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Valley schools recognized by USDA for healthy lunches

Kids learn about home-grown food, healthy lifestyles

Local Schools awarded for Cafeteria Food

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - - You are what you eat.

For kids in the Palm Springs Unified School District, that means fruits and veggies -- along with proteins, grains, and dairy.

The USDA awarded 16 schools in the Valley for the HealthyUS School Challenge Award for their efforts to serve healthy lunches and increase physical activity at school.
Fifth graders at Rio Vista Elementary School in Cathedral City performed a routine for the dignitaries from the USDA.
With boys dressed like fruits and vegetables, and girls dressed in 80's garb, they sang songs like, "I Love Vegetables" to the tune of "I Love Rock and Roll" and "You've Got a Friend in Me."

"We're really trying to help build a healthy lifestyle for them," says Andy Ng, USDA Regional Administrator, "...for them to make healthy eating choices and to keep physically active so that they can remain healthy for the rest of their life."

Childhood obesity rates are rising across the United States, but they are stabilizing here in California. Students in the Palm Springs Unified School District are eating 15 percent more fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis than students eating school-provided lunches at other schools in the Valley.

Sandip Kaur, from the California Dept. of Nutrition Education, says, "They have salad bars, they serve more than the normal amount of fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk."

"Farmer Bob" stopped by the school to teach students about the benefit of the food they eat -- a lesson the kids sometimes pass on to mom and dad.

"It's about teaching children about healthy eating," Kaur explained, "sometimes they take that message at home and teach their parents. You know, they might eat a Kiwi here and then when they go to the grocery store they want to try more kiwi."

A national issue with these provided lunches, though, seems to be the satisfaction. The lunches were created as part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign. Some students in Wisconsin are protesting the meals, saying they aren't enough food to satisfy student's hunger.

Kaur says that is mostly an issue between high school students, but for fifth graders, like the ones we talked to at Rio Vista, sometimes the meals are too much.

"Some children think it's too much food so they can't eat it all." Kaur continues, "Maybe for the high school kids they may be a little hungry if they're doing after school activities and sports and such."

Kaur says it is still too early to see any long-term studies on the nutritional benefits or disadvantages from the Let's Move campaign.

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