1 of 2 | The U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday announced a $100 million initiative to improve school meals nutrition. Agriculture Tom Vilsack said school meals are often the healthiest melas most kids get in a day. File Pool Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday announced major initiatives to enhance school meals nutrition, including $100 million to improve nutritional quality and updating meal nutrition standards.
"Our commitment to the school meal programs comes from a common goal we all share - keeping kids healthy and helping them reach their full potential," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "Many children aren't getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future."
To improve school meals nutrition sugars the Food and Nutrition Service is proposing a gradual multi-year approach to limit added sugars, reduce sodium limits, emphasize products that are whole-grain while allowing flavored milk with "reasonable" limits on added sugars.
The USDA will also invest $100 million in the Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative run by the Food and Nutrition Service.
The initiatives include a $17 million grant for Action for Healthy Kids, to reward schools that implement "successful and creative strategies for serving health, appealing meals" as well as recognition for school districts that have significantly improved the nutritional quality of school meals.
Small and rural school districts will also be eligible for grants of up to $150,000 to improve school meal nutritional quality.
"When millions of kids across the nation needed a place to turn for food during the pandemic, school food service professionals answered the call in a heroic way," said Cindy Long, FNS Administrator in a statement. "Their tireless work hasn't stopped, as they're continuing to serve high-quality meals, even while enduring supply chain disruptions and high food costs. We recognize these challenges and are steadfast in helping our partners serve the most nutritious meals, while allowing time for gradual improvements that will make these gains achievable and sustainable."