USDA Tours VC Schools

A representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that Valley City Public Schools has not only successfully positioned itself for new federal guidelines for school meals, but that the school’s new wellness policy and other initiatives go above and beyond what the government expects from a school lunch program.

“Where were you when my kids were in school?” USDA Regional Special Nutrition Programs Director Darlene Sanchez asked VCPS Food Service Director Sue Milender.

USDA and North Dakota officials stopped in Valley City on Thursday to see how changes in school cafeteria menus and other policies of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act were being implemented.

The HHFKA was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. The act establishes new school meal standards built on science-based recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Sanchez said the visit was to gauge the progress and success of the school’s food service program and the challenges it faces now and in the future.

“Our purpose here is, with all of the major changes that have occurred as a result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, school meals face their biggest changes in 15 years,” Sanchez said.

“You obviously have moved to making school meals a lot healthier through everything that you’re doing, and it’s a comprehensive look holistically at what you’re doing here in the district with your wellness policy, your school meals, your involvement within the community.”

The visiting officials toured the Valley City schools and held a roundtable discussion with parents and staff, but first they met with Milender and Director Sharon Buhr from Mercy Hospital’s Young People’s Healthy Heart Program.

Buhr said many factors have contributed to the food service program’s success, including the Barnes On The Move Partnership, the ACHIEVE grant the community received from the Center For Disease Control’s Healthy Communities division and several initiatives that were included in the schools 30-plus page wellness policy that was adopted on July 23 by the school board.

“The policy itself is all encompassing, it goes from nutritional education to physical education, to the community, to fundraising, it goes from the classroom to the community and every place in between,” Milender said. “It’s a pretty amazing and detailed policy as you can see by the length of it.”