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Grant to Support NJ Schools in Meeting New Federal Meal Requirements

For Immediate Release: September 17, 2012
Contact: Lynne Richmond 
(609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) The Christie Administration has received a $324,151 Team

Nutrition Training Grant that will be used to plant school gardens, help students make healthier food choices and train personnel on a variety of wellness issues.  The grant, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, enhances the Administration’s continued commitment to improving the nutritional habits of the state’s school children through initiatives like the recently expanded “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable” program.

New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture will work with Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Department of Family and Community Health Sciences on the two-year grant project, continuing the mission of a similar Team Nutrition Training Grant received in 2010.  However, the most recent grant will include child care centers, as well as elementary schools.

“It is vital that we reach the youngest children in our state to foster lifelong behaviors like eating healthy foods and exercising,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.  “The Team Nutrition grant not only focuses on providing healthier offerings, but helping youngsters make the right choices now and into the future.”

Up to 16 sites will be chosen in March or April of 2013 to participate in the project. 

“One new component of this grant is that, for the first time, we will be including child care centers as part of the Team Nutrition training,” said Dr. Kathleen T. Morgan, Chairperson of Family and Community Health Sciences. “This is a critical group to target as New Jersey has the highest obesity rate for children ages two to five.”

The program will provide training for New Jersey food service personnel on the new federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act school lunch regulations, put in place for this school year, which requires more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk, fat-free flavored milk and strict limits on saturated fat and portion size. They also will be taught how to creatively use U.S. Department of Agriculture foods in the lunch program.

The grant will include training on the practices of the “Smarter Lunchroom Movement,” which places healthier foods, such as fruits vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and legumes, in a place where students will choose them over less nutritious options.

Webinars will be utilized to make it easier for foodservice personnel to take advantage of training.

As in the 2010 Team Nutrition project, there will be ongoing training on the benefits of and procedures for applying for the HealthierUS School Challenge.  School gardens and Farm to School initiatives will continue to be promoted.  Sites will be trained to increase outreach to parents, families, caregivers and the community on nutrition and wellness activities, as well as to promote adult role-modeling of healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Forty Family and Community Health Sciences Wellness Champions were trained as part of the 2010 Team Nutrition grant and Rutgers’ Grow Healthy program.  These people, as well as newly trained champions, will be utilized to teach fun, interactive nutrition lessons, create and enhance school gardens, assist schools as they incorporate nutrition and school gardens in the classroom and serve on school wellness councils.

Nine pilot schools participated in the first two years of the program: Aura Elementary School in Elk Township; Cape May City Elementary School in Cape May; Chesterfield Township Elementary School; Ethel McKnight Elementary School in East Windsor; Francis A. Desmares Elementary School in Flemington; Knowlton Township Elementary School; Mount Prospect Elementary School in Basking Ridge; Queen City Academy Charter School in Plainfield; and Uptown School Complex in Atlantic City.

Dr. Morgan said each of those schools now has a garden, which some teachers utilize for lessons in math and social studies.  She said the youth benefited greatly, overall, from the program.

“The school gardens boosted the students’ self-esteem as they saw the bounty of their efforts,” said Dr. Morgan.  “Some students saw vegetables they never saw before.  One school made kale soup from kale grown in the garden; the students loved it!”

The New Jersey grant is part of $5.2 million in Team Nutrition training grants the USDA awarded to 18 states, funded in support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture School Nutrition Programs, visit

For more information on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, visit

For more information on the New Jersey Farm to School Program, visit

To find out about Rutgers Get Moving Get Healthy New Jersey program, visit