Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $25 million in grants to help schools purchase needed kitchen equipment as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow. Over 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards, serving meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and less sodium and fat. These new grants provide additional support to schools to help them prepare meals that meet those standards.
"We know that there is still a significant unmet need for kitchen equipment in schools, and outdated equipment can make it more difficult to prepare healthy meals," said Vilsack. "With these grants, schools will be able to get the tools they need to make the healthy choice the easy choice for America's youngsters."
In December, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to the District of Columbia, Guam and 14 states. For the latest round of funding, USDA will ensure all State agencies receive a proportional share of the funding. States will competitively award the funds to school districts to purchase needed equipment, giving priority to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals.
The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project -- a collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- recently released a report on school kitchen equipment needsthat shows most school districts in the U.S. (88 percent) need at least one additional piece of kitchen equipment, and more than half (55 percent) need infrastructure upgrades to serve healthier meals that meet science-based nutrition standards. The report concluded: Investing in kitchens and cafeterias will help schools better serve the nutritious foods and beverages that students need.
Since 2009, USDA has provided $160 million in kitchen equipment funding to states and schools. The President's fiscal year 2015 budget requests an additional $35 million for kitchen equipment grants. These grants are one of several ways that USDA is supporting schools as the implement the updated nutrition standards.
America's students now have healthier and more nutritious school meals due to improved nutrition standards implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Other recent actions by the USDA to support schools include:
In February, USDA announced the availability of up to $5 million through the Farm to School grant program to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. In FY13, USDA awarded grants to 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia.
In March, USDA announced $5.5 million in new Team Nutrition grants to support schools as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow. The grants focus on implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms strategies, a broad toolkit of easy-to-implement, evidence-based practices designed to increase consumption of healthier foods and decrease plate waste.
USDA awarded $5.6 million in grants in FY2013 to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs, and plans to award additional grants in FY 2014.
Schools that are interested in applying for these grants should contact their state agency for further information.