PLAQUEMINE — The Iberville Parish public school system will send a delegation to Washington, D.C., later this month to meet first lady Michelle Obama, after four district schools recently received high national honors for efforts in improving nutrition education and food quality on their campuses.

During Monday’s School Board meeting, system Food Services Director Paula Tillman Warner announced that Dorseyville Elementary School, East Iberville Elementary and High School, Iberville Elementary School and North Iberville Elementary School each received the Gold Award of Distinction from the USDA’s HealtheirUS Schools Challenge, or HUSSC.

To acknowledge their achievement, Warner said, each of the schools will receive a HUSSC award plaque, a banner to display and a $2,000 prize.

Warner said she and the food service supervisors from the winning schools will meet with Obama at a special reception, scheduled for July 29 at the White House.

The School Board also recognized the achievement Monday, presenting Warner with a certificate of recognition.

According to information from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website, the HealthierUS Schools Challenge is a voluntary initiative established in 2004 to recognize those schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that create healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

In February 2010, Obama introduced “Let’s Move!,” incorporating the HealthierUS School Challenge into her campaign to raise a healthier generation of kids. At that time, monetary incentive awards became available for each HUSSC award level.

Since the beginning of the HealthierUS School Challenge in 2004, awards have been given to schools in 43 states. As of June 8, a total of 1,220 schools had received certification.

Warner said during Monday’s meeting that the program involved numerous aspects, both in the cafeteria as well as in the classroom.

“Not only did the school lunch menus go through an overhaul, but we also looked at the competitive foods that are sold on the campuses during the course of the day,” she said, “There was also nutrition education in the classroom.”

Warner said the collaborative effort came from the schools’ teachers as well as food service staff members.

“Some of the teachers went above and beyond the call of duty to implement the nutrition education in their classrooms,” she said. “Some of them had children conduct research projects on grains, beans and high-fiber items. They had to chart certain things and display them in the classroom.

“Some of them grew vegetable gardens on the campuses, charted the growth and had to talk about the nutrients found in those vegetables,” Warner said.

HUSSC award-winning schools pledge to commit to meeting the criteria throughout their four-year certification period, according to the program’s website. The schools will also meet all School Meals Initiative requirements, including energy and nutrient standards and age-appropriate portion sizes on an ongoing basis.

Participating schools will plan meals that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products; that include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and that are low in saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.