The National Restaurant Association applauded school lunch providers Aramark, Chartwells Educational Dining Services of Compass Group North America, and Sodexo, which joined with First Lady Michelle Obama in a groundbreaking pledge to help eliminate childhood obesity within a generation.

At a White House ceremony to launch the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign, the restaurant association members pledged to support the Administration’s HealthierUS School Challenge by including more fruit, juice, vegetable, whole grain, and milk options in reimbursable lunches as well as increasing the foods in school lunches that meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for fat, sugar, and whole grains over the next five years. The providers also agreed to increase nutrition education efforts aimed at students and parents. Under the agreement, the school lunch providers will work closely with the White House, federal and state agencies, local school districts, and others in the private sector to achieve these objectives.

“The restaurant and foodservice industry is proud to partner with the First Lady to proactively advance child health,” says National Restaurant Association president and CEO Dawn Sweeney. “We support flexible, voluntary efforts that encourage innovation by the industry as the best way to respond to consumer needs.”

Joining the First Lady at the White House were Dennis Maple, president of Aramark Education; Steve Sweeney, president and CEO of Chartwells Educational Dining Services of Compass North America; Lorna Donatone, chief operating officer and president of Education Market Division for Sodexo; and Sweeney.

Collectively, Aramark, Chartwells, and Sodexo serve over 750 million school meals annually. The agreement will affect 135,000 students in the 2010-2011 school year alone. In addition, representatives estimate a potential increase of nearly 19 million meals conforming to standards outlined in the HealthierUS School Challenge. The school lunch providers expect to reach more than 2 million families with nutrition information.

The Administration pledged to significantly reduce administrative requirements for participation in the HealthierUS School Challenge and to work with Congress to provide adequate resources to schools in support of the HealthierUS School Challenge goals, including advocating for additional resources as part of the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act later this year.

Over the longer term, the providers committed to working with suppliers to advance the goals and working to double produce offered in school meals over the next 10 years.

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