Federal bill would set up grant program for scratch-made meals in schools

If passed, the bill would allocate $100 million over the next five years to launch the program which would provide financial assistance to schools looking to implement scratch-made meals.
Students eat lunch at school
Under the Scratch Cooked Meals for Students Act, schools could apply for grant funding to implement more scratch-made meals . Photo: Shutterstock

A new federal bill would provide grant funding for schools looking to implement more scratch-cooking and a handful of lawmakers have written to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture asking to keep potatoes classified as a vegetable in the upcoming 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Things also have been busy in Virginia, with a pair of bills that would set up a farm-to-school task force in the state headed to the governor’s desk.

Here’s the latest in school nutrition legislation.

Federal bill would provide funding for scratch-made school meals

A federal lawmaker is looking to pass legislation that would encourage more scratch cooking in schools.

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) has introduced the Scratch Cooked Meals for Students Act.

If passed, the bill would allocate $100 million over the next five years to launch a grant program aimed at helping schools incorporate more scratch cooking in their nutrition programs.

Recipients of the grants would be able to use the funding to purchase cafeteria equipment, receive professional development related to scratch cooking and more.

Priority for the grants would be given to schools with a high percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

In addition, the bill would also create a Technical Assistance (TA) Center at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would partner with non-profits to provide technical assistance and guidance to grant recipients.

“Fruits and vegetables are key for healthy growth and brain development in children. Instilling healthy eating habits early on means improved academic performance and lower risk for serious health conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Scratch cooking not only brings fresh, nutritious meals into schools, it promotes workforce development, stimulates economic growth, and strengthens local partnerships between school districts and local farmers and producers,” said Congresswoman Hayesin a statement“The Scratch Cooked Meals for Students Act is a comprehensive way to create healthy, environmentally conscious eating habits in students at an early age, which they can carry well into adulthood. I thank my colleagues, Congresswoman Brownley and Congressman Fitzpatrick, for their commitment to child nutrition and bringing fresh meals to schools.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Potatoes are the new grain?

A group of U.S. lawmakers are fighting to keep potatoes classified as a vegetable after it was revealed that the advisory committee who is in charge of updating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years is considering changing potatoes classification as a vegetable to a grain.  

The bipartisan group of lawmakers penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack arguing that potatoes should keep their classification as a vegetable due to the different nutrients they provide.

“Unlike grains, white potatoes are strong contributors of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber,” the letter’s authors wrote. “A medium baked potato contains 15 percent of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber, 27 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin B6, and 28 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.”

If the 2025 Dietary Guidelines do reclassify potatoes as a grain, it could affect the School Nutrition Standards, which dictate the meal pattern requirements schools under the National School Lunch Program must follow to qualify for reimbursable meals. The nutrition standards are updated every couple of years based off of the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The USDA is currently in the process of updating the School Nutrition Standards to reflect the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It first announced its proposed changes to the standards last year and is expected to announce its final rule on the updated standards sometime this month.

Virginia farm-to-school task force bills head to governor’s desk

A pair of companion bills that would establish a farm-to-school task force in Virginia are now headed to the Governor Glenn Youngkin's desk.

SB 314 and HB 830 would direct the state’s Department of Education to set up the task force, which would be responsible for working with local school boards, community-based organizations, farmers, relevant state and local agencies, and others to analyze existing farm-to-school programs in the state and identify best practices for implementing and sustaining those programs.

The task force would also create and distribute resources that would aid schools in establishing a farm-to-school program, applying for farm-to-school grant funding and more.



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