COLUMBIA – The State Department of Education is one of 14 state agencies nationwide that will share $4 million in training grants announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
South Carolina will receive $199,957 to reach the caregivers and parents of children younger than the kindergarten level with nutrition and physical activity information. The team nutrition grant will help state officials bridge the gap between childcare centers and nutrition and physical activity requirements outlined by the state's Student Health and Fitness Act. Passed last year by the General Assembly, the Act requires K-5 schools to develop nutrition standards, provide nutrition education, increase physical activity and provide physical education, but it does not require childcare centers to adhere to these standards.
"This grant will reach those children who are not currently being served by our public schools," said State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum. "It will help us ensure that they come to school knowledgeable about healthy foods. By whetting their taste buds for healthy foods now, we help them develop lifelong nutrition and personal fitness habits."
South Carolina's new grant will provide training and technical assistance on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans; MyPyramid and MyPyramid for Kids; and the federal agency's HealthierUS School Challenge, established to recognize schools that take specific steps to improve their nutrition environment. State officials expect to reach 1,500 people annually.
"Improving the overall health and well-being of our children requires a team effort," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "We are committed to improving school nutrition for all students. These grants will provide an additional resource to our partners to promote good nutrition and physical activity for children."
The State Department will use five regional sites across the state – Aiken, Charleston, Columbia, Florence, and Spartanburg – to host training and demonstrations, conducted by nutritionists, three days a month for child and adult care food program staff and interested parents. A statewide conference, website, and listserv will help build capacity and local support.
"By fostering positive working relationships, providing professional development and training, and building a community committed to ensuring the healthy habits of youngsters, we can align standards across public/private agencies, disseminate best practices, and help our youngest citizens become active and healthy adults," Tenenbaum explained.
Team Nutrition, an effort of the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, provides schools with nutrition education materials for children and parents as well as technical assistance materials for school food service providers and communities to support healthy eating and physical activity. Activities support two pillars of the President's HealthierUS Initiative that was launched in 2002 to help Americans live longer and healthier lives.
Tenenbaum has made health and nutrition among children an area of emphasis during her tenure. In 2003, she established a Child Nutrition Task Force to find ways to promote healthy eating habits and to ensure that foods available for children at school are consistent with accepted dietary guidelines.
More information on the team nutrition grants and how schools can become team nutrition schools is available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn.