DeSaulnier Bill to Help School Cafeterias Modernize

July 30, 2015
Press Release
Bipartisan School Food Modernization Act Promotes New Equipment, Infrastructure

Washington, DC – Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has introduced the School Food Modernization Act, which will help local schools replace outdated kitchen equipment and improve infrastructure in an effort to provide healthy and nutritious meals to students.  A national survey indicates that 88 percent of school districts need at least one piece of new kitchen equipment, and 55 percent require infrastructure changes.  The legislation is bipartisan, with Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) serving as co-lead and Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-PA) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) also co-sponsoring. 

“The research is clear: nutrition plays a critical role in a child’s development,” Rep. DeSaulnier said.  “We committed to giving students the nourishment they need to learn and grow with new federal nutrition standards, but it is time we give our schools and their staff the tools they need to implement them. I am pleased to join this bipartisan effort to help make our food healthier and our students prosper.”   

“We need a permanent solution to ensure that our schools have the tools they need to serve our kids healthier meals,” Rep. Barletta said.  “Too many of our nation’s schools have deep fryers when they really need walk-in refrigerators and freezers to keep fresh fruits and vegetables longer.  They have microwaves meant to reheat pre-packaged foods when they really need something as simple as a knife and cutting board.  By giving schools better access to modern kitchen equipment and infrastructure, while also strengthening workforce training, we do just that.  It will result in improved focus in the classroom, and ultimately, a lifetime of healthier eating habits.”

“The School Food Modernization Act will improve the quality and accessibility of equipment used for preparing high quality meals in our schools,” Rep. Thompson said.  “Food service professionals work tirelessly to comply with the barrage of new school nutrition standards and we must ensure they have the necessary tools to provide healthy meals to students.”

“Everyone I've met who works at a school lunch program wants to provide, the best, freshest, healthiest meal possible for the students they serve,” Rep. Pingree said.  “But they don't always have the equipment and facilities they need to do that.  This bill will help give them the tools they need to cook fresh meals from scratch.  School kitchens need more cutting boards and refrigerators fewer microwaves and can openers.” 

The legislation:

  • Allows schools to participate in a loan assistance program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help them acquire 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, many of whom need additional skills and expertise 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.