Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards

Are you blazing new trails or using innovative strategies to improve school meals?
Streamlined Application Now Available!

Embark on a journey with our streamlined Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards, designed to make the application process easier and faster. As part of a cooperative agreement to develop and implement the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Healthy Meals Incentives (HMI) Initiative, Action for Healthy Kids is recognizing and celebrating School Food Authorities (SFA) who have made operational changes to improve the nutritional quality of their school meals, as well as SFAs who engage students and families in nutrition education and in the planning and preparation of nutritious school meals. For example, one SFA might have introduced a “Build Your Plate” station where students can customize their meals with a variety of nutritious options, while another might have organized cooking classes for students and parents to learn how to prepare healthy meals at home.

Award Benefits

  • Complimentary registration and travel stipend to attend an exclusive national Healthy Meals Summit in Las Vegas
  • Recognition on USDA, AFHK and HMI websites
  • National and local recognition and media opportunities 
  • Opportunity to network with other HMI awardees
  • Awardee toolkit with promotional resources

Awardees will also have opportunities to be highlighted and share their best practices through traditional and social media, stakeholder engagement and Healthy Meals Summits. View Awardee Spotlight 

Award Criteria

SFAs are eligible to apply for the Recognition Awards if they participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and/or School Breakfast Program (SBP) in the contiguous United States, Hawaii, Alaska, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the United States Virgin Islands.

The Trailblazer Award Series highlights SFAs paving the path with gradual changes in school menus to be consistent with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, specifically for reducing sodium in school lunch and added sugars in school breakfast.

Innovation Award Series highlights unique and innovative approaches not traditionally used in schools, as well as achievements SFAs are making to engage students and families to offer nutritious meals. These SFAs are working toward exceeding the school nutrition standards.

Breakfast Trailblazer

Small and/or Rural SFA Breakfast Trailblazer

Lunch Trailblazer

Small and/or Rural SFA Lunch Trailblazer

Innovative School Lunch Makeover

Innovation in the Cultural Diversity of School Meals

Innovation in the Preparation of School Meals

Innovation in Nutrition Education

Download all HMI Recognition Awards criteria here.

Application Timeline & Review

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis between June 30, 2023 and June 30, 2025. Frequently asked questions can be downloaded here.

Applications will close on June 30, 2025 at 11:59pm ET.

Applicants will receive notifications regarding their award status within two calendar months from the end of the month in which they submitted their application. For instance, applications submitted in November 2024 will receive notification of their award status by January 31, 2025. For questions and/or support, email:  

Spanish translation services are available. To arrange a technical assistance session with a Spanish interpreter to address questions regarding your Recognitions Award Application, please send an email to with three (3) preferred dates and times for a 30-minute Zoom meeting. A member of the Action for Healthy team will promptly respond to your request and schedule the Zoom meeting with Spanish interpretation.

Awardee Spotlight

HMI Recognition Awards spotlight innovative practices, student and community engagement activities, and strategies that SFAs have used to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. Explore awardees and their best practices.

Recognition Award Resources

Quarterly information webinars will be hosted to provide additional information on Recognition Awards. Spanish translation services are available.

September 21, 2023 – Recognition Award Webinar:

December 13, 2023 – Recognition Award Webinar:

March 6, 2024 – Recognition Award Webinar: 

May 8, 2024 – Recognition Award Webinar: 

Download Recognition Awards Criteria


HMI Letter of Support- State Agency


Download Recognition Awards FAQs

Our team can provide technical assistance with your application and help answer questions about eligibility, documentation and more. For questions, email:

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This material is based upon work that is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.