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Featured on Michelle Obama’s Lets Move!


“As First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.”

- First Lady Michelle Obama




Let’s Move! Michelle Obama’s program to improve kids health and nutrition.

Let’s Move! is an initiative that was launched by the First Lady, Michelle Obama. This wonderful program and blog is focused on getting kids moving and eating right, and includes the first ever task force on obesity. I am very honored to be featured as Lets Move! is one of my favorite resources, both for schools and parents.

I’ve seen criticism by some that the Let’s Move! campaign is too much government overstep into the personal lives and choices of parents, but this is absolutely not the case. Would anyone accuse the work done by the American Heart Association of overstepping? Unfortunately, politics often gets in the way of an otherwise great message: eat better, exercise more.

Thanks to the Let’s Move! initiative, Disney and the Department of Defense announced they would make changes to their nutritional standards, and through the partnership with the HealthierUS School Challenge, more than 5,000 schools now have improved fitness and nutritional standards.

So, Let’s Put Politics Aside! and just appreciate the services, education, resources and improvements that are available thanks to this excellent program. Let’s Get Real! and realize that childhood obesity is serious problem. And while we are at it, Let’s Stop Whining! If you don’t want to follow the guidelines or access the information or participate in the program, then don’t. Although, I suspect if you are someone against improved health guidelines then you are here by mistake anyway.

For the rest of you, check out the resources available from Let’s Move! Start with the Simple Steps for Success if you are looking to make improvements at your school.


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Partnering for Healthier Schools: PTA Leads the Way on Healthy Food in Virginia School

We were recently featured on the USDA blog


Matoaka Elementary School isn’t the biggest school, or the oldest. But it does have a Parent Teacher Association that takes student health very seriously.  So seriously, in fact, that one committee is completely devoted to helping kids and families develop Healthy Lifestyles!

healthy schools

Virginia PTA leads the way with school healthy lifestyles program

“There were a few PTA parents who started talking about how our school could be healthier,” said Tryna Fitzpatrick, “and we decided to survey families and find out what other parents were thinking.”

The results were surprising- 92% of those who completed the survey wanted a healthier school environment- and felt so strongly that they were willing to contribute in one way or another to make it happen! And the Healthy Lifestyle Committee was born. Chaired by Tryna and Michelle Alexander, the campaign began leading the way with small changes and positive examples. The Golden Apple Award, for example, is presented to teachers and parents who are “caught being healthy.”

“Last year one of our Kindergarten teachers decided to change up the menu for the Valentine’s Day Party- but she did it in such a positive way that no one felt deprived,” said Fitzpatrick. “It was a beautiful party full of healthy red, white, and pink foods- things the kids love, like strawberries and yogurt. The kids had a great time.  No one had a chance to miss cupcakes!”

One thoughtful parent award-winner was looking for a way to thank hard working teachers. She developed an after-school exercise program conveniently located and timed so that staff could participate before leaving the school building. Yet another parent manages the school garden. In the fall and spring, kindergarten students plant vegetables, harvest them, and enjoy a salad party. School families care for the garden over the summer, one week at a time.

Small efforts have continued to grow.

“We’re really excited about our Local Food Initiative,” says Tryna. “It required the cooperation of the county, school board, principal, and parents- it’s a big production.”

A local farm, Kelrae, provides high-quality seasonal produce 2-3 times a month for use in school meals. So far, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and asparagus have all been popular offerings. Locally grown red potatoes are next up on the menu this year.

Once there was bad weather and the vegetable the cafeteria staff had planned to use wasn’t available.  Kelrae was able to provide them with kale, instead. The cafeteria staff made crunchy kale chips, which the kids loved!

“Without everyone’s efforts none of this would be possible,” says Tryna.  “But we know from our personal experience that working together can produce great things!”

Find out how you can help introduce more fruits and veggies to schools in your area by visiting our Healthier School Day web site.  Continue to check back here on USDA’s blog as we continue to share stories that highlight how USDA and schools across the country are working to make school days healthier for students.

Trading in the Jag for the Minivan


“It is important to us to give back however we can, and teach our children to do the same. Although they might be fun, flashy cars are not important – people are important. Community is important. Home, family and friendship are important.” 

Published Sunday, November 4, 2007 in The Island Packet Newspaper, Hilton Head SC.

You give up a lot when you become parents. Right away it’s basics like sleep and free time, followed by luxuries like romantic evenings out and eating dinner on the couch. And that’s before the kids can even talk.

Hilton Head Islanders Dan and Tryna Fitzpatrick, both 37, are eight years into this journey called parenthood, which means they’re beyond those initial sacrifices.

They’re giving up their Jaguar S-Type sports car by donating it to Hilton Head’s annual fundraising auction. The car will be sold at auction and 100% of the proceeds will go to the school.

“There’s no room in a Jaguar’s back seat for three kids,” says Dan matter-of-factly. So the Fitzpatrick’s are donating their beloved luxury car to the upcoming fundraiser at the school where their oldest daughter attends. Proceeds from the fundraiser help to broaden the school’s academic and teacher programs, while also providing scholarship and stewardship opportunities for those in the community. The Jaguar S-Type, will be part of a live auction that features getaway vacations to the Bahamas and Scotland, among other posh prizes.  But make no mistake: The Jag will be the highlight.

The car is a remnant of the Fitzpatricks’ former life, one that involved lazy weekends spent  scuba diving with friends in the Florida Keys where they lived. That life didn’t include three children under the age of 9. It was a life without car seats and sudden spills. It was a life the Fitzpatrick’s never expected to leave behind.

The car was brand new when Tryna bought it in 2000. She’d just had a baby, but as a first-time mom she wasn’t quite cognizant of all the ways in which a Jaguar was impractical. ”It was the first ‘from me to me’ gift for Tryna,” says Dan, dad to Alexa, 8, and her sisters Ashlynn, 3, and Addison, 18 months. “It was her first-ever luxury big-ticket item.”

They had fun with the car for a while, but over the years their priorities shifted. When Ashlynn came along, and then Addison, they found fewer occasions to take it for a spin. Eventually, they bought a minivan. ”We call it Black Magic,” Tryna says of their practical family vehicle. “We thought if we got a black one it would pass for ‘cool.’” To fellow parents, perhaps.

The Fitzpatrick’s moved to Hilton Head three years ago after searching up and down the East Coast for just the right community. ”Tryna and I were looking for a real family-friendly place that would also provide us with good expansion opportunities for our growing business and our family,” Dan says.

Finding a good schools “was like a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Tryna says. They are proud supporters of Hilton Head schools, operating a busy school uniform store and being active in the school’s parents’ association. The couple also own a successful digital marketing business,, with clients that include the Federal Government, HHI Chamber of Commerce, the Lowcountry travel association and a growing list of local restaurants, hotels, shops and banks.

minivan “We definitely are not the same people that we were when we first met, but that’s a good thing,” says Tryna, who met Dan at a concert in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “We’re doing things we never thought we’d be doing – like changing diapers and attending PTA meetings, but that is okay because there is nothing else we’d rather be doing.” They’re also happy to be helping the community they love make some money off this remnant from their former, more carefree life. “Tryna and I both have a very strong sense of stewardship toward our neighbors, school and community,” says Dan.  Tryna added, “It is important to us to give back however we can, and teach our children to do the same. Although they might be fun, flashy cars are not important – people are important. Community is important. Home, family and friendship are important.”

Tryna says she’ll miss her Jaguar but has no regrets. ”One of these days I imagine I’ll get another one,” she says. “But right now juice boxes and Cheerios in the back seat do not work with a Jaguar so if by donating it we can help others then that makes me the happiest of all.”

Published Sunday, November 4, 2007 in The Island Packet, shared with permission.
Click here for an excerpt of the original article.