The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the recipients of its 2022 Team Nutrition Training Grants.
The 2-year grants were awarded to eight states and are intended to help them build and retain a strong school nutrition workforce. Recipients were awarded grants from one of three tracks: coaching and mentoring for school nutrition professionals, incentivized training for school nutrition professionals and nutrition education for school nutrition professionals, students and families. Here’s a look at the recipients and how they intend to use their funding.
Coaching and Mentoring for School Nutrition Professionals
The state of Washington was awarded funding for track 1. The Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will be using its funding to expand the reach of a school nutrition mentorship program that will now be available to 27 of the state’s 39 counties and focus on increasing the quality of school meals through the coaching and mentoring of school nutrition professionals.
The OSPI will also be awarding a series of smaller subgrants of up to $2,000 for districts to procure kitchen equipment that will allow for more scratch cooking.
Incentivized Training for School Nutrition Professionals
Five states were awarded grant funding for track 2. The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) will be using its track 2 funding to expand its Beyond the Serving Line Training Academy program to offer virtual and in-person training for around 150 school nutrition directors, 600 school nutrition managers and 400 front line workers. The ALSDE will provide a monetary bonus for those who complete the training within a six-month period. The ALSDE will also be awarding $2,500 in subgrants to 42 school food authorities (SFAs) to be used to purchase school meal serving items and cafeteria signage, hire staff and consultants and host an "Open House" event to educate students, parents, caregivers, administrators and stakeholders about new menu items.
With its track 2 funding, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) will create a virtual training program aimed at assisting school nutrition professionals with meeting meal pattern requirements and weekly dietary specifications for school meals. IDOE will also be awarding sub-grants to SFAs in rural areas where at least 40% of enrolled students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. The sub-grants will be used to provide a monetary incentive of $500 for each school nutrition director or manager and $100 for each frontline staff member that completes the virtual training within six months. Additional sub-grants will also be awarded by the IDOE to SFAs to provide professional development, create and provide training resources and develop school meals that reflect local cultures.
The Montana Office of Public Instruction is using its funding to implement the Montana School Meals Certificate Program, which will provide virtual and in-person training for school nutrition professionals, with specific outreach to those working with schools on American Indian reservations. The trainings will focus on improving and expanding meal service delivery methods, and school nutrition professionals who complete the training will receive a monetary bonus. In addition, Montana OPI will partner with an Indigenous chef to train school nutrition professionals at tribal schools on the use of Indigenous foods as part of school meals and will also be awarding sub-grants of $7,500 to SFAs to purchase needed equipment.
Grant funding awarded to North Dakota will be used by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) to expand its current training program to include locations at tribal schools. The training will cover food preparation techniques, recipe standardization and use, school food forecasting and procurement and cultural best practices to foster a more inclusive and accessible learning environment. Staff who complete the training within six months will receive a monetary bonus.
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will use its funding to conduct an assessment to determine barriers for meeting transitional school meal pattern requirements and for offering freshly prepared, local and culturally inclusive school meals. The VDOE will then create and provide a training program that will reach an estimated 155 school nutrition directors and 2,100 frontline cafeteria managers. Those who complete the training program within six months will receive a monetary bonus.
Nutrition Education for School Nutrition Professionals
Michigan and Minnesota were awarded grant funding for track 3.
Michigan will partner with the Michigan Fitness Foundation to train and mentor 150 school nutrition directors on how to implement a Harvest of the Month (HOM) initiative at their operation. The Michigan Department of Education will award subgrants of $3,500 to SFAs for the purchase of supplies for food demonstrations and tastings, small kitchen equipment, cafeteria signage and the production of printing and education materials.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will use the funding to expand its HOM program and establish a statewide steering committee responsible for facilitating culturally appropriate nutrition education intended for the state’s diverse student population. Sub-grants of $5,000 will also be awarded to 24 SFAs where at least 40% of enrolled students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Funds from these sub-grants will be used to support menu changes needed to meet meal pattern requirements, purchase small equipment and host parent engagement nights. Students at sub-grant recipient schools will also receive HOM nutrition education through a partnership between the MDE and SNAP-Ed educators. Additionally, MDE will provide nutrition education for 400 school nutrition professionals in the state to enhance menu options and familiarize staff with local school wellness policies.