Having cold milk with lunch would seem a given for school cafeterias, but due to aging equipment, some schools have struggled to do that. Recently, the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council (MDNC) and its Fuel Up to Play 60 program, funded by Maine dairy farmers, awarded six Maine schools grant funds to purchase new milk coolers.
Included among those schools were three in the greater Bangor area – Ella P. Burr Elementary School in Lincoln, Center Drive School in Orrington, and Beech Hill School in Otis. As Oct. 11-14 was National School Lunch Week and October is Farm to School Month*, representatives from MDNC visited those schools during lunchtime to celebrate the new coolers, hand out fun dairy-related items and answer questions about milk and dairy farming. Dairy farmer Jim Howard joined them at Center Drive School on Wednesday, and Heath Miller of Green Valle Farm in Newburgh was able to attend Beech Hill School on Friday.
In February, the USDA and National Dairy Council announced the availability of a total of $35 million in federal and private grants to help schools upgrade their kitchen equipment and infrastructure. Eligible school districts nationwide had the opportunity to apply for funds to support the purchase of large and small items including utility carts, utensils, large-capacity food processors, industrial scales, steamers, freezers, etc.
Since 2009, USDA has awarded $215 million in school nutrition equipment grants. USDA provides this funding to states, which then competitively award grants to school districts in order to purchase necessary equipment, giving priority to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals. This year, National Dairy Council and its network of local Dairy Councils across the country, joined USDA’s effort by providing an additional $5 million through a separate, but concurrent, grant application process.
In Maine, a large number of schools applied with a variety of needs. In whittling down the selections based on available funds, the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council looked at the most basic of needs – keeping milk cold.
“Response to the small equipment grant was overwhelming,” said Catherine Hoffmann, school programs manager for the Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council. “We are proud to support local school nutrition programs efforts to feed all Maine students. The coolers provided by Maine dairy farmers not only add color and excitement to the cafeteria, they ensure that milk served to students is cold and delicious with every meal.”
“Our old one was held together with a bungee strap,” said Beech Hill School’s Food Service Manager/Administrative Assistant Liz Flood.
School Nutrition Director Lisa Morin of Lincoln said it was “touch and go” with the school’s old milk cooler. Milk had to be kept in a separate cooler until lunchtime because the temperature was never constant with the milk cooler.
“In regards to our budget, salaries and food come first. There’s never enough left over to upgrade equipment. This is a huge help,” she said of receiving the new cooler.
For more information regarding the School Nutrition Equipment Grant: http://www.fns.usda.gov/2016-nslp-equipment-assistance-grants
*For more information about National School Lunch Week and Farm to School Month: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2016/10/0219.xml&navid=NEWS_RELEASE&navtype=RT&parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&edeployment_action=retrievecontent
About U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, USDA has made significant and transformative investments in the lives of Americans living, working and raising families in the United States. In the area of nutrition, since 2009, USDA has made significant progress in maximizing the ability of our nutrition programs to fight hunger and improve health, while also ensuring that benefits are delivered efficiently and with integrity. USDA’s implementation of the historic, bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has led to more than 98 percent of schools meeting updated, science-based nutrition standards for school meals, as well as ensuring that more than 50 million children have access to a healthier school food environment.
About National Dairy Council (NDC)
For 100 years, National Dairy Council (NDC), the non-profit organization founded by dairy farmers and funded by the national dairy checkoff program, is committed to nutrition education and research-based communications. NDC provides science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier nation, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. Established in 1915, NDC comprises a staff of registered dietitians and nutrition research and communications experts across the country. NDC is dedicated to promoting child health and wellness through programs such as Fuel Up to Play 60. Developed by NDC and the National Football League (NFL), Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. See more at: www.nationaldairycouncil.org
About Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council
The Maine Dairy and Nutrition Council is a non-profit, USDA qualified, nutrition education organization established in 1949 and funded by Maine dairy farmers and processors. As an affiliate of National Dairy Council, our staff works closely with Dairy Management, Inc and MilkPEP to extend nutrition education programs to health professionals, schools and media here in Maine.