Hoeven Announces More Than $250,000 Grant for North Dakota School Lunch Programs

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $255,948 in 2014 Team Nutrition Grants to North Dakota. North Dakota can use the grant to implement the school meals program designed to encourage students to select healthy meals.

“We have been working to provide permanent flexibility in the school lunch program to make it work for our students, school nutritionists and school districts as we know a one-size-fits-all standard for school lunches does not meet the needs of our students and schools,” said Hoeven. “This USDA grant will help our state’s schools develop unique plans that will help bolster healthy eating habits for our students, and I will continue to work to provide our schools the flexibility they need to implement the program, particularly with regard to the sodium and whole grains standards.”

USDA has implemented the Team Nutrition Training Grants for Healthy Meals as one of the systems established to support the implementation of the agency’s nutrition requirements and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in meals served to schools and child care institutions. The grants are directed to state agencies so individuals states can develop plans to implement Team Nutrition’s goal of supporting healthy eating and physical activity habits in children.

Hoeven sponsored the Sensible School Lunch Act to provide school districts with greater flexibility to meet the nutritional needs of all students after hearing from North Dakota students who were left feeling hungry due to new, strict school nutrition standards enacted at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. The rule attempted to curb obesity by strictly limiting calories, protein and grains for all students without any flexibility to meet the needs of athletes or others whose dietary needs do not fit the guidelines.

In December 2012, USDA made temporary changes to the School Lunch Program in response to a letter led by Hoeven and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas and signed by other senators. In response to the senators’ request, the USDA lifted its strict limit on grains and starches as well as protein to give schools more flexibility. The upper cap on total calories remains in place. However, the modification was provided only through the 2013-2014 school year.

Hoeven and Pryor then introduced bipartisan legislation to make these changes permanent. The senators’ legislation, the Sensible School Lunch Act, had broad, bipartisan support and the backing of the national School Nutrition Association. In response to their legislation, the USDA made the changes permanent administratively in early January 2014.