CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Orchard Knob Elementary is making national news by working to support and improve the health of Hamilton County children.  The school has won the Gold of Distinction Award. They are one of 17 schools in Tennessee receiving this award, which includes $2,000.

As part of their effort, healthy items are featured on their menus and physical education and activity emphasized.  These efforts are part of the Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC), a USDA award program.

Two of USDA's Program Specialist for National Programs, Tim Mote and Jennifer Shives visited Orchard Knob Elementary Tuesday to present the official award, along with Sarah White, State Director of School Nutrition.

The application process was led by Principal LaFederick Thirkhill and Kristen Eppig Nauss, the county's School Nutrition Supervisor of Nutritional Services.  Thirkill said special recognition is also due to the School Nutrition staff for their efforts in achieving school lunch menu changes leading to the award.  The changes included an increase of offerings of fruits and vegetables, along with other strict requirements.

Birchwood Elementary was also recognized, earning a Silver award, and a cash prize of $1,000.

The Healthier US School Challenge is a voluntary national certification initiative for schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. It supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign by recognizing schools that are creating healthier school environments through their promotion of good nutrition and physical activity. Sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the initiative encourages all schools to take a leadership role in helping students to make healthier eating and physical activity choices that will last a lifetime. Schools, such as Birchwood Elementary, that champion the HUSSC work hard to make changes to their school environment in order to (1) improve the quality of foods served, (2) provide students with nutrition education, and (3) provide students with physical education and opportunities for physical activity.

Ultimately, FNS would like to see all schools receive a HUSSC award at any one of the four levels of superior performance: Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Gold of Distinction. Schools awarded receive monetary incentive (Bronze $500, Silver $1000, Gold $1500, and Gold Award of Distinction $2000), an award plaque signed by a USDA official, a banner to display in their school, and their name listed on the Team Nutrition Web site.