Barletta Succeeds in Advancing School Cafeteria Modernization Bill

May 18, 2016
Press Release
Barletta Legislation to Help Schools Upgrade Included in Larger Nutrition Bill

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today succeeded in inserting his legislation to help schools modernize their cafeterias into a larger bill that strengthens nutrition standards for public schools.  The House Committee on Education and the Workforce, of which Barletta is a member, approved H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act, and included language from Barletta’s own H.R. 3316, the School Food Modernization Act.  The larger bill passed the committee by a vote of 20-to-14 and now heads to the floor of the full House of Representatives for consideration.

“Far too many of our nation’s schools have outdated kitchen equipment and inadequate infrastructure,” Barletta said.  “Eighty-eight percent of school districts need at least one piece of kitchen equipment.  Fifty-five percent of school districts need kitchen infrastructure changes.  This legislation seeks to ensure schools have the tools they need to serve our kids healthier meals.”

Barletta’s legislation:

  • 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. 

Barletta’s School Food Modernization Act is now part of the overall Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act, which strengthens nutrition standards in a way that provides flexibility to state and local leaders and meets the needs of all students. The bill:

  • Requires the Department of Agriculture to consult with school leaders in its review and update of nutrition standards.
  • Ensures standards do not limit participation, are appropriate for the needs of school age children, and do not increase costs to schools.
  • Expands access to nutritious fruits and vegetables for all schools.
  • Enhances program integrity by fighting fraud, waste, and abuse.
  • Improves community eligibility by targeting assistance to those most in need while continuing to provide all eligible students access to healthy meals.
  • Provides states more flexibility to serve nutritious meals during the summer, especially to children living in rural and low-income areas.
  • Strengthens the integrity and efficiency of the Women, Infants & Children program by supporting a faster transition to electronic benefits transfer.

Barletta’s statement, as prepared for delivery, is as follows:

            Thank you, Chairman Kline.  I appreciate the opportunity to recognize the important steps that the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act takes in supporting local efforts to provide our kids with healthy and nutritious meals.

In particular, I want to highlight provisions of this legislation that draw from a bill I introduced with my colleague from across the aisle, Mr. DeSaulnier from California, that seeks to ensure schools have the tools they need to serve our kids healthier meals. 

Today, far too many of our nation’s schools have outdated kitchen equipment and inadequate infrastructure.  Eighty-eight percent of school districts need at least one piece of kitchen equipment.  Fifty-five percent of school districts need kitchen infrastructure changes. 

Our bill, the School Food Modernization Act, ensures that schools have access to funding to upgrade and modernize their kitchens and cafeterias to better serve students. The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act draws on this language to provide grants and loans to help schools purchase new equipment that will permit for more storage, allowing schools to buy in bulk and prepare food on-site.  This provision is limited in scope and will help improve students’ health.  I want to thank the subcommittee chairman for including this provision in the bill.

I would also like to highlight the important first steps this bill takes towards closing the summer hunger gap.  For many children in my district and across the country, summer is the hungriest time of year. 

Program rules need to be more responsive to the needs of both local providers and the children they serve.  Provisions of today’s bill will help streamline the application process for summer food providers like the Commission on Economic Opportunity, which operates in my hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, ensuring  more efficient use of federal resources, and most importantly, fewer hungry kids.  This bill is a step in the right direction to providing program operators with the tools and resources they need to feed our nation’s kids, and as we move forward on this issue, I hope their needs will continue to be addressed.

Again, I thank my colleagues on the committee for including these important reforms in the bill, which will help us deliver on the promise of providing healthy meals to our nation’s children. 

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