Jamul Primary School

Jamul, California

Jamul Primary School

Jamul is a small town in Southern California that is contending with a declining population. The local school district serves far fewer children and about half as many meals as it used to, and until recently, the nutrition staff at Jamul Primary School had trouble preparing fresh, appealing meals in appropriate quantities for its 230 students because its equipment was too large and outdated. To begin addressing these challenges, the school applied for and received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to purchase a new mixer and convection ovens.

“Our old mixer was 60 quarts! It was difficult to prepare foods for the number of students we have. Even making the smallest amount possible would lead to wasted food,” said Joanne Vilarino, the district’s food service director. “The new 20-quart mixer allows us to make the amount of food we actually need.”

With the updated equipment, members of the nutrition staff have been able to try new recipes for healthy items, such as homemade granola bars and zucchini muffins for breakfast, and the result is a greater variety of healthy baked goods for the students, with less waste.

The new convection ovens are also improving the quality of food at the school. The old equipment often behaved unpredictably; entrees would sometimes not cook thoroughly in the prescribed time, while other foods would burn at the edges. “The old oven would fail, and staff would find out only when food was not ready and it was close to serving time,” said Vilarino. “The new ovens are trustworthy and dependable.”

Healthy school food

Serving meals reliably is important not only to the school’s staff and students, 54 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches, but also to two other schools that serve meals that are prepared in Jamul’s kitchen and transported to their cafeterias. The quality of those meals has also vastly improved with the new equipment.

“The new ovens create better flavors and textures, since things are more evenly baked and cooked,” said Vilarino. “The students are much happier with the new dishes and excellent results.”

issue brief
A tilting skillet, bought with grant money from the USDA
A tilting skillet, bought with grant money from the USDA
Issue Brief

USDA’s School Kitchen Grants Benefit Meal Programs and Students

The right equipment makes a difference in efficient...

Learn More
Quick View
Issue Brief

USDA’s School Kitchen Grants Benefit Meal Programs and Students

The National School Lunch Program is turning 70 in 2016, and kitchens in many of the more than 95,000 schools that participate in the program are nearly as old. Aging infrastructure and equipment, much of it designed to heat or handle pre-packaged rather than fresh foods, pose significant barriers to school districts’ efforts to adapt to the preferences and dietary needs of today’s students.

Learn More
Salad bar at school
Salad bar at school
Article

School Nutrition Gets a Boost From USDA Kitchen Equipment Grants

School Nutrition Gets a Boost From USDA Kitchen Equipment Grants

Learn More
Quick View
Article

The National School Lunch Program is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and many of the kitchens in participating schools are nearly as old. U.S. Department of Agriculture kitchen equipment grants have helped schools update their facilities and infrastructure, allowing them to serve healthier foods and improve meal programs for students.

Learn More