Indiana receives USDA grant for health and nutrition in schools

Grocery store fruit (WISH Photo/Laura Kennedy)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana has received a $372,000 grant from the USDA to improve health and nutrition in schools.  The Department of Education said the money will not only help get healthier food in school cafeterias, but also help establish healthy habits in students’ homes.

“You would be surprised at the numbers of schools who are actually stocking food, and having food pantries — sending home food with children on the weekends,” said State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz.

Indiana is one of 14 states that received the grant. The money will go toward putting more fruits and vegetables in schools and teaching school staff new ways to use them.

“We’ll be actually working with nutrition teams with our schools…we’ll be working on the culinary skills, working on wellness policies,” said Ritz.

Local blogger and healthy eating advocate, Lori Taylor, is known as “The Produce Mom.” Taylor helped the state put together the grant application.

“[The grant will] help educate our school food service directors on how to prepare, how to store and how to serve fresh fruits and veggies,” said Taylor.

Taylor said the lessons aren’t just for adults, but for students too.

“They will actually be creating things like recipes that can be used in the school cafeteria for the breakfast and the lunch programs in the USDA school meals,” said Taylor.

Students can share the recipes they learn with their parents, and eventually get the chance to lead cooking demonstrations in Kroger stores.

“It’s not just relying on the teacher, they’re not just school food service directors — they’re broadening their scope,” said Taylor.

The program aims to market the benefit of fresh food to both parents and children. The signs parents see while shopping in Kroger stores are the same signs their kids will soon see inside their schools.

“We’re going to be exciting students about what is happening in the cafeteria,” said Taylor.

“We’ve got to feed the body to feed the mind,” said Ritz.

Indiana University also worked with the Department of Education to apply for this grant. IU is still tracking healthy eating data in schools, and that data will eventually show if these programs are working.The state hopes to use the data to earn additional funding in the future.


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