Last week was an exciting week for America’s school lunchrooms. Our new meal standards were announced and they will help improve the health of millions of children. These new standards represent one of five major components of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. There’s more to come:
- The ability to take nutrition standards beyond the lunch line – for the first time ever, rules for foods and beverages sold in vending machines and other venues on school campuses will contribute to a healthy diet;
- Increased funding for schools – an additional 6 cents a meal will be available — the first real increase in 30 years – tied to strong performance in serving improved meals;
- Common-sense pricing standards for schools will ensure that revenues from non-Federal sources keep pace with the Federal commitment to healthy school meals and properly align with costs; and
- Training and technical assistance will help schools achieve and monitor compliance.
Through the establishment of a new grant program, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 will also allow the USDA to take a giant step forward in facilitating growth in farm to school programs, in which schools bring in locally produced food from neighboring farms. The USDA Farm to School Team, an outgrowth of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, has been busy the last couple of years trying to figure out how Farm to School efforts can best contribute to improved health and well being of kids participating in school meals. The Team has done great work and people can access the resources collected and follow their travels from the FNS website.
This week, we took another important step as Deborah Kane began work at the USDA as the National Director of USDA’s Farm to School Program. Deborah Kane comes to USDA from Ecotrust in Portland, Oregon, where she founded and ran Food-Hub.org, a groundbreaking food hub connecting farmers and buyers, including schools, across the Northwest. She was also recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her work in regional food system development.
Deborah will work with the Secretary and me, along with leaders from the Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Nutrition Service, and the USDA Farm to School Team to promote and expand our Farm to School efforts by implementing the provisions provided in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, overseeing a new farm to school grant program, and continuing to find creative ways to increase schools’ access to local foods. Deborah joins a great Team at USDA already at work on Farm to School and primed for even greater success. USDA expects to enhance schools’ ability to work with regional producers, create economic opportunities for food producers of all kinds and empower schools to increase or augment programming that builds food literacy among the nation’s children.