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John Magnarelli, a senior official from the U.S. Department of Agriculture presents Valley Tech with the HealthierUS School Challenge Silver Award. Valley Tech is 1 in only 10 high schools throughout the U.S. to receive this award. Displaying the banner from left-right: Mary Leslie, Manager of Food Services; Shawn Slaney (Northbridge), Valley Tech senior; Christopher Cummings, Assistant Superintendent-Director/Principal; Martha Leary Pellegrino, RD, LDN, Nutrition Educator; John Magnarelli, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Nick Manguso (Upton), Valley Tech senior; Tyler Smith (Grafton), Valley Tech senior; James Hewitt (Upton), Valley Tech senior

UPTON — John Magnarelli, USDA’s top regional school lunch official, presented Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School with a HealthierUS Award, one of the nation’s highest school nutrition awards, from the US Department of Agriculture.

Magnarelli applauded the students, food service staff, and school officials for being the first high school in the state to earn the Silver award, and 1 out of just 10 high schools throughout the United States, in USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Only about 2 percent of schools nationwide have achieved HealthierUS status.

“We are reminded about the importance of providing our children access to nutritious meals so they are able to learn, thrive and grow,” said Magnarelli. “Through our HealthierUS School Challenge, USDA recognizes schools that have accepted the challenge of revamping school lunch with meals that look good, taste good and are good for you. As students get older it gets harder to get them to change the way they eat, making this an especially rigorous challenge at the high school level.”

“Valley Tech’s long term nutrition improvements have been met by students with ownership and enthusiasm. Greater nutritional awareness has resulted in high participation rates,” stated Dr. Michael F. Fitzpatrick, Superintendent-Director of the Blackstone Valley Vocational Regional School District. “We are proud to join the ranks of a select group of schools throughout the nation in receiving this award, and prouder to help our students make lifelong healthier eating and physical activity choices.”

The Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. Schools participating in the Challenge voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, agree to provide nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity. Challenge winners are recognized with Gold of Distinction, Gold, Silver, or Bronze-level certification. Challenge certification also includes monetary incentives for schools – $2,000 for Gold Award of Distinction, $1,500 for Gold, $1,000 for Silver and $500 for Bronze.

Improving child nutrition is a focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that recently passed Congress and was signed by President Obama on December 13, 2010. This legislation authorizes USDA’s child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. USDA encourages schools to use the HealthierUS School Challenge as a means of meeting the new reforms in school meal programs.

Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School serves the towns of Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton and Uxbridge. Located in the heart of the Blackstone Valley, Blackstone Valley Tech creates a positive learning community that prepares students for personal and professional success in an internationally competitive society through a fusion of rigorous vocational, technical, and academic skills. The school�s website is www.valleytech.k12.ma.us.

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About the Education Foundation

The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation, Inc. is the not-for-profit umbrella organization for all Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce school-business related activities and cultural programs. Our Mission: To lead and support education that promotes workforce development and enhances the quality of life in the Blackstone Valley.

About the Chamber

The mission of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce is to promote the economic vitality of the Blackstone Valley and meet the needs of the Chamber’s business members, while providing leadership on issues which impact the economy and quality of life in the Valley. The Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce serves the eleven towns in the Massachusetts BV Region: Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton and Uxbridge. For more information on the Chamber please contact administrator@blackstonevalley.org or call 508 234 9090 X101.

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