The School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), the charitable arm of the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA), late last month announced winners of its 2023 Equipment Grant Program. Five school nutrition professionals are being awarded grants for their school meal programs. Each grant is worth between $20,000 and $100,000 of equipment.
Facing persistent staffing, financial and supply chain challenges, school nutrition professionals around the country applied for SNF Equipment Grants in the school year 2022-2023 to receive new equipment to benefit their school meal program. The 2023 SNF Equipment Grants are made possible by the generous contributions of ITW Food Equipment Group (Hobart Equipment and Vulcan Equipment), Food Warming Equipment Company, Inc., Innoseal Systems, Cambro Manufacturing, Winston Foodservice, Sterno Delivery and Sterling Manufacturing.
Kimberly Minestra, Nutrition Services Program Director for Evanston Township High School District 202 in Evanston, IL is the recipient of the SNF Hobart Equipment Grant, worth up to $35,000 Minestra oversees a school nutrition program central kitchen that provides meals for four unique serving locations in the high school as well as for 17 elementary and preschools in the surrounding community.
“We are excited to add additional Hobart mixers and meat slicers to our kitchen…this equipment will help the nutrition department reach its goal of providing more semi-scratch meals,” said Minestra.
Dr. Nadine Mann, Child Nutrition Program Director for East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Baton Rouge, LA was selected for the SNF Winston Equipment Grant, worth up to $100,000
This upcoming school year, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System will reopen three schools that were used as charter schools for the past two decades. “The Child Nutrition Department has been tasked with getting the kitchens ready for use, Mann explained. One of the sites includes much of the original equipment from when the building was constructed in the 1960s.”
“When the Parish discussed reopening the schools, there was no discussion about the funds needed to replace outdated or broken kitchen equipment that the food management company left when the charter schools were closed,” Mann continued. This grant will allow the nutrition team to purchase cooking, holding and serving equipment, with the hope to also add equipment to their new Chef’s Test Kitchen that will be used to prepare and test new products and train staff on cooking techniques and presentation. According to Mann, adding these pieces of equipment will greatly assist the team in providing healthy and delicious school meals at the newly opened schools and hopefully lead to an increase in school meal participation.
Christina Britt, Cafeteria Director for Bray-Doyle Public Schools in Marlow, OK is the recipient of the SNF Vulcan Equipment Grant, worth up to $50,000 This grant will replace school ovens that date back to the 1970s and some antiquated pieces of equipment in the elementary school that hinder the nutrition team’s efforts. Properly functioning ovens will cook food more evenly and team members will not have to rotate the food while cooking. Britt believes the new ovens from Vulcan Equipment will also drastically reduce team members’ stress levels.
“We refer to the ovens as our ‘ladies.’ We have one that is too tired to cook on some days, one that is ready to go most days and one that likes to eat aluminum foil,” shared Britt. The new ovens will provide more options for menu planning, alleviating the limitations that currently hamper breakfast and lunch menus.
The Fayetteville City Schools in Fayetteville, TN and their School Nutrition Director Megan Hall are the recipient of the SNF Food Warming Equipment (FWE) Equipment Grant, worth up to $25,000. While all three schools in the Fayetteville City School District need equipment replacements, Hall says the greatest need is at the high school. The freezer and refrigerator stopped working over Christmas break, so items that need to be kept frozen are stored in the freezer at the middle school building next door. The refrigerator only works when it is partially stocked, so food needs to be brought from the middle school refrigerator daily.
“We have equipment in our kitchens that have been broken since I started working here,” Hall explained. She says duct tape is needed to keep one warmer door closed, requiring team members to constantly check to ensure food-safe temperatures. At times, they must move the food from the warmer to a stove to keep it at the proper temperature.
The school nutrition team at Somerville Public Schools in Somerville, NJ is the 2023 SNF Collection Grant winner worth up to $20,000. The district nutrition team struggles with outdated and insufficient equipment needed to prepare meals; for example, there is no stove in the kitchen at Somerville Middle School.
“These pieces of equipment will greatly improve efficiency for our nutrition staff and allow for additional meal choices for students,” said Brian Erdman, Southern Region Lead, Maschio’s Food Services, Inc.
The supporting equipment companies will consult with grant recipients to customize awarded equipment based on their unique needs and opportunities to improve school meal services. Equipment could include ovens, mixers, slicers, food processors, coolers and other refrigeration, holding cabinets, dish machines, package sealing equipment, steamers, insulated tote bags and more.
“As nationwide labor shortages persist, replacing and upgrading equipment is a vital solution for schools needing to streamline kitchen operations to ensure students continue receiving healthy, delicious school meals each day. We are thankful for all of our industry partners for their unwavering support of school nutrition professionals and programs,” said SNF Chair JoAnne Robinett, MSA, SNS.
School meal programs operate on extremely tight budgets, funded by cafeteria sales and reimbursements for meals served. Rising costs due to inflation and labor issues have left many school meal programs without the critical funds to purchase necessary equipment for their cafeterias and kitchens.
The School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) is a 501(c)3, sister organization of the School Nutrition Association. SNF awards grants and scholarships to the men and women who feed the nation’s school children. It also provides professional development resources including training and school nutrition research. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 50,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. For more information on school meals, visit their website.