I recently visited Lansdowne Middle School in Baltimore, Maryland to see new equipment the school purchased with American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA) grant money. I was delighted to hear Jerrisa Carter, Maryland’s Area Regional Food Service Director, say their new convection oven has improved the quality of their school meals.
Maryland received more than $1.2 million in grant money to help 83 schools purchase new ovens, stoves, walk-in freezers and other equipment needed to upgrade school kitchens. These funds help enable schools to prepare fresher, healthy foods for our children as well as support local, skilled workers involved in installing the new equipment. These grants are truly an investment and dollars well spent as they help ensure that our school children in communities hit hard by the economic downturn have access to the nutritious food they need to focus in class and do well in school.
When distributing the ARRA grants, Maryland gave priority to schools where at least 50 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced priced meals in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The NSLP is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 101,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day. The schools’ new equipment will go a long way to help improve the quality and safety of meals and ensure they meet the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The equipment will also be a big help if Lansdowne decides to accept the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). HUSSC was created to reward schools that improved their school nutrition environments, found ways to increase opportunities for physical activity, and provided more nutritious and healthier choices for their students. The goal of the HUSSC is to improve the health of the nation’s children by promoting healthier school environments. I think Lansdowne Middle School has just taken a big step in helping move along the USDA initiative, with the assistance of ARRA.