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W.Va. receives federal funds for nutrition efforts

Sep. 30, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- West Virginia is among 19 states and territories chosen to share a $5.2 million federal nutrition grant for progressive efforts encouraging healthy eating and physical activity in its schools.

The state will receive $346,515 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the next two years to support Team Nutrition goals. Those goals include: providing training and technical assistance to child nutrition foodservice professionals to provide nutritious meals that appeal to children; offering fun and interactive nutrition education for children, teachers, parents and others; and building school and community support for creating healthy school environments that are conducive to healthy eating and physical activity.

Healthier school meals are a key component of the federal "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010," which was championed by first lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let's Move! campaign and signed into law by President Obama. The Team Nutrition grant is funded to assist schools in meeting the new school meal requirements under the act and to promote healthier school environments.

"When we serve our children healthy school meals, we're making a critical investment in their academic performance, their physical health and their future," said U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "Providing nutrition education resources, extending training and technical assistance to foodservice professionals, and building community support helps ensure that every child in America has a chance to succeed."

West Virginia is ahead of many other states in its efforts to provide healthy meals and improve physical activity in its schools as an early adopter of many requirements in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The new federal law calls both fruits and vegetables to be offered every day; increases whole grain-rich foods; limits milk offerings to fat-free or low-fat; restricts calories and portions based on children's ages; and reduces saturated fat, trans fats and sodium. West Virginia has taken steps to incorporate those guidelines and other health and wellness standards since 1994.

Ohio also received a Team Nutrition grant.