WASHINGTON, D.C. [6/25/19]— U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced bipartisan legislation to help schools in Minnesota and across the country replace inefficient and outdated kitchen equipment that may prevent them from serving students the most nutritious meals possible.
The School Food Modernization Act would provide grants, loan guarantees and technical assistance to schools in need of replacing outdated equipment.
“Nutritious meals in schools don’t just keep kids from going hungry; they make it so students can focus and develop a love of learning,” said Senator Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “Yet, in Minnesota, 96 percent of school districts are in need of updated kitchen equipment to better serve nutritious food. This bipartisan bill will enable schools to provide students with the healthy meals they need to reach their full potential in the classroom.”
“School meals play a vital role in the lives of our young people. More than 95,000 schools participate in the National School Lunch program, serving more than 30 million children each day. Many schools, however, lack the right tools for preparing meals rich in fresh ingredients,” said Senator Collins. “Our legislation would help schools purchase equipment and provide training to allow food service personnel to offer a wide variety of nutritious meals and snacks for students.”
“Mealtime is a particularly important moment in a child’s day. Our responsibility is to provide children with healthy, balanced meals; to develop their sense of taste; to help children make good food choices without being influenced by trends, media, and marketing; and to teach them the relationship between eating habits and health,” said Bertrand Weber, Director of Culinary and Wellness Services at Minneapolis Public Schools. “Salad Bars provide a great opportunity for students to be empowered in making healthy food choice from a selection of fresh appealing tasty foods. The School Food Modernization Act would enable more schools across the country to update and upgrade the equipment they need to serve food made from food to our kids, so that they are well-fed and fueled to learn.”
Many schools built decades ago often lack the infrastructure and equipment necessary to prepare meals with fresh ingredients and must rely on workarounds that are expensive, inefficient, and unsustainable. The School Food Modernization Act would address this by:
• Providing targeted grant assistance for the seed funding needed to upgrade kitchen infrastructure or to purchase high-quality equipment such as commercial ovens, steamers, and stoves;
• Establishing a loan guarantee assistance program within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help schools acquire new equipment to prepare and serve healthier meals; and
• Authorizing USDA to provide support on a competitive basis to highly qualified third-party trainers to develop and administer training and technical assistance, including online programs, to food service personnel.