USDA grants to support school foodservice training

by Eric Schroeder
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The CDC reports schools are making progress toward improving the healthfulness of school meals.
The USDA will award more than $8 million in grants to help school nutrition professionals better prepare healthy meals for their students.

WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture will award more than $8 million in grants to help school nutrition professionals better prepare healthy meals for their students. Of the $8 million, approximately $2.6 million will support implementing new national professional standards for all school nutrition employees who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and $5.6 million will help states expand and enhance foodservice training programs and provide nutrition education in school, child care, and summer meal settings, the USDA said. 

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

“For the past three years, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school thanks to the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which made the first meaningful improvements to the nutrition of foods and beverages served in cafeterias and sold in vending machines in 30 years,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “Nearly all schools are successfully meeting the standards, and these grants are part of our ongoing commitment to give states and schools the additional resources they need. Parents, teachers, principals and school nutrition professionals want the best for their children. Together we can make sure we’re giving our kids the healthy start in life they deserve.”

The grants are one of many resources the USDA has set out to provide to help schools develop healthier food options that meet updated nutrition standards. The department also provides technical assistance, educational materials and additional reimbursements. According to the USDA, more than 95 percent of schools said they are successfully meeting nutrition standards.

In February, the USDA announced national professional standards for school nutrition employees that went into effect on July 1. With its grant of $2.6 million to 19 state agencies, the USDA hopes to develop and enhance existing trainings within each state that will allow school nutrition professionals to meet the new standards. The Professional Standards Training Grants promote training in nutrition; operations; administration; and communications and marketing.

In addition, 19 states received a 2015 Team Nutrition Training Grant of up to $350,000 — $5.6 million in total — to support training that focuses on encouraging healthy eating. Those efforts could include:

• using Smarter Lunchrooms strategies that use principles from behavioral economics to encourage healthy choices;
• meeting meal pattern requirements for school meals;
• delivering interactive nutrition education activities; and
• providing schools and child care providers with technical assistance to create and maintain a healthier environment.

The Team Nutrition Training Grants are awarded as part of the USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative, which provides resources, training and nutrition education lessons for schools and child care providers. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Team Nutrition initiative. During that time, Team Nutrition has provided nearly $90 million in grant funds to state agencies that implement USDA Child Nutrition Programs.

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