CROWN POINT | School officials will get to rub elbows with first lady Michelle Obama in recognition of their efforts to keep lunch trays loaded with healthy food.

Mrs. Obama invited officials to a July 29 reception on the White House South Lawn honoring participants in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge Program.

"It's the chance of a lifetime," said Pam Maloney, Crown Point Community School Corp. director of food service.

Nine Crown Point schools -- all but the high school -- were named recipients in April of the program's Silver award, which recognizes schools that meet high standards for school meal programs and provide nutrition education and physical fitness opportunities for students.

Mrs. Obama's invitation accompanied a June 24 letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture applauding the schools' efforts "to create an environment that helps children learn about healthy food choices and being physically active."

The USDA was "inspired by the stories of success from HealthierUS School Challenge Schools, such as yours," the letter said.

The Crown Point district began to focus on more nutritional meals several years ago and introduced new menu items a few at a time, Maloney said earlier this year.

Hot dogs and popcorn chicken were removed from school menus while servings of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables were encouraged.

The Crown Point schools were the first in the state to be certified under new USDA standards for the HealthierUS School Challenge Program, and were the only Indiana schools named as Silver award recipients this year.

Nationwide, 64 schools were certified in 41 states. Each certified school received a White House invitation.

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