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USDA Grants Will Improve School Lunches

Update Date: Apr 21, 2014 11:46 AM EDT

School lunch is an important meal for young, growing children. Over the past few years, programs have pushed to revamp school lunches by making them healthier. However, these programs did face many challenges. Now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hopes to improve school kitchens and lunches by providing $25 million in new grants.

The USDA's recent announcement revealed that these grants would be divided among state agencies. The agencies can then divide the money among school districts that need help improving their kitchens. The majority of the funds will most likely go to schools where 50 percent or more of the children have a free or reduced-cost meal plan. With this money, schools can purchase kitchen equipment, such as slicers and storage bins that can be used to maintain the freshness of fruits and vegetables.

"We know that there is still a significant unmet need for kitchen equipment in schools, and outdated equipment can make it more difficult to prepare healthy meals," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "With these grants, schools will be able to get the tools they need to make the healthy choice the easy choice for America's youngsters."

According to a recently published report released by the Pew Charitable Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, roughly 88 percent of school districts need at least one kind of kitchen tool that would improve school lunches. Roughly 50 percent of all school districts need changes in their infrastructure in order to start offering healthier lunches.

Currently over 90 percent of schools state that they are meeting the updated nutrition guidelines for school lunches. These standards include providing more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. School lunches are also supposed to contain less fat and lower sodium. Health officials hope that by providing children with healthier meals, fewer children will become overweight or obese. Childhood obesity can lead to many health complications, especially if obesity lasts into adulthood.

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