Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon announced Thursday that USDA is making permanent the current flexibility that allows schools to serve larger portions of lean protein and whole grains at mealtime.
“Earlier this school year, USDA made a commitment to school nutrition professionals that we would make the meat and grain flexibility permanent and provide needed stability for long-term planning. We have delivered on that promise," Concannon said.
USDA has worked closely with schools and parents during the transition to healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Based on public feedback, USDA has made a number of updates to school meal standards, including additional flexibility in meeting the daily and weekly ranges for grain and meat/meat alternates, which has been available to schools on a temporary basis since 2012.
USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. Data show that vast majority of schools around the country are successfully meeting the new meal standards.
- Last month, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to help schools purchase needed equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school foodservice professionals.
- In November 2013, USDA issued an additional $5 million through the Farm to School grant program to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. USDA awarded grants to 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia.
- USDA awarded $5.6 million in grants in 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 FY 2014.
- USDA's MyPlate symbol and the resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov provide quick, easy reference tools for teachers, parents, healthcare professionals and communities. Schools across the country are using the MyPlate symbol to enhance their nutrition education efforts.
Collectively, these policies and actions will help combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation's children. This is a top priority for the Obama Administration and is an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to combat the challenge of childhood obesity.