USDA invests nearly $30M to boost school nutrition in 264 small and rural communities through partnership with Action for Healthy Kids
As part of a cooperative agreement to develop and implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, Action for Healthy Kids last Monday announced that it is awarding nearly $30 million in subgrants to 264 school districts across 44 states and the District of Columbia, reaching students in some of our nation’s highest-need schools.
These funds are being provided by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
“Students in every community deserve access to healthy and nutritious meals,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to creating healthier, brighter futures for our children. With these funds, small and rural school districts will be able to modernize their operations and provide more nutritious meals, helping students succeed in the classroom and beyond.”
Each small and/or rural school district will receive up to $150,000 to support them in improving the nutritional quality of their meals and modernizing their operations, through efforts which could include:
• Innovative staff training programs;
• Kitchen updates and renovations;
• Redesigning food preparation and service spaces; and
• Other school-district led efforts to support school meals and school nutrition professionals.
“When we strengthen school meal quality, we strengthen child health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “These grants are the largest targeted investment USDA has ever made for school meal programs in small and rural communities. We want to ensure every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school with high quality, nutritious meals, and this support is a step in that direction.”
An online map at https://healthymealsincentives.org/grantees/features the selected school districts and their grant amounts. The map will be updated on a rolling basis as schools formalize their grant agreements.
The Zane Trace Local Schools district is among those awarded grants, receiving $103,869.
“Offering healthier school meals is key to helping our nation’s kids get the nutrients they need today and for their long-term development,” said Action for Healthy Kids CEO Rob Bisceglie. “Through this historic investment in school nutrition, we will help school districts across the country overcome challenges and develop solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children they serve.”
USDA and Action for Healthy Kids also recently opened applications for the Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards, which celebrate school districts that have made significant improvements to the nutritional quality of their school meals. All school districts in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands are invited to apply. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through June 30, 2025.
School districts that meet Recognition Award criteria will receive benefits such as national and local recognition; travel stipends to attend a national Healthy Meals Summit; access to diverse best practices, training activities; and more.
Action for Healthy Kids will manage the grants to school districts, Recognition Awards, and Healthy Meals Summits with the support of The Chef Ann Foundation and Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education.
USDA’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative also includes the School Food System Transformation Challenge Grants, which aim to support innovation in the school meals market by increasing collaboration between schools, food producers and suppliers, and other partners. Applications for the Challenge Grants are expected to open in late 2023 or early 2024.
To learn more about other resources USDA provides to strengthen school meal programs, visit the USDA Support for School Meals webpage.
FNS works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs, the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022, highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.
Action for Healthy Kids is dedicated to improving children’s health and well-being by bringing together and mobilizing educators, families, and other key stakeholders to help children lead healthy lives. Through its core programming and family-school partnerships, AFHK has impacted more than 20 million children in 55,000 schools nationwide to address systemic challenges in underserved communities. To learn more about its growing network of volunteers and champions, visit www.actionforhealthykids.org.