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.