FOOD FOR KIDS: National grant transforms school lunches with more fresh, local ingredients

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: GettyImages
Photo: GettyImages

Related tags school lunch Food for kids

A three-year grant program called Get Schools Cooking (GSC) will help school lunch programs eliminate highly-processed foods and introduce more meals using whole fruits, vegetables, and grains.

In July this year, the USDA announced $9m in funding​ to increase the amount of healthy and local foods served in schools through its Farm to School Program grants. 

"What our kids eat at school matters. We understand that moving from processed food to scratch cooking takes a deep commitment,"​ said Kim Herrington, programs and finance director of Whole Kids Foundation, "and making that change has enormous benefits for students' health, their achievement, and the environment."

As part of the program, school lunch programs will swap out chicken nuggets and hot dogs with less-processed proteins such as chicken and beef. Student can still enjoy kid-friendly classic meals like mac and cheese, pizza, and tacos, but under the GSC those meals will be prepared from scrach with fewer and healthier ingredients. 

Since 2016, GSC has supported 187 schools in twelve states working to transform their school food operations to include more fresh, healthy meals. According to a 2016 report​ from the Pew Charitable Trusts, school food directors report steady or increased participation in school lunch programs and stable or rising revenue after implementing more scratch cooking. It also promotes local economic growth as it gives schools the ability to purchase more ingredients locally.

The grant program​ is currently accepting applications from schools to help transform their school lunch programs with healthier options. The grant is valued at up to $267,000 and covers costs for items such as equipment, staff training, and data solutions, and continued technical support. 


What are kids actually eating at lunch and snack time? Is there an untapped opportunity for kids brands to work with school lunch programs to introduce healthier alternatives to traditional packaged food? Bring your thoughts, ideas, and insights to our FOOD FOR KIDS summit on Nov. 18-20, 2019 in downtown Chicago. Check out a more detailed list of topics by downloading our Advance Program​ and register HERE​. 

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