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School Kitchen Equipment for Fresh Produce



Serving fresh produce in schools requires adequate equipment like cold storage, slicers, sectionizers, and salad bars. Yet, nearly 90% of schools need at least one piece of updated school kitchen equipment. When schools don’t have adequate equipment – they are forced to use costly and inefficient workarounds like scheduling multiple deliveries a week or storing fresh produce in temporary coolers over ice

Due to the self-operating nature of school food service programs, it can be difficult for programs to accumulate enough funding to purchase the equipment through their own coffers, and requesting the money through their district’s funds often pins food programs against other worthy causes within the school.

Recognizing that the need was great – since 2009 Congress has since appropriated annual funds for USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grants and leaders in Congress have introduced legislation for long-term solutions. While this contribution has been significant – more needs to be done to make sure schools have the equipment they need.

United Fresh has also recognized the need private investment and has provided over $12 million in salad bars with their partners through Salad Bars to School


Fiscal Year 2009: $100 million

Fiscal Year 2010: $25 million

Fiscal Year 2013: $10 million 

Fiscal Year 2014: $25 million 

Fiscal Year 2015: $25 million 

Fiscal Year 2016: $30 million 

Fiscal Year 2017: $25 million

Fiscal Year 2018: $30 million

Fiscal Year 2019: $30 million

Fiscal Year 2020: $30 million


Policy Proposal:

The School Food Modernization Act provides a longer-term solution to systemically addressing the chronic deficiency in updated kitchen equipment in schools by permanently authorizing USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grants, allowing less expensive equipment purchases through USDA grant, and providing schools access to low-interest loans to finance kitchen equipment purchases and infrastructure improvements.

United Fresh urges Congress and USDA to:

  • Permanently authorize USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grants and low-interest loans as included in the School Food Modernization Act.
  • Continue annual appropriations of $30 million or more for USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grants.
  • Reduce the threshold for USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grants to allow schools to access equipment valued at under $5,000.
  • Include school kitchen equipment funding in any infrastructure bill.

United Fresh Action:

November 2017: Letter to Congress on funding flexibility

Additional Resources:

USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grants

State Profiles on Equipment Needs

Pew Report on School Kitchen Equipment Needs