The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) has launched the first phase of a new $100 million healthy school meals initiative.
This primary phase will set up a grant program for small and rural school meal programs, create an awards program to recognize school foodservice programs excelling in meal quality and support schools in bringing best practices to their cafeterias.
As part of the grant program, school districts can receive up to $150,000 each to help them overcome staffing shortages, lack of space, outdated equipment and the rising cost of food.
The awards program will recognize school nutrition programs making strides in offering meals that exceed nutrition requirements for sodium and whole grains, reduce added sugars in school breakfasts, implement scratch cooking and nutrition education, reflect the culture of the student body and more.
In addition, FNS will host two Healthy Meal Summits to recognize award recipients. Summit attendees will also share best practices and strategies that can be used by other school nutrition programs throughout the country.
FNS is currently accepting applicants for a nonprofit organization to manage the grant and awards programs. The organization selected will receive around $47 million to execute them.
Later this year, FNS plans to announce the second phase of the $100 million initiative, which which will be aimed at strengthening nutritious options in school meals through financial investment and collaboration with food industry partners.