USDA Awards $10 Million in Grants to Promote Healthy School Meals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has announced the allocation of $10 million in grants as part of its $100 million Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative (HMI). These grants, awarded through partnerships with Full Plates Full Potential and the Illinois Public Health Institute, aim to support schools in providing nutritious, delicious meals to students, enhancing their growth and development.

The funding, part of the School Food System Transformation Challenge, incentivizes collaboration between schools, the food industry, and other stakeholders to innovate the school meals marketplace. The initiative also provides grants to small and rural school districts to improve meal quality and modernize operations. So far, 264 HMI grants totaling $30 million have been awarded to small and rural districts, and 43 grants worth $16.5 million have been issued under the School Food System Transformation Challenge.

“USDA is committed to strengthening the nutritional quality of school meals, which starts with fortifying the K-12 school food marketplace, an essential nutrition source for many children,” stated Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These grants will enable schools to purchase a wider variety of healthy, appealing products from local and regional producers, while building a more resilient and equitable food system.”

The Biden-Harris Administration emphasizes providing America’s schools with the necessary tools to deliver quality meals to students. This year, grant partners have awarded funds to nearly two dozen grantees to spur innovation in school cafeterias in the Northeast and Midwest.

Full Plates Full Potential, a non-profit dedicated to ending childhood food insecurity in Maine, awarded $7.4 million in School Food System Innovation Grants to seven organizations. These projects aim to help schools overcome barriers to purchasing Maine-based foods and establish best practices that can be replicated in other regions.

The Illinois Public Health Institute granted $2.7 million to 16 organizations through the Lake Michigan School Food System Innovation Hub’s Spark and Innovation Collaborative Awards. These grants will drive change in the Lake Michigan region’s school food system, covering Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The projects focus on building regional partnerships, scaling programs, and introducing healthy new products to the K-12 food marketplace.

Additional information about the awardees is available on the FNS School Food System Transformation Challenge webpage.

Earlier this year, USDA announced nearly $6.5 million in School Food System Transformation Challenge Grants to Supporting Community Agriculture and Local Education Systems (Project SCALES) and the Partnership for Local Agriculture and Nutrition Transformation in Schools (PLANTS). Further funding opportunities will be available through Project SCALES and the Lake Michigan School Food System Innovation Hub in the coming months.

These grants support the goals of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health by enhancing food and nutrition security and improving food access and affordability. This announcement underscores USDA’s commitment to increasing access to local foods and better connecting children to nutritious options.

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