Passionate About Good Nutrition For Kids


By Cindy Long

Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service At the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Prior to becoming the Food and Nutrition Service Administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I spent many years with USDA working in the child nutrition space. I quickly became passionate about my work. It’s hard to think that for some children, the meals they receive at school are not just the only healthy foods they eat that day, but the only food they eat all day. That’s the reality for too many children. It motivated me then and even more now in my role as Administrator. In this role, I am strengthening the efforts to ensure children get healthy nutritious meals on a consistent basis, so they can do better in school, which sets them up for success!

During the pandemic, children across the country received free school meals. Keeping children fed during school closures required herculean efforts and close coordination among schools, city, state, and federal partners, volunteers, and anti-hunger organizations. This year, as schools transition back to pre-pandemic meal operations, some states have continued universal free meals.

Maine, Massachusetts, California, Vermont, Nevada, and recently Colorado have found creative and innovative ways to combine state funds with federal funds to provide universal free school meals and take that burden off parents.

Recently, I was in Nevada and met with a group of people passionate about feeding every person in need in Nevada, especially children. I was there to learn more about their journey toward universal free meals in schools, and to offer USDA support to keep the momentum going. We met at Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas. They graciously hosted a roundtable discussion, which allowed me to hear school districts’ and community organizations’ concerns and how USDA can support their efforts. Since that trip, the Nevada State legislature has approved an additional $28M to continue universal school meals for the school year 2023-2024!

As I travel to other states in the coming months, I will share how Nevada made universal free meals a reality with hopes that others can follow that same path. We all share the responsibility to ensure that children get healthy meals, so they can develop good eating habits at an early age and succeed later in life!