Many schools lack the simple kitchen equipment, such as knife sets, they need to prepare fresh food for healthy lunches.
President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2017 federal budget proposal showed continued support for more nutritious school meals by requesting funding for new and better kitchen equipment. Obama asked Congress to allocate $35 million in grants, up from $30 million appropriated for this purpose in fiscal 2016.
If passed, these grants could benefit school districts in need of new, improved kitchen equipment and upgrades—an effort that is strongly supported by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project.
Without the right tools, school districts must rely on expensive, unsustainable workarounds. Our 2014 report on school equipment found that 88 percent of schools districts need at least one piece of kitchen equipment and 55 percent need kitchen infrastructure changes.
Better kitchen equipment means better food preparation, more variety, and healthier choices
To help combat childhood obesity, schools across the country are offering healthier lunch choices for students. If more nutritious eating becomes part of children’s normal in-school routine, these preferences may continue at home and throughout their lives.
Research shows that healthy school lunches improve kids’ overall eating habits.
Researchers from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity studied lunches served to children at 12 Connecticut schools in spring 2012, 2013, and 2014. Compared with 2012, children ate nearly 13 percentage points more of their entrees and 18 percentage points more of their vegetables by the last year of the study. Food waste declined as a result.
The researchers also found that greater variety led to healthier choices. Each additional fruit option offered was associated with a 9.3 percent increase in the number of students taking a fruit serving.
What kind of equipment would these funds support?
Like all educators, school nutrition personnel need modern tools, such as this blast chiller in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
- Serving utensils to accurately deliver appropriate portion sizes.
- Large-capacity food processors to more quickly prepare different foods, including fruits and vegetables.
- Knife sets with cutting boards to prepare fresh food and improve safety.
- Industrial scales to efficiently weigh bulk ingredients.
- Refrigerators to increase storage capacity for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Jessica Donze Black is the director of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project.