Federal Budget Funds School Kitchen Upgrades, Modifies Nutrition Standards

For the third consecutive year, Congress and President Barack Obama have approved funding for schools to purchase kitchen equipment that will enhance their ability to serve safe and healthy meals. The $1.1 trillion spending bill enacted this month, which funds most government agencies through September 2015, includes $25 million for kitchen equipment grants that will be distributed to schools by state authorities.

Research by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project shows that nearly 9 in 10 school districts across the country need at least one piece of kitchen equipment, ranging from serving utensils to walk-in refrigerators, to help them serve healthy meals. The equipment purchased with the federal grants assists schools in meeting the strong national nutrition standards for meals and snacks sold to students. The standards require, for example, that each lunch include a serving of fruits or vegetables, yet some schools lack the equipment to efficiently store and prepare large amounts of fresh produce.

The spending bill also loosens some of the recent updates to the school nutrition standards. One provision relaxes a requirement that all grain products served to students be rich in whole grains. Schools that can demonstrate hardship in complying with this rule will be able to seek permission from state authorities to serve fewer whole-grain-rich products while continuing to collect the additional federal reimbursement tied to meeting the standards.

The school meal standards call for a gradual decrease in sodium content over 10 years. The first phase of that reduction, known as Target 1, took effect during this school year. The next planned reduction, known as Target 2, had been scheduled to take effect in the 2017-18 school year, but the new spending bill prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture from moving toward Target 2 until further research shows that it would be beneficial for children.

The final spending bill did not include a much more drastic rollback of nutrition standards—first proposed in a House appropriations bill earlier this year—that would have allowed schools to opt out of the standards entirely for one year if they experienced financial difficulty. That change would have waived rules such as the requirement that they serve fruits or vegetables with every lunch—a standard that 91 percent of parents nationwide support.

All of these issues are likely to be debated in 2015, when Congress may take up reauthorization of child nutrition programs. 

Learn more about how the federal spending package affects school nutrition.


Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies


Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.