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USDA Awards $10 Million to Spark Innovation in Regional School Food Systems

Press Release
Release No.
USDA No. 0134.24
Contact: FNS Press Team

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2024 – USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service today awarded a total of $10 million in grants through its partners – Full Plates Full Potential and the Illinois Public Health Institute – as part of USDA’s $100 million Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative. The initiative empowers schools to continue serving delicious, healthy meals that give students nutrition to grow and thrive.

The grants announced today are through the School Food System Transformation Challenge, which is one part of the Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, also known as HMI. These funds support innovation in the school meals marketplace by incentivizing collaboration between schools, the food industry, and other stakeholders. HMI also awards grants to small and/or rural school districts to improve the nutritional quality of their meals and modernizing their operations. To-date, 264 HMI grants have been awarded to small and/or rural school districts ($30 million) and 43 grants have been awarded under the School Food System Transformation Challenge Sub-Grants ($16.5 million).

“USDA is committed to strengthening the nutritional quality of school meals and it starts with strengthening the K-12 school food marketplace, which serves as an important source of nutrition for many children,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These grants will allow schools to purchase a wider variety of healthy, appealing products from local and regional producers, while building a more resilient and equitable food system.”

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring America’s schools have the tools they need to provide quality meals to their students. To spur innovation in school cafeterias in the Northeast and Midwest, grant partners awarded funds to nearly two dozen grantees this year.

Full Plates Full Potential, a non-profit dedicated to ending childhood food insecurity in Maine, awarded a total of $7.4 million in School Food System Innovation Grants to seven organizations. Their projects will help schools overcome the barriers to purchasing Maine-based foods for their school meal programs and establish long-term solutions and best practices that can be replicated in other regions.

The Illinois Public Health Institute awarded a total of $2.7 million to 16 organizations for the Lake Michigan School Food System Innovation Hub’s Spark and Innovation Collaborative Awards. These grants will help fuel change throughout the Lake Michigan region’s school food system, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Further, these projects will strengthen the K-12 food system by building regional partnerships, scaling programs and introducing healthy, new products for the K-12 food marketplace.

More information about the awardees is available on the FNS School Food System Transformation Challenge webpage.

Earlier this spring, USDA announced nearly $6.5 million in School Food System Transformation Challenge Grants to Supporting Community Agriculture and Local Education Systems (Project SCALES) and the Partnership for Local Agriculture and Nutrition Transformation in Schools (PLANTS). Additional funding opportunities will be available through Project SCALES and the Lake Michigan School Food System Innovation Hub in the coming months.

The School Food System Transformation Challenge Grants advance the goals of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health to enhance food and nutrition security and improve food access and affordability. This announcement highlights how USDA continues to increase access to local foods to better connect children to nutritious foods.

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 Sept. 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit and follow @USDANutrition.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Page updated: July 10, 2024