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Let' Move Blog

A School and Community with Distinction

When First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the School Nutrition Association last year to promote her recently launched Let’s Move! Initiative, she mentioned Anji Baumann by name. Why? Anji was the first Food Service Director in the nation whose school, Gooding Elementary School, had achieved the HealthierUS School Challenge Gold of Distinction Award. When Anji first learned about the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), she wanted to apply to highlight the healthy food they were already serving. When she compared their menus and nutrition and physical activities to the requirements, she was surprised at how close they were to meeting the criteria. So she went about gaining support from the kitchen staff, teachers, and parents to make the changes necessary to meet the criteria. Her superintendent, Dr. Heather Williams, always supported health and championed Anji’s drive to go for gold. Most importantly though, she stirred up enthusiasm among the students – it goes without saying that they were excited to win the award. They eagerly tried the whole grain breads baked from scratch and locally grown produce she offered at lunch and participated in nutrition and fitness clubs. The whole school was behind her. From left to right: Gooding School District Superintendent Dr. Heather Williams, USDA Food and Nutrition Service Nutritionist Melisa Di Tano, Gooding School District Child Nutrition Director Anji Baumann, and Idaho Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Programs Coordinator Heidi Martin, MS, RD, LD So what’s her secret? Anji supports them, too. She often gives nutrition education presentations for classes and community health fairs. She shares Let’s Move! e-mail updates with all school staff and stays connected with the community through health-related events and Facebook. What struck me most when I visited Gooding, Idaho, was how many of the students walking down the hallway stopped to hug her. Her next project? Submitting HUSSC applications for Gooding Middle School and Gooding High School. The students that have grown accustomed to the healthier offerings in the elementary school are now in high school, so there’s higher demand for healthier menu items there, too. Asked what keeps her going; Anji’s answer is simple. “We do it, because it’s best for the kids.”