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UPTON — Blackstone Valley Tech is making national news again by supporting and improving the health of students through a comprehensive approach to nutrition. As a result, the school has been awarded the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) Silver Award by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In receiving this award, Valley Tech joins a very select group of 2,161 schools throughout the U.S. that are certified. A senior official from the USDA will visit Valley Tech’s 65 Pleasant Street campus in Upton, on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 1 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria to present the official award.

As a recipient of this award, Valley Tech receives $1,000, an award plaque signed by a USDA official, and a banner to display in the school. The HUSSC application process was led by Mary Leslie, director of food services and the school’s nutrition educator, Martha Leary Pellegrino, RD, LDN.

The HealthierUS School Challenge is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. It supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign by recognizing schools that are creating healthier school environments through the promotion of good nutrition and physical activity while also helping schools prepare for the school meal pattern changes currently being developed by the USDA for nation-wide implementation. Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the initiative encourages all schools take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime. Valley Tech has worked hard to make changes to their school nutrition environment in order to improve the quality of the foods served, provide students with nutrition education, and provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.

To qualify for the award, Valley Tech submitted a formal application and met a set of criteria set forth by the FNS. The HUSSC criteria reflect the recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published recommendations (April 2007) for foods that should be served in schools, outside of the organized school lunch meals. HealthierUS Schools must also have a school wellness policy, as mandated by Congress. Schools receiving a HUSSC award commit to meeting the criteria throughout their four year certification period.

In addition to the healthful meals being served in Valley Tech’s cafeteria, the school has a nutrition curriculum called VITA, which stands for Vitality through Training, Instruction and Assessment, that is taught to students to promote personal wellness and fitness. Through Valley Tech’s School Based Health Center (SBHC), a program of Milford Regional Medical Center, referrals of students who would benefit from nutritional counseling are made. The SBHC is a collaborative effort between the school and Milford Regional Medical Center supporting existing school services to provide convenient and easily accessible school based health care for students. Physical education and fitness are also an extremely important part of promoting a well-rounded nutrition program. In addition to traditional physical education, the school has an occupational physical education program teaching students proper body movement techniques that can protect them from injury in their chosen vocation.

Valley Tech prides itself on a student participation rate not less than 65% for the school lunch program, 20% higher than the national qualifying criteria for high school participation in the HUSSC. Ms. Pellegrino credits high participation at Valley Tech to the well-rounded program offered to students at the school. The school also has a Student Advisory Committee which allows students to offer their insight into menu offerings.

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 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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