Franklin Special School District has been awarded a Healthy Meals Incentives grant in the amount of $130,000 from Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) to support efforts to fulfill a goal of feeding students with healthy meals cooked from scratch in the district's multi-year effort to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. The Healthy Meals Incentives grant is part of an allocation of nearly $30 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to 264 schools across 44 states and the District of Columbia.
“We are excited to be able to use these funds to bolster our culinary skills, upgrade our kitchen utensils and equipment, and purchase a refrigerated van to pick up and deliver locally grown ingredients,” said Food and Culinary Services Supervisor Robbin Cross, SNS. “Improving the nutritional quality of the food we serve students sets them up for success throughout the rest of their day. Classroom behavior, attention, and attendance are all positively affected when children eat healthy meals at school.”
As part of the Healthy Meals Incentives grant program, AFHK and its partners will provide FSSD with in-depth individualized technical assistance to support and guide the implementation of key strategies to improve school meal quality, as well as help the district to develop creative solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children we serve.
FSSD cafeteria staff will participate in training opportunities to continue to develop their culinary skills, such as knife skills, salt-free seasoning, scratch cooking, and others. We hope parents will join us as we roll out a host of healthier options for students over the course of the year. We will be asking for student and parent feedback along the way. We know healthy lunch options are important to parents and we are excited to be able to offer new options. However, student participation in the school lunch program is paramount to our ability to continue to offer scratch-based choices.
Up to this point, we have not been able to source local food resources that require refrigerated pickup because many local farms do not have the capability to deliver. The new van will be a great benefit to our FCS program, as well as to local farmers. The vehicle will also be used in our summer meals program to deliver free breakfast and lunches to local children.
“Offering healthier school meals is key to helping our nation’s kids get the nutrients they need today and for their long-term development,” said Action for Healthy Kids CEO Rob Bisceglie. “Through this historic investment in school nutrition, we will help school districts across the country overcome challenges and develop solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children they serve.”
An online map on the Healthy Meals Incentives website features the selected school districts and their grant amounts. The map will be updated on a rolling basis as school districts formalize their grant agreements.
“Students in every community deserve access to healthy and nutritious meals,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “With these funds, small and rural school districts will be able to modernize their operations and provide more nutritious meals, helping students succeed in the classroom and beyond.”
Action for Healthy Kids will manage the grants to school districts, Recognition Awards, and Healthy Meals Summits with the support of The Chef Ann Foundation and Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education.
The FSSD began its scratch cooking journey in 2019 when the district received the Chef Ann “Get Cooking” grant, which has provided training and preparation for kitchen staff to become more adept at scratch cooking. “This AFHK grant is the next step on our continuous journey of improvement,” Cross said.
Action for Healthy Kids is dedicated to improving children’s health and well-being by bringing together and mobilizing educators, families, and other key stakeholders to help children lead healthy lives. Through its core programming and family-school partnerships, AFHK has impacted more than 20 million children in 55,000 schools nationwide to address systemic challenges in underserved communities. To learn more about its growing network of volunteers and champions, visit www.actionforhealthykids.org.