County schools earn gold medal for nutrition program

Shelby County schools are working harder to help students and staff eat healthier, and people in high places are taking notice.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded 20 Shelby County schools with the Gold Medal of Distinction through the HealthierUS School Challenge program. The schools recognize include all Shelby County elementary and intermediate schools.

The award is the highest given through the program and carries a $2,000 prize for each school. The money, $40,000 in total, will be used for healthy school initiatives, according to a Shelby County Schools press release.

Maureen Alexander, the child nutrition program coordinator for the school system, said the award is five years in the making, ever since new nutritional guidelines were implemented by the state in 2005. Alexander said Shelby County had a vast majority of the schools to be first honored.

“We are very proud of our schools being recognized with the HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award of Distinction,” she said. “This is the culmination of a lot of planning and hard work that took place over the past five years by our CNP staff, our advisory council and our local school wellness committees. I think it is quite an honor that Shelby County had 20 of the first 21 schools to initially achieve this honor.”

The school system has a central wellness policy, as well as wellness coordinators at each school. There is also a core menu implemented in every school, and a nutritional database to provide analysis of each meal served. The database is linked to the Shelby County Schools website.