Amid pre-Super Bowl 50 celebrations today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, and Paul Rovey, dairy farmer and leader of the National Dairy Council (NDC), announced the availability of $35 million in grants to help schools upgrade their kitchen equipment and infrastructure in order to offer students better access to nutritious foods.
Three in five students – more than 30 million children – rely on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program for one to two meals per day, however according to a 2014 survey, 88% of schools reported lacking at least one piece of equipment they needed in order to serve healthier foods . These grants will give millions of additional children access to more nutritious meals by providing schools with the funds to purchase additional equipment to help them meet updated national nutrition standards, and serve healthy meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and less sodium and fat.
In 2008, USDA, NFL, NDC, and GENYOUth partnered via Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program to help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.
Together these partners share a commitment to support youth wellness through improved nutrition and by providing greater opportunities for physical activity through a public-private partnership to promote those behaviors among America’s youth. This $35 million investment will help sustain the progress that has already been made by schools across the country to ensure that America’s children are greeted by healthier school environments.
“Success at all ages begins with a healthy meal, and that is why at USDA we have worked to overhaul school meal standards to ensure kids have access to nutritious foods. This commitment from our partners will ensure schools have the equipment they need to provide kids with a well-balanced meal, promoting childhood health and wellness,” said Vilsack. “We applaud our Fuel Up to Play 60 partners for their continued commitment to child nutrition. This collaboration enables us to expand our efforts and have a broader positive impact on our youth.”
Since 2009, USDA has awarded $215 million in school nutrition equipment grants, including $30 million being announced today. USDA provides this funding to states, which then competitively award grants to school districts in order to purchase necessary equipment, giving priority to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals. This year, Fuel Up to Play 60, who has provided more than $22 million in funds to schools throughout the country, is joining USDA’s effort by providing an additional $5 million through a separate, but concurrent, grant application process.
Schools can apply for USDA funding through their state, or for funds from Fuel Up directly through the organization’s website. In both cases, funding will support the purchase of new equipment and/or the renovation/replacement of equipment. Equipment may include large and small items including utility carts, utensils, large-capacity food processors, industrial scales, steamers, freezers etc. Infrastructure elements may include building needs related to physical space, electricity, plumbing, ventilation and other remodeling needs.
“This announcement not only helps further showcase our collective commitment to youth and community wellness, but also the powerful results that can be achieved through public-and-private partnerships,” said Alexis Glick, CEO, GENYOUth. “I am excited that the USDA and the NFL continue to join with us and America’s dairy farmers to positively impact today’s, and tomorrow’s youth by empowering them to live healthier lives.”
Schools that are interested in learning more about these grants should visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp-equipment-assistance-grants.
i Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. “Give Schools the Tools to Prepare Healthy, Delicious Meals.” Give Schools the Tools to Prepare Healthy, Delicious Meals. The Pew Charitable Trusts, July 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.