Healthy Schools to Receive Money for Good Habits

By: Ashley Conroy Email
By: Ashley Conroy Email

A new state law, signed by Governor Haley Barbour, will allow already existing "healthy" schools and schools that choose to change their current health programs to receive anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000.

It's part of a larger program called the HealthierUS Schools Challenge under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Director of the Office of Healthy Schools, Shane McNeill, from the Mississippi Department of Education, says other schools in the nation may be recognized for their healthy efforts, but Mississippi is the only state who offers a cash incentive.

"We're really rewarding school districts for going above and beyond the minimum requirements," McNeill said.

McNeill adds that because of Mississippi's overall high obesity rate, the state has to be one step ahead.

"We need to be more progressive and proactive in the implementation of quality programs that meet the nutritional and physical activity needs of children," said McNeill.

It started as a pilot program with 5 different schools, three in Corinth, and the other two in South Panola, and Starkville.

A school would receive either a gold, silver, or bronze rating depending on their curriculum and school lunch choices.

In order for a school to qualify under the HealthierUS Schools Challenge, it would have to implement a nutrition education program, a physical education program, enroll as a Team Nutrition school, offer a different vegetable, fruit, and some type of grain every day of the week.

In addition, McNeill says there is a lengthy application process to get started. But he says any school can qualify as long as they're approved by the state.

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