Senators introduce school food equipment bill | TSLN.com

Senators introduce school food equipment bill

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Wednesday introduced the School Food Modernization Act, which would establish a loan guarantee, grant, and technical assistance program within the Agriculture Department to help schools acquire the new equipment needed to prepare healthier, more nutritious meals.

Under the bill, which could be incorporated into the child nutrition program reauthorization bill this year, school administrators or other eligible borrowers could obtain federal guarantees for 80 percent of the loan value needed to construct, remodel, or expand school kitchens, dining, or food storage infrastructure.

Targeted grant assistance would give school administrators and food service directors the seed funding needed to upgrade kitchen infrastructure or purchase kitchen equipment such as commercial ovens, steamers, and stoves.

The bill would also strengthen training and technical assistance to help school food service personnel meet nutrition standards.

"While schools across North Dakota have been able to meet updated nutrition standards in the meals they serve, they could use some help to better prepare healthy meals for their students," Heitkamp said in a news release.

"When they don't have the right equipment or resources, school food service personnel can't be as efficient as possible, and are often faced with the burden of added costs."

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Research by the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project has shown that nine out of 10 schools need updated kitchen equipment. The project is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

–The Hagstrom Report