Remember how Rachael went to Washington to help encourage lawmakers to fight for better school lunches? Our friend Andrew Kaplan, Rachael's director of special projects (that's him in the background, left, with Rachael and Senator Robert J. Casey of Pennsylvania), has been meeting with the USDA and the USDA Midwest division, based in Chicago, to continue to talk about Rachael's work to help improve child nutrition, both in schools and at home. He sent us this great letter from Audrey Rowe, Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which we thought you'd like to read, too. Because as Rach says, "We want to change the way this generation thinks about food, and we're going to need your help!"
FROM: Audrey Rowe, Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service
TO: The Editor
I would like to sincerely thank Rachael Ray for being such a strong advocate for raising a generation of healthier children and improving the school nutrition environment. Your recently published article "Let's Get America's Kids Healthy!" brings to light the critical connection between federal school meal programs and the nutritional well-being of children.
Nearly 32 million children receive a meal through the National School Lunch Program on any given school day. Most children attend school, and we know that they pick up eating habits early on in life. As a nation, we have a tremendous opportunity to influence the way children eat by teaching them to select healthier choices and by offering them nutritious foods during the school day. Rachael highlighted a key point in her article: School lunch may be the only meal some children get to eat all day. This makes it especially important to us that schools serve a variety of nutritious foods, including whole grains, fruit, and dark green leafy vegetables.
In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let's Move! campaign (www.LetsMove.gov) to raise awareness of childhood obesity, and to make it a top priority for America to raise a generation of children. She calls on the nation to work together to give families and schools the tools they need to help children eat better, be active and live healthier lives. One of these aspects is the reauthorization of the federal school meal programs, now pending before Congress.
Although the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act has not yet passed, many schools have already begun to make successful improvements to their menus through USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge. Schools participating in the Challenge agree to create a healthier school environment by providing nutrition education, nutritious food and beverage choices, physical education and opportunities for physical activity.
As we face a growing epidemic of childhood obesity, we are grateful that leaders like Rachael have embarked on a journey with us to improve the nutritional status of children across the country. Her work on Capitol Hill and creation of fun, healthy recipes for kids through Yum-o! make her a role model for promoting healthy school environments.
Thank you for exploring this important issue. In this critical time, we look forward to working together as a nation to raise a healthier generation of kids.
Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service
By Diane Dragan | Photography by Melissa Golden
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