Congress passed the Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 ensure every American child had access to the nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults, with specific focus on ending childhood obesity and reducing juvenile health risks.
Part of this effort includes helping schools across the country produce balanced meals so children have access to healthy foods during the school day. Though there's been recent debate on the effectiveness of the program, USDA says it is working.
According to the agency, results include:
• Kids are eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of updated standards.
• More than 90% of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards.
• School lunch revenue is up.
• Healthy food standards have not increased food waste.
• Participation is increasing in many areas of the country.
• USDA is providing guidance and flexibilities, as appropriate, to help schools and students adapt to the updated requirements.
• USDA is helping schools encourage kids to choose new healthier options.
• USDA is supporting numbers training sessions to help schools implement the updated meal standards
• USDA is supporting implementation of the updated school meals standards and new Smart Snacks standards through a variety of additional methods.
USDA has also introduced several grants and programs that it says will help schools transition to serving healthier meals.
Related: School Lunch Debate: Pro or Con
In February, USDA announced the availability of up to $5 million through the Farm to School front program to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. Earlier, USDA awarded grants to 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia.
USDA also awarded $5.6 million in grants for FY2013 to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs, and plans to award additional grants in 2014.
In April, USDA awarded $25 million in grants to help schools purchase kitchen equipment that will help them provide healthier school meals.