USDA Grants for New School Food Service Equipment to Help Schools Dish Up Healthy Meals

Straight from the USDA

USDA Awards Grants for New School Food Service Equipment to Help Schools Dish Up Healthy Meals

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $25 million in grants to help schools purchase needed kitchen equipment as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow. Over 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards, serving meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and less sodium and fat. These new grants provide additional support to schools to help them prepare meals that meet those standards.

“We know that there is still a significant unmet need for kitchen equipment in schools, and outdated equipment can make it more difficult to prepare healthy meals,” said Vilsack. “With these grants, schools will be able to get the tools they need to make the healthy choice the easy choice for America’s youngsters.”

In December, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to the District of Columbia, Guam and 14 states. For the latest round of funding, USDA will ensure all State agencies receive a proportional share of the funding. States will competitively award the funds to school districts to purchase needed equipment, giving priority to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals.

Download the list of funding by state for FY13 and FY14.

The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods ProjectThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. – a collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – recently released a report on school kitchen equipment needsThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. that shows most school districts in the U.S. (88 percent) need at least one additional piece of kitchen equipment, and more than half (55 percent) need infrastructure upgrades to serve healthier meals that meet science-based nutrition standards. The report concluded: Investing in kitchens and cafeterias will help schools better serve the nutritious foods and beverages that students need.

Since 2009, USDA has provided $160 million in kitchen equipment funding to states and schools. The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget requests an additional $35 million for kitchen equipment grants. These grants are one of several ways that USDA is supporting schools as the implement the updated nutrition standards.

America’s students now have healthier and more nutritious school meals due to improved nutrition standards implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Other recent actions by the USDA to support schools include:

  • In February, USDA announced the availability of up to $5 million through the Farm to School grant program to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. In FY13, USDA awarded grants to 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia.
  • In March, USDA announced $5.5 million in new Team Nutrition grants to support schools as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow. The grants focus on implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms strategies, a broad toolkit of easy-to-implement, evidence-based practices designed to increase consumption of healthier foods and decrease plate waste.
  • USDA awarded $5.6 million in grants in FY2013 to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs, and plans to award additional grants in FY 2014.

Schools that are interested in applying for these grants should contact their state agency for further information. A list of state agency contacts is available here.

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K-12 Classroom Projects Funded

From our friends at GrantStation…

K-12 Classroom Projects Funded
Kids in Need Foundation
The Kids in Need Foundation is dedicated to engaging students in the learning process by providing grants towards the purchase of supplies for students to participate in special classroom learning experiences. Kids in Need Teacher Grants help pre-K-12 educators develop innovative learning opportunities for their students. The purpose of the grants is to provide support for classroom teachers who have meritorious ideas but lack the budget to bring them to life. Funded projects should make creative use of common teaching aids, approach the curriculum from an imaginative angle, or tie nontraditional concepts together for the purpose of illustrating commonalities. Approximately 300 to 400 grants from $100 to $500 are awarded each year. The application deadline is September 30, 2015. Visit the Foundation’s website to submit an online application.

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Stirring up MyPLate to a melting pot of flavors and cultures

international-and-cultural-food-kitRecently Dr. Katie Wilson, Deputy Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services wrote a blog post for the USDA on MyPLate meals with cultural flavor…

The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Recently, I learned of several examples of this while participating in one of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success workshops that USDA provides to assist school food authorities. The goal of this training is to help schools find simple ways to meet the updated meal standards while increasing the number of children enjoying healthy and flavorful school meals. It’s no secret that children and adolescents can be finicky eaters, but there are creative ways school nutrition professionals can prepare meals to be tastier and more appealing for this tough audience.

For instance, I learned that in Puerto Rico it is common for children to eat arroz con habichuelas y carne de cerdo (rice and beans with pork). Schools are finding ways to prepare this same meal in a healthy way that satisfies the palates of children who are used to eating it at home.

We applaud the push to keep healthy and embrace the natural diversity of our country. We can all appreciate a little spice to our lives and our lunches!

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Farm to Preschool Helps Healthy Habits Take Root Early

Great to see the research from the USDA

“May I have more kale chips, please?” asked a four-year old preschooler during one of my first site visits as farm to school lead for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region. The preschoolers I was visiting grew and harvested the kale themselves a few feet beyond their classroom door and were enjoying the crisp treat as a snack. At the time, the USDA Farm to School Program was just beginning to expand their support to K-12 schools. Since then, I have worked with school districts in bringing the farm to their cafeterias and classrooms.

Our reasons for supporting farm to preschool are numerous. While the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 authorized the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to establish the Farm to School Program, the legislation also expanded the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to not only aid child care institutions in serving nutritious foods, but to contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development. Farm to preschool meets that requirement, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to increase access to healthy environments. As evidenced by the eager kale chip request, farm to preschool efforts can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Through CACFP, more than 3.3 million children receive healthy meals every day as part of the day care they receive. CACFP offers a viable market for local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fisherman, as well as food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Additionally, with parental involvement and hands-on activities as regular practices, early child care settings are a natural fit for connecting children and families with where and how their food is produced.

From Georgia to Oregon, statewide support to implement the farm to preschool program is growing. For National Farm to School Month, the Kansas Department of Education created a Taste of Kansas CACFP menu featuring products grown and produced within the state. Also, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture hired a farm to preschool specialist and offers a whole host of resources on their farm to preschool website.

USDA resources include a new farm to preschool fact sheet, farm to preschool website and a policy memo encouraging early child care providers to use local food as a means to enhance CACFP operations. For 2016, we expanded the USDA Farm to School Grant Program to include school-based CACFP programs. We are updating existing resources, including the Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs Guide, and adapting our hands-on garden-themed curriculum Grow It! Try It! Like It! to fit the needs of day care homes.

Keep your eyes peeled and sign-up for the USDA Farm to School E-letter to stay up-to-date as we further engage with and meet the needs of CACFP providers in offering local foods, garden activities, and more.

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Support for K-12 Enhancement Projects

Support for K-12 Enhancement Projects

Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Grant Program The Toolbox for Education Grant Program, offered by Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, provides grants of $2,000 to $5,000 to public K-12 schools as well as school parent-teacher groups associated with public schools throughout the U.S. that develop projects to encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit. Preference is given to funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor) and landscaping or cleanup projects. The fall 2015 application deadline is October 16; however, if 1,500 applications are received before the application deadline, the application process may close. Visit the program’s website to submit an online application.

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