With kids now back in the classroom, USDA wants to help schools continue to build a healthier, more nutritious environment for their students. At the same time, we’re deeply committed to ensuring these same schools maintain financial stability and strong student participation in their meal programs. We’re seeing more and more schools move forward with new and innovative healthy school meals, but we also understand there is a need to share best practices across the country.
Thanks to our partners at the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI), we hope to fill that void. To make this a reality, the group will pilot the Team Up For Success Training Initiative with the assistance of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Office. Together, they’ll work with school food authorities (SFAs) to identify challenges and provide nuanced resources to promote a healthier school day.
Through the initiative, schools will participate in an expense-paid, tailored training workshop followed up by peer-to-peer mentoring. This allows schools to address their individual needs and resources, as many face unique challenges and obstacles. The target technical assistance will be conducted with about 48 SFAs, to begin within eight weeks after plan approval.
An important component of the training will include a two-day workshop for attendees with the appropriate support from allied partners. These partners and mentors with relevant experience and resources in the identified needs areas will contribute their know-how and guidance. Topics will likely cover a scope of needs: menu planning, financial management, procurement, meal presentation and appeal, as well as youth engagement tactics. During the workshop, SFAs will develop an action plan for continuous improvement.
The schools’ relationship with the initiative won’t end there. NFSMI will conduct a three, six and 12-month follow-up progress survey with SFAs to gauge whether their action plans as well as their peer-to-peer mentoring has been successful. If additional training is need, NFSMI will recommend options. The State agencies and FNS will also provide support and feedback to ensure the pilot’s success.
A key goal of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is to help reduce America’s childhood obesity epidemic and reduce health risks for America’s children. To accomplish this, USDA and our vital partners help schools across the country produce balanced meals, so their children have nutritious opportunities throughout the school day. For more information to latest regulations, find free nutrition education curricula, or get ideas for adding tasty, kid-friendly foods to enhance your school meals program, please visit Healthier School Day, Tools For Schools.
Ensuring the over 30 million American children that participate in our school meals program have access to healthy meals is a USDA priority. Yet we’re equally dedicated to making sure schools that serve them have a viable path to meet that goal. Initiatives like Team Up For Success chart that course, offering a beeline to a healthier next generation.