The United States Department of Agriculture has awarded the Christie Administration a $340,250 Team Nutrition Training Grant for the training of foodservice professionals, the increase of fruit and vegetable consumption through school gardens and Farm to School programs, and the promotion of locally grown produce in school meals, Foodfacts.com has learned. This grant award enhances the Administration’s continued commitment to improving the nutritional habits of the state’s schoolchildren through initiatives like the recently expanded “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable” program.
New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture will work with Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Department of Family and Community Sciences on the two year grant project.
“Schools are an ideal environment for fostering healthy, lifelong behaviors like eating nutritious foods and increasing activity,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “The Team Nutrition grant will help New Jersey schools start school gardens and introduce more fresh, locally grown produce into school lunch and breakfast.”
The program will include training for foodservice managers and staff to implement the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into both school meals and a la carte offerings. They will be trained on how to make their meals more appealing and “kid-friendly,” and how to start school gardens and initiate more Farm to School programs.
“We are looking forward to implementing the goals in the grant to improve nutrition for youth in schools through trainings with school foodservice personnel, nutrition education with youth in schools, farm to school and planting school gardens, as well as reenergizing the School Wellness Policy while engaging parents and developing School Wellness Councils,” said Kathleen T. Morgan, Chairperson of Family and Community Health Sciences.
Nine pilot schools will be chosen to receive $7,500 mini-grants to promote fruit and vegetable consumption through fun, interactive lessons and activities, which will link classroom education to the foods served in the cafeteria, including food tastings, promotion of locally grown produce and strategies to engage families and the community.
A school garden will be planted in each of the nine schools. They will be required to grow at least three different vegetables that will be harvested and sampled by students.
Another component of the grant program, New Jersey schools will be encouraged to take the Healthier U.S. School Challenge, www.fns.usda.gov/tn/healthierus/index.html, a voluntary initiative established to recognize schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.
The Department of Agriculture enacted a school nutrition policy several years ago and administers the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. It also runs the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fresh produce to students in 101 schools throughout the state on a regular basis. The Department also is working with schools and local farmers to help incorporate Jersey Fresh produce into school meals.
Starting this fall, the Department is partnering with Rutgers Food Innovation Center on a farm to school project to develop innovative single-serve food items, made from state agricultural products that can be used in school lunch or breakfast.
Rutgers’ Department of Family and Community Health Sciences has been engaged in a two-year initiative, “Get Moving Get Healthy New Jersey.” Partnering with 4-H Youth Development, the program is targeted at improving the nutrition and physical activity of New Jersey residents.