Nutrition Department Secures Healthy Meals Grant

Weakley County Schools Nutrition Department Secures Healthy Meals Incentive Grant
Posted on 08/25/2023
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Weakley County Schools is the recipient of a $150,000 grant through the United States Department of Agriculture’s [USDA] Healthy Meals Incentive initiative. Thanks to the efforts of Nutrition Director Trista Snider, the district was selected from a pool of 615 applicants representing 44 states, and 1 of 8 school systems in Tennessee to receive funding to improve the nutritional quality of school meals.

Snider applied for the competitive grant in spring of last year. She was thrilled to hear the announcement that Weakley County Schools was awarded the funding.

“I was shocked and thrilled when I saw the announcement that our schools were chosen to receive this funding out of the many applicants across the country. The award assistance that we receive will enhance kitchen operations, improve nutritional quality, and will help us to meet the proposed updates to the USDA’s School Meal Standards,” said Snider.

Plans for the funds include partnering with a specialized K-12 Chef to standardize and improve recipes, re-envisioning nutritious and delicious recipes, and integrating multi-cultural dishes into the meal lineup. Snider aims to prioritize local foods such as meat and produce, provide extensive training to all nutrition staff, and increase inventory management efficiency. Outdated equipment will be replaced to process, prepare, and serve fresh foods that are locally grown when possible.

Staff member smiles at student in the lunch line

Trista Snider prepares meal alongside student

happy smiles in lunch room at Sharon

Snider is eager to involve students throughout the process of integrating the updates in school cafeterias.

“Student involvement is important to the successful use of this funding. We think that our increases in efficiency in several areas will open up the availability for additional resources. Nutrition education is a goal, and we are looking to set up student taste tests and feedback sessions. We will also be creating a School Nutrition Student Advisory Team at each school. We want to spark new perspectives about nutrition by informing students about dietary options, and even providing meal preparation demos for them to try at home,” said Snider.

The grant will support the district’s ability to access a wider variety of healthy and quality foods, and open opportunities for collaboration and partnerships with local food producers.

Director of Schools Jeff Cupples said, “Job well done to Mrs. Snider and her school nutrition team for their work in securing this grant. This talented group is on the frontlines of providing critical nutrition for roughly 3,800 students each school day. For some students, school breakfast and lunch are the day’s only meals. Our nutrition team never loses sight of that. We are passionate about providing nourishing, quality meals each school day in support of the well-being of students. This grant funding will help us optimize those efforts,” said Cupples.

The Healthy Meals Incentives grant is part of an allocation of nearly $30 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to 264 schools across 44 states and the District of Columbia.

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