With North Dakota’s students returning to school to begin a new academic year, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today announced more than $250,000 in federal funding to help the state’s schools better serve healthy meals.The funding, made available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Team Nutrition grants, will be used to improve training programs designed to encourage kids to make healthy food choices. $255,948 will be distributed to North Dakota state agencies that administer the National School Lunch and Child and Adult Care Food Programs.
“One of the smartest approaches to better North Dakota’s future is to make investments in our kids, and that begins with making sure they have the tools they need to learn and grow,” said Heitkamp. “And a great way to do that is to make sure they eat healthy meals throughout the day.
Studies show that making smarter food decisions and eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help kids focus better in class and improve academic performance, all while bringing down staggering rates of childhood obesity. These funds will help schools empower students to make good choices in the lunchroom and I will continue to work to make sure both students and schools have the resources they need to help kids thrive in and outside the classroom.”
In April, Heitkamp introduced a bipartisan bill with Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine to give schools greater access to the tools and resources they need to offer healthy food options for students, reduce waste, and make resources stretch further. Her School Food Modernization Act would authorize grants and loan assistance to help schools purchase and upgrade equipment, as well as strengthen training to help school food personnel meet updated nutrition standards – all at no additional cost to taxpayers.
At a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing three months later, Heitkamp continued to make the case for improved nutrition in the nation’s schools, noting that the federal government can’t just mandate changes without providing the resources necessary for making them a reality.
According to Pew Charitable Trusts, 74 percent of school districts in North Dakota need new or improved kitchen equipment to better serve healthy meals.
The median cost for this equipment is $18,000 per school, totaling more than $28 million statewide. And more than one-third of North Dakota school districts need upgrades or improvements to kitchen infrastructure, including more physical space, electrical capacity, and ventilation.