USDA Announces $5.7 Million in Aid for Promoting Healthy Options in Schools
August 28, 2014 — Meredith Wise
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced multiple initiatives aimed at encouraging schools to implement and expand their healthy meal programs and options for students.
$5.7 million has been set aside for Team Nutrition grants to help state agencies bolster training programs for schools that will help them encourage kids to make healthy decisions. These grants can also be used by states to increase the number of schools that have implemented “Smarter Lunchroom” strategies. Additionally, the USDA is also funding 2,500 toolkits which will provide schools with resources to help them implement various Smarter Lunchroom initiatives.
Smarter Lunchroom strategies are research-based best practices that help schools encourage healthy choices. For example, naming conventions for food items, product placement and display type all affect the choices children make for what to eat. The Smarter Lunchroom program helps schools understand how the decisions they make about the presentation of food influences children’s decisions.
The USDA is also relaunching their “HealthierUS Schools Challenge,” a program designed to provide financial incentives to schools that are doing excellent work toward promoting overall healthy lifestyles. These rewards can range from $500 to $2000, and are based on the school’s level of achievement in promoting both healthy eating and physical activity.
Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon, who made the announcement on behalf of the USDA, says, “We’re committed to supporting schools who want to ensure students head back to a healthier school environment this fall.”
This $5.7 million will add to the more than $522 million in grants and reimbursements, as well as other resources such as technical assistance, already funded by the USDA.
“Parents, teachers, and school nutrition professionals want the best for their children, and want to provide them with proper nutrition so that they can learn and grow into healthy adults. USDA is proud to support the Smarter Lunchroom movement that provides schools with practical, evidence-based tools that they can use to help their students have a healthier school day,” Concannon says.