So-called Team Nutrition Grants are being awarded to 20 states to help “expand and enhance training programs that help schools encourage kids to make healthy choices,” USDA said in a press release. The grants total $5.7 million with Washington and Montana each receiving the largest shares, just over $349,000.
USDA says some of the states will use the grants to increase the number of schools implementing Smarter Lunchroom strategies, which are methods to encourage students to choose healthy foods. The strategies, developed by Cornell University nutrition experts, might include creative naming and display of fruits and vegetables, which researchers say can double sales of those products.
USDA also announced the re-launching of the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), a voluntary program that rewards schools “that choose to take steps to encourage kids to make healthy choices and be more physically active.” Any school enrolled in the National School Lunch program can participate in HUSSC and earn awards ranging from $500 to $2,000, depending on the level of achievement.
Kevin Concannon, USDA under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, said the department is “committed to supporting schools who want to ensure students head back to a healthier school environment this fall.” School officials “want the best for their children, and want to provide them with proper nutrition so that they can learn and grow into healthy adults,” he said.
School nutrition has been a hotly-debated topic as House Republicans argue that some schools can’t afford to comply with new standards created, in large part, through the efforts of first lady Michelle Obama. Additionally, they say, many students don’t like the new requirement, which call for more fruits and vegetables and whole-grain products. USDA says more than 90 percent of schools report they are successfully meeting the new standards.
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