By Ashley Conroy
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Mississippi is now the only state in the nation to offer a monetary incentive back to healthy schools.
A new state law, signed by Governor Haley Barbour, will allow already existing "healthy" schools and schools that choose to change their current health programs to receive anywhere from $2 thousand to $8 thousand.
It's part of a larger program called the HealthierUS Schools Challenge under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Director of the office of healthy schools, Shane McNeill, from the Mississippi Department of Education said other schools in the nation may be recognized for their healthy efforts, but Mississippi is the only state who offers a cash incentive.
"We're really rewarding school districts for going above and beyond the minimum requirements," said McNeill.
McNeill added that because of Mississippi's overall high obesity rate, the state has to be one step ahead.
"We need to be more progressive and proactive in the implementation of quality programs that meet the nutritional and physical activity needs of children," said McNeill.
It started as a pilot program with five different schools: three in Corinth and the other two in South Panola and Starkville.
A school would receive either a gold, silver or bronze rating depending on their curriculum and school lunch choices.
In order for a school to qualify under the HealthierUS Schools Challenge, they would have to implement a nutrition education program, a physical education program, enrolled as a Team Nutrition school, offer a different vegetable, fruit, and some type of grain every day of the week.
In addition, McNeill said there is a lengthy application process to get started, but any school can qualify as long as they're approved by the state.
For more information go to: www.fns.usda.gov
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