Preparing Safe and Healthy Meals: Ensuring that Schools Have the Proper Kitchen Equipment and Staff Training
More than 31 million children—up to half of all students—eat at least one meal provided through their school’s breakfast or lunch program each day.
Schools currently receive roughly $2.77 for each free meal they serve to an eligible child, which helps cover the cost of food, cafeteria staff salaries and other expenses. Because of changes in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools are beginning to receive the first real increase in meal funding in more than 30 years. The law calls for an additional six cents per meal for schools that meet national nutrition standards. While this is a step in the right direction, schools face other challenges when it comes to preparing safe, healthy meals.
Schools desperately need funding to properly train food service staff to prepare meals that meet updated nutrition guidelines. They also need to replace broken and outdated equipment. Many school kitchens were built decades ago to simply re-heat and hold foods. As a result, many cafeteria workers don’t have the training or tools they need to bake, grill and roast healthier meals. In fact, a recent survey of school food service providers found that nearly half still rely on deep-fat fryers, and their biggest challenge to preparing healthy meals is recruiting workers who have the necessary cooking skills.
The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is working to make sure schools have the resources they need to purchase new equipment and train staff on how to use it. The project will conduct a national study to better evaluate the needs of school districts around the country. It is also working with leaders and policy makers to support funding needs.