USDA Spending $5.2M to ‘Support Schools As They Strive to Serve Healthy Food’

Michelle Obama School Lunches

First lady Michelle Obama takes a bit of her turkey taco as she has lunch with school children at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – The Department of Agriculture announced last week that it is giving 18 states and one territory a total of $5.2 million in grants to help schools conform to new federal guidelines on food served in cafeterias.

The grants are designed to “support schools as they strive to serve healthy food, provide nutrition education, and create an environment focused on healthy eating and physical activity,” the press release states.

“When we serve our children healthy school meals, we’re making a critical investment in their academic performance, their physical health, and their future,” Kathleen Merrigan, Department of Agriculture deputy secretary, said in announcing the federal grants.

“Today’s announcement reflects our ongoing commitment to provide States with the tools they need to build a healthy school environment. Providing nutrition education resources, extending training and technical assistance to foodservice professionals, and building community support helps ensure that every child in America has a chance to succeed,” she said.

In addition to training cafeteria personnel and providing “nutrition education” to children, the grant money — appropriated by Congress through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 — will go in part to structure school cafeterias “in a way that encourages the selection of healthy foods,” the news release said. The funds also will be used to encourage schools to participate in the “Healthier US School Challenge.”

The funds, made available for the period of Sept. 30, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2014, were given to the following states and territory:

Alaska, $242,847.00

Arizona, $319,772.00

Florida, $311,500.00

Guam, $330,344.00

Hawaii, $233,016.00

Idaho, $245,120.00

Illinois, $50,000.00

Iowa, $348,335.00

Kansas, $349,715.00

Michigan, $333,420.00

Missouri, $342,609.00

Montana, $349,924.00

New Jersey, $324,151.00

North Dakota, $247,580.00

Ohio, $345,849.00

Utah, $41,540.00

Washington, $222,508.00

Washington, $46,772.00

West Virginia, $346,515.00

Wisconsin, $203,056.00

In August, the USDA announced the new meal standards for federally funded schools, as follows:

·       Ensure students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;

·       Substantially increase offerings of whole grain-rich foods and low-fat milk or fat-free milk varieties;

·       Limit calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and

·       Focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

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