USDA Grants Needed to Help Pennsylvania Serve Healthy School Meals

Only 38% of the state’s districts have a budget for essential kitchen upgrades

USDA Grants Needed to Help Pennsylvania Serve Healthy School Meals

This fact sheet is one in a 10-part series highlighting the need for more school kitchen equipment grants to help ensure that children receive healthy school meals.

The nutritional quality of school meals has a significant impact on the health of the children who eat them. The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs serve more than 44 million meals each day, providing healthy food for kids. However, this frequently requires schools to work around equipment and infrastructure challenges in ways that are expensive, inefficient, and unsustainable.

Pennsylvania at a Glance

  • 80 percent of school districts need at least one piece of equipment to better serve nutritious foods.
  • The state received $1,019,574 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school kitchen equipment upgrades in fiscal year 2014.
  • The median cost of equipment needs per school is $29,000, compared with approximately $37,000 nationally.

Although 38 percent of school districts in Pennsylvania have at least some budget for kitchen equipment upgrades, U.S. Department of Agriculture grants are critical to helping schools with greater needs. Seventy-two schools in the state received funding in fiscal year 2014 to purchase kitchen equipment.

Policymakers have a chance to make a big difference in many school systems by helping them purchase the new and better tools they need to serve healthier foods more efficiently. Congress has provided such support since 2009 in the form of grant funding through annual appropriations, including $30 million in fiscal 2016, which is distributed to school districts via state agencies. This year, the president’s budget includes $35 million for the grants. Now Congress has the opportunity to match that request and make certain that more schools have access to these much-needed resources.

Additionally, the bipartisan School Food Modernization Act (S. 540/H.R. 3316) would maintain schools’ continued access to modern kitchen equipment and infrastructure, and strengthen workforce training through the child nutrition reauthorization legislation. By co-sponsoring the act, members of Congress can help make upgrading school kitchens and helping ensure that students receive the healthy meals they need a national priority.

For more information on federal appropriations and legislation affecting school nutrition programs, please contact Mollie Van Lieu at mvanlieu@pewtrusts.org.

USDA Grants table

Endnotes

**Cold-food merchandisers are enclosed refrigerated display cases that are used for serving foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy items at safe temperatures.

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