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Bringing It Back: Full-Functioning Kitchens In Schools

As recently as the late 70s, school cafeterias functioned like real kitchens cooking real food. Lunch ladies knew how to prepare food from scratch, and lunch was a true break in the school day. Fast forward to today and it’s a whole different story. Ovens stripped from cafeterias and replaced with fryers, microwaves and warmers. Processed food shipped in and served out. The lunch “hour” focused on speed and order. Kids often have less than 20 minutes to eat.

According to the USDA, over 31 million children eat school lunch each day, and over 12 million eat school breakfast. Are we doing all we can as a country to ensure a healthy meal for our kids? If the dismal state of our school kitchens sets the standard, then the answer is no.

House representatives Tom Latham of Iowa and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina agree. They are continuing to push the School Food Modernization Act, originally introduced to Congress in September of 2012. If passed, the bill would set aside money to pay for school kitchen upgrades. Funds for this type of school kitchen improvement have not been federally allocated for over 30 years.

As the bill moves forward, it is now time to create a game plan for your school cafeteria. Take stock of your facility needs as you progress toward the scratch-cooking model that the new USDA standards encourage. What should be fixed or replaced? What new equipment do you need? And, more importantly, how can you get it?

As a managing partner of Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, F3 has partnered with Tundra Restaurant Supply to donate over 2,500 salad bars to schools across the nation in three years. In 2012, thanks to a grant from The Walmart Foundation, F3 partnered with Tundra again to bring universal breakfast programs to 117 schools countrywide. We provided schools with the equipment they needed to serve healthy breakfast in the classroom. Tundra helped schools determine their specific equipment and supply needs.

Updating school facilities across the country is a big project, and no school or organization can do it alone. Funds, partners and resources are available to help. F3 is proud to partner with businesses that have a strong commitment to their communities. In addition to their work with F3, Tundra supports healthy school food in their local community of Boulder, providing supplies and volunteers to school garden programs.

Who can be your partner? The Lunch Box resource database lists grants that are available to help you make the school food changes you want to make. Just click here and check off the “grants” box. Check off the “implementation” box, and you can find national and regional resources that help you with everything from school garden partners to school breakfast cost/benefit analysis.

Let’s team up and bring back the good old school cafeterias of yore!

Pictured above: Adam Douglas, Warehouse Manager for Tundra Restaurant Supply


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