Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA will award close to $6.5 million in grants to seven State agencies for training and technology projects to improve the quality of school meals and the administration of the National School Lunch Program.

The Administrative Review and Training Grants, authorized by Public Law 108-265, will provide support to State agencies as they implement innovative training, monitoring, and technology solutions to enhance program effectiveness. The grants will target school food authorities that have demonstrated a high level of, or a high risk for, error in program operations.

"Our schools are on the frontline of efforts to improve child nutrition and the nutritional quality of school meals and the funding we are announcing today will help reduce barriers to participation, improve program access, and enhance the health of the school environment," said Vilsack.

USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon said USDA looks forward to continuing its partnership with States to ensure greater accuracy and efficiency in the application process and other program administration activities. "These grants are an important part of our emphasis on training and providing schools tools and resources to best serve children participating in this critical program," he said.

Vilsack also underscored the Obama Administration's larger commitment to improving the nutritional quality of school meals and emphasized the need to pass a strong Child Nutrition Act now before Congress. By passing strong reauthorization legislation, the Administration hopes to reduce hunger, promote access, and improve the overall health and nutrition of children throughout the country.

Reauthorization priorities include improving nutrition standards; increasing access to nutrition programs and education about healthy eating; and establishing standards for all foods sold in schools to ensure they contribute a healthy diet; and providing schools with financial help to purchase equipment needed to produce healthy, attractive meals.

The National School Lunch Program is one of USDA's Food and Nutrition Service's 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans each year. Operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, the program provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to 31 million children every school day.

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