Global Agriculture

USDA Works to Strengthen School Meals, Listens to Feedback from Food Industry Leaders

16 October 2021, Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Stacy Dean and USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Administrator Cindy Long yesterday hosted a virtual listening session with 19 school food industry executives to discuss their critical role in strengthening access to nutritious foods for school meals programs, now and into the future.

“USDA’s school meal programs have a wide-reaching impact on the health and well-being of our nation’s children,” said Vilsack. “Now, more than ever, America’s children need access to the healthy and nutritious foods, and our industry partners play a huge role in making that happen.”

USDA’s meeting with these key partners came as the department, schools and other partners across the country celebrate National School Lunch Week (NSLW) between October 11-15. This week – and every week – is an opportunity to celebrate the high-quality, delicious, and nutritious lunches children receive through schools.

The COVID-19 public health and economic crisis has highlighted the essential role that school meals play in addressing childhood hunger, as well as the tireless dedication and creativity of school food professionals in making sure children are well fed – no matter the situation.

In case you missed it, over the last week, FNS has engaged with schools in a variety of activities in celebration of National School Lunch Week:

  • Department of Education Secretary Cardona and Secretary Vilsack kicked off National School Lunch Week with a video thanking school nutritional professionals for the work they do to ensure students have the healthy fuel they need to learn and grow.
  • Secretary Vilsack visited Riverdale Elementary in Riverdale, Maryland to announce that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is joining with students, parents, schools, communities and partners across the nation in recognition of National School Lunch Week, as proclaimed by President Biden.
  • Regional office activities included a virtual celebration with schools in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, congratulating them for increased school lunch participation and recognizing their innovations that have kept their students fed throughout the pandemic.
  • “One of the most important things we can do to protect the future of our nation’s children is to make sure they have enough nutritious food to eat – and the National School Lunch Program does exactly that,” said Vilsack. “Research shows that school meals are the healthiest food children receive in a day, and students’ success in the classroom is connected to their ability to access healthy and nutritious meals.” Vilsack added that USDA is committed more than ever to listening to all its partners – state, local, industry and beyond – and giving them the resources and options they need to safely serve school meals that support students’ learning and development.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America.