Congressman DeSaulnier Introduces Bill to Help Provide Healthy Meals to Students

July 9, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) introduced the School Food Modernization Act, bipartisan legislation that would help local schools replace outdated kitchen equipment in an effort to provide more healthy and nutritious meals to students. According to a national survey by Pew Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, 88 percent of school districts need at least one piece of new kitchen equipment, and 55 percent require infrastructure changes. Making these updates to kitchen equipment and infrastructure is vital to ensuring students have access to healthy meals at school.

“A hungry child cannot be expected to learn,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “With schools closed during the pandemic, we saw even more starkly how important school meals are to a child’s educational success and overall health. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to redouble our focus on supporting children and families. This legislation gives schools the tools they need to make changes that will allow every child access to fresh, healthy meals so they can thrive in the classroom and beyond.”

“Far too many children only receive their meals at school. Meanwhile, many school nutrition professionals face challenges dealing with adequate capacity for procuring, storing, refrigerating, preparing, and serving nutritious meals to students,” said Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson. “The School Food Modernization Act provides the opportunity for schools to update their kitchen equipment and infrastructure so that students receive healthy and nutritious meals to fuel their academic success.”

“When students head back to school this year, we hope they are welcomed with fresh, healthy school meals, which research shows are integral to their academic success. The School Food Modernization Act would be a win not just for students, but for dedicated school nutrition staff who want and need better and newer equipment that would enable them to prepare more healthy options for kids. This is an investment for both our nation’s children and for the schools who serve them,” said Mamiko Vuillemin, Sr. Manager of Policy and Advocacy, FoodCorps.

“The health of adults in the future depends on the health of children today,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Kevin L. Sauer, the 2021-2022 President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is proud to support modernizing school nutrition programs to improve schools’ ability to serve appealing and nutritious meals to children and to improve food security to at-risk populations. For example, given the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on people with diet-related diseases and communities of color, now is the time to invest in our country’s children, especially those most at-risk to experience health disparities, so they can grow into healthy, productive adults. Updating school kitchen equipment and ensuring technical assistance is a must to help children develop healthful habits that will last a lifetime.”

The legislation:

  • Allows schools to participate in a loan assistance program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help them buy new kitchen equipment and build new infrastructure. Schools would be eligible for federal guarantees up to 80 percent of the loan.
  • Provides targeted grant assistance to give school administrators and food service directors seed money for less extensive infrastructure upgrades or purchases of high-quality, durable kitchen equipment such as commercial ovens, steamers, and stoves. 
  • Strengthens training and provides technical assistance to school food service personnel to prepare healthier meals. 
  • Increases Congressional oversight by requiring reports on the use of workforce training funds and the progress of the programs authorized within this bill.

Congressman DeSaulnier is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee. This bill is supported by FoodCorps, Eat Right Academy of Nutritionists and Dieticians, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and the California Association of Food Banks.

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