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USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has established the Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative to improve the nutritional quality of school meals through food systems transformation, school food authority recognition and technical assistance, the generation and sharing of innovative ideas and tested practices, and grants.

Key Activities
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Healthy Meals Incentives Grants for Small and/or Rural School Food Authorities

FNS and AFHK have worked together to award nearly $30 million in grants to 264 SFAs across 44 states and the District of Columbia, reaching students in some of our nation's highest need schools. Each small and/or rural school district will receive up to $150,000 to support them in improving the nutritional quality of their meals and modernizing their operations, through efforts which could include:

  • Innovative staff training programs;
  • Kitchen updates and renovations;
  • Redesigning food preparation and service spaces;
  • Other school-district led efforts to support school meals and school nutrition professionals.

The AFHK map below features the selected SFAs and their grant amounts. The map will be updated on a rolling basis as SFAs formalize their grant agreements. More information about the grants can be found on the Action for Healthy Kids website.


Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards for School Food Authorities

As part of a cooperative agreement with USDA FNS to develop and implement the Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) is offering recognition awards to celebrate school food authorities (SFA) that have made significant improvements to the nutritional quality of their school meals. The recognition awards will spotlight innovative practices, student and community engagement activities, and strategies schools have used to provide meals that are consistent with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

Find the recognition awards categories and criteria, the application portal, and helpful resources to complete the application on the Action for Healthy Kids website.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through June 30, 2025. Applicants will be notified of their results within two months of submission.

Eligibility Criteria:
SFA's must participate in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program in the 50 United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the Virgin Islands.

SFA's may apply for any of the awards at any point during the application period, but may only receive each award once.

SFAs meeting recognition award criteria will receive the following:

  • National and local recognition through traditional and social media.
  • Awardee toolkit that includes promotional resources for use on the web, social media, and traditional media.
  • Travel stipends to attend a national Healthy Meals Summit.
  • Access to diverse best practices from recognition awardees, stakeholder engagement, training and technical assistance activities, and Healthy Meals Summits.
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School Food System Transformation Challenge Sub-Grants

In spring/summer 2023, FNS will work with Boise State University, Chef Ann Foundation, Full Plates Full Potential, and Illinois Public Health Institute to support the development and implementation of the School Food System Transformation Challenge Sub-Grants. The sub-grants will support collaborative projects between school districts, food producers, suppliers, distributors, and/or community partners to stimulate the creation of a resilient, equitable, and nutritious school food system. Requests for Applications (RFA) for these sub-grants will be announced later in 2023.

Healthy Meals Summits

FNS will host Healthy Meals Summits for Healthy Meals Incentives small and/or rural SFA grantees, Recognition Award recipients, and School Food Systems Transformation grantees. During the summits, attendees will share best practices and strategies for sustaining their achievements.

Learn More

The Healthy Meals Incentives activities noted above are expected to increase utilization, and thereby demand, for nutritious agricultural commodities, such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits as well as food products that reflect various cultures. These efforts are also positioned to strengthen small and rural school food authorities’ access to nutritious agricultural commodities through food systems transformation and grants to small and rural school food authorities.

The collection and sharing of best practices regarding school food authorities’ use of nutritious agricultural commodities in school meals, as well as the incentivization of practices such as nutrition education (including farm to school nutrition education), use of local agricultural products in scratch cooking, and the development of culturally-diverse school meal menu items is also expected to indirectly benefit producers that supply food products to schools.