The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $50 million in grant funding for a new initiative that aims to make school meals healthier and more appealing to students.
This endeavor, dubbed the School Food System Transformation Challenge, aims to encourage schools and the food industry at large to collaborate on healthier school meal solutions.
The USDA will choose as many as four non-governmental organizations, such as universities or nonprofits, to distribute the grants, which will go toward bolstering the school meal supply chain. Final grant recipients may include school districts and food suppliers, according to the USDA.
“School meals programs are on the frontline of providing critical nutrition to millions of children,” Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, said in a statement. “USDA is committed to supporting these programs holistically, and that includes strengthening the entire food supply chain that sustains them. These grants are intended to spark innovation in the school food marketplace and build a more equitable and resilient food system that serves all children well.”
This challenge kicks off the second phase of a $100 million healthy school meals initiative announced by the USDA in September. The first phase established a grant program to assist small and rural school districts with issues like staffing gaps, aging equipment and rising food costs.