CEDAR RAPIDS – One top federal agricultural official brought good news to some Iowa school districts during National School Lunch Week on Wednesday.
A Healthier U.S. School Challenge grant will allow Iowa school districts participating in the program to share just over $340,000 in federal grant funding. The money will go towards improving what kids are eating in school lunchrooms.
Janey Thornton, Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services for the USDA, brought more than her appetite to a lunch hour visit to Taylor Elementary School. She brought confirmation that Iowa was among 31 states that will share nearly $6.5 million in grant money.
The Agriculture Department notes that 32 million kids in the U.S. eat a school lunch every day. And Thornton said she has seen vast improvements in offering a “healthier” menu in just the last few years.
“Surprisingly enough, the first thing I asked two student ambassadors here at Taylor today is what are their favorite fruits and vegetables. One girl said broccoli and the boy said cauliflower. That probably would not have happened five or ten years ago,” Thornton said.
Districts statewide that participate in the USDA program can use the money for education materials and resources to help kids and parents learn more about nutrition. The Deputy Undersecretary said one trend she’s happy to see is the purchase of more locally-grown food for school lunches.