Kansas receives grant to support new school meal requirements
Kansas will receive $349,715 in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist in promoting healthy eating habits and nutrition education in Kansas schools. Additionally, the grant will provide training to food service professionals to help them prepare and serve nutritious meals that will appeal to students.
The 2012 Team Nutrition Training grant is in support of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010, which set new school meal standards for the National School Lunch Program focused on ensuring students receive more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Kansas is among 18 states and one territory to receive funds through the competitive grant process.
The Child Nutrition and Wellness team at the Kansas State Department of Education plans to use the funds to address three behavior-focused strategies. Those strategies include nutrition education for children, teachers, parents and other caregivers; building support for healthy school environments that promote healthy eating and physical activity; and providing training to school food service professionals to help them create and prepare healthy meals that taste good.
"We believe that the changes made in the National School Lunch Program as part of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act are very positive for our students, but we also understand that the changes are significant and may take some time for both students and school food service professionals to embrace," said Cheryl Johnson, director of Child Nutrition and Wellness at KSDE. "Last summer we hosted a number of chef-taught culinary classes for school food service staff to help them gain strategies for improving both the health benefits and the taste of their school meals. Those were very popular, and with the funds from this grant we'll be able to provide more training like that to assist schools in making the transition to the new meal guidelines."
In addition to the grant funds from the USDA, the Kansas Health Foundation is providing $50,000 to bring a Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program to 25,000 secondary school students. The federally funded Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program assists states in providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to school children from selected low-income public and nonprofit private elementary schools. The grant from the Kansas Health Foundation will make a similar program available to Kansas students at the secondary level.
"We know from extensive research that fresh fruits and vegetables play a pivotal role in healthy and nutritious food intake for children," said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. "Through this grant, we are pleased to partner with KSDE to make those items available to so many additional students at the secondary level."
Funding through the Kansas Health Foundation and the USDA grant will be available from Sept. 30, 2012, through Sept. 20, 2014. Kansas has received an award through the Team Nutrition Training grant program for the past five years, and has received nine Team Nutrition Training grants since 2002.
"We're extremely pleased to have these funds available to help schools implement the practices within the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act," Johnson said. "We're especially grateful to the Kansas Health Foundation for helping us extend the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program to our secondary students. The program has been highly successful in helping our elementary students become familiar with new fruits and vegetables, and in creating a preference for those foods. We're hopeful that with the help of the Kansas Health Foundation, we can accomplish the same thing among middle school and high school students."
For more information about Kansas Team Nutrition projects and grant opportunities contact Jill Ladd, Team Nutrition project director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.