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EE.UU: invertirán US$ 30 millones para mejorar calidad de almuerzos escolares

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing US$30 million in a partnership with Action for Healthy Kids to distribute across 264 school districts in 44 states. Each district will receive up to US$ 150,000 to improve the nutritional quality of meals and its operations.

In more detail, the grant aims to improve staff programs, kitchen updates, redesigning food preparation and service spaces and other efforts to support school meals and school nutrition professionals. “Offering healthier school meals is key to helping our nation’s kids get the nutrients they need today and for their long-term development,” says Rob Bisceglie, CEO at Action for Healthy Kids.

“Through this historic investment in school nutrition, we will help school districts across the country overcome challenges and develop solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children they serve.”

The investment is part of the USDA’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative and includes grants to support school meal innovation through collaboration with suppliers and food producers. “Students in every community deserve access to healthy and nutritious meals,” says Xochitl Torres Small, deputy secretary at the USDA.

“The announcement demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to creating healthier, brighter futures for our children. With these funds, small and rural

school districts will be able to modernize their operations and provide more nutritious meals, helping students succeed in the classroom and beyond,” she adds.

Incentives and grants

Action for Healthy Kids and the USDA have also created a Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Award to celebrate school districts that have made “significant improvement” to the nutritional quality of their school meals.

“School districts that meet Recognition Award criteria will receive benefits such as national and local recognition; travel stipends to attend a national Healthy Meals Summit; access to

diverse best practices, training activities; and more,” says the USDA.

“When we strengthen school meal quality, we strengthen child health,” adds Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the USDA.

“These grants are the largest targeted investment USDA has ever made for school meal programs in small and rural communities. We want to ensure every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school with high quality, nutritious meals, and this support is a step in that direction.”

Prior criticism

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 failed to include school nutrition improvements, to which public interest organizations said the legislation was disappointing as it compromised child nutrition.

“These investments in school meals are critical to reduce nutrition and food insecurity and mitigate a hunger cliff that many children may face as they return to school and the meal program lapses,” Colin Schwartz, deputy director of federal affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said previously.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy breakfasts and lunches were provided to school children across the US, which halted in August 2022 when an income cap was set at US$36,000 per household, excluding children above the set threshold living in “poverty at the upper border.” In the new announcement, the USDA does not mention a set income threshold for children’s eligibility to participate in nutritious school meals. Nutrition Insight reached out to the department for more details.

However, it did not respond in time for publication.

Nutrition Insights/August 10, 2023

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