Vilsack announces 3 school meals actions  |

Vilsack announces 3 school meals actions 

At a school in Greeley, Colo., on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA has proposed a rule to reduce the percentage of low-income children in a school district required to make it eligible to participate in the community eligibility provision (CEP) of the school meals program from 40% to 25%, which would mean millions more schoolchildren would get free meals.Vilsack also announced grants to support access to school meal programs and to expand nutrition education.
Under CEP, all children in a school district get free meals.
On a call to reporters, Vilsack said the Agriculture Department has responsibilities to provide school children with both food security and nutrition security.Expansion of CEP, he said, could cover an additional 9 million children in 20,000 schools. At present, 16 million children in 33,000 schools are participating in CEP.“Many schools and even some entire states have successfully provided free meals to all their students,” Vilsack said in a news release. “We applaud their leadership in nourishing children and hope this proposed change will make it possible for more schools and states to follow suit.”While the proposed rule does not increase federal funds for school meals, President Biden’s 2024 budget requests an additional $15 billion over 10 years to support schools participating in CEP and reach 9 million more children, USDA said in a news release. Vilsack added, “Together, these actions are one of many efforts the Biden-Harris administration and USDA are taking to ensure the federal government, states, and local schools are working together to support child health.”USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service said it encourages all interested parties to comment on the CEP proposed rule during the 45-day comment period that begins today.The proposal is likely to be controversial among Republicans concerned about the costs of federal nutrition programs.Vilsack announced that the department is awarding $50 million to the following organizations to manage the School Food System Transformation Challenge Sub-Grants:▪ Boise State University
▪ Chef Ann Foundation
▪ Full Plates Full Potential
▪ Illinois Public Health Institute

“USDA is taking a holistic approach to supporting school meal programs, which includes strengthening the food supply chain that supports them,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “We’re hopeful that these grants will accelerate and expand innovation in the school food marketplace, so that schools – and ultimately our children – have better access to healthier food products.”Also Wednesday, USDA opened applications for up to $10 million in Fiscal Year 2023 Team Nutrition Grants, which support nutrition education for school-aged children. “The grants will extend nutrition education efforts beyond the cafeteria, incorporating it into all parts of the school day and even enrichment activities outside of school,” USDA said.

–The Hagstrom Report