The USDA plans to award $25 million to help schools purchase kitchen equipment.
“We know that there is still a significant unmet need for kitchen equipment in schools, and outdated equipment can make it more difficult to prepare healthy meals,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. “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.”
In December, the agency awarded $11 million in grants to the District of Columbia, Guam and 14 states, according to the release. In the new round of funding, the agency plans to ensure states receive a proportional share of the funding. States will competitively award the funds to school districts to purchase needed equipment, giving priority to high-need schools where 50% or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals, according to the release.
Eighty-eight percent of school districts nationwide reported needing at least one piece of equipment, and 55% need infrastructure upgrades, according to a report by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The release said the agency has helped schools serve more nutritious foods in several ways. In February, USDA announced the availability of up to $5 million through the Farm to School grant program to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. the USDA awarded $5.6 million in grants in fiscal year 2013 to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs, and plans to award additional grants in fiscal year 2014, according to the release.
Schools interested in applying for the grants can contact their state's child nutrition program.