Barletta Reintroduces Bill to Modernize School Cafeterias

Jun 22, 2017
Press Release
Bipartisan School Food Modernization Act Promotes New Equipment, Infrastructure

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today reintroduced his legislation to provide healthy and nutritious meals to students.  The School Food Modernization Act would help local schools replace outdated kitchen equipment and improve infrastructure.  The legislation is bipartisan, with Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) serving as the lead co-sponsor, and Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-PA) is also a co-sponsor.

A national survey indicates that 88 percent of school districts need at least one piece of new kitchen equipment, and 55 percent require infrastructure changes.

“We need a permanent solution to ensure that our schools have the tools they need to serve our kids healthier meals,” Rep. Barletta said.  “Too many of our nation’s schools have deep fryers when they really need walk-in refrigerators and freezers to keep fresh fruits and vegetables longer.  They have microwaves meant to reheat pre-packaged foods when they really need something as simple as a knife and cutting board.  By giving schools better access to modern kitchen equipment and infrastructure, while also strengthening workforce training, we do just that.  It will result in improved focus in the classroom, and ultimately, a lifetime of healthier eating habits.”

“We have made important strides encouraging more nutritious food for our students, but too often school kitchen equipment is outdated, making it difficult to adequately prepare healthy options,” Rep. DeSaulnier said.  “Research shows that there is a statically significant increase in test scores among students who consume healthier meals.  It is time we put our money where our mouths are, and give our schools the resources needed to serve healthier options that promote greater academic achievement.”

“As Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, I know that the School Food Modernization Act will improve the quality and accessibility of equipment used for preparing high quality meals in our schools,” Rep. Thompson said. “Our food service professionals work tirelessly to ensure that America’s students are receiving nutritious, quality meals during the school day and we must equip them with the tools they need to do just that.”

The bill:

  • Allows schools to participate in a loan assistance program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help them acquire new kitchen equipment and build new infrastructure.  Schools would be eligible for federal guarantees up to 80 percent of the loan.
  • Provides targeted grant assistance to give school administrators and food service directors seed money for less extensive infrastructure upgrades or purchases of high-quality, durable kitchen equipment such as commercial ovens, steamers, and stoves. 
  • Strengthens training and provides technical assistance to school food service personnel, many of whom need additional skills and expertise to prepare healthier meals. 
  • Increases Congressional oversight by requiring reports on the use of workforce training funds and the progress of the programs authorized within this bill.

Last Congress, Barletta successfully included part of his bill in the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act, which passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.  Fifty organizations sent a letter to Representatives Barletta and DeSaulnier and Senators Collins and Heitkamp in support of their bill.

In May of 2016, Barletta was honored as the lone member of the House of Representatives to receive the 2016 Congressional Voice for Children Award from the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), in part due to his leadership on this issue.