Smart School Lunch promotes MyPlate in the lunchroom. This site is a tribute to the amazing food service staff all across the nation working to promote healthy eating choices for children of all ages.

Understanding updates to local school wellness policies

USDA recently released proposed updates to local school wellness policies. As part of the improvements, schools will establish policies to limit unhealthy food and beverage marketing in schools, promote more physical activity and nutrition education, and ensure all foods served to students in schools are healthy. In addition, the proposed updates will strengthen implementation, ensure better accountability and transparency, and provide schools with more tools and resources.

The USDA created a handout outlines many of the recommendations. Here’s an excerpt…

Content of the Wellness Policy
At a minimum, policies would be required to include:
Specific goals for:
- Nutrition promotion
- Nutrition education
- Physical activity
- Other school-based activities that promote student wellness
LEAs are required to review and consider evidence-based strategies in determining these goals.

Nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages available on the school campus during the school day that are consistent with Federal regulations for:
- School meal nutrition standards, and the
- Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.

Policies for Food and Beverage Marketing that allow marketing and advertising of only those foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.

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Summer meal programs feed: Please pass onto your students’ families

The USDA just posted an article on the importance of nutritious lunches in and out of school…

USDA is vigorously preparing to fill the nutrition gap faced by millions of kids across the country. While 21 million of our sons and daughters receive free and reduced-priced lunches during the school year, only a small percentage participate in the summer meals programs, leaving too many of our most vulnerable without a nutritious meal.

To support the efforts we wanted to remind everyone of the summer meals programs and to remind you to remind your students and their families. Support is there is they need it…

Find Free Summer Meals for Children in Your Community
Call 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (for Spanish speakers) and a live operator will tell you where the closest sites serving free, nutritious summer meals are located.  Or visit to locate sites using an online map.

Summer Meals Toolkit
The Summer Meals Toolkit is designed for individuals and organizations interested in serving as Summer Meal champions in their communities at any level of program administration. The toolkit is web-based, and includes seven ‘mini-toolkits’ targeting specific audiences and topics.

Schools, Organizations, and Local Government Entities
Learn how to become a SFSP site or sponsor and serve free summer meals to hungry children in your community.  Current SFSP sponsors can visit our Managing SFSP page to learn how to improve program operation and get the latest policy memos.

Raise Awareness in Your Community
Learn how you can spread the word about free summer meals in your community.  Our resources include customizable fliers and handouts, an innovative strategies library, training videos, and radio PSAs.  You don’t need to be a site or sponsor to use these resources; anybody can help raise awareness of summer meals!

Innovative Strategies
Need a few ideas to kick-start a good summer program? Here are some suggestions, followed by examples of activities and initiatives that State agencies have undertaken to increase participation in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO).

Contact Your State
Contact your State agency to apply to become a sponsor, to become be a summer feeding site, or to learn about the many ways you can get involved with summer meals.  Although SFSP is a federally-funded program, you State is responsible for administering the program and will be able to answer all your questions.

Training Videos
Watch and listen to SFSP sponsors, sites, volunteers, and state agencies from around the country talk about how they got started with SFSP and what it has meant to their community.

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Innovative K-12 Math and Science Programs Funded

math-activities-in-nutrition-activity-bookSomething to pass onto your math-focused colleagues. Thanks as always to GrantStation for the heads up…

Innovative K-12 Math and Science Programs Funded
Toyota U.S.A. Foundation
The Toyota U.S.A. Foundation is committed to improving the quality of K-12 education throughout the country by supporting innovative programs and building partnerships with organizations dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of mathematics, science, and environmental science. The Foundation places priority on programs that are broad in scope and incorporate systemic approaches, creative programs that develop the potential of students and/or teachers, and cost-effective programs that possess a high potential for success and relatively low duplication of effort. Grants of $50,000 and up are provided to colleges and universities as well as nonprofit organizations engaged in pre-collegiate math and/or science education. K-12 public and private schools are not eligible to apply. Requests may be submitted at any time. Online application guidelines are available on the Foundation’s website.

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Sample breakfast menus for schools

Wondering what you could or should be serving for breakfast at school? Looking for new ideas? The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has come up with a series of sample breakfast menus for you to check out. You have to login to access them – but an account is free…

Our sample menus are filled with meals that are in compliance with new USDA meal patterns. Each menu builds out a two-to four-week long meal plan that offers your students healthy options and helps your school meet new meal regulations for breakfast and lunch.

Log in to view and download your menus.

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Grants Promote Educational Games for Youth

Thanks to GrantStation for the heads up

Grants Promote Educational Games for Youth
Entertainment Software Association Foundation
The Entertainment Software Association Foundation is dedicated to supporting positive programs and opportunities that make a difference in the lives of America’s youth. The Foundation seeks to harness the collective power of interactive entertainment by funding programs that utilize technology or computer and video games to educate America’s youth and young adults, ages 7 to 18. Funded programs must be available nationwide, or reach at least two or more states. The application deadline is May 28, 2014. Visit the Foundation’s website to download the application instructions.

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Grants for Service Learning

community-service-kitSome grant news to share with colleagues, brought to us by GrantStation

K-12 Service-Learning Initiatives Supported in the U.S. and Canada
State Farm Youth Advisory Board National Grant Program
The State Farm Youth Advisory Board is composed of young adults who demonstrate exemplary work in service-learning, volunteering, and philanthropy in their communities. The Youth Advisory Board National Grant Program funds student-led service-learning projects throughout the United States and in the provinces of Alberta, New Brunswick, and Ontario in Canada. Grant requests must fall under one of the following issue areas: community safety and natural disaster preparedness, environmental responsibility, accessing higher education/closing the achievement gap, social health and wellness issues, financial literacy and economic inclusion, or arts and culture. Public K-12, charter, and higher education institutions are eligible to apply. Nonprofit organizations are also eligible if they are able to demonstrate how they plan to interact with students in public K-12 schools. Grants range from $25,000 to $100,000. Applications must be submitted online by May 2, 2014. Visit the Youth Advisory Board website for application guidelines.

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USDA Announces Support for Smarter Lunchrooms

from the USDA…

1 Great Tray Dry Erase Menu BoardUSDA Announces Support for Smarter Lunchrooms

Team Nutrition Grants Available to Improve the Health and Future of America’s Children

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $5.5 million in new grants to support schools as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow. Over 90 percent of schools are successfully meeting new meal nutrition standards, serving meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and less sodium and fat. These new grants provide support to schools to help them achieve or continue to meet those standards. The grants focus on implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms strategies, a broad toolkit of easy-to-implement, evidence-based practices designed to increase consumption of healthier foods and decrease plate waste.

“Schools have worked hard to serve more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains at mealtime. Strategies like Smarter Lunchrooms give schools simple, actionable, low-cost steps that help make sure that the healthy food on kids’ plates ends up in their stomachs,” said Vilsack. “These grants are part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to give states and schools the additional resources and flexibility they need as they help make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people.”

The Smarter Lunchrooms movement applies practical, research-based principles and strategies that have proven effective at creating an environment that encourages kids to make healthy choices. The movement, which was developed by Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs (BEN Center) with funding from the USDA and others, uses environmental cues to increase student selection of healthy meal options and decrease plate waste. These include simple strategies such as structuring choices in the lunch line so that healthy foods are easiest for students to access, having cafeteria staff dialog with students in such a way that nudges them toward healthy items, and creatively naming foods or meals to make them more appealing to children. For example, researchers found that changing the placement of where fruit is displayed in the lunch line led to a doubling of sales. Similarly, creative naming and display of vegetables increased selection by 40 to 70 percent.

The grants are being released as part of USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative, designed to support state-level child nutrition programs through training and technical assistance. The Team Nutrition Training Grants for fiscal year 2014 will require state agency grantees to use the BEN Center’s Self-Assessment Score Card to encourage schools in the National School Lunch Program to use Smarter Lunchrooms techniques and increase student choice of whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These funds may be used to assist the state agency in providing training and technical assistance to school staff in creating Smarter Lunchrooms.

For more information on the FY2014 Team Nutrition Training Grants and upcoming grant-writing webinars please visit To apply for the grants please visit

These grants are another way USDA is combating child hunger and obesity and improving the health and nutrition of the nation’s children. This is a top priority for the Obama Administration and is an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers America’s nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Together these programs make up the federal nutrition safety net.

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Grants for Hunger Initiatives

Thanks to our friends at GrantStation for the heads up…

Support for Hunger Initiatives Nationwide
Presbyterian Hunger Program
The Presbyterian Hunger Program provides grants to nonprofit organizations addressing hunger and its causes in the United States. Grants ranging from $500 to $20,000 are provided in the following five categories: Development Assistance grants focus on creating a multi-faceted approach to the empowerment of poor people. Public Policy Advocacy grants encourage activities that advocate for political and economic policy changes that provide food for the poor. Lifestyle Integrity grants target programs that help the church to move toward sustainable lifestyles sensitive to the reality of the Earth’s limited resources. Education and Interpretation grants promote activities to educate the church and the public at large about the root causes of hunger. Direct Food Relief grants support programs that provide food to poor people in either acute or chronic conditions of hunger. Nonprofit organizations and Presbyterian congregations are eligible to apply. Letters of inquiry must be submitted by April 30, 2014; proposals are due June 30, 2014. Visit the program’s website to review the eligibility and criteria information.

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PTA Grants Promote Healthy Lifestyles for Young Children

Something from GrantStation to pass onto your PTA groups…

PTA Grants Promote Healthy Lifestyles for Young Children
Smart from the Start: Community Outreach Grant Program
The Smart from the Start: Community Outreach Grant Program, an initiative of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), is dedicated to helping PTAs nationwide educate families about healthy lifestyles. This program supports locally-driven, grassroots prevention strategies that educate families about practical ways to ensure their children, ages three to five, achieve a balanced intake of nutritious foods and physical activity every day, using the Energy Balance Pre-K curriculum. An additional objective is to mobilize community-based stakeholders to focus on increasing access to nutritious foods and physical activity options in the community, especially for families of young children. Ten grants of $10,000 each will be awarded to PTA Regions, Districts, and Councils. The application deadline is March 28, 2014. Visit the National PTA’s website to download the Request for Proposals.

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USDA Proposes Professional Standards in National School Lunch, Breakfast Programs

In case you haven’t seen the news from the USDA

meal-or-no-meal-school-lunch-training-gameToday, USDA proposed the establishment of minimum national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

The standards, another key provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), aim to institute education and certification standards for school nutrition professionals. These new standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the training and tools they need to plan, prepare and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals.

As a former school nutrition director I can tell you that school nutrition professionals across the country are pleased with the new meal patterns established by the HHFKA, which requires schools to prepare healthier meals for 32 million children each day. Schools are at the forefront of national efforts to improve nutrition and reduce obesity in our Nation’s children.

meal or no meal school standard breakfast gameSince the start of the 2012-2013 School Year, I have visited dozens of schools and witnessed students embracing healthier meal options as schools successfully implement the latest lunch, breakfast and snack standards.  In fact, our most our most recent data show that roughly 90 percent of schools are reporting that they are meeting the new standards, a 12 percent increase from June 2013.

Many school nutrition professionals already complete annual training that is similar to what we are recommending; for others, the standards will be new. These proposed standards will ensure that all school nutrition professionals meet the same national requirements as they prepare healthy meals served in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

The professional standards proposed by USDA will focus on training opportunities and strengthen the school nutrition profession.

This proposal would:

  • Create minimum hiring standards for school food authority directors based on a school district’s size;
  • Establish minimum hiring standards for State directors of school nutrition and State distributing agencies; and
  • Require minimum annual training for all new and current school nutrition professionals.

School nutrition professionals, educators, and members of the nutrition community from around the country have voiced their support for strengthening school meals programs by setting professional standards.

We received a tremendous amount of feedback from State agencies, school districts, and several professional associations as we developed the proposed standards; we now look forward to receiving additional comments that may help us fine tune these standards to ensure the greatest benefit.

USDA is committed to working closely with school nutrition directors, managers and staff to meet the proposed requirements once they are in place. Our Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will continue collaborating with partners to identify free and low-cost training at locations that are convenient and easily accessible. FNS will also be working with our partners to develop an easily accessible national database that will list available trainings by State.

As our nation continues to fight childhood obesity, we commend our schools for making so much progress in offering healthier options during the school day.  Many of our kids spend the majority of their waking hours each day in school, and consume half their daily calories from school meals.

By enhancing school nutrition careers, we are giving our hard-working and caring professionals the tools and training needed to create a healthy school environment where our children are healthy, engaged, and productive learners.

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