[ Health & Safety ]

Cafeterias re-equip with help from federal grants


afeterias across New York are getting an upgrade, thanks to National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance grants.

Owego-Apalachin Central School District just purchased and installed a new combi-oven, using a $20,000 award. “We’re going to be able to get food out more quickly, and that’s going to help the lines move much faster,” said Sandy Phillips, site manager for the Owego-Apalachin district and a member of the Broome BOCES Support Services Administration.

In July, the State Education Department, which administers the federal program, awarded 482 grants totaling $4,786,638 to 149 districts.

“The grant really is beneficial because schools do not have that kind of funding to buy equipment. They spend their money on labor and food, so this grant opportunity alleviates that financial burden for them,” said SED’s Tara Webster, supervisor of child nutrition programs. “It also allows them to do more scratch cooking, get more local food into their schools, and offer more variety for students.”

The Binghamton City School District received nearly $80,000 to purchase a double-stack convection oven, two serving lines, reach-in freezer and more. “That is going to help a huge amount in their operation,” said Annie Hudock, senior food service director, Broome-Tioga BOCES.

Hudock and her team support food service for 15 districts in the Southern Tier, including writing the grant proposals. This year, three of their districts received awards.

Laurie Upright, a cook and member of the Highlands Support Association, said equipment they purchased with $33,134 in grant monies has been “a godsend.”

“We had two serving lines, but only one food warming cabinet, so people were always running back and forth” Upright said. “Now, we can have one cabinet on each line. This is helping keep my food temps right where they need to be.”

Districts can submit grant applications through SED each spring. Awards are capped at $20,000 per school, but districts can submit applications for more than one piece of equipment annually. Webster said priority is given to schools that have not received an award in the last three years. For more info, visit cn.nysed.gov.