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The “Little School That Could” Reaches Top

Everyone has heard the children’s story of the “Little Engine that Could” that made the long journey to the top of the hill by pure determination and can-do attitude. But have you heard the story about the “Little School that Could”?

F.S. Ervin Elementary School, with 353 students from a small, rural town called Pine Hill, Ala., with a median per capita income of less than $16,000, and a population of less than 1,000, according to the 2000 Census, was the recent recipient of one of the highest awards the USDA gives for the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), called the Gold Award of Distinction, at a ceremony on April, 7, at the school.

Southeast Regional Administrator Don Arnette awards F.S. Ervin Elementary School in Pine Hill, Ala., with the HealthierUS School Challenge a Gold Award of Distinction (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

“For a rural school like this to earn this award doesn’t give anyone else an excuse not to be a HealthierUS School,” said Perry Fulton, Child Nutrition Director, Alabama Department of Education. “It’s not that hard but someone has to care enough about the children’s health and nutrition and have the determination to do it.”

The HUSSC 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 HUSSC voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, agree to provide nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity.

Students at F.S. Ervin Elementary School in Pine Hill, Ala., talk about the benefits of healthy eating at their HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award of Distinction Ceremony (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

Alabama has 63 schools currently certified as HealthierUS Schools, with 715 schools currently certified in the entire nation as of April 14, 2011.  This puts Alabama in an elite class thanks to people who have the determination and will to make it happen, like Wynette Shine, cafeteria manager for F.S. Ervin Elementary School and Peggy Terry, Wilcox County Child Nutrition Program Director.

“Proper nutrition and physical activity are just good things to do for the kids,” said Terry. We just needed to document what we were doing and send it forward for the (HUSSC) award.”

Students at F.S. Ervin Elementary School in Pine Hill, Ala., do Power Panther moves to celebrate their school’s HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award of Distinction(USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

The “Little School That Could” certainly makes it sound easy to reach the top.