March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.
As the old proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Most educators live by this adage, agreeing that teaching a skill and educating pupils on the importance of that skill will “feed (them) for a lifetime.”
USDA agrees with this proverb. We believe that teaching children how to eat healthy, and educating them on the importance of proper nutrition, is crucial to the health and wellbeing of our next generation. And to demonstrate our support of healthy eating and nutrition education, USDA launched the Team Nutrition initiative more than two decades ago.
Since its inception, Team Nutrition has provided schools and child care providers with the training, technical assistance, and nutrition education resources they need to put the Dietary Guidelines for Americans into action. From standards-based gardening curricula where kids can get their hands dirty, to online eBooks and electronic games that utilize today’s technology, Team Nutrition’s resource library is full of fun and interactive tools available at no cost to schools and child care providers participating in USDA’s child nutrition programs.
Beyond the resources available in our online library, Team Nutrition also provides funding to state agencies that administer child nutrition programs through our Team Nutrition Training Grants program. Now in its 21st year, these grants have provided states with more than $90 million in funding since the program began. States receiving these grants have leveraged the funds to finance innovative strategies that engage and train school nutrition professionals, child care providers, parents, teachers, and students on healthy eating and physical activity.
To give you an example of what our Team Nutrition Training Grantees have accomplished, consider the following success story: Michigan Department of Education was awarded a competitive 2013 Team Nutrition Training Grant to assist with ongoing efforts aimed at increasing participation in the School Breakfast Program. With the help of this grant, the state trained more than 650 decision-makers and school nutrition professionals through their Boost Breakfast campaign, and they completed 20 best practice videos on ways to offer a healthy school breakfast that supports kid’s learning and health . In addition, they held an immensely popular Junior Chef Breakfast Competition that engaged students from around the state and showcased their student-designed and approved school breakfast recipes. During the grant period, 125 new school breakfast programs were started, statewide participation in the School Breakfast Program increased, and more than 3 million additional breakfasts were served to Michigan children.
Their success is just one example of the incredible work our Team Nutrition Training Grantees are doing. And because of this incredible work, USDA continues to support child nutrition programs across the country through the Team Nutrition Training Grants program.
This week, USDA announced the availability of up to $6.8 million in competitive grants through the 2016 Team Nutrition Training Grants program. All state agencies that administer child nutrition programs are eligible to apply for a 2016 Team Nutrition Training Grant, and states may request up to $500,000 in funding for use during the 3-year grant period (2016-2019). Activities to be funded under this grant program include the development, implementation, and evaluation of training, nutrition education, and technical assistance activities that support the implementation of USDA nutrition standards for meals and snacks.