Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack visits Maplewood
United States Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack visited Maplewood Elementary School in Greeley-Evans School District 6 today to recognize the work District 6 has accomplished to ensure all students have access to healthy meals and activities, and to announce some new national initiatives aimed at providing greater access to healthy meals for all children.
“USDA and the Biden-Harris Administration are committed to leading the way to a healthier future for our country, and it starts with our children," said Secretary Vilsack. "It was an honor to join students and the hardworking district staff at Maplewood Elementary School to highlight their innovative approaches to teaching students about nutrition. By continuing our work to expand and support access to school meal programs across the country, we can keep students healthy and help them reach their full potential."
Secretary Vilsack and other staff members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture toured Maplewood Elementary today, visiting a student culinary class and the cafeteria during lunch time. Prior to the tour, Secretary Vilsack held a briefing with District 6, USDA and state stakeholders about the work going on in District 6, including the Farm-to-Table partnership with local growers, school gardens, nutrition education programs for students, the Board of Education’s decision to feed all students for free this year and other health initiatives.
In a press conference following the tour, Secretary Vilsack said he was impressed with the student nutrition work going on in District 6. He said Maplewood Elementary and District 6 are an example of what can be accomplished to provide students healthy food choices, culturally responsive meals and nutrition-based educational opportunities.
“What is going on at Maplewood and in the Greeley-Evans schools, it is just miraculous,” Secretary Vilsack said during the press conference. “It is incredibly significant that this is a school district that has committed to creating healthy choices for students.”
District 6 Superintendent Dr. Deirdre Pilch addressed the Secretary and the press conference, saying that good nutrition is essential for student success. Nearly 67 percent of the more than 22,000 students in District 6 qualify for free or reduced meals.
“The way we turn around poverty is to educate students well,” Dr. Pilch said. “And we can’t educate students well if we don’t provide them healthy meals and activities.”
The Secretary also praised the work of Director of Nutrition Services Danielle Bock and her staff, saying their creativity and knowledge has helped District 6 become a model for other school districts to emulate.
“For us, providing quality food and access to quality food is a mission,” Bock said. “Access to food is a basic human right.”
In addition, Secretary Vilsack announced that the USDA will expand support for several grant programs that will help increase collaboration between schools, food producers and suppliers and other partners to develop nutritious and tasty school meals for students. He also said the department is proposing a change that would extend the threshold for school districts to qualify to provide free meals to all students under the Community Eligibility Provision. If approved, this new eligibility threshold will work in conjunction with the Colorado Meals for All program to provide free meals to all students in District 6 and all school districts in the state for the forseeable future.
“These kids will probably never know how lucky they are,” Secretary Vilsack said.