Collins, Heitkamp Bill to Provide Healthier Meals for Students Advances in the Senate

Bipartisan School Food Modernization Act included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s School Nutrition Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to help provide healthier meals to students advanced in the Senate this morning.  The School Food Modernization Act, reintroduced by Senators Collins and Heitkamp last March, was successfully passed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture as part of the five-year reauthorization of the child nutrition programs.  This legislation, the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016, must now be considered by the full Senate.

Many schools lack the right equipment and infrastructure for preparing meals with fresh, healthy ingredients.  The School Food Modernization Act would establish a loan guarantee, grant, and technical assistance program within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help schools acquire the new equipment needed to prepare healthier, more nutritious meals.

“With more than 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program every school day, the food served to these children has a demonstrable effect on their health and well-being,” said Senator Collins. “In Maine, 40 percent of children qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on household income.  We need to start all our school children off with the right food every day so they are able to concentrate in the classroom, succeed in their studies, and reach their full potential.  In order to prepare and provide quality, nutritious food, schools must have access to modern kitchen equipment and adequate workforce training.  I am very pleased that our bipartisan bill to help assist schools in providing healthier meals to students throughout the country advanced in the Senate today.”

As schools across the nation work to meet USDA school meal standards and serve healthier, more nutritious meals, they must have access to the right tools to do so.  Schools built decades ago often lack the infrastructure necessary to prepare meals rich in fresh ingredients and must rely on workarounds that are expensive, inefficient, and unsustainable.  The School Food Modernization Act would help schools expand their services beyond just reheating and holding food for meal service.

The School Food Modernization Act has been endorsed by numerous organizations, including Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Senators Collins and Heitkamp are advocates for improving food service facilities and staff training, and we commend them for championing these issues in the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016. School nutrition professionals are dedicated and creative, and they want to make good food that kids love to eat. Yet outdated and poorly equipped kitchens can pose a major challenge to cooking delicious, healthy meals for students. The Senators’ School Food Modernization Act can help. We are grateful for their bipartisan work on this issue, and pleased that their proposal is moving forward as part of the Senate’s reauthorization of child nutrition programs.”

—Jessica Donze Black, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ school nutrition project