December 13 Congressional Briefing on School Foodservice Equipment Modernization Highlights Needs in School Kitchens

December 8, 2017

CHICAGO – A congressional briefing on "School Foodservice Equipment Modernization" organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, will take place at 10 a.m., December 13, in room SD-G50 of Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. The briefing, for congressional staff and the public, will address the need for improving school nutrition program equipment and infrastructure.

Following the briefing, Academy members and leaders, registered dietitian nutritionists, health care professionals, advocates and private sector stakeholders will visit Congressional offices and encourage all members of Congress to support the measures.

"The National School Lunch Program turned 71 years old in 2017 and many of the more than 95,000 school kitchens that participate in the program are nearly as old," said Donna S. Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, FAND, the 2017-2018 President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of the Burke County, Ga., school nutrition program.

"Old kitchen equipment hinders schools' ability to adapt to the preferences and dietary needs of today's students. More than 30 million children participate in school meals, and for schools to have the ability to feed these children, they require optimally functioning kitchen equipment," Martin said.

"As school nutrition professionals, we know that old and outdated kitchen equipment hinders schools' ability to adapt to the nutritional needs of the nation's students," Martin said. "I have seen firsthand how challenging it is to prepare healthy, appealing and economical meals when you don't have the equipment you need."

Since 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture has provided $160 million in kitchen equipment funding to states and schools who abide by the National School Lunch Program guidelines for promoting nutritious meals with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy. The USDA has provided grants for school food modernization equipment, which is under consideration for reauthorization by the U.S. Congress.

According to Martin, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, supports reauthorization and full funding of this program to meet the following needs:

  • 95 percent of schools in the U.S. are serving healthy lunches, but most could be more efficient and spend less money if they had updated equipment and infrastructure
  • 88 percent of school districts need at least one piece of kitchen equipment
  • 55 percent of schools need kitchen infrastructure changes, such as electrical upgrades.

In addition to Martin, speakers at the briefing will include registered dietitian nutritionists representing the Academy and other school and food experts:

  • Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, president, Nutrition for the Future Inc.
  • Rudy Falana, superintendent, Burke County Public Schools
  • Rodney Taylor, director of food and nutrition services, Fairfax County, Va., public schools
  • Tony Martino, regional sales manager, Northeastern United States, Winston Foodservice.

Martin, Hayes, and Academy members Nancy Z. Farrell, MS, RDN, FAND, and president-elect Mary Russell MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, have visited school cafeterias in Fargo, N.D.; Erie, Pa.; San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Burke, Ga.; Glendale Heights, Ill.; and Syracuse, N.Y., to meet with school staff about how outdated equipment is hurting their ability to provide school meals, as part of this project. Support for this initiative was provided by Pew Charitable Trusts.

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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at eatright.org.