local Officials Present School with Award
For Immediate Release: December 20, 2010
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher and James Harmon of the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service today presented Osage Elementary School in Voorhees with a $500 prize for earning the HealthierUS School Challenge Award.

“We are very proud of Osage Elementary School for being recognized for its ongoing commitment to good nutrition for its students,” said Secretary Fisher.  “New Jersey schools have been focused on healthier food options since the implementation of the statewide nutrition policy in 2007, which set standards for food and beverages being offered on school property.  We encourage all New Jersey schools in the National School Lunch Program to participate in the Challenge.”

Photo of check presentation to Osage Elementary School

Pam Hart, Cafeteria Manager, Debbie Zee, Voorhees Schools Food Service Director, Diane Young, Osage Elementary School Principal, Secretary Fisher and James Harmon

The HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program.  It supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign by recognizing schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity.  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. 

Osage Elementary School’s HealthierUS School Challenge achievement demonstrates the deep commitment to create and maintain a healthy school environment by promoting good nutrition and physical activity,” said Harmon, Director of Special Nutrition Programs.  “This event helps highlight the importance of children and communities in New Jersey getting involved.”

Photo of dignitaries at Osage Elementary School ceremony

Debbie Zee, James Harmon, Secretary Fisher, Diane Young, State Senator Jim Beach and Voorhees Mayor Michael Mignogna at ceremony.

Osage Elementary School and the other schools in the Voorhees School District have been working over the past 22 years to support and improve the health of their students and community.  As part of their effort, healthy items are featured on their menus and physical education and activity are emphasized.

“Students have reacted positively to the incorporation of wheat bread versus white bread introduced two years ago,” said school Principal Diane Young.  “We will continue to strive to have the best lunch menu and nutrition curriculum as possible.  One goal we have for this year is to add more whole grains to the menu.”

Young said the $500 grant will likely be used to enhance the school vegetable garden, which is used for instructional purposes.  She hopes in the future the school will earn the grant at the highest level.

Ultimately, FNS 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 awarded 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.  The HUSSC criteria reflect the recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published recommendations (April 2007) for foods that should be served in schools, outside of the organized school lunch meals.  HealthierUS 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, such as Osage Elementary School 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. 

The New Jersey Department of Education recognizes the importance of good nutrition for the state’s school students.

“According to a report by the American School Health Association, students with an iron deficiency exhibited symptoms similar to ADHD: short attention span and difficulty concentrating, as well as fatigue and irritability. Schoolchildren who skip breakfast in the morning consistently underscore on problem-solving tests that measure for speed and accuracy,” said acting Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks. “Eating properly and doing well in school are clearly linked.” 

For more information on the HealthierUS School Challenge, visit

For more information on New Jersey’s school nutrition policy, visit: