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USDA announces more funding to schools in need of new kitchen equipment

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As part of National School Lunch Week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today they’re releasing $30 million worth in grants to schools for new kitchen equipment.

The announcement comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s recent pledge to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease by 2030. Late last month, the White House held the first Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health for the first time in 50 years.

Boyne Falls Public Schools in Charlevoix County is a previous recipient of the kitchen equipment grants. Chef Nathan Bates said their new vegetable steamer has significantly improved his kitchen’s operations.

"It changed the menu planning because I knew I could do more with less. I can do things more efficiently," said Bates. "To offer roasted beets, we just have them all the time now. Fresh green beans as opposed to frozen green beans, especially when they're in season here in Michigan." 

The new steamer also cut vegetable prep time down from an hour to ten minutes. Around a dozen farms in the greater Charlevoix area supply Boyne Falls with fresh food for some 350 meals per day.

Bates said the fresh food coupled with the steamer as vastly improved the appearance of the food and can influence a student's decision to try something new and, often times, healthier option.

"First kids will smell it coming down the hallways and then they see it and it needs to look appealing. Doesn't need to look like it's been boiled for hours. And thirdly they that's when how they decide if they're going to try it or not," said Bates.

In a written statement, the USDA said they’re investing $80 million in its kitchen equipment assistance program for the 2022-23 school year.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.