October 26, 2023

Interpretive Summary: USDA increases access to school meals as well as new partnership

USDA increases access to school meals as well as new partnership 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new partnership with the Urban School Food Alliance to help schools continue to invest in nutritious school meals. The over $60 million in grants will provide training and tools to school districts that will help them purchase high-quality foods while keeping costs low. In recent years schools have faced challenges in obtaining healthy foods consistently, efficiently, and effectively. 

This initiative will support schools with school meals procurement, including the development of tools and training. The Urban School Food Alliance was created by school food service professionals in 2012 to address the unique needs of the nation’s largest school districts, share best practices, develop procurement strategies, and advocate for the health and wellness of students. 

“USDA is committed to giving students the nutrition they need to reach their full potential by empowering schools to continue serving delicious, healthy meals,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “There’s no better time to announce these new efforts to support schools than during National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month, as we acknowledge the critical role that school meals play in a child’s life. The Biden-Harris Administration will continue doing everything we can to ensure schools have the tools they need to keep serving the highest quality meals to kids across America.”

The Urban School Food Alliance currently consists of 18 large school districts that share best practices about purchasing school foods, based on their experiences and procurement data they have gathered and analyzed beginning in school year 2017-2018. The Urban School Food Alliance has existing trainings and resources they will begin sharing with school districts immediately, and the development of new tools and the advisory group are both expected to begin in early 2024.

Through its new partnership agreement with USDA, the Urban School Food Alliance will:

  • Develop new tools to educate school districts on best practices for purchasing school foods
  • Organize an advisory group of school nutrition stakeholders to create an action plan that will address challenges with school food procurement through the development of targeted trainings and resources
  • Develop an interactive bid template that will help standardize procurement processes in school nutrition 

"The Urban School Food Alliance appreciates the opportunity to work with USDA to improve the school food procurement process for all stakeholders,” said Dr. Katie Wilson, executive director of the Urban School Food Alliance. “With procurement practices laying the foundation for obtaining fresh, healthy food served throughout our nation's schools, we look forward to developing and implementing new tools to push for a more efficient and sustainable food system that includes supporting local economies.”