WASHINGTON (Reuters) - State agencies will get more federal funding to provide fresh fruits and vegetables at schools, the Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday.
The $48 million increase in funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program represents a 40 percent increase since last fiscal year.
"Improving the health and nutrition of our kids is a national imperative and by providing schools with fresh fruits and vegetables that expand their healthy options, we are helping our kids to have a brighter, healthier future," a USDA statement quoted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as saying.
"Every time our kids eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable, they are learning healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime."
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, according to the statement, and has been gradually expanded in recent years.
The program is separate from the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs but compliments their goals of improving student nutrition set in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Under the program, agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands distribute the funds to qualified schools.
The USDA estimates between 600,000 to 950,000 children will benefit from the program.
(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)