Will New Grants Take a Bite Out of School Lunch Problems?

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Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/

Schools need proper funding to ensure children are provided with healthy lunches and breakfasts. With this in mind, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $5.5 million in new grants on March 12. ”These grants are part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to give states and schools the additional resources and flexibility they need as they help make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.

The nutritional standards for school foods changed under the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The alterations were the first in fifteen years and were pushed for by First Lady Michelle Obama. Under the new provisions, what schools could and could not serve was updated to reflect current nutritional research. This has not been without controversy, as schools have complained that quotas were too restrictive, leading healthy options – like sandwiches – to be banned. New rules have fixed most of these issues.

According to the press release, 90 percent of schools are compliant with the new standards. This means they are serving more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and lowfat dairy products during meals. At the same time, the meals are reducing sodium and fat content. In order to stay on this track, the grant money will go toward implementing Smarter Lunchrooms strategies across the country.

Smarter Lunchrooms is a partially funded by the USDA. The movement was started by the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program and is centered on finding low or no-cost ways to get children to make healthier choices. This is done through evidenced-based strategies.

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