Report: $40M needed in Utah to serve healthy school lunches

Report: $40M needed in Utah to serve healthy school lunches

I recently read this article and it made me wonder what other districts needed to budget in order to update their facilities in order to prepare foods based on the new guidelines. Are your facilities up-to-date?

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah schools succeed at providing healthy lunches, but $40.2 million worth of food service equipment is required in the state to improve efficiency, according to a national report.

The report, released last month by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that 95 percent of Utah school districts need more lunchroom equipment to serve nutritious food, and 49 percent of districts are in need of kitchen infrastructure changes in at least one school.

Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids Safe and Healthful Food Project, said the report is good news because the majority of U.S. schools are successfully providing healthy meals to their students. But she said it also highlights the challenges that many districts face in regards to kitchen equipment and food preparation.

Those facility needs don’t mean the difference between healthy and unhealthy meals, Donze Black said, but they reflect that investment in school kitchens could lead to more efficient and effective food service.

“It isn’t an all or nothing game,” she said of Utah’s $40 million need. “Incremental steps could be very instrumental in moving things forward.”

The report was based on a survey of school lunch administrators, looking at facility needs in complying with the updated meal guidelines under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

That law, a major initiative of first lady Michelle Obama, established updated nutritional standards for the National School Lunch Program and set limits on portion sizes and calorie counts while encouraging the use of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.

The Pew report found Utah to be ahead of the national rate, with 86 percent of school districts successfully serving healthy meals. But local officials participating in the survey reported a need for equipment like industrial scales to weigh bulk ingredients, utility carts, heated cabinets for storing prepared food, and greater physical space in school kitchens.

The report also found that only 35 percent of Utah school districts set aside funds in their annual budgets for kitchen equipment upgrades and purchases.
Source: Deseret News


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