Locally, Nichols Elementary School and Tioga Elementary School, both part of the Tioga Central School District, have received gold awards.

They were honored in the HealthierUS School Challenge - a national initiative to boost health and nutrition in school-age children.

The two elementaries join more than 3,700 schools across the country now certified in the USDA challenge. It's one of the key parts of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation.

A recent news release explains that participating schools are recognized with one of four certifications: Gold of Distinction, Gold, Silver, or Bronze. Those participating schools voluntarily adopt USDA standards for their efforts in improving food and beverage offerings, teaching kids about nutritious food choices and being physically active, providing opportunities for physical activity, and having supportive school wellness policies. All very worthwhile goals. In the U.S., it is estimated there are 32 million lunches and 13 million breakfasts served in schools every school day. What a good place to start teaching kids about nutrition.

We urge other schools in our area to step up and take the challenge. Improving nutrition and encouraging exercise will help to ensure a healthy future for everyone.