Reed: New $858K USDA Team Nutrition Grant for RIDE Offers Recipe for Healthier, Tastier & More Diverse School Meals

Published on Thursday, August 17, 2023

PROVIDENCE, RI – As back-to-school approaches it also means students will soon be heading back to school cafeterias.  Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed announced a new $858,088 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition Grant that will support the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and partners organizations in helping schools to expand their menu offerings to include more healthy, nutritious food that also reflects students’ own cultural traditions and heritage.

Reed praised RIDE for supporting schools in proactively prioritizing nutrition education and school menu options that reflect the communities being served, tailoring menus to taste, and focusing on flavorful, healthy foods.

When it comes to food policy, RIDE and its partners have sought input directly from students on the flavors and types of foods they prefer to eat, and found healthy ways to incorporate those preferences into menu options while also giving students hands-on opportunities to learn about food preparation and contribute their own fruit- and vegetable-based recipes.

“This new infusion of federal funds will help show kids the connection between healthy eating and their own culinary heritage,” said Senator Reed.

“Access to nutritious, appetizing school meals is a key ingredient in ensuring students’ healthy growth and development, and we are thrilled to receive this federal grant funding to offer more food options in our schools,” said RIDE Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “We are deeply appreciative of Senator Reed’s leadership and commitment to making sure Rhode Island students have the support and resources needed to fuel their success in the classroom and beyond.  We look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners to promote healthy eating in our schools.”

While ‘Taco Tuesday,’ or ‘Pizza Friday’ and other classic staples will continue to prominently feature on many school cafeteria menus, RIDE will utilize this federal funding to strengthen and expand the existing Students Take Charge! (STC) program, which is currently run by the University of Rhode Island (URI) SNAP-Ed.  Under this program, fifth grade students in local schools have developed fruit- or vegetable-based recipes that reflect students’ own cultural traditions and heritage while meeting school nutrition requirements. This program has a history of demonstrated success, but is currently limited to the population served by SNAP-Ed.  The new Team Nutrition Grant funding will allow RIDE and its partners to strengthen the existing STC curriculum and then expand access to the program to students throughout the state by developing a toolkit and providing educator training to allow for local implementation.

RIDE will also use the federal funds for cultural and culinary training for school nutrition professionals, professional development for school-level staff, and student education. RIDE will also provide technical assistance and outreach for the broader school community through the school wellness committee and the development, implementation, and assessment of the Local School Wellness Policy.

“Serving up healthy, nutritious school meals is a crucial part of helping kids grow, thrive, and succeed in the classroom,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.  “It’s important to teach kids about nutrition and encourage healthy eating habits.  The school meal programs administered by RIDE support healthier students by encouraging nutritious food choices that work for the children they serve. I’m pleased to deliver this federal funding to help more schools serve up diverse menus that are appealing to students, tasty, and nutritious too.”

The goal of the Team Nutrition Grant is to facilitate the adoption of healthy eating patterns by school-aged children (grades Pre-K to 12) and their families through the coordination and implementation of MyPlate nutrition education connected to the nutritious meals and snacks offered through USDA Child Nutrition Programs.

RIDE was one of eight state agencies to receive a share of $9.4 million in Team Nutrition Grant funds in this latest round of funding.

Senator Reed helped include $20.16 million for Team Nutrition Grants in the FY 2023 Consolidated Appropriations law.

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