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USDA Grants Help Schools Serve Healthier Lunches

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About $25 million in new grants will go toward improvements like slicers for fruits and vegetables and better storage for fresh food. The USDA says it will proportionally split the funds among state agencies

The USDA announced on Friday that it is awarding $25 million in grants for schools in need of kitchen equipment to cook up healthier food.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released a report showing that 88% of school districts need at least one piece of kitchen equipment and 50% need infrastructure changes in order to provide healthier meals. For instance, some schools lack storage space for fresh food and proper slicers and choppers for cutting up fruits and vegetables. (Currently, around 90% of schools say they are meeting the requirements for school lunches, which set rules for calories and availability of foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk.)

“We know that there is still a significant unmet need for kitchen equipment in schools, and outdated equipment can make it more difficult to prepare healthy meals,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “With these grants, schools will be able to get the tools they need to make the healthy choice the easy choice for America’s youngsters.”

The USDA says it will proportionally split the funds among state agencies, and within the states, districts will be awarded various sums, with the majority going to the schools in the highest needs where at least 50% or more of the students attending are on a free or reduced-cost meal plan.

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