Bidwell Junior High School

Chico, California

Bidwell Junior High School

Every morning at Bidwell Junior High School in Chico, California, the smell of freshly baked whole-wheat muffins wafts from the kitchen. The muffins are part of Chico Unified School District’s mission to serve its students the healthiest, highest-quality, and freshest foods. To accomplish this, the district buys fruits, vegetables, proteins, milk, and dairy products from local vendors and turns these ingredients into dishes made from scratch—a strategy that was limited until recently by an old, unreliable oven. A replacement, purchased with a U.S. Department of Agriculture kitchen equipment grant, has helped the school’s nutrition team add entree options and create a more welcoming dining atmosphere for kids.

The energy-efficient and dependable oven frees staff members from having to monitor foods closely while they are cooking, allowing them instead to spend time engaging with the students. The food service workers strive to greet kids by name and with a smile, thank them for joining the meal, and invite them back. The staff also has more time for cooking, which has allowed it to expand the daily menu from six hot entree options to nine. With a greater number of healthy choices, students are more likely to find meals that appeal to their varying appetites and preferences. Among their favorite dishes are made-from-scratch “honey fire chicken” and beef and rice burritos.

The new oven also supports Bidwell’s popular selection of bakery items, including the whole-wheat muffins. “Our district has three professional bakers, so we produce fresh bread products like pizza dough, sandwich rolls, and cinnamon rolls—all whole-grain rich and low in sodium and fat—every day,” said Vince Enserro, the district’s director of nutrition services. “The healthy baked goods are a hit with students.”

Healthy school food

And students are showing their appreciation for the fresh, appealing meals by buying them in growing numbers: Participation is up for breakfast and lunch. This means more meal program revenue, which Enserro and his team can turn into even more high-quality ingredients and kitchen and dining area improvements.

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...

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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.

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Case Studies
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

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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