The USDA Is Expanding Farm To School Grants To Promote Better Meals

Many of us can remember choking down mystery meat of the Salisbury persuasion during school lunchtime. As far as healthy and appetizing options go, Food Revolution Network notes that not much has improved for this generation's kids waiting in today's lunch line. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is hoping to turn the tables on unhealthy school lunches by awarding millions of dollars in grants to improve school lunch programs.

Since the United States Congress improved the standards for school lunch programs in 2010, menus have featured increased amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and decreased sodium levels, notes the Food Revolution Network. Despite the improved requirements, schools still serve heavily processed foods and have placed their purchasing power in the hands of large corporations that seem to prioritize gaining contracts over healthy food options for children.

Many school lunch programs also struggle with the funding needed to implement effective change in their lunch options. According to the School Nutrition Association, the federal free lunch subsidy is $3.32 compared to the $3.81 that it costs to produce a school lunch. Hopefully, the increased funding from the USDA will aid schools in providing nutritious lunch options within their tight budgets.

What the grant funding means for school lunches

The USDA aims to increase the availability of healthier food options to schools from local sources by awarding over $70 million in grant funding toward the development of Farm to School programs. The influx of funding will increase access to locally sourced foods that will be included in school nutrition programs and help America's school children have access to healthier, homegrown foods. 

As part of this, the USDA will award over $10 million in Farm to School grants to a total of 123 projects that serve over 5,000 schools in 44 states and the District of Columbia. This will strengthen nutrition programs by encouraging purchases from local food purveyors. The funding will also be focused on underserved communities, as 40% of the newly funded programs are in rural or economically disadvantaged areas.

The funding will also be used to educate kids on where their food comes from and how it is made. Increasing agricultural education for children can strengthen their sense of community by learning about local sources, and it can also help the economy by supporting struggling farmers. The influx of funding will help ensure that locally sourced nutritious foods are always on the menu at school.