The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


USDA announces grants to help schools prepare healthier meals

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Janey Thornton announced Friday that 19 states and one territory had won $5.2 million in grants to help their schools meet the new meal requirements that have gone into effect this fall.

In a news release, Merrigan and Thornton acknowledged that some schools have found some resistance to the healthier foods and calorie restrictions under the new rules, but said they hope the grants will enable schools to deal with some of the challenges.

The grants, which were competitive, can be used to encourage HealthierUS School Challenge participation, structure cafeterias to encourage the selection of healthy foods, and promote healthier environments to align with the Local Wellness Policy requirements established in the act.

Merrigan said the grants could be used to get children involved in the selection of foods for the schools and to figure out what would make fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods more acceptable to children.

Thornton, a former school nutrition director in Kentucky, said that in her visits to schools in recent weeks she has been “surprised at how many are eating fruits and vegetables they have never seen before.”

She also said that revised rules do not require school children to take “every single item,” which reduces food waste, and noted that some schools have adjusted meal times because it takes longer to eat fruits and vegetables.

The grants, she noted, can be used for programs to inform parents that the new calorie guidelines follow the recommendations of the dietary guidelines. School gardens have also allowed children “to take control of the foods,” she noted.

Thornton also praised First Lady Michelle Obama’s involvement in nutrition and obesity issues.

“I have been in education about 40 years. I cannot recall a time when the nation as a whole has been aware of good nutrition,” she said.

USDA is awarding about $5.2 million to 18 states and one territory to help school cafeterias address the new nutrition standards for school meals:
  • Alaska — $242,847
  • Arizona — $319,772
  • Florida — $311,500
  • Guam — $330,344
  • Hawaii — $233,016
  • Idaho — $245,120
  • Illinois — $50,000
  • Iowa — $348,335
  • Kansas — $349,715
  • Michigan — $333,420
  • Missouri — $342,609
  • Montana — $349,924
  • New Jersey — $324,151
  • North Dakota — $247,580
  • Ohio — $345,849
  • Utah — $41,540
  • Washington — $269,280
  • Washington — $46,772
  • West Virginia — $346,515
  • Wisconsin — $203,056