USDA Kicks Off National Nutrition Month and Announces Availability of Nutrition Grants to Improve the Health of America's ChildrenWASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today kicked off National Nutrition Month by announcing the availability of Team Nutrition Training Grants for Healthy Meals to states to help children develop healthy eating and physical activity habits for healthier lifestyles. USDA's nutrition assistance programs touched the lives of 1 in 4 Americans last year, including the nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day. "We know that to win the future, we have to win the race to educate our children and that means that our kids must have access to nutritious meals and healthy lifestyles," said Vilsack. "These grants provide states important new resources, technical assistance and flexibility to help schools and daycare settings raise the bar for our kids so that they can reach their full potential." USDA will be investing $5.5 million in grants with approximately $2.5 million set aside to provide non-competitive grants (up to $50,000) to each State Agency that commits to specific strategies to increase the number of HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) applications submitted for approval. Up to $350,000 may be requested to include both competitive and non-competitive grants. Team Nutrition is a key component in USDA's efforts to improve the nutrition, health and well being of children. This funding provides training and technical assistance to school nutrition professionals to help them prepare and serve nutritious and appealing meals, provide fun and interactive nutrition education for children, teachers, parents and caregivers in childcare settings and build school and community support for creating healthy school environments. Team Nutrition Training Grants are one of the anchor delivery systems for supporting the implementation of USDA's nutrition requirements and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in meals served in schools and child care institutions. The grants offer funding to State agencies to establish or enhance sustainable infrastructures for implementing Team Nutrition's goal of improving children's lifelong eating and physical activity habits. The HealthierUS School Challenge is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. Schools participating in the challenge voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, agree to provide nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity. The First Lady and USDA called upon stakeholders to double the number of Challenge school awards within in a year and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that. Schools participating in the challenge are recognized with Gold of Distinction, Gold, Silver, or Bronze-level certification. Challenge certification also includes monetary incentives for schools - $2,000 for Gold Award of Distinction, $1,500 for Gold, $1,000 for Silver and $500 for Bronze. During National Nutrition Month in March, USDA encourages people to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat milk in their meals each day. These recommendations are included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that were recently released by USDA and HHS, which focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Through its 16 nutrition assistance programs, USDA also promotes access, resources and pathways for low-income Americans to lead a more healthful lifestyle. In addition to Team Nutrition and the HealthierUS School Challenge, FNS promotes the use of USDA Foods and provides schools with technical assistance to create and maintain healthier school environments and to implement their wellness policies. More information on the Team Nutrition Training Grants and how schools can become Team Nutrition schools is available at http://teamnutrition.usda.gov.