On Sept. 8, USDA issued a press release announcing that some of Oregon’s neediest children will be able to enjoy uninterrupted meal service in the midst of wildfires thanks to a demonstration project approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
FNS has approved the State of Oregon’s request to operate meal service through a Summer Food Service Program demonstration project that allows them to take meals home with them. FNS offers the option for summer meal sponsors to operate this program during the school year when there are unexpected school closures. In Oregon, due to current conditions, it is expected that a number of schools will not be in session. Under this demo, children will be able to take home individually sealed meals served through the program rather than having to eat them on site. FNS is allowing the State of Oregon to use this demo in specific impacted areas on days where there are air quality alerts from the National Weather Service. The approval is effective through October 16.
“USDA strives to ensure all Americans have access to food, especially in times of crisis,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This Summer Food Service Program demo offers the agility to provide meals to children – away from sites – under extraordinary circumstances, including extreme weather situations.”
Visit the USDA Communications web page to read the full press release.
On July 21, 2016, the Obama Administration announced four final rules that implement important provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) building on the progress schools across the country have already made in the improved nutritional quality of meals served in schools. The four are Smart Snacks in School, Local School Wellness Policy, Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), and the Administrative Review final rules.
As a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation, the rules will ensure that children have access to healthy snacks and that nutrition standards for the foods marketed and served in schools are consistent. The rules will also promote integrity across the school meals programs.
“I am thrilled with the progress we continue to make in building healthier learning environments for our kids with science-based nutrition standards for all food sold and marketed in schools. As a mom, I know how hard parents work to provide nutritious meals and snacks to their kids, and we want to make sure we support those efforts with healthy choices at school,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “I am inspired by the tremendous work that’s being done in schools across the country to provide our kids healthy food to fuel them throughout the day so that they can grow up healthy and fulfill their boundless promise.”
Read the press release here…
What’s shaking in USDA’s school meals programs? Check out the USDA Blog to find out what you can do this school year to “spice” things up and take school meals to the next level. A free USDA infographic “What’s Shaking?” illustrates ways to boost flavor while reducing sodium. Visit the blog to choose from various sizes.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Sept. 8 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be awarding over $8 million in grants to help school nutrition professionals better prepare healthy meals for their students. Approximately $2.6 million dollars in grants will support implementation of new national professional standards for all school nutrition employees who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and $5.6 million will go to help states expand and enhance food service training programs and provide nutrition education in school, child care, and summer meal settings.
“For the past three years, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school thanks to the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which made the first meaningful improvements to the nutrition of foods and beverages served in cafeterias and sold in vending machines in 30 years. Nearly all schools are successfully meeting the standards, and these grants part of our ongoing commitment to give states and schools the additional resources they need,” said Vilsack. “Parents, teachers, principals, and school nutrition professionals want the best for their children. Together we can make sure we’re giving our kids the healthy start in life they deserve.”
In February, USDA announced national professional standards for school nutrition employees that went into effect on July 1, 2015. These standards, which vary according to position and job requirements, ensure that school nutrition professionals have the training and skills they need to plan, prepare, purchase, and promote healthy meals. In addition to several built-in flexibilities intended to facilitate the first year of implementation and address the challenges faced by smaller school districts, USDA is providing a total of $2.6 million to 19 state agencies to develop and enhance existing trainings within their state that will allow school nutrition professionals to meet these standards. The Professional Standards Training Grants promote training in nutrition; operations; administration; and communications and marketing.
In addition, 19 states received a 2015 Team Nutrition Training Grant of up to $350,000 – $5.6 million in total – to support trainings that focus on encouraging healthy eating. Those efforts could include:
- using Smarter Lunchrooms strategies that use principles from behavioral economics to encourage healthy choices,
- meeting meal pattern requirements for school meals,
- delivering interactive nutrition education activities, and
- providing schools and child care providers with technical assistance to create and maintain a healthier environment.
Grants activities must be sustainable and achieve measurable outcomes. For example, the Oregon Department of Education will use the grant funds to hold 10 Smarter Lunchroom workshops on strategies for arranging the lunchroom that promote healthy choices. As a result, at least 120 school food authorities and child nutrition program sponsors will receive training and follow-up assistance. A summary of previous years’ grant activities by state can be found at the Team Nutrition Training Grants website.
The Team Nutrition Training Grants are awarded as part of USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative, which provides resources, training, and nutrition education lessons for schools and child care providers. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Team Nutrition initiative. In that time, Team Nutrition has provided nearly $90 million in grant funds to state agencies that implement USDA Child Nutrition Programs.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2015 – In preparation for the 2015 school year, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon, encourages schools to maintain momentum and continue striving toward a healthier generation by offering nutritious, balanced meals to all students.
“I applaud our partners and school foodservice staff for all the hard work they do to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s children. School audits and data show that more than 95 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated meal standards,” said Undersecretary Concannon. “This school year we will work together to continue making historic steps, ensuring that the healthy choice for students is the easy choice in schools. USDA is committed to helping school meal programs fulfill their highest potential, and we look forward to this upcoming school year and the promise it offers for our nation’s youth.”
In the coming year, USDA will continue to make access to nutritious food in high-poverty communities a priority. Across the country, schools and districts of all sizes have successfully implemented the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), and many are seeing increased participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), and serving more meals than in previous years. CEP allows low-income districts or schools the option to eliminate household applications for free and reduced price meals and provide meals at no cost to all students. This greatly reduces administrative burden on schools and eliminates stigma associated with free or reduced priced meals.
In the first year of nationwide CEP implementation, over 14,000 schools in high-poverty areas offered nutritious meals at no cost to more than 6.8 million students. An evaluation of schools that implemented CEP experienced average increases in participation of nine percent in school breakfast and five percent in school lunch. Research has shown that students who consume breakfast make greater strides on standardized tests, pay attention and behave better in class, and are less frequently tardy, absent or visiting the nurse’s office.
Heading into school year 2015-16, schools or districts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will participate in CEP. USDA is committed to ensuring those schools have the support they need to be successful and other eligible schools have all the information to make an informed decision about joining the program.
Recent research shows that some schools need more training to maximize the benefits of the updated meal standards. USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative, launched in November 2014, aims to give schools the opportunity to learn from each other on topics such as financial stability and strong student participation. This school year, USDA will expand the effort to include “Train the Trainer” instruction to develop more mentors at the state and local level who can provide personalized support.
In addition, USDA’s “Tools for Schools” online toolkit has several resources, including recipes and tips for good procurement practices, that states and school nutrition professionals can reference to help offer healthier and more appealing meals and snacks that meet the nutrition standards. As in previous school years, USDA will continue to listen to stakeholders throughout this school year and provide assistance as needed to help schools continue the progress they have made in serving nutritious food to students. USDA has also provided flexibilities, technical assistance, and grants to help schools succeed.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to NSLP and SBP, these programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.
Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced the availability of up to $4 million in funding for states to support implementation of new national professional standards for all school nutrition employees who manage and operate the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast Programs (SBP). The new standards, also announced today, through the final Professional Standards rule, are a key provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA).
“Each and every school day, thousands of compassionate and hard working women and men devote themselves to making sure that more than 50 million schoolchildren have healthy meals to help them learn and grow to their fullest potential,” said Concannon. “These grants and new standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the training and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious and enjoyable school meals.”
USDA will competitively-award Fiscal Year 2015 funds to help state agencies develop and implement trainings that satisfy the requirements of the professional standards rule. A key component of the rule, establishing minimum education and training requirements ensures that school nutrition personnel have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their duties and responsibilities effectively. Read more…