Many school kitchens are better suited for opening cans and boxes of prepackaged foods than for preparing made-from-scratch entrees and peeling farm-fresh produce, asays.
That’s because they lack space and necessary equipment, which can make it difficult for some schools to comply with new federal student nutrition standards, says the study, compiled by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Those standards require more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat dairy products.
Part of the problem is a lack of consistent capital funding, the report says. It notes that the federal government did not provide funds for school kitchen-equipment subsidies for 30 years—until 2009 and 2010, when $125 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was directed to that purpose.
Researchers based the report on 3,459 self-administered surveys completed online by school food-service managers. Eighty-eight percent said they needed additional equipment to adequately prepare meals. Just 42 percent of respondents had a capital equipment budget and, of those, 43 percent thought that budget was sufficient.
Despite the challenges, a majority of schools are complying with the new standards, the study says.
A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 2014 edition of Education Week as School Meals