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USDA Invests More than $2.3 Million to Support Indigenous Foods in School Meals

Press Release
Release No.
FNS No. 004.24
Contact: FNS Press Team

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2024 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will award a total of more than $2.3 million in grants to five organizations to support child nutrition programs serving more Indigenous foods to Tribal communities. Vilsack shared this news at the National Congress of American Indians Convention in Cherokee, N.C., where he reaffirmed USDA’s commitment to Tribal self-governance and self-determination.

“For Tribal communities, traditional Indigenous foods are at the core of their cultural and spiritual identities,” said Secretary Vilsack. “These grants will allow more children who live in or near Tribal communities to enjoy these nutritious foods during the school day. We look forward to supporting Indian Country in strengthening food sovereignty, preserving heritage through foods, and providing critical nutrition to help children reach their full potential.”

K-12 schools serve nutritious breakfasts and lunches to nearly 30 million children every school day. These meals are the main source of nutrition for more than half of these children. Many students from Federally Recognized Tribes and Native Hawaiian students attend schools that participate in USDA’s child nutrition programs.

Each Native community has its own rich and diverse culture and food traditions. As part of USDA’s commitment to expanding the use of traditional Indigenous foods in school meals and other child nutrition programs, grants were awarded across the country to maximize the number of Tribal communities being served:

  • The Center for Popular Research, Education and Policy (C-PREP) will support four school districts on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Through training and technical assistance for school nutrition and other school staff, youth will have increased access to traditional Indigenous foods of their cultures and region and will learn about Indigenous foods across North America. ($386,296)
  • The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement actively engages in the preservation and enhancement of Indigenous food systems. They will expand their efforts to school districts by providing training and technical assistance to Native food producers, vendors, and school nutrition staff to expand the use of traditional Indigenous foods and nutrition education for students in eight charter schools across six Hawaiian Islands. ($499,543)
  • The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School will educate school nutrition staff in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan on food sovereignty and Indigenous food procurement and preparation. Federally Recognized Tribes throughout Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will be served through this project. ($486,991)
  • North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS) will expand the reach of their Indigenous Food Lab. The Indigenous Food Lab facilitates access to and utilization of Indigenous foods and delivers related education, to school districts in Minnesota and parts of neighboring states, impacting the 11 sovereign nations within Minnesota and others. ($496,688)
  • The Powhatan Confederacy will expand their experience procuring and preparing foods for Indigenous Peoples Feasts and apply their learnings to school districts in Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. Their project will impact several Federally Recognized Tribes. ($433,086)

These organizations awarded are led and primarily staffed by members of the Federally Recognized Tribes and/or Native Hawaiians. The funds will be used to support culturally relevant nutrition education and the use of traditional Indigenous foods in school and summer meals and snacks.

For more information about the awardees, please visit this FNS webpage.

“Today's announcement reflects USDA's commitment to Indian Country and Indigenous foods,” said Heather Dawn Thompson, director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations. “Native children thrive with a wider variety of nutritious and Indigenous foods available and when they see their traditions honored in a meaningful way.”

This funding is part of a suite of resources that USDA released to support the use of traditional Indigenous foods in the child nutrition programs. These resources are available online through the Serving Traditional Indigenous Foods in the Child Nutrition Programs webpage. USDA has taken additional actions to increase access to traditional Indigenous foods for children including:

  • Providing program operators with updated guidance to clarify how traditional Indigenous foods may be used in the child nutrition programs.
  • Providing program operators with updated guidance on procuring local meat, poultry, and eggs for the child nutrition programs.
  • Adding several traditional Indigenous foods such as mutton, smoked salmon fillet, bison, chokecherries, and prickly pear to the Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs, which is the essential resource for food yield information for all Child Nutrition Programs. USDA will continue to add traditional Indigenous foods over the coming years.
Updated School Nutrition Standards

USDA recently announced that the school meal nutrition standards will be gradually updated to include less sugar and more flexibility with menu planning between Fall 2025 and Fall 2027. Some of the flexibilities will specifically benefit children in Tribal communities and offer them more culturally appropriate foods by:

  • Allowing Tribally operated schools, schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, and schools serving primarily American Indian or Alaska Native children to serve vegetables to meet the grains requirement.
  • Encouraging schools to offer traditional Indigenous foods in school meals. This is already allowed and is now included in regulation.
  • Allowing nuts and seeds to credit for the full meats/meat alternates component in all child nutrition programs and meals.

Learn more about meal components that schools must offer at breakfast and lunch.

Additional Background on USDA’s Support for Schools

The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are dedicated to supporting school nutrition programs. While schools bounced back from the pandemic, the department provided them more purchasing power to buy American foods and opportunities for enhanced grant programs for updating equipment, product innovation, staff training, and farm to school efforts that serve the needs of their local school districts. Since January 2021, this administration has provided more than $13.7 billion in support to schools.

To learn about more ways USDA is investing in school meal programs, see the Support for Schools webpage.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of more than 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit and follow @USDANutrition.


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Page updated: June 05, 2024