USDA, US state of Maine sign cooperative agreement expanding nutritional options in school meals

School lunch cafe

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has signed a USD 776,210 (EUR 733,970) cooperative agreement with the U.S. state of Maine to fund school-issued meal programs.

Funds for the programs will go toward purchasing nutritious, local foods to boost student health and build new relationships between schools and local farmers, the USDA stated in a release on 26 September.

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) will collaborate closely with the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS) to purchase and distribute local and regional food and beverages for schools to serve through the USDA's National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The USDA has recently been purchasing large volumes of seafood produced in the U.S. as part of its push to provide healthier meals to students.

“This cooperative agreement supporting Maine schools is another example of how the USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt said. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses, and schools and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”

Funds will also support the LFS, DOE, and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry to strengthen the relationships between small businesses in Maine and underserved farmers and producers.

“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school – a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean said. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, the USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grow, and thrive.”

In September, the U.S. state of South Carolina introduced a similar initiative in one of its local school districts. The USDA purchased large amounts of Alaska pollock, haddock, sockeye salmon, pink salmon, catfish, Pacific shrimp, and Pacific rockfish to incorporate into school lunches. 

“By prioritizing seafood in [kindergarten through 12th grade] student diets, we can help them build strong bodies, sharp minds, and healthy eating habits that will benefit them for years to come,” Joe Urban, the director of food and nutrition services for Greenville County Schools, and Lauren Couchois, the registered culinary dietitian for the school district, said about the South Carolina initiative.

Photo courtesy of Africa Studio/Shutterstock 


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